June is National Safety Month, and 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of this observance, led by the National Safety Council (NSC).
Core Assurance Partners is committed to bringing awareness to current issues that affect both our Private and Business Insurance clients all month long. Each week in June, we will highlight pressing safety topics. Check back here each Friday as we feature safety tips and educational materials on the following:
- June 4 – Slips, Trips, and Falls
- June 11 – Distracted Driving
- June 18 – Workplace Ergonomics
- June 25 – Water Safety
Every pool, beach, and every warm day holds the possibility of fun summer experiences. All you need to add is your undivided attention.
Why Water Safety Is So Important
On average, about 10 people die from drowning every day in the United States, according to Injury Facts, the annual statistical report on unintentional injuries produced by the National Safety Council (NSC). Drowning is a leading cause of death for children, and those ages 1-4 are particularly at risk.
It only takes a moment. A child or weak swimmer can drown in the time it takes to reply to a text, check a fishing line, or apply sunscreen. Death and injury from drownings happen every day in home pools and hot tubs, at the beach or in oceans, lakes, rivers and streams, bathtubs, and even buckets.
The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones around the water is to ensure every member of your family learns to swim to achieve water competency skills (source: Red Cross).
Safety Precautions for Swimmers
According to NSC, swimmers should keep a few safety precautions in mind:
- Don’t go in the water unless you know how to swim; swim lessons are available for all ages.
- Never swim alone.
- Learn CPR and rescue techniques.
- Make sure the body of water matches your skill level; swimming in a pool is much different than swimming in a lake or river, where more strength is needed to handle currents.
- If you do get caught in a current, don’t try to fight it; stay calm and float with it, or swim parallel to the shore until you can swim free.
- Swim in areas supervised by a lifeguard.
- Don’t push or jump on others.
- Don’t dive into unfamiliar areas.
- Never drink alcohol when swimming.
Safety Precautions for Parents
Parents are cautioned all the time about water safety, but drownings still occur. Always be aware and be in the present moment with your children. Following are a few water safety precautions:
- Never leave your child alone; if you have to leave, take your child with you.
- Find age-appropriate swim lessons for your child, but keep in mind that lessons do not make your child “drown-proof.”
- Lifeguards aren’t babysitters; always keep your eyes on your child.
- Don’t let children play around drains and suction fittings.
- Never consume alcohol when operating a boat, and always make sure everyone is wearing U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.
- Don’t underestimate the power of water; even rivers and lakes can have undertows.
- Always have a first aid kit and emergency contacts handy.
- Get training in CPR.
- If a child is missing, check the water first.
For more information on water safety, please see the below additional resources.
- Pool Safety Pledge and Toolkit
- ISR Family Aquatic Safety List
- Open Water Safety Checklist
- Boating Safety Tips
- Waterfalls, Rivers, Lakes, and Coastal Beaches (U.S. Forest Service)
Most of us tend to position ourselves in a way that makes us feel comfortable. But failing to take ergonomic precautions when it comes to sitting for a long time can result in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and have other impacts on our health.
Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time. United States businesses experienced more than 265,000 MSD injuries involving days away from work in 2019 (source: NSC).
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
MSDs are a grouping of related injuries sometimes referred to as “ergonomic injuries.” MSDs affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons. MSDs generally occur when a worker performs tasks in awkward positions or frequent activities that, over time, create pain and injury. The symptoms of MSDs include recurrent pain, stiff joints, shooting pains, swelling, dull aches, and loss of strength. They can affect any major part of the musculoskeletal system but most frequently affects the back, neck, and shoulders. MSDs are disruptive, painful, and costly. But with good workplace ergonomics, MSDs can be prevented.
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging furniture, products, systems, and devices to fit the people who use them to minimize the risk of injury or harm. The aim is to create a comfortable, safe, and productive workspace by bringing together health and design with positioning and adjustment.
Good Working Positions
There is no single “correct” posture or arrangement of components that will fit everyone. However, there are basic design goals to consider when setting up a computer workstation or performing computer-related tasks.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the best way to set up a computer workstation is to understand the concept of neutral body positioning: a comfortable working posture in which your joints are naturally aligned. Working with the body in a neutral position reduces stress and strain on the muscles, tendons, and skeletal system and reduces your risk of developing an MSD. The following are important considerations when attempting to maintain neutral body postures while working at the computer workstation:
- Hands, wrists, and forearms are straight, in-line, and roughly parallel to the floor.
- Head is level, forward-facing, and balanced. Generally, it is in line with the torso.
- Shoulders are relaxed, and upper arms hang normally at the side of the body.
- Elbows stay close to the body and are bent between 90 and 120 degrees.
- Feet are fully supported by the floor, or a footrest may be used if the desk height is not adjustable.
- Back is fully supported with appropriate lumbar support when sitting vertical or leaning back slightly.
- Thighs and hips are supported and generally parallel to the floor.
- Knees are about the same height as the hips, with the feet slightly forward.
Establishing an Ergonomics Process
According to our carrier partners at Travelers, establishing a good ergonomics process can help reduce the frequency of MSDs, address ergonomic risk factors and concerns, and control Workers’ Compensation costs.
A large part of good ergonomics involves workstation arrangement, equipment orientation, and employee work habits. Good ergonomics starts with the selection of furniture that can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of varied employees. Then, apply correct ergonomics by conducting a personal workstation assessment. But even with the best workstation and properly positioned equipment, good work habits are essential to avoiding MSDs. Working in the same posture or sitting still for prolonged periods is not healthy. Good habits to promote include:
- Make small adjustments to your work position throughout the day, including chair height, angle, and keyboard position.
- Stretch your fingers, hands, arms, and torso.
- Look away from the screen periodically to focus on distant objects.
- Stand up and walk around for a few minutes periodically.
- Perform some of your tasks in standing: computing, reading, phone, meetings.
- Use the “ALT” functions on your keyboard where possible to reduce mouse use.
- Hold the phone with your non-writing hand or use a headset. Do not hold the phone with your chin and shoulder, as this can lead to neck tension, headaches, and pinched nerves.
- Stand to reach items on shelves above your desk rather than reaching from your chair.
- Squat or go to one knee while getting materials from bottom drawers or shelves.
An ergonomics process uses the principles of a safety and health program to address MSD hazards. But changing work habits takes time and dedication. Therefore, an ergonomics process should be viewed as a continuous function incorporated into your business’s daily operations rather than as an individual project.
For more essential elements of an ergonomics process, please see the below additional resources.
- Ergonomic Training (OSHA)
- Identifying Ergonomic Hazards (OSHA)
- Solutions to Control Hazards (OSHA)
- Workstation Ergonomics Infographic (Hanover)
- Ergonomics in the Modern Office (Travelers)
- Ergonomics in the Mobile Office (Travelers)
Distracted driving is becoming an epidemic on our roadways. The use of electronics in vehicles is at an all-time high due to most drivers owning smartphones, navigation devices, and more. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. And while we do not yet have all of the statistics for 2020, preliminary data suggests that roadway deaths are on the rise, despite fewer people on the road last year.
Distracted drivers aren’t just a threat to themselves; they are a danger to everyone else on the road. When we are behind the wheel, we must focus on one task: safe driving.
What is Distracted Driving?
Anytime you divert your attention from driving, you are distracted. There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. Examples of distracted behaviors include:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or iPhone
Texting, which includes messaging, is considered the most dangerous type of distracted driving because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.
Is Hands-Free A Better Option?
Despite popular opinion, hands-free does not mean risk-free. Because some state laws have focused on handheld bans, many drivers believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device. But in fact, these technologies distract our brains even long after we have used them. According to the National Safety Council, drivers can miss seeing up to 50 percent of what’s around them because they are engaged in a cell phone conversation. Research shows that drivers using hands-free and handheld cell phones tend to “look at” but not “see” objects.
What You Can Do
- Prepare before you drive: review maps, adjust your radio, eat, and make any phone calls prior to departing
- Put your phone away when driving
- If a text or call is absolutely necessary, pull over to a safe location and park your car first
- If you simply can’t resist the temptation to look at your phone, keep it in the trunk until you reach your destination
- If you have passengers, appoint a “designated texter” to handle your phone and assist with navigation
- When you are a passenger, speak up and request phone-free driving
- Research cell phone blocking technology
Preventing Distracted Driving at Work: What Employers Can Do
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), employers can use the following recommendations to prevent distracted driving:
- Ban all phone use while driving a company vehicle, and apply the same rules to the use of a company-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle
- Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions
- Prepare workers before implementing these policies by communicating:
- How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash
- That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road
- What they need to do to comply with your company’s policies
- What action you will take if they do not follow these policies
- Consider having workers acknowledge that they have read and understand these policies
- Provide workers with information to help them talk to their families about distracted driving.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Governors Highway Safety Association
- Elements of Effective Cell Phone Policies
- CDC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement
According to the National Safety Council, more than 25,000 slips, trips, and falls happen every day in the United States—one every 17 minutes. A fall can end in death or disability in a moment, but with a few simple precautions, you can stay safe at home and work.
Preventing Falls at Home
While falls can occur anywhere, they most often happen at home. Preventing slips, trips, and falls in the home protects not only you and your family but also any guests who visit. Good housekeeping habits and the following quick tips will help keep your home safer:
Be sure to:
- Keep floors and surfaces clear of clutter, including electrical cords, throw rugs or other trip hazards
- Clean up food, drink, and other spills immediately
- Install handrails on stairways and add non-slip strips to wooden stair steps
- Arrange furniture to create open pathways with plenty of room for walking
- Maintain good lighting indoors and out – keep stairs, hallways, and outdoor areas especially well lit
- Put non-slip mats in the shower and bathtub
- Keep file cabinets and desk drawers closed
- Keep electrical and phone cords out of traffic areas
- Make sure outdoor walkways and steps are smooth and puddle-free
- Never stand on chairs, tables, or any surface with wheels
- Hire a professional for high-risk repairs, such as installing gutters or pruning trees
For working adults, depending on the industry, falls can be the leading cause of death. Construction workers are most at risk for fatal falls – but falls can happen anywhere, even at a “desk job.” This industry profile from Injury Facts® provides the most recent data on workplace injuries and deaths by occupation.
According to our carrier partners at Travelers Risk Control, slips, trips, and falls have the potential to be a major cause of injury for your employees and visitors to your premises. The potential for slips, trips, and falls can be widespread, but it is important to understand where, on your premises, the greatest potential for danger lies.
Some hazards associated with slip, trip, and fall injuries include:
- Slippery surfaces, such as gloss-finished tile, polished stone, etc.
- Holes or broken surfaces
- Uneven walking surfaces
- Poorly marked and/or poorly lit walkway transitions
- Wet surfaces caused by spills or poor drainage
- Slippery conditions due to mud, ice, or water during inclement weather
Routine inspection and maintenance should be a regular part of your safety program to help prevent falls for both your visitors and employees.
- Design your entrances and walkways to accommodate the expected volume of foot traffic through your business
- Conduct periodic walkthrough surveys of your premises to help ensure your property is kept in safe condition
- Ensure all walkways are properly lit
- Maintain all flooring surfaces at all times
- Use slip-resistant floor treatments, especially in areas proven to be wet
- Apply floor treatments to manufacturer’s instructions
- Use “wet floor” signs to warn of known hazards
- Schedule maintenance of floor surfaces during times of low traffic
- Have spill cleanup supplies readily available
- Ensure entry areas are properly maintained, and any mats are secured
- Promptly investigate incidents and document findings if an accident and/or injury occurs
The Importance of Reporting
In the event of an incident, be sure that it is well documented and reported. This information can help prevent future incidents and may be essential if a claim is filed. An standard incident report helps ensure that all details are recorded. Additionally, you should:
- Document all details of the incident
- Collect the names of the victims and witnesses
- Record victims and witnesses accounts
- Take photographs of the incident site – most slips, trips and falls do not “just happen”
- Sample Slip, Trip, and Fall Prevention Program (Hanover)
- Preventing Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace Infographic (Travelers)
- Elements of an Effective Fall Management Program (Hanover)
How We Can Help
We have a deep understanding of risks and provide strategies that our clients can implement to protect their businesses and homes. If you would like to discuss a slip, trip, and fall prevention program or any other risk management concerns, please contact us today.