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Heat Related Illnesses: Heat Stress, Arc Training, Flammable, and Welding Safety

Heat Stress Safety Training

Each year, more than 650 people succumb to a heat-related illness. According to the Center for Disease Control, heat-related illnesses are one of the deadliest weather-related health outcomes affecting Americans. However, the most devastating part of this equation is that all deaths from heat-related illnesses are preventable with the proper training and safety tools.

Learn here how to keep yourself and others safe while working in the heat.

What Are Heat-Related Illnesses?

Heat-related illnesses are those that occur after exposure to abnormally high or prolonged amounts of heat and humidity. There are three primary types of heat-related illnesses, including:

  1. Heat Cramps: A condition causing painful and often intense cramps or spasm of the muscles, usually after exercise or extreme exertion.
  2. Heat Exhaustion: Resulting from a loss of water and sodium in the body, heat exhaustion causing a range of bodywide symptoms. Left untreated, this can lead to heat stroke.
  3. Heat Stroke: The most severe form of heat-related illness, heat stroke can cause coma, seizures, and altered mental status. If left untreated, heat stroke can lead to death.

Learn the Signs of Heat-Related Illnesses

Identifying the signs of heat-related illnesses like heat stroke or exhaustion should be a crucial part of your safety strategy. A few common symptoms of heat related illnesses include:

  • Headache
  • Muscle aches or cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • High body temperature
  • Skin that is red, hot, and dry (no sweating)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Confusion or altered mental state

Companies in industries that require employees to work outdoors or inside high-heat environments should implement training programs. Excellent examples of training materials include The National Safety Compliance’s Heat Stress Training Course Video Kit and Heat Stress Training Booklets.

Use Signage to Refresh Employees on Heat-Related Illnesses

Using signage like this Heat Stress Safety Poster can help keep heat safety at the forefront of an employee’s mind. Place posters and other visual aids in high-traffic areas like break rooms, offices, and workshops. In addition, include signage in areas where heat-related illnesses are more likely to occur.

Recognize Those Most at Risk for Heat Stress

Certain people are at a greater risk for heat-related illness. Learning to identify them can help prevent many tragedies from occurring. People who are at greater risk include:

  • Anyone over age 65 or under age five
  • People with autoimmune disease, heart disease, or breathing problems
  • Those who are overweight
  • People taking certain medications
  • Anyone who drinks heavily
  • Those exposed to high heat for extended periods
  • People recovering from illnesses

Know the Precautions to Take

A comprehensive overview of precautions to take during heat waves and inside high-temperature areas is crucial to your training efforts. The best heat stress training courses will include this information. To stay safe in high-heat environments, you should:

  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid dehydration beverages (like alcohol, coffee, or energy drinks)
  • Take frequent breaks in cooler areas (preferably in air conditioning)
  • Apply sunscreen when working outdoors
  • Use a buddy system, so nobody works in the heat alone
  • Try to avoid working during the hottest parts of the day, if possible
  • Avoid hot and heavy meals that can raise your internal body temperature
  • Use sports drinks to replace electrolytes lost when sweating

Companies should keep a close eye on the weather during warmer months to be aware of dangerous heat wave events. If possible, people usually working outdoors should stay home during these events. However, if staying home isn’t possible, companies should implement additional precautions like more frequent breaks or shorter work days until the heat wave has passed.

Additional Precautions for Working Around Fire or Electricity

People working around electricity, fire, or flammable materials should undergo additional heat stress and general safety training. Individuals working around these materials are more prone to injury and should be given training on:

You can also find valuable training resources for individual sectors or industries, such as welding. Certain professions have industry-specific training they need to perform their jobs safely and effectively.

What to Do If Someone Is Experiencing Heat Stress

If someone is experiencing heat stress, the most critical thing is to call 9-1-1 right away. While waiting for emergency first responders to arrive, try moving the affected individual to a shady or cool area. Do not dump cold water or offer ice water to drink if someone is experiencing heat stress, as this could cause the body to go into shock.

Companies should include first aid training as part of their onboarding procedures so everyone understands what to do should a heat-related event occur. An excellent education option is this First Aid Safety Training Course Video Kit, which includes segments on:

  • Basic first aid procedures
  • Proper handling of bloodborne pathogens
  • Treating cuts, scrapes, and burns (including chemical burns)
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Heat stress events (including heat exhaustion and stroke)
  • Choking emergencies
  • CPR

The National Safety Compliance has the tools and information you need to keep yourself and others safe from heat-related illnesses. For more information, visit our heat stress safety product page. If you need help assessing your safety training needs or have questions, fill out our online contact form, and we’ll be in touch as soon as possible.

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Electrical Safety In the Workplace

Tragedy Strikes

Electricity is a serious workplace hazard. It exposes employees to electric shock, electrocution, burns, fires, and explosions. Electrical safety is important in every workplace.

Electrical hazards killed four workers in Missouri and Kansas in five months in 2021. In Missouri, an electrical contractor died replacing light fixtures, and another worker while cleaning a pig barn with a pressure washer. In Kansas, a worker perished while doing heating and air conditioning work, and a contractor lost his life climbing a pole. Their circumstances differ. However, the cause of death is the same – electrocution.

Nationally, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 3.75 percent increase – 166 workplace deaths related to electrocution – in 2019 over the previous year. Additionally, from 2018, through 2021, OSHA investigated 12 electrical-related deaths in Missouri and Kansas. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor is alerting all employers to review safe electrical work practices with their employees in response to a nationwide increase in workplace deaths by electrocution.

One reason these statistics are so tragic is that these fatalities could have been avoided.

“Recent tragedies in Missouri and Kansas are reminders of the danger of electrical exposures in the workplace,” said OSHA’s Acting Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. “OSHA’s electrical standards are designed to protect employees from electric shock and electrocution. Employers should implement safety and health programs, and are required to train workers on identifying hazards and use required protective measures to ensure all employees end each workday safely.”

OSHA standards cover electrical hazards in many different industries. These standards cover general industry, the construction industry, marine terminals, longshoring , and also shipyard standards design, Safety Standards for Electrical Systems, Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices Standards, and Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.

How do electrical injuries happen?

Electricity travels in closed circuits, normally through a conductor. But sometimes a person’s body mistakenly becomes part of the electric circuit. This can cause an electrical shock. Shocks occur when a person’s body completes the current path with either both wires of an electric circuit, one wire of an energized circuit and the ground, a metal part that accidentally becomes energized, or another “conductor” that is carrying a current. 

When a person receives a shock, electricity flows between parts of the body or through the body to a ground or the earth. What is the best way to protect employees from electrical hazards? Most electrical accidents result from one of the following three factors: unsafe equipment or installation, unsafe environment, or unsafe work practices. 

5 ways to prevent these accidents are through the use of:

  1. insulation, 
  2. guarding
  3. grounding
  4. electrical protective devices 
  5. safe work practices.

Electrical accidents are largely preventable through safe work practices. Examples of these practices include the following: de-energizing electric equipment before inspection or repair and keeping electric tools properly maintained. Additionally, exercising caution when working near energized lines and using appropriate protective equipment are both vital practices. When working on electrical equipment there are some basic procedures to follow.

Basic procedures to follow

  1. de-energize the equipment
  2. use lockout and tag procedures to ensure that the equipment remains de-energized
  3. use insulating protective equipment
  4. maintain a safe distance from energized parts.

Electrical safety training is critical. All employees should be thoroughly familiar with the safety procedures for their particular jobs. Moreover, good judgment and common sense are vital to preventing electrical accidents.

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Safety Programs Save Money

Injuries Cost Businesses however, Safety Programs Save Money

Have you ever thought about how much a workplace injury costs your business?

OSHA’s $afety Pays tool is an online calculator. This tool uses current data on workplace injury costs to calculate the direct and indirect costs to your business. This helpful resource emphasizes the importance of having an organized safety program. The results may surprise you.

Whether you are a small start-up, an established business, or just ready to start managing safety in a more responsible way, there are some simple steps you can take. Completing these steps will give you a solid base to begin your safety program.

10 Simple Steps

  1. Lead by example
  2. Establish safety and health as core values
  3. Implement a reporting system
  4. Provide training
  5. Conduct inspections
  6. Collect hazard control ideas
  7. Implement hazard controls
  8. Address emergencies
  9. Seek input on workplace changes
  10. Make improvements

Keeping the Safety Program a Priority

Communicate to your workers that making sure they go home safely is the top priority. Assure them that you will work with them. Proactively find and fix any hazards that could injure employees. Practice safe behaviors yourself. Make safety part of your daily conversations with workers.

Develop and communicate a simple procedure for workers to report all injuries, illnesses, and incidents. Furthermore, hazards or safety and health concerns should be easily reported without fear of retaliation. Additionally, it is profitable to provide an option for reporting concerns anonymously. It is especially important to include near misses/close calls.

Train workers on how to identify and control hazards in the workplace. Inspect the workplace with workers for the purpose of asking them to identify any activity, piece of equipment, or materials that concern them. Also, be sure to use checklists to help identify problems.

Ask workers for ideas on improvements and follow up on their suggestions. Coupled with providing time to research solutions. Assign workers the task of choosing, implementing, and evaluating the solutions they come up with. Whenever possible, identify foreseeable emergency scenarios. Then, follow up by developing instructions on what to do in each case. Finally, meet to discuss these procedures and post them in a visible location in the workplace.

Finally, set aside a regular time to discuss safety and health issues, with the goal of identifying ways to improve and effectively implement the program.

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Heat Illness Prevention in the Workplace

Heat illness is preventable, even though Millions of U.S. workers are exposed to heat in their workplaces. Every year, thousands become sick from occupational heat exposure. Some cases are fatal. Most outdoor fatalities, 50% to 70%, occur in the first few days of working in hot environments. This is because the body needs to build a tolerance to the heat gradually over time. Lack of acclimatization is a major risk factor for fatal outcomes. However, illness from exposure to heat is preventable.

Since 2011, a focus on keeping workers safe while working in the heat has made great progress. However, there is still significant work to be done. OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention campaign comes down to three keywords: Water. Rest. Shade.

New employees will need time to build a tolerance to the heat. Especially during their first few days in warm or hot environments. Workers who are new to working in warm environments are at increased risk of heat-related illness. Especially during a worker’s first few days, absolutely all symptoms should be taken seriously.

Workers who develop symptoms should be allowed to stop working. They should receive an evaluation for possible heat-related illnesses. Employers should encourage new workers to consume adequate fluids (water and sports drinks), work shorter shifts, take frequent breaks, and quickly identify any heat illness symptoms

Heat-Related Dangers

Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. There is a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Employers should recognize that not all workers tolerate heat the same way. Therefore, workplace controls should focus on making jobs safe for all employees. Workers should receive training about personal factors that can make them more susceptible to heat-related illness. When in doubt, workers should talk to their healthcare provider about whether they can work safely in the heat.

Responsibility to Protect Workers

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program including these 6 steps to prevent heat illness.

  1. Train workers in prevention
  2. Provide workers with water, rest, and shade
  3. Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads
  4. Take more frequent breaks as they build a tolerance for working in the heat
  5. Plan for emergencies
  6. Monitor workers for signs of illness

We offer safety training that includes keeping workers safe in heat-exposed jobs. This covers what workers need to know – including factors for heat illness. As well as, adapting to working in indoor and outdoor heat and protecting workers. Furthermore, it includes recognizing symptoms and first aid training. Our heat illness training materials meet OSHA workplace standards.

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Video Safety Training is Cost-Efficient

Video safety training is the most cost-efficient method of training for today’s companies. Clear training is vital to keeping workers safe on the job. Similarly, a solid knowledge of safety practices relevant to the job is crucial. According to elearningindustry.com, a learner will only remember 10% of text content. Typically, they remember 65% of visual content. However, we remember 95% of audio-visual content.

Because it works, Video Training is here to stay. As a result, it is the new normal. Videos keep learners’ attention. Equally important, people enjoy videos. Actually, research confirms videos help companies train smarter.

OSHA-compliant training is essential for today’s businesses. The need for consistent material is abundant. Likewise, the safety of our employees depends on it. Additionally, in today’s world flexibility is necessary. Furthermore, the ability to include on-site and remote workers is a benefit of this type of training.

Video-based learning is quickly becoming a basic training need. In essence, employees benefit from watching a video. In fact, according to Forrester Research, employees are 75% more likely to watch a video than to read materials. Video training ensures uniformity of information presented. This is essential for safety in the workplace.

10 reasons to choose video-based training:

  1. Videos are persuasive
  2. Videos are effective and engaging
  3. Increased information retention
  4. Video supports teaching at the moment of need
  5. It is flexible and accessible
  6. Addresses the different learning styles
  7. Video is a cost-effective solution
  8. Video training boosts work productivity
  9. Videos can extend training across internal and off-site employees
  10. Video training ensures consistency in safety training materials

As shown above, Safety training must be uniformly taught. In addition, consistency in training employees according to OSHA standards is critical. This should not be taken lightly. With this in mind, we offer OSHA-compliant materials that cover everything you need for training compliance.

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Important Tips for Ensuring Safe Jobs for Youth

In some states, the month of May is Safe Jobs for Youth Month.  Communities benefit greatly by having teens in the workforce. Employment teaches young people important skills, including responsibility, timeliness, honesty, teamwork, resourcefulness, communication skills and confidence.

Many states have departments of labor that work with employers and parents to help keep young workers safe and healthy. Youth will benefit from learning these valuable life lessons. Fast food, grocery stores, general retail, and lawn care are the most popular jobs for teenagers. Most states have laws that restrict the age, number of hours, and occupations youth can work during the school year and in the summer. 

Tips for Youth Employers and Parents

Youth employment safety starts at home. It is also an important responsibility of employers. It’s vital for the parents along with employers of young workers to make sure that young employees know how to be safe. Teens need to be able to identify potential safety risks. Together, we can work to keep young employees safe in the workplace. At the same time they will gain valuable skills to guide them into the future.

Here are a few key things to consider as kids head off to work: 

  • Be aware of how youth employment laws impact different ages, particularly 14-15 year old youth workers. 
  • Know the name of your child’s employer, as well as any location he or she may be working. 
  • Look up the law on acceptable work hours for youth and be a part of the discussion when determining your child’s schedule. Often, this information is included on State Labor Law Posters.
  • Do some research and find out if the employer stresses safety on the job. Do they provide workers’ compensation insurance and if so, who is their carrier? 
  • Find out what specific types of work your child will be doing and verify that those tasks are allowed under youth employment laws. 
  • Know the potential hazards of the work being done and ensure that proper training will take place to ensure your child’s/ employee’s safety. 

Our communities benefit as we all work together to prepare our young people to be valuable assets while also being safe in the workplace.

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Scaffolding, Slips & Trips, and Fall Protection

Fall Protection

Even in the safest workplaces, accidents happen. Slips, trips, and falls account for over one-third of all workplace injuries across all industries. Fortunately, these types of injuries are also some of the most preventable — if you have the right procedures and fall protection gear in place.

Fall protection is mandated when workers are exposed to different heights, which vary by industry:

  • General workplaces: Four feet
  • Shipyards: Five feet
  • Construction: Six feet
  • Longshoring operations: Eight feet
  • When working above dangerous machinery: Always, regardless of potential fall distance

And this isn’t just in reference to people working above ground: even workers at ground level are at risk when floor openings are present.

There are many different types of fall protection equipment, both temporary and permanent, that can keep workers safe in these scenarios. Here’s a rundown of the main types of fall protection used today, along with some resources for learning more about each.

Scaffolding

Workers use scaffolding to temporarily get access to buildings or machines for construction, repair, or maintenance. These temporary platforms feature planks of different lengths and widths designed to hold both workers and materials.

There are a number of OSHA regulations for scaffolds to help ensure they’re strong and stable enough to support workers and materials. Here are the highlights:

  • Scaffolds must support their own weight and at least 4 times the maximum load that will be applied to it.
  • Platforms must be at least 18 inches wide, and they must include guardrails or fall arrest systems for workers.
  • Space between platforms and uprights can’t be more than one inch wide
  • Both supported and suspended scaffolds have their own unique requirements.
  • Shore and lean-to scaffolds are prohibited.
  • For scaffolds 10 feet or higher, workers are required to use fall protection equipment like a personal fall arrest system or a guardrail system.

Other Types of Fall Protection

For some jobs, like window washing or HVAC repair, it would be unreasonable to build scaffolding to protect workers at elevation. There are a number of other types of fall protection gear, including:

  • Guardrails. Guardrails can be temporary or permanent, but both keep workers away from dangerous edges or holes.
  • Fall arrest system. A fall arrest system stops a fall, and consists of a body harness, anchor, and a lifeline connecting the two. A fall restriction system is similar, but often includes another component, like a bosun’s chair, that serves as a work positioning system.
  • Travel-restraint system. These systems keep workers from getting too close to an unprotected edge. In a travel-restraint system, a worker is attached to a body harness, which connects to a lanyard that may move freely along an anchored line — keeping the worker in the safe zone.

Best Practices for Keeping Workers Safe

Regardless of your industry, there are a number of measures you can take to prevent slips and trips — whether your workers are routinely high above the ground (or not). They are:

  • Keep work areas clean, dry, and free of debris.
  • Use railings, floor covers, and toe boards to prevent workers from falling into holes.
  • Install guardrails and toe boards against open-sided platforms.
  • Ensure rooftop safety by using temporary or permanent guardrails and anchors for personal fall protection.
  • Train your team on fall protection standards (start with our fall protection video kit, booklets, and regulations manual).

National Safety Compliance provides safety training courses to help you stay compliant and stay safe in the workplace. Check out our range of safety training products here.

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Turn-Key Solutions for Keeping Employees Safe

It’s Injury Prevention Month, so we thought it would be helpful to put together a list of ways you can keep your employees safer in the workplace.

There were 4,764 workplace injuries that resulted in death in 2020. Nearly half of these occurred in the transportation, material moving, and construction and extraction occupations. Beyond that, there were 2.7 million non-fatal workplace injuries in the United States during 2020. While these numbers have decreased over the past few years, workplace safety is still a prominent concern.

To focus on injury and fatality prevention in your workplace, there are several different categories of solutions you should have in place. Here are the ones we believe are the most important.

Provide General Safety Orientation

What your employees don’t know can hurt them. Your safety orientation program will look different depending on your industry, regulations in your locale, and your workers’ roles, but it’s a must-have for companies that want to remain compliant, reduce turnover, and foster the kind of workplace culture that leads to both a strong reputation and bottom line.

Check out our array of Safety Orientation Training Courses, available in both video and booklet formats for different learning environments.

Focus on Slips, Trips, and Falls

While some workplaces inherently present more dangerous hazards than others (think heavy machinery inside a manufacturing facility, or on a construction site), no workplace is exempt from the hazards of slips, trips, and falls — not even a seemingly benign office environment. Get your team up to speed on these common hazards by having them participate in a Slips, Trips and Falls Training Course.

Use Posters and Visuals

There’s no better way to keep safety top-of-mind than to provide visuals around your workplace. Safety posters can serve a variety of purposes, from helping employees recall a specific process or steps, to helping to motivate or inspire changes in behavior. Some posters or safety signs are required by law in certain workplaces. Signage in your workplace can dramatically help with knowledge retention after your employees complete a training course, as well — serving as a valuable way to protect your investment in employee safety education.

Offer Industry-Specific Information

While generic safety education will certainly help prevent injuries in the workplace, there’s no substitute for expert, industry-focused training. This is especially true for construction, manufacturing & warehousing, and healthcare, since these are the main industries where workers suffer the highest number of injuries and fatalities on the job. They’re also some of the most highly regulated industries, meaning you could face hefty fines if you aren’t up to speed on compliance requirements.

Have an Emergency Plan

No matter the type of business you operate, emergencies happen. These include natural disasters, chemical and HAZMAT accidents, and even workplace violence. Do your employees know what to do in the event of any of these disasters? Are you aware of which types of emergencies are most likely to occur at your place of work? Outline an emergency action plan that states the steps your team members should take in the event of each type of emergency. Ready to prevent injuries within your workplace? NSC makes training easy.

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Tips, Mistakes and Standards for Machine Guards

Both OSHA and ANSI have standards in place for protecting workers who operate dangerous machinery — and if your industry is impacted by such regulations, you’re likely well-aware of the statistics about amputations, lacerations, and other injuries that come from improper machine guarding. Still, it’s worth noting that improper machine guarding was one of the top OSHA citations of 2021, and has held a place on this list every year for the past decade.

So if machine guard safety isn’t on your list of priorities, it should be. Let’s take a look at some of the safety standards surrounding machine guarding, then we’ll follow up with some actionable steps you can take today to improve compliance and avoid mistakes in the future.

OSHA Standards for Machine Guards

OSHA Standard 1910.212 covers general machine guarding requirements for all machines. The standard defines machine guarding and gives examples (including barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices).

While you can read the full standard at the link above, here are the main points:

Affixing guards to machines. Whenever possible, a guard should be affixed to the machine, and the guard should never cause a hazard in itself.

Point of operation guarding. The “point of operation” is the area where someone processes a material. For example, the point of operation on a table saw would be the table area around the exposed blade. Points of operation must be guarded so that the operator doesn’t have any of their body parts exposed to hazards while operating. While not all machines require point of operation guarding, here are a few that do:

  • Shears
  • Power presses
  • Milling machines
  • Portable power tools
  • Guillotine cutters
  • Power saws
  • Jointers
  • Forming rolls and calendars

Barrels, containers and drums have specific guidelines for enclosures, as well as exposed blades on fans. Fixed machinery also should be anchored for added safety.

How to Avoid Mistakes with Machine Guarding

There are a number of steps you can take to avoid mistakes with machine guarding and keep your workplace safe and incident-free. Here are the top tips for setting your work environment and machinery up to ensure worker safety.

Check all of your equipment.

Every machine, from the years-old hydraulic press in the back of the shop to the brand new plastic injection molding machine you just purchased, needs to be checked against OSHA machine guarding standards. It’s surprisingly common for even brand-new machinery to lack proper guards and shields — so run a complete audit of all of the machines in your work area and make a plan for updating or upgrading those that don’t include proper guards.

Replace faulty or outdated machine guards.

After you’ve audited your workplace machinery for safety, replace or add guards to machines that didn’t meet the standard. If you’re unsure of how to do this, check out OSHA’s machine guarding resource. While it’s not comprehensive, this tool does cover some of the most common hazardous machines (saws, presses, and plastics machinery) and ways to employ guards to protect the people who operate them.

When replacing guards, be very careful to use the right materials. One of the most common mistakes is failing to use the right materials, which can render the guard ineffective or make it even more dangerous.

Know the types of machine guarding, and which applies to each machine.

Not all machines need the same types of guarding, and some require unique considerations. Here are some of the main types of machine guarding and what they’re used for:

  • Fixed guards. Fixed guards are permanent parts of a machine that are usually very simple, like a barrier guard or a screen. These guards provide maximum protection without requiring much maintenance, although they can inhibit visibility in some cases.
  • Interlocked guards. An interlocked guard is a mechanical device that automatically turns a machine off when the guard is removed or opened — like the door of a microwave. Interlocked guards are very effective but can present hazards when they’re removed for maintenance.
  • Adjustable guards. Adjustable guards are exactly what they sound like: guards that expand or contract to accommodate different shapes and sizes of materials. Because they require manual adjustment, however, workers must be specifically trained on how to use these guards in order for them to be effective.
  • Self-adjusting guards. A self-adjusting guard begins in a “rest” position and only moves out of the way to allow a material to pass through the danger zone before returning to a guarded position. A retractable plastic guard on a circular saw is an example of a self-adjusting guard.

Don’t remove machine guards.

Some workers may be inclined to remove guards to speed up their work or make it easier to clean or service the machine. If this is the case at your workplace, you may need to set new expectations for your employees — and consistently apply discipline to those who don’t follow them. Employees should be required to:

  • Keep machine guards on while machines are in use
  • Promptly replace guards on machines after cleaning or performing routine maintenance
  • Notify a supervisor if a guard is broken or missing
  • Sign an agreement stating that they understand your organization’s rules and regulations around machine guarding, and that they are aware of the consequences of breaking these rules

Training is one of the best preventative measures you can take to ensure your employees’ safety when using machines. If you don’t already have a machine guarding program, consider implementing one like the Machine Safeguarding Training Course available here. Having a standardized training program levels the playing field for your team, and helps you rest assured that everyone has undergone the latest machine guarding training.

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10 Steps for Identifying & Handling Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are ubiquitous in a variety of workplaces and industries. From common household chemicals like cleaning products and antifreeze to industry-specific chemicals like muriatic acid, dangerous substances are a part of everyday life and work.

Unfortunately, when employees aren’t properly trained on handling hazardous materials (or these materials aren’t labelled or stored properly), workers can become injured, hospitalized, and can even potentially die from burns, cuts, explosions, and more.

While some workplaces are replacing harmful chemicals with more eco-friendly ones, this isn’t always an option for every industry. So here are 10 steps to help your employees take the initiative and keep safe when interacting with hazardous materials at your workplace.

1: Ensure all hazardous materials are labelled and stored properly

Have you taken inventory of all hazardous materials in your workplace? Identify all potentially hazardous materials and verify that they’re labelled and stored correctly. Keep hazardous materials in dry, cool areas with proper ventilation — and possibly behind locked doors, when applicable. Ensure incompatible chemicals aren’t stored close together, either, as these can cause dangerous chemical reactions and result in fires or explosions.

OSHA requires hazardous materials to be labelled and accompanied by safety data sheets (SDS). Don’t remove or change these container labels. If a label is missing, don’t use the material or chemical — and instruct your employees to notify a supervisor if they come across an unlabeled substance.

2: Keep Safety Data Sheets accessible to employees

Safety Data Sheets are valuable resources for you and your employees when it comes to identifying and handling hazardous materials. They share the properties of each chemical at your workplace, their hazards, and guidelines for managing each chemical or material. Whether you keep them in an electronic database or store paper copies, SDS should be readily available to all employees — not locked up or kept in a password-protected location.

3: Train employees on reading chemical labels & SDS

You can’t expect every team member to be an expert on every chemical you keep in the workplace, which is why chemical labels and SDS are so useful. Chemical labels and SDS tell your employees everything they need to know about a substance: from the types of dangers it poses (whether it’s flammable, causes cancer, is poisonous, etc.) to instructions for how to manage leaks, spills, or accidents involving the material. They state how a material should be stored and used, and how it should be disposed of.

However, labels and SDS aren’t much help if your team doesn’t use them! To ensure everyone has access to accurate information about your hazardous materials, require your team to take a safety training course on reading chemical labels. Not only is a course a great way to verify your team’s knowledge is up to date, but it will help you cover your bases with OSHA, which requires that workers are able to understand chemical labels and SDS.

4: Control hazardous energy using proper lockout/tagout procedures

If your work environment involves potential hazardous energy releases from equipment or machines, a lockout/tagout process is essential to keeping your workers safe from accidents like burns, amputation, fractures, and more.

Here’s a lockout/tagout training booklet to include in your workplace safety program.

5: Ensure employees understand OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard

If you’re a chemical manufacturer, you’ll want your employees to be up-to-date on OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard. To start, here’s a booklet that summarizes the OSHA Standard and provides important details about chemicals, safety data sheets, handling leaks and spills, PPE, and more.

6: Have PPE and emergency equipment ready and available

Your PPE and emergency equipment will vary depending on your workplace, but here are some examples:

  • Face masks, gloves, and goggles
  • Hand washing stations
  • Eye wash stations

Replace PPE if it becomes damaged or worn, and don’t reuse disposable PPE. Cleaning areas should be clutter-free and regularly inspected.

7: Store hazardous materials in their proper containers

Chemicals and other hazardous materials must stay in their original containers. Don’t mix them with other substances or put them into food containers.

8: Handle hazardous materials with care

Each material or substance has its own requirements for personal protective equipment (PPE), handling, use with other substances, and cleanup — so read labels carefully. Only use chemicals for their intended purpose, and take care to follow procedures when transporting hazmat from one location to another.

9: Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures

Accidents happen, so your familiarity with emergency protocol can potentially mean the difference between serious injury and safety. What happens if there’s a chemical fire, spill, or a worker is injured from handling a dangerous substance? When should your team evacuate the premises? Have an emergency plan written and posted for your team to reference.

10: Dispose of hazardous materials properly

Different hazardous materials require different disposal methods. Some chemicals can never be poured down the drain, in the sewer, or even disposed of in the trash. Further, some materials require special sealed containers for disposal, while others may need to be transported to a special facility for disposal.

When it comes to workplace safety, don’t delay. Reinforce the need for vigilance around hazardous materials by checking out our affordable and ready-to-use hazard communication training kits.