National Safety Month Spotlights Workplace Safety

Topics: Loss Control

In 1996, the National Safety Council designated June as National Safety Month. The goal was to increase awareness of the leading safety and health risks facing employees and decrease the risk for workplace injuries and deaths in the U.S. Thankfully, the amount of workplace injuries has declined over the past 15 years due to improved safety conditions and requirements.

Even though the workplace has gotten safer for employees over the years, accidents can still happen and cost businesses thousands of dollars every year in medical and other expenses. Workplace injuries and illnesses lower productivity and employee morale, and they also result in increased absences that could ultimately lead to lower profits.

To create a safer workplace, companies should have procedures in place promoting loss control and workplace safety, from effective tool safety and fall prevention tactics to tips for working around electrical equipment. Below are tips for keeping your work environment, be it industrial or an office setting, safe for all workers.

Practice Effective Tool Safety

Tools are an essential part of completing tasks while on the job site. However, tools can present a workplace injury hazard. For instance, power tools present hazards when considering the source of their power (gas, electric, etc.) and the force at which they operate (like jackhammers or saws). But, basic hand tools like wrenches, hammers, pliers, screwdrivers and others can present dangers of injury as well.

Here are some key points to keep in mind to help prevent an injury from tools:

Hand Tools

• Inspect the tool before use – do not use a tool with a loose or cracked handle, excessive wear, damaged blades or bits, or worn gripping surfaces.
• Use the right tool for the job – do not use a tool for anything other than its intended purpose.
• Operate tools according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
• Use appropriate personal protective equipment, such as safety goggles and gloves.
• Perform regular maintenance on tools.
• Keep the floor surface clear of any debris or tripping hazards.

Portable Power Tools

• Make sure the power source is undamaged (cord, airline, battery, etc.) and that the tool is not leaking fluid such as oil or gasoline. Inspect blades and bits for excessive wear, cracks or other damage.
• Dress properly. Eliminate loose clothing, ties, jewelry or long hair as they may become entangled in moving parts. • Disconnect tools when not in use.
• Do not use power tools in damp or wet locations unless they are approved for that purpose; Pneumatic grinders are a good substitute for electric ones in wet locations.
• Ensure that the electrical shock potential is controlled; use a cord with a three-pronged plug and grounding pin or double-insulated tools with intact insulating housings.
• Ensure cords are not a tripping hazard.
• For gasoline or diesel powered equipment, shut down the engine and let it cool before refueling.
• Use required attachments, shields and guards for moving parts of power tools – this helps protect the operator and others from rotating parts such as a saw blade.
• Know and understand what personal protective equipment is needed. Make it available, and require its use.

Tips for Preventing Workplace Slip and Fall Injuries

Slip and fall injuries are types of losses that can present a significant cost to your business. However, with some careful planning, you can help reduce the potential of slips, trips and falls in your organization. Keep the following slips, trips and falls prevention tips in mind:

• Keep the floor clear of fallen objects.
• Clean up or report any spills.
• Check your pathway for any obstructions — drawers, supplies, trashcans, power cords, etc.
• Keep an eye out for uneven floors or changes in floor level.
• Use proper footwear and ensure its use by implementing and enforcing footwear policies.
• Use handrails when ascending or descending stairs.
• Watch out for loose, torn or worn flooring.
• Report poorly lit areas or burned out bulbs/non-functioning lighting.

Safe Driving Tips

If your small business requires the use of vehicles, periodic refreshers in safe driving practices may help reduce your chance of incurring expenses, downtime costs, missed deadlines and dissatisfied customers caused by worker injuries or deaths from traffic accidents. Also, safety is vital for commercial transportation services for both the drivers and customers.

We’ve provided a few safe driving practices, but this is not all encompassing. Contact your local chapter of the National Safety Council, driver education, Department of Transportation office, or highway patrol office if you wish to arrange comprehensive defensive driving courses. Also, AmTrust Loss Control team has compiled a variety of safe driver resources including transportation specific videos.

• Verify driver’s Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) records yearly to ensure licenses are valid and to discover any violations (e.g., DUIs, speeding tickets); assign those with unacceptable MVRs to other duties.
• Permit only trained and properly licensed people to drive specialized vehicles.
• Check tires, lights, horns and brakes of company vehicles before driving; repair or replace as needed. • Wear safety belts to prevent being ejected in event of accident.
• Rest as needed – a drowsy driver can be very dangerous.
• Be aware of the distribution of the cargo weight (shifting loads may cause loss of control).
• Follow vehicle owner’s manual for braking techniques (e.g., many manufacturers advise against pumping anti-lock brakes).
• Do not exceed maximum speed limit.
• Count the number of seconds it takes to reach a fixed object, which the vehicle in front passed, and then keep at least two seconds of distance behind that vehicle if the road and weather are favorable; maintain more time if they are not.
• Check blind spots before changing lanes; look over your shoulder or use mirrors if you do not have a rear window or if the load blocks the view from a rear window.
• Stay out of other vehicles’ blind spots.
• Exit the roadway to a safe area when making or receiving a phone call, texting or using any electronic device. 

Electrical Tools and Power Line Safety Tips

Working with (or around) electricity poses a serious injury risk in the workplace. There are potential electricity risks surrounding electrical equipment and extension cords. Below are a few electrical tools and extension cord safety tips to consider:

Electrical Tools and Equipment

As mentioned earlier, tools present a risk due to their power and the fact that normal use of electrical equipment causes wear and tear that can result in improper function of the tool/device, short-circuits or exposed wires. By remembering safe practices such as, but not limited to, disconnecting tools when you’ve finishing using them, not operating electrical tools in wet conditions, and using guards and protective equipment, you can help maintain a safe level of power tool and equipment use.

Extension Cords

Extension cords are common on many job sites; however, cords pose a hazard when they are excessively long, worn, have exposed wires, are missing the grounding prong, or have a loose connection on the plug-in end. These conditions can increase the hazard of electric shock. Below are a few extension cord safety tips:

• Do not use extension cords where permanent outlets should be. Extension cords are temporary use devices only.
• Use extension cords that are 3-wire type to ensure proper grounding. Ensure the grounding prong has not been removed.
• Do not modify or attempt to repair extension cords.
• Use cords and connection devices with strain relief.
• To remove cords from receptacles, pull them on the plugs – not the cords.

Additional Electrical Safety Tips

• Electrical equipment, electrical circuits, and power supply systems should be grounded.
• Inspect electrical systems to ensure that the path to ground is continuous. Utilize a small, inexpensive plug-in socket tester to ensure circuits are properly wired and grounded. Test GFCI- equipped circuits using the test button on the unit.
• Use double-insulated tools and ensure that any metal-framed tool has a proper grounding cord and plug.

Office Safety Tips

While an office may be quieter and neater than a plant or construction jobsite, it can still contain machinery, back injury, hand and wrist strains, chemical, slip and fall and fire hazards. Here are some hazards found in most office settings, along with suggested office safety tips to help eliminate or minimize their risks.

Machines-Copier, Shredder, Fax, Printer

Only employees trained to use these machines should be operating them. Remind users to keep body, hair, clothing and jewelry away from moving and/or hot parts. The machines should be plugged in to properly grounded outlets, and defective or damaged power cords should be replaced. Only qualified technicians should service or repair machines.

Slip and Fall Risks

To help prevent slips and falls in an office:

• Keep power cords out of walking paths.
• Move furniture, storage and equipment so they are not blocking aisles or walkways.
• Clean spills immediately using non-slip floor cleaners and waxes.
• Place walk-off floor mats at doorways, especially during inclement weather, to help reduce the buildup of slippery conditions on floors.
• Provide adequate light in all areas where employees walk.

AmTrust’s Loss Control Team Helps Create Safe Workplaces

AmTrust’s Loss Control Department can help insureds by providing the right safety resources and commercial property safeguards to ensure their ongoing success. Contact Amtrust’s Loss Control team for more information about creating a customized loss control program for your organization.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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