Ask the Library-Safety at Work

Ask the Library Archive: Safety at Work

​Do you have a question for the NSC Library? Contact us at (630) 775-2199 or [email protected]

  • What are the most common workplace injuries, and which jobs are the most dangerous?

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases yearly figures of workplace injuries and fatalities, and the industries with highest number of fatalities.

    We are concerned our employees spend too much time sitting at work. Should we get sit-stand workstations?

    Adjustable workstations can help workers avoid discomfort caused by prolonged sitting or standing. Oregon OSHA has information to help you decide if your workers would benefit from new workstations and ergonomic features you should look for.

    We're using more temporary and contract employees. What can we do to keep them safe?

    The National Safety Council has a statement regarding the safety of temporary workers, and there is an article in Safety + Health magazine that includes a checklist. Plus there are recommended practices available from OSHA.

    What is the difference between a strain and a sprain? How can they be prevented and how are they treated?

    A strain is an injury of a muscle or tendon, while a sprain is an injury of a ligament. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons provides a fact sheet on these common injuries listing symptoms, susceptibility, and treatment. The National Institute of Health offers additional tips.

    What is the maximum weight a worker can safely lift?

    Unfortunately, there's no easy magic number. OSHA sets no maximum weight, and refers to the NIOSH lifting equation which considers factors such as the frequency of lifting or distance the object is lifted and/or carried. Oregon OSHA offers a lifting calculator app based on the NIOSH equation.  NSC offers a fact sheet with tips on proper lifting techniques and warmups.

    How can I convince my bosses that spending money on safety improvements is a good idea?

    To help safety professionals secure the resources they need, the NSC Journey to Safety Excellence campaign has created two documents on making the business case for investing in safety.

    How can I protect outdoor workers in the summer months?

    CDC/NIOSH has information on hazards to outdoor workers that include everything from physical hazards (heat stress, noise, UV radiation) to biological hazards (insects, poisonous plants, tick-borne diseases) to pesticides or other chemical exposures.

    What is a "competent person?" Where is one required and how do we choose one?

    OSHA uses the term in many of its standards such as for fall protection, trenching/excavations, construction projects, etc. The definition is: One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them." This Safety + Health magazine article provides some guidance.

    We work in an office environment, how dangerous can it be?

    Despite common beliefs that the office provides a safe environment in which to work, many hazards exist that cause thousands of injuries and health problems each year among office workers. Since one-third of the work force is in offices, even low rates of work-related injuries and illnesses can have a great impact on employee safety and health. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has tools available on the office environment and worker safety and health. The Department of Commerce lists the most prevalent causes of injuries while Safety + Health magazine offers 25 steps to a safer office.

    What is Prevention through Design (PtD)?

    The goal of PtD, formerly known as Safety through Design, is to prevent and control occupational injuries, illnesses and fatalities by "designing out" hazards and risks early in the process. Using this model, hazard analysis and risk assessment strategies are integrated early in the design and engineering states to eliminate or reduce hazards and risks in the workplace. NIOSH has partnered with the NSC and other organizations to promote this core element of injury prevention.

    What can I do to help prevent back injuries and maintain a healthy back?

    The University of Virginia provides a good overview and guidelines on back injury prevention including risk factors, materials handling and proper lifting techniques.  For on-the-job, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety focuses on proper materials handling in the workplace to help prevent back injuries.

    What is JSA/JHA and how can we use it in our workplace?

    Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) is a process for controlling operating hazards and costs. The process breaks job tasks down to step-by-step procedures by identifying potential hazards and how to avoid them. Every JSA/JHA is unique to the task. The NSC Practical Tips Collection includes a guidance document titled "Conducting a Job Safety Analysis to Eliminate Hazards."

    What is the difference between leading and lagging indicators? How can I use them to evaluate my safety program?

    Lagging indicators, such as incidence rates, measure what has already happened. Leading indicators attempt to capture what is happening now to prevent injuries or incidents in the future. The NSC Campbell Institute has performed research on this topic.

    Are there some guidelines on when to replace personal protective equipment for our workers?

    OSHA recommends following the manufacturer's guidelines on replacing equipment, but they also provide guidance on the routine inspection of protective equipment for eye & face, head, feet, hand & arm, body and hearing protection, and offer general guidelines on when equipment should be replaced.

    How can I estimate the ratio of direct to indirect costs for an incident in the workplace?

    You may have seen incident costs represented as an iceberg with the smaller, direct costs above the water line and the larger, indirect costs below.  Because of the many variables unique to each situation, the ratio can be as high as 20:1 or as low as 1:1. OSHA has an e-Tool which includes information on what the cost components can be and a worksheet to use in your particular situation.

    What is a recommended safe speed for fork lift trucks in the plant? What I've seen about operating a fork lift states: "Observe posted speed limits." How does one determine the speed limit?

    OSHA has a letter of interpretation on what is considered a safe speed for forklifts. They do not set a specific limit, because there are too many variables from location to location. Instead, they refer to ANSI B56.1, the standard* for low lift and high lift trucks. The standard has a formula to calculate stopping distances (4.3).

    *Click the box by ANSI/ITSDF B56.1 and then click the download button.

    Can we have some safety tips for our business travelers?

    The U.S. Department of State maintains a list of countries where travel should be avoided or carefully considered. A compilation of safety information for travelers, both foreign and domestic, can be viewed here.

    We plan to implement a new shift schedule and want to help our workers adjust to the changes.

    Strategies for coping with shift work are offered by the National Sleep Foundation and the National Institute for Occupational Health & Safety (NIOSH).

    I have searched the OSHA regulations (29 CFR 1910) for the General Duty Clause, but I can't find it. Where is it?

    The General Duty Clause, also known as Section 5(a)(1), requires an employer to furnish a workplace which is "free from recognized hazards that are causing death or serious physical harm to his employees. It appears in the Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1970.

    What should employers (and parents) know about safety regulations and injury prevention for young workers?

    For many teens a summer job is their first exposure to the working world. Both OSHA and NIOSH have information on teen workers.

    What can my workers do to avoid being bitten by dogs?

    Workers in a variety of occupations may come in contact with unfamiliar dogs. National Dog Bite Prevention Week is in May each year. The U.S. Postal Service offers a kit that addresses what workers and dog owners can do to prevent dog bites. Additional information is available from the U.S. Humane Society.

    We provide our workers with personal protective equipment, but we have trouble getting some of them to use it. What can we do?

    Workers may resist PPE because they feel it is uncomfortable, inconvenient or unnecessary. Steps you can take to improve compliance include training, offering incentives, and seeking workers' participation in the selection process. If these steps fail, enforcement of the rules may be necessary. For some articles on motivating workers to use PPE, please contact the Library at [email protected] or 630-775-2199.

    How can I make my safety meetings more effective?

    Good safety meetings don't just happen. They need preparation and participation. The Library collection includes articles with ideas for keeping your meetings fresh and productive. Call 630-775-2199 or  email [email protected].

    How do I select appropriate respirators for my employees?

    There are a number of quality articles for suggestions on respirator selection, but there are also National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health guidance tools that help to determine the proper respirator for various applications.

    What is safety certification?

    Surveys show that not all people responsible for safety in a company have actual safety certification. However, certification can provide peer recognition, and may translate into higher pay and aid in job promotion. Certification generally requires that applicants have both education and experience, resulting in such titles as Certified Safety Professional (CSP) or Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

    How can I be sure that my workers will be able to evacuate safely if there's an emergency?

    When emergencies happen, a good evacuation plan can be the difference between life and death. When creating a plan, you must consider the type of emergencies you are most likely to encounter, (fire, chemical spill, tornado, etc.) and determine the most appropriate response. OSHA  and FEMA have a number of tools for evacuation planning. NSC members can download the  NSC Emergency Preparedness Toolkit.

Contact Information

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