The crisp autumn air with its blaze of fall color has given way to blustery days and cold nights with the promise of snow! As the year 2011 winds down, many of us are already looking forward to the New Year while taking stock of our accomplishments over the past months. Our personal safety – at home or in the workplace – is a year-round topic that deserves our attention as we ready ourselves for the holiday rush and prospect of a new year. Active lifestyles and busy schedules can make our focus drift a bit but it pays to be vigilant. Have we regularly addressed our safety or will we wait until something happens to us, or loved ones before we learn to preplan our activities and daily routines to ensure an accident-free life? A safety theme for each month is a great way to generate interest, provide some interesting information – and ensure we have an accident-free, safe year!
Around the New Year’s Eve celebrations, people seem to love making New Years’ resolutions. Personally and in business as well, pre-planning can help us achieve our goals. With a bit of effort, our resolution to improve safety will result in being prepared and ready for the many structured around a seasonally-based topic ‘calendar’ for each month of the year. The “Twelve Months of Safety” is a way to remember many simple safety practices we tend to forget – though they are very important elements in our lives. Being prepared for weather extremes, holiday hazards, and personal practices all contribute to an active, healthy and accident-free lifestyle.
There are many sources available for personal and workplace safety that can be accessed for more information. The Internet, free publications available from the National Safety Council or the local library are great places to start looking while developing your own inspiration. Flyers, handouts, posters or table tents can also be visually interesting and a fun way to start conversations about safety.
Here’s a list of topics to consider adding to your calendar:
January is a great month to take a look at how you’d like your new year to unfold, and what better way than to begin with recommendations for a healthier you? Topics like nutrition, exercise and effective sleep, simple ergonomic exercises that you can “take with you” to your workplace are excellent starting points.
February is a cold month in northwestern Wisconsin! Many of us are busy with our winter sports and activities and are moving about – despite the cold weather. Our cellphones have become essential tools in our work and social life. And often, we’re juggling our cellphones as we attempt to negotiate slippery sidewalks or while driving. This is a great time of year to reinforce safe behaviors and practices with our cellphones. For more information, see www.connectsafely.org
March can come in like a lion or a lamb, and our thoughts begin to turn toward warmer days. Accident prevention is a year-round activity but what better month to consider ways to make our homes and lives safer? There are many simple tips available to reduce the likelihood of injuries – and here are a few:
- Choose a step stool with a hand-rail to hold when standing on the top step. Always make sure the step stool is fully open and steady before climbing it.
- Elderly people and children are often at risk of burns from scalding water. By setting the hot-water heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit, you can avoid this risk. If your hot-water heater does not have a thermostat, use a thermometer to check the water at the faucet.
- Never place an electric appliance where it can fall in water.
- Never touch an electric appliance while you are standing in water.
- Don't place electric heaters near combustible materials.
- Do you use your basement or garage as a general storage area? If so, there are probably many things you can trip over, including tools and sharp or pointed objects. Look at these areas with an eye toward accident prevention, and remove or rearrange any objects that are potential hazards.
- Never remove the guards from your power tools. Tools used with the guards removed pose a serious risk of injury.
April is a month in transition – from snow, rain and sleet to blustery winds and some sun, there’s always a lot of weather happening. We begin to think about “spring cleaning,” and an occasional sunny day tempts us to get outside and look at hints of green beginning to pop up from the ground. But April is also the start of the severe weather season in Wisconsin. It’s a good month to review your emergency procedures for escaping the threat of severe thunderstorms or tornados. Check your flashlight batteries – are they working? Emergency routes – ensure that nothing blocks your way to a place of safety.
May is a wonderful month – sunshine, warm days and flowers bloom in profusion…the world around us seems fresh and new. As more and more days are available to tempt us outdoors, the mercury is rising in our thermometers. May is an excellent month to remind ourselves of the proper methods to prevent heat stress/stroke, and proper hydration is the key.
June is the traditional start of the vacation season, and many of us will “hit the road” for destinations of fun both near and far. Here are some simple tips to ensure that your trips are accident free:
- Never operate any vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Don’t speed
- Avoid distractions – never text (including dialing) while driving!
- Don’t drive drowsy
- Always wear your seatbelt
- Be extra careful in bad weather
- Don’t follow too closely
- Watch out for the other guy
- Practice defensive driving
- Keep your vehicle in top working order – always ensure that your tires are properly inflated, the engine oil is adequate and all lights and signals are working
July begins with a bang as we celebrate our nation’s birthday, and many of us will don our chef’s hats and aprons as the outdoor grilling season swings into high gear. From fireworks to grill safety, our exposure to flames and fire is greater typically in July than any other month. Always remember to keep a fire extinguisher within reach and ensure that your first aid kit is stocked in case of minor burns. When grilling or starting a campfire, never use unsafe propellants to start fires! Throwing gasoline on a bed of coals in the grill might seem like a reasonable way to get them hot quickly - but the risks of explosion, serious injury or death is just too great. Always use a grill starter instead of flammable liquids!
August – the “dog days” of summer when heat, humidity and heavy lifting just don’t seem like fun. When our bodies are tired and overheated, over-exertion can lead to significant injury. Some simple lifting techniques that can prevent pain and discomfort are:
- Position the load to be lifted close to your body
- Bend deeply at the knees, keeping your back straight
- Flex your knees and lift smoothly without jerking
September means the kids are back in school, and their close contact with one another brings plenty of opportunity to share germs and bacteria. A fundamental method of limiting exposure is practicing effective hand-washing. Too many of us neglect to ensure our hands are clean! Use a high quality soap (anti-bacterial is fine but overuse can break down your skin’s natural defenses) and lather your hands thoroughly. Recite your ABC’s in your head while you scrub – those thirty seconds or so is an excellent period of time to strip away the miniscule items that can make us sick. Simple prevention eliminates missed work and sickness when you’re afflicted.
October usually ushers in colder days as we ready ourselves for yet another Wisconsin winter. This is the month to check that your furnaces (at home and at work) are not exhausting any carbon monoxide. CO is a deadly gas that is colorless, odorless and you can’t taste it. It’s created as a byproduct of incomplete combustion of fuel gases. Is the furnace properly vented to the building’s exterior? Are all filters clean? Has your furnace technician checked the burners and fuel consumption? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time to have the furnace checked by a professional.
November brings the anticipation of family and friends gathering for another national holiday – Thanksgiving (and deer hunting) If you're tempted to cook your Thanksgiving feast just a tad faster for your hungry dinner guests, think again. Undercooked food, especially meat, can cause severe illness like Campylobacter or food poisoning. Campylobacter is most often spread by contact with raw or undercooked poultry. It may also be wise to ask about any food allergies a guest or guests have that you don't know about. Some people are allergic to things like peanuts or milk, so make sure before making a dish using peanut oil or a dessert using milk. For more information, see www.medicinenet.com
December ushers in our winter weather usually arrive in full force and conditions on the job are dangerous now more than any time of the year. Winter also brings wet and slippery grounds. That is why we’re at a big risk of slipping and falling on the job. However, the risk of injury can be eliminated!
And there you have it – a twelve month safety approach to improving your life and those of your co-workers!