by Dale Ave-Lallemant, Safety Director
As the winter holidays approach, we tend to deal with more distractions than usual. Planning dinners, hosting out-of-town family members, purchasing gifts, and figuring out the logistics of other festive activities can easily cause our minds to wander when we are at work. From a health and safety perspective, it’s worth considering how these issues affect us on site, on the road, or at home.
We are more likely to be fatigued during the holiday season due to extra tasks and responsibilities—like last-minute shopping before or after our shift, decorating our homes, or going to school plays. As a result, fatigue can pose a big problem regardless of whether or not we are engaging in high-risk work.
Injuries in the workplace occur most often when they’re not expected and are more likely to happen when we are tired or run-down. Although fatigue is a complex issue that lacks a single easy solution, it might be a good idea to consider our rest patterns or alter work schedules to help compensate for seasonal fatigue.
2. RUSHING AND FRUSTRATION
In addition to holiday stress in our personal lives, many industries face their busiest times leading up to the end of the year. The added pressure in the workplace can affect our emotional state, causing us to rush or become frustrated. These states may cause us to unintentionally create hazards, miss something vital, lack patience with delicate procedures, or become short-tempered. When rushing or frustrated, we are more likely to slip, trip or fall, bump into colleagues and machinery, or forget to perform small, but vital tasks.
It should also be noted that some companies fail to live up to the “safety first” slogan during the holidays. Orders and production are important, but not at the cost of someone’s health or life. It’s important for management to make it clear to employees—through actions as much as words—that their safety is more important than rushing through a job.
3. LADDER SAFETY
Taken by the holiday spirit, we may choose (or be asked) to decorate the workplace. With ladders being used more frequently around the holidays, it’s important to provide a refresher on ladder safety. For example, people should ensure the ladder’s stability before use, keep three points of contact at all times and never place a ladder on an uneven surface. It’s also worth mentioning that decorating is much easier and safer to do if the task is not left to one person. That’s because they might be more inclined to rush or ignore the need for three points of contact in order to carry bulky decorations up the ladder.
4. ELECTRICAL SAFETY
Many electrical incidents happen over the holidays. In fact, thousands of people are treated each holiday season after sustaining an electric shock or being injured in an electrical fire. These incidents are often caused by carelessness and misuse of (sometimes old and faulty) decorations. Ensure that any decorative lights have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, are undamaged and don’t overload the sockets. We should also be reminded about the importance of unplugging decorations for the night and never using electric lights on a metallic tree.
5. SLIPS, TRIPS, AND FALLS
If corridors and rooms are free of decorations and cables throughout the year, people are likely to become complacent and fail to notice when suddenly there is something in their way. Holiday lights and decorations should be clearly visible and kept out of the way to prevent tripping.
There are many other ways for people to slip and fall during the holidays. Snow, ice and rain are the main culpits, especially because they’re coupled with shorter, darker days that make it easier for us to miss or misjudge a step when walking outdoors. Snow and ice should be removed promptly from areas where we will be walking. We should also consider providing new or additional mats to stop snow and water from being brought inside working areas.
6. FOOD SAFETY
Nobody wants to see anyone get sick before the holidays. However, some workplaces don’t take adequate precautions when ordering and storing party platters for their staff holiday gatherings. Food handling guidelines must be followed whenever food is being prepared, stored and distributed. Be mindful of food-related allergies and make sure that anything with allergens is labeled appropriately and kept separately from other foods. If we are contributing to potlucks or baking for our colleagues, remind everyone of the need to communicate the use of common food allergens.
7. DRUNK AND DROWSY DRIVING
Work and family gatherings are often an opportunity for us to have a few drinks—but it’s imperative that nobody is allowed to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. No employer wants their workers involved in a car crash. When organizing an event where alcohol is served, it’s a good idea (and a gesture of goodwill) to pay for workers’ taxis/Uber. There are also various charities and companies that drive people home in their own cars, thus preventing unnecessary worries and logistical problems concerning vehicles being left somewhere overnight.
To reiterate the problems of fatigue above, you should treat drowsy driving with the same level of conviction as drunk driving because it is also risky and most people are so complacent with driving tired that they don’t even give it a second thought. And the combination of a late night and a couple of drinks compounds the risk to disastrous levels.
PREPARE FOR THE WINTER HAZARDS
While the holidays are an exciting time, we are more likely to fall ill or be involved in a workplace incident if we don’t keep our minds and eyes on task. Provide longer breaks when possible to combat fatigue, ensure ladder safety is adhered to, discuss relevant holiday safety topics during toolbox talks to fight human error, and be diligent about everyone’s safety when ordering food and consuming alcohol.
With just a little awareness and planning, we will all have a safe and exciting holiday season.
by Sam Clark, President
All high performing safety programs have an outstanding company culture at their core. The main ingredients of a great culture are communication, dedication to excellence, and leadership that cares about the well-being of their employees. These are the components of a great culture.
- Employees understand the company’s goals.
- Everyone knows their part in reaching the company’s goals.
- The company receives productive feedback from employees.
- The company appropriately responds to employee feedback.
- Team members know that safety comes first by actions of leadership.
DEDICATION TO EXCELLENCE
A dedication to excellence starts with a core of communication to create an engaged team.
- The company’s goals are benchmarked with leaders in the industry.
- Leaders are humble, show vulnerability, listen, and are responsive to change.
- Desire to hire and develop the best people for the job.
- Commitment to doing the right thing.
- Praise is consistently given for good work.
- Have a clear mission and strategic plan that is well communicated.
- Team members know their part in the success of the company.
- Have strong values and live by them.
- Provide coaching, mentoring, and development needed to promote employee growth.
CARING ABOUT THE WELL-BEING OF OUR PEOPLE
Care is built upon a foundation of trust stemming from communication and a dedication to excellence. Caring is the most crucial component of culture.
- Emphasizing that safety comes first.
- Promoting a healthy work-life balance.
- Employees feel they have friends and a support network at work.
- Employee benefits include excellent healthcare, flexible work hours, option to telecommute, maternity leave, and more.
- Value diversity and inclusion.
- No tolerance policies for bullying, hazing, or those who create uncomfortable work environments.
- Recognize people enduring difficult times and provide them support.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
Caring about the well-being of people is so critical to the culture and safety of a company, therefore supporting diversity and inclusion are absolutely crucial. Why is diversity and inclusion so important to promote safety? Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion, and provide exposure to different life experiences, statistically have better outcomes for not only the company, but the overall team (refer to statistics on the following page).
When we discuss diversity, we primarily mean:
- Sexual orientation
- Age and generational
- Persons with disabilities
- Socioeconomic differences
People that identify with being in any of these classifications bring diverse knowledge and experiences that can provide enormous value when it is supported by people who care. A team that lacks inclusion and diversity cannot achieve an understanding of what makes true excellence. If diversity is not valued and nurtured, communication suffers, performance suffers, and the team develops mistrust.
Supporting diversity is the first step, but without inclusion your team does not benefit from what diversity has to offer. When we talk about inclusion, we mean an environment where all employees are:
- Treated fairly and respectfully.
- Provided equal access to opportunities and resources.
- Welcomed and valued.
- Heard and understood.
- Appreciated for their unique contributions.
- Able to contribute to the company’s success.
We are human beings and our brains tend to operate on autopilot. Our experiences shape the world we see. Therefore, we may inappropriately value things that are familiar, and discard things that are foreign to us. To combat this way of thinking, it is critical to understand how our subconscious biases can create a fertile ground for problems, resulting in an environment where inclusion cannot exist.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO SUPPORT SAFETY THROUGH DIVERSITY & INCLUSION?
There are many resources to better understand what biases we have, and how they impact our lives through our subconscious thoughts.
- Be curious and learn more about diversity and inclusion.
- Understand that we all have biases.
- Understand we all have work to do to understand one another.
- Do not tolerate bullying when you see it.
- Support your teammates that are mistreated or unheard.
- Speak up!
Help us build the best, and the safest place to work. Start your journey today, and embrace diversity and inclusion. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. Your safety may depend on it.
TED TALK: Roscio Lorezo: How Diversity Makes Teams More Innovative
by Dale Ave-Lallemant, Safety Director
You arrive to work ready for action. There is a very busy day ahead with at least one thousand things to do before it ends. The 6am to 4pm shift passes in a blink. Your hands are on the current task, but your mind is elsewhere, thinking about the number of items that need to still get done, or on family plans this evening, maybe the fireworks display you are going to take your son to. Suddenly, the unthinkable happens. There it is: A near miss! Your heart is racing. You think “what if?” You contemplate about what could have happened, “Wow! That was close! Need to be more careful next time!”
Another day, another week, another month goes by – same thing, early mornings, late evenings. Many things to do in a short period of time with your hands on task and your mind elsewhere – family vacation, picnic, date night. Suddenly the unthinkable happens, only this time, you are severely injured. Work at the site comes to a screeching halt. 911 is called by a coworker, everyone is focused on getting you the best help they can find. You are unaware of any of this as your stretcher is carefully loaded into the back of an ambulance and you’re rushed off to the nearest hospital.
Family and friends are notified. They are on the way to the emergency room to see you. Meanwhile, you are now in intensive care being treated for your potentially life-altering injuries. Back at the jobsite, workers are scrambling around to put the site back together and figure out what happened. Time is spent investigating and putting controls in place to prevent your incident and injuries from happening to anyone else. The good news, after painful rehab, you’ll fully recover with no permanent harm.
During the two long weeks in the hospital, you reflect on what happened and the price paid for not having your mind on task in terms of your health, well-being, family and quality of life. You wish you could turn back time and do it again. That’s when you realize, the next time there may not be a next time. That somber thought brings serious reflection.
No lapse in focus during the performance of a job is worth the unthinkable to you or your family.
According to OSHA, one worker never returns home from work to his or her family every two hours of every day due to a workplace fatality. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 2.9 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry in 2015. This means that, on average, approximately 7,945 workers are injured or fall ill every day of the year. 331 every hour and almost 6 every second. While this is a decline over the last several years, the number of injuries and illnesses to our workers are way too high. More can be done. More must be done by all of us.
Always focusing on the task at hand drives higher performance and saves lives. Effectively performing your work not only means being THERE, it also means being PRESENT. It means demonstrating leadership. Deliver performance at every opportunity by keeping your attention laser-guided on working safely and avoid having to reflect back on the real price tendered for injuries.
Protect yourself and others. Keep your hands on this thought and your mind on that task to make certain there’s never a different “almost” all over again. This will ensure that you will be able to celebrate and enjoy the holidays, vacations, and family time.
No lapse in focus during the performance of a job is worth the unthinkable to you or your family.
If you're interested in learning more about our company, our services, and how we can work together on your construction project, please contact us.
- Toolbox Talk: Seven Holiday Safety ConcernsNovember 27, 2019 - 10:53 am
- Toolbox Talk: How Company Culture Can Impact Safety in the WorkplaceJuly 11, 2019 - 1:46 pm
- Toolbox Talk: Keep Your Mind On-TaskJune 25, 2019 - 8:28 pm
- Topping Out at ROCCMay 21, 2019 - 3:19 pm
- Toolbox Talk: A Mental Health DiscussionMay 16, 2019 - 2:59 pm