Safety Focused Newsletter - March 2018

Health Tips for Shift Workers

For shift workers, unconventional schedules can take a toll on health and safety. In fact, research shows that people who sleep during the day often struggle with getting an adequate amount of rest.

What’s more, workers on a shift schedule tend to have poor eating habits and lack regular exercise, which can contribute to fatigue and stress. To combat these adverse health factors, shift workers should consider doing the following:

  • Get enough rest before your shift begins. Eating well and getting plenty of exercise can help you sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep issues, speak with your doctor.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you begin to feel drowsy during the workday, consider going for a short walk or eating a healthy snack to re-energize.
  • Hold your employer accountable when it comes to rotating schedules. Working one shift over and over can take a toll, and it’s important to have occasional variety.

It’s important to be mindful about your scheduling, and avoid permanent or consecutive night shifts whenever possible. In addition, employees should be allowed to gradually change from night shifts to normal shifts, as this gives the body time to recover and adapt to a new schedule.

Fatigue due to poor quality or lack of sleep can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, and can severely hamper one’s ability to perform at work. Speak to a doctor if you are concerned about the quality of your sleep or want more general health tips.

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CenterStage: February is American Heart Month - Are Your Loved Ones Knowledgeable?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Talking with your loved ones about heart disease can be awkward, but it’s important. In fact, it could save a life. At the dinner table, in the car, or even via text, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you care about in conversations about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.

Source: Wellness Layers (27 June 2017). Retrieved from http://www.wellnesslayers.com/june-2017-american-heart-association-launched-its-new-heart-and-stroke-patient-support-network-and-patients-registry-powered-by-rmdy/

Here are three reasons to talk to the people in your life about heart health and three ways to get the conversation started.

Three Reasons You Should Talk to Your Loved Ones About Heart Health

#1. More than physical health is at risk

Millions of people in the US don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can lead to dementia later in life. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.

 

#2. Feel Younger Longer

Just as bad living habits can age you prematurely and shorten your lifespan, practicing good heart healthy habits can help you feel younger longer. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are 7 years older than they should be, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just beginning the conversation with the people in your life that you care about can begin to make changes in their heart health.

 

#3. You Are What You Eat

Even small changes can make a big difference. Prepare healthier versions of your favorite family recipes by making simple ingredient swaps, simply searching the internet is all it usually takes to find an easy ingredient alternative. Find a new
recipe to cook for your family members, or get in the kitchen together and you’ll finish with something delicious and possibly making some new favorite memories as well. When grocery shopping, choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats, and be sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Three Ways to Start the Conversation

  1. Encourage family members to make small changes, like using spices to season food instead of salt.
  2. Motivate your loved ones to incorporate physical activity into every day. Consider a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can achieve the best results.
  3. Avoid bad habits together. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system. This applies to practicing healthier practices as well. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes, chances are they may have a big difference.

The key to heart health is a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to try to let go of bad habits that increase your risk of heart disease. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can possibly extend your life expectancy a little bit each day.

Heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and consciously monitoring health conditions. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.

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Prepare your workforce for flu season

It's that time of the year - flu season (yuck!). Protect and prevent the flu from taking over your workplace with this helpful article from Employee Benefit Advisor.


The flu doesn’t discriminate as to who it will infect, which is why it’s important to make sure your workforce is prepared for flu season — which is now in full force. While there are simple personal health practices everyone can adopt to help stay germ-free, getting an annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect against the virus.

Employees miss an average of five workdays per year due to the flu, at a cost of about $200 per person for each lost day. That means for a workforce of 250 employees, flu season could cost $250,000 in missed workdays every year. And, with between 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations from the flu each year, adopting preventative steps to cut your company’s exposure is vitally important for your employees’ health and your bottom line.

[Image: Bloomberg]

[Image: Bloomberg]

One of the most convenient options employers have in preventing the flu is on-site clinics. Some healthcare companies offer this option as part of a worksite wellness program in which they administer flu shots and provide educational materials. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on-site vaccines increase productivity and decrease absenteeism in the workplace.

Business leaders also can help increase employee participation in on-site flu shot clinics by educating their workplace on the importance of the flu shot and helping to dispel common misconceptions associated with the shot. As a physician, here are some of the most common “myths” I’ve come across:

The flu shot will make me sick. This is probably the most common flu shot misconception employees have. While a flu shot can sometimes produce minor side effects, like headache or low-grade fever, the vaccine contains inactive flu viruses that cannot cause illness.

Statistically speaking, some people will come down with the flu shortly after getting the flu shot — but, again, the illness isn’t caused by the vaccine itself. The most logical explanation for this is that the person was already exposed to flu viruses shortly before, or within two weeks after, getting vaccinated. It typically takes two weeks for the body’s immune system to fully protect itself after getting vaccinated, so it’s possible to come down with the flu in that period of time.

It’s too late to get vaccinated. It’s never too late to get a shot. Because flu season typically peaks between December and February and could last until late May, you still have time to schedule an on-site flu clinic. However, don’t wait too long. Even if employees receive the vaccination very early on in flu season (September or October), they will still benefit from protection lasting well into 2018. As always, the earlier the better.

I don’t really need a flu shot. While the vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from year to year depending on what strain is going around, research continues to support the recommendation that working adults should get vaccinated every fall. The CDC agrees, stating that a flu shot can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by between 40% and 60% if the dominant flu strain matches the vaccine.

For a healthy person, the flu often just means using a couple sick days to recover. But receiving a vaccine also prevents the spread of germs to other people, keeping the virus out of the workplace completely. Getting a flu shot protects not only the person getting vaccinated, but also his or her coworkers.

Of course, there’s always room for simple, yet effective prevention practices for the entire workforce. Wiping down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes kills many different viruses, including the flu. Hand sanitizer also limits the spread of flu, especially if it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol. This percentage ensures the product will have maximum effectiveness in killing germs.

There’s no better time than now to start preparing for flu season. On-site clinics go a long way in making sure employees are healthier and happier this fall and winter. And that’s a win-win for both worker and employer.

 

Source:

Erickson R. (3 January 2018). "Prepare your workforce for flu season" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/how-to-prepare-your-workforce-for-flu-season


HRL - Employers - Happy

Safety Focused Newsletter - January 2018

Common Reasons Workplace Hazards Go Unreported

In order to ensure a safe and healthy workplace, organizations rely on their employees to report safety concerns. While hazard reporting is critical for discovering and addressing risks, many employees avoid it. The following are some reasons why workplace hazards go unreported:

  • Employees lack the time. It can be easy to be distracted by daily work and not take the time to fulfil extra responsibilities. However, if you notice a hazard, it’s important to notify your supervisor to ensure the safety of you and your co-workers.
  • Employees don’t know how to report the hazard. Sometimes employees may notice a safety issue, but don’t report it because they don’t know how. In these instances, it’s important to ask your supervisor to teach you hazard reporting processes.
  • Employees are concerned about getting in trouble. If a hazard is the result of negligence, employees may worry about repercussions for identifying an issue. However, hazard reporting isn’t about discipline, but rather prevention and correction. Employees should feel empowered to speak with their supervisors about workplace issues without worrying about getting in trouble.

When it comes to hazard reporting, employees should be proactive instead of waiting for an inspection to take place.

Working Safely in the Cold

Employees that work outside in the winter months are at risk of serious health problems, including hypothermia, frostbite, dehydration and muscle injuries. What’s more, frigid temperatures can also cause additional pain for those who suffer from arthritis and rheumatism.

Common symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries include uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, clumsy movements, fatigue, confusion, white or grayish skin, skin that feels waxy and numbness.

To reduce the risk of cold-induced injuries, consider doing the following:

  • Layer clothing to keep warm enough to be safe, but cool enough to avoid perspiring excessively. Layered clothing should contain the following:
    • An inner layer of synthetic weave to keep perspiration away from the body
    • A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain body heat
    • An outer layer designed to protect from wind chill and allow for ventilation
  • Wear a hat.
  • Place heat packets in gloves, vests, boots and hats to add heat to the body.

It’s important to note that many people do not notice they are suffering from cold-related illnesses because their tissue is numb. Therefore, it is wise for employees to check on each other periodically when working outdoors in the cold.

If employees experience any symptoms of cold-related illnesses and injuries, they should get indoors, alert their supervisor and call for medical attention if symptoms do not subside.

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Cyber Risks & Liabilities - January/February 2018

Troubling Lack of Cyber Concern by CFOs

Gone are the days when chief financial officers (CFOs) solely had to focus on managing their organization’s financial risks. These days, CFOs need to think about the costs of cyber security as well as the costs associated with not having enough of it. When their security tools are inadequate or threats go unnoticed, there is an increased risk of incidents that can costs thousands or millions of dollars in repairs, lost business and reputation. CFOs need to apply new strategies when it comes to tackling cyber risks.

Work With the Chief Information Security Officer

According to recent data, 39 percent of IT workers don’t believe their senior management understands the impact that a security breach could have on their company’s reputation. CFOs should become active members of their security teams, instead of passive observers, in an effort to protect their revenue with a more focused and effective cyber security plan. The most effective partnerships involve weekly cyber exposure reviews with management and IT.

Invest in IT

A recent report found that firms that invest more in IT security experience an average of 6.8 fewer breaches and save more than $5 million. With the growing number of available devices that employees can use to stay connected and do their jobs, new approaches are needed to deal with increased cyber exposure that may have been more easily contained in the past.

Be Accountable

CFOs need to realize how cyber risk affects financial risk. According to a recent study by Ponemon Institute, data breaches result in an average stock price decline of 5 percent and an average revenue decline of $3.4 million. CFOs cannot manage risks of that magnitude by themselves. It is in the best interest of the entire company if its CFO partners with others in the organization who have a vested interest in managing cyber risk.

The Biggest Cyber Security Disasters of 2017

Like 2016 before it, 2017 was not without its share of cyber security incidents—incidents that impacted companies of all sizes and affected multiple industries. The following are some of the biggest cyber security disasters of 2017:

  • WannaCry—Using a tool that was allegedly stolen from the U.S. National Security Agency, cyber criminals exploited a flaw in Microsoft’s Windows system in order to spread malware dubbed WannaCry. The attack, which took place May 12, 2017, has impacted over 200,000 users in at least 150 countries.
  • Equifax—In September of 2017, Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was the victim of a massive cyber attack. This attack compromised the personal information of over 143 million people.
  • Yahoo—In late 2016, Yahoo reported more than 1 billion user accounts were impacted by a 2013 breach. Later in 2017, it was revealed that over 3 billion Yahoo accounts were compromised.
  • Verizon—In July of 2017, it was reported that 14 million Verizon subscribers may have been affected by a data breach. The majority of those impacted by the breach were individuals who had previously contacted Verizon customer service.
  • Gmail—In May of 2017, it was revealed that Gmail users were targeted in a sophisticated phishing scam. The scam sought to gain access to accounts through a third-party app. Over 1 million users have been impacted.

Trump Administration Releases Rules on Disclosing Cyber Flaws

The Trump administration publicly released its rules on whitehouse.gov for deciding whether to disclose cyber security flaws or keep them secret. In doing so, the administration hopes to bring more transparency to its cyber processes.

The U.S. government initially created the Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) under former President Barack Obama, to determine what to do with discovered flaws. The process was designed to balance law enforcement’s and U.S. intelligence officers’ desires to hack into devices with the intention to warn manufacturers of the need to patch holes in their security. However, the government has attracted criticism for jeopardizing internet security by stockpiling detected cyber vulnerabilities in order to preserve its ability to launch its own attacks on computer systems.

The new Trump administration charter explains how the VEP functions and names the agencies involved in the vulnerability reviews, including intelligence agencies as well as several civilian departments that include the Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Energy and State.

The National Security Agency is the executive secretariat of the interagency group. Its job is to coordinate debates over flaws that the various agencies submit in case there is a disagreement about whether to disclose them. If the disagreements cannot be reconciled, the group will vote on whether to disclose or retain the flaws.

The new rules also require the creation of an annual report to provide metrics on the amount of flaws discovered, retained and disclosed. Portions of the report are to be made public. Decisions to retain vulnerabilities are to be reconsidered every year.

According to White House security coordinator Rob Joyce, the revised rules are intended to shed light on the process for how various federal agencies weigh the costs of keeping a flaw secret. Joyce said the rules are the most sophisticated in the world and that they set the United States apart from most other nations.

More than 90 percent of flaws are ultimately disclosed, according to Joyce, although critics argue that they’re not shared quickly enough.

 


Safety First - January 2018

According to NORC at the University of Chicago, 75 percent of the Americans affected by substance abuse are active in the workforce, and they’re more likely to seek treatment if it is initiated by their employer. Jan. 22-28 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Take this opportunity to educate your employees about the dangers of substance abuse with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from Hierl Insurance Inc.:

Playing It Safe

Struggling with Drugs or Alcohol? If you recognize that you have a problem with using drugs or alcohol, you have already completed the most important step on your road to recovery. Attempting to do your job well while dealing with your problem is very difficult—but you’re not alone. Of those over age 18 abusing drugs or alcohol, it is estimated that more than 70 percent hold down full- or part-time jobs.

Payroll Stuffer

How Does Substance Abuse Affect the Workplace? Drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace impairs your senses and judgment, putting both your job and your coworkers at risk. It has a negative affect on relationships, health care costs, productivity, and workplace safety.

If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, confidential help is available. Take the first step on the road to recovery by contacting your HR representative today.

Playing It Safe

Dealing With Depression. Everyone feels sad or down at one time or another. For most, this feeling passes within a few days or weeks. But when a loss of interest in normal activities and feelings of sadness persist for a longer period, it may indicate more serious conditions, including depression.

Lifestyle Lessons

Treating Lower Back Pain. Lower back pain is one of the most agonizing and common health conditions in the world, as well as a leading cause of disability. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 1 in 4 adults will experience lower back pain for at least one day during a three-month timespan.


Tips for Exercising Without Injury

While exercising can improve your mood, fight chronic diseases and help you manage your weight, it can put a strain on your body if you don’t take the proper precautions. To get the most from your workouts and decrease your risk of injury, you should take the time to warm up, cool down and stretch.

Warming Up Tips

  • Move similar to how you will in your workout by walking briskly, jogging or biking at a slow pace.
  • Increase the intensity gradually to reduce stress on your bones, muscles and heart.
  • Warm up for approximately 5-15 minutes so that you break a light sweat.

Cool-down Tips

  • Include movements similar to those in your workout, but they should decrease in intensity gradually.
  • Cool down for at least 10 minutes so that blood returns from your muscles to your heart.

Stretching Tips

  • Stretch before and after a workout to build flexibility and range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. Use gentle, fluid movements while stretching and breathe normally.
  • Focus on individual muscle groups and hold a stretch for 20 to 60 seconds. Do not force your joints beyond their normal range of motion.

Keeping in mind the above tips will ensure that the next time you exercise, you can do so without injury.

 

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Safety Focused Newsletter - December 2017

Preventing Sprains and Strains

Sprains, strains and tears to muscles and connective tissues are some of the most common injuries workers experience. Sprains and strains can result from lifting injuries, being hit by falling objects or even a simple misstep. Overusing your muscles can also cause these injuries.

To reduce your risk of experiencing sprains and strains on the job, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Use extreme caution if you are lifting something particularly heavy. When in doubt, ask for help.
  • Reduce repetitive movements if possible. Chronic strains are usually the result of overusing the same muscles.
  • Use proper form when completing tasks, as extensive gripping can increase the risk of hand and forearm strains.
  • Consider your posture when sitting for long periods of time and maintain an overall relaxed position.
  • Maintain a healthy fitness level outside of work to keep your body strong and flexible.
  • Stretch before you begin working, and take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and rebalance your body.

If you have any questions or concerns about sprains or strains, do not hesitate to contact your supervisor.

 

The Hazards of Headphones

In many workplaces, it’s common for employees to listen to music while they work. While this provides workers with entertainment while they perform their job duties, the overuse of headphones may lead to hearing loss over time, particularly if they listen to media at a high volume.

The following are some common symptoms to look out for if you are concerned that frequent headphone use is contributing to hearing loss:

  • Straining to understand conversations
  • Having to watch people’s faces closely to understand what they’re saying
  • Continuously increasing the volume on the TV or radio, especially to the point where others complain
  • Sounds seem muffled after listening to music
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

If you find that you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a hearing test. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are at risk for further hearing loss.

To continue to use headphones at work safely, there are a number of strategies to keep in mind.

If you use a smartphone or MP3 player, check to see if you can set a volume limit on it. Many devices have this feature built-in and include instructions on how to set it in the manual.

Another way to reduce your risk of hearing loss is to purchase headphones that go over your ears, rather than ear buds. Ear buds fit inside your ear and don’t provide any noise isolation, which causes people using them to turn the volume up louder.

As a general rule, set your music volume no higher than 60 to 70 percent of the maximum, and limit listening to one hour per day. Doing so will ensure that you can enjoy your favorite media without harming your hearing.

 

Download the December 2017 Safety Focused Newsletter PDF