National Burn Awareness Week is February 4-10
From silo fires to kitchen fires, burn hazards exist in every industry. Kitchen workers often suffer from open flame and grease burns. Automotive technicians commonly suffer chemical or thermal burns. Electricians are exposed to electrical burns on a routine basis. In honor of National Burn Awareness Week, we think it’s important to recognize the three main types of burns and know how to treat them. Regardless of industry, burns fall into three primarycategories.
Thermal Burns are caused by hot liquids (scalds), open flames, hot objects (metal pan handles, pipes, or other conductors), and explosions. The easiest way to protect workers from thermal burns is the mandatory use of personal protective equipment (heat-resistant gloves, aprons, etc.). Thermal burns are common. The damage they inflict, however, can vary greatly, ranging from surface skin layer to deep tissue.
Chemical Burns can damage the skin, the eyes, the nasal passages, and lung tissue. Inhalation, splashes, and spills are common causes of chemical burns. Chemical burns are caused by acids, alkaloids, and corrosives. Industrial cleaners, automotive fluids, and manufacturing solvents. Manufacturer labels should remain intact on all chemicals. Chemicals should be stored in approved containers and flammables should be stored in appropriate cabinets. Employees should be trained in Hazardous Communications.
Electrical Burns occur when persons come into contact with live current. Electrical burns occur as current courses through the body and can be immediately fatal. Damage can extend to internal organs, and heart attack is not uncommon with electrocution. High voltage areas should be secured to prevent general access. Only qualified personnel should work with electrical systems.
Elimination of a burn risk is obviously preferred, but not always practical. If the risk cannot be eliminated, administrative controls such as restricting access should be implemented, along with mandatory requirements for personal protective equipment. PPE may include flame-resistant or flame-retardant gloves, aprons, shoes, facial masks, or other gear. Portable fire extinguishers should be readily available, and appropriate for the exposure.
It’s also important to understand burn degrees:
1st degree burns are the least serious and damage only the epidermis, or outer layer, of skin. These burns typically do not require emergency medical treatment. You can run cool water over a first degree burn to cool the injury and alleviate pain. Cover the burned area with a sterile bandage or cloth, but do not use ointment. Seek medical treatment if the burn exhibits any signs of infection or you have any concerns about the extent of the injury.
2nd degree burns inflict damage beyond the epidermis and typically blister. These burns may or may not require emergency medical care, depending on the extent of the injury and its placement on the body. Remove all clothing from the affected area and cool the burn with water. Ice is not recommended. Cover the burn with a sterile bandage. Take precautions to prevent shock, as appropriate, and seek medical attention.
3rd degree burns damage all layers of the skin tissue, inflict nerve damage, and can be fatal. These burns often have a black, white, or leather-like appearance. Medical care is critical. Skin grafting is common. Call 911 immediately in the event of a 3rd degree burn, and follow instructions of emergency personnel.
There is also a 4th degree burn which penetrates to the bone and is essentially non-survivable.
In the case of burn injuries, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.
We work with a number of paratransit companies that operate 12-passenger and 15-passenger vans to transport clients. While these vans are convenient for transporting larger groups of people, numerous studies have deemed these vehicles unsafe due to their high center of gravity and structural design Both the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) have issued regulations for safe operation of these vehicles.
Any decision to purchase and operate these vans should extend beyond convenience and cost and also consider the following safety factors:
- These vehicles have a higher center of gravity than other passenger vehicles and this center of gravity is impacted directly by the additional weight of every passenger
- The sidewalls of these vehicles are structurally designed for cargo transport rather than passenger protection
- The stability of these vehicles can be directly and substantially impacted by number and distribution of passengers, tire pressure, and high winds
- Posted speed limits are designed for passenger cars and light trucks, and not for large vans
Many organizations have phased these vehicles out of their fleets and replaced them with small school buses. For those of you who continue to operate these vans, there are steps you can be taking to increase safety.
- Carry no more than 9 passengers, including the driver
- Remove the rear seat from all 15-passenger vans
- Require all occupants to wear seat belts
- Review the MVR of all driver applicants prior to employment
- Assure proper training of all drivers
- Never operate these vehicles above 60 MPH
- Never load cargo, equipment, or other items on the roof of these vans
- Require drivers to conduct pre- and post- trip inspections
- Remove all tow hitches to prevent towing
FMCSA Guidelines and Driver Qualification for Motor Carriers of Passengers can be found here.
Protect your passengers, protect your drivers, protect your business. Safety first.
The phrase “fleet management” frequently brings to mind big rigs and transportation companies. No doubt, these organizations need formal fleet management and safety plans, but they don’t have a corner on this market. Home healthcare businesses often have multiple care providers on the road in company-owned vehicles. Large corporations frequently provide company-owned vehicles to their executives and sales personnel. Towing and recovery services, tree trimming business, and disaster response companies typically have multiple large trucks on the road.
Since fleet management and safety extend far beyond the transportation industry, what should a formal, written policy include?
- Driver Screening – Offers of employment to driver applicants should be extended contingent upon the applicant having an acceptable motor vehicle record (MVR)
- Minimal points/violations in the preceding 36 months (the specifics vary among insurers, but drivers are typically expected to have less than 3 to 4 points within the 36 preceding months).
- NO alcohol or drug related offenses, leaving the scene, revocations or suspensions, speeding more than 20 miles over the posted limit, or any criminal-related driving offense.
- Annual MVR review.
- Driver Qualification – Age, experience
- Driver Training – Pre-hire, post-hire, remedial, refresher, road test
- A list of safe operating rules – Seat belts, distracted driving
- A clause prohibiting personal use or family use of vehicles, and specifically defining authorized passengers.
- Accident reporting and investigation policy – Including who to contact and what to do in case of accident
- Vehicle selection – Retirement scheduling, evaluation, criteria
- Vehicle inspection and maintenance – Daily (pre- and post-trip), preventative, on-demand, crisis
- Documentation and Recordkeeping
Specific safety features of the program may include:
- Safe driver incentive program
- Driver safety meetings
- Defensive driver training
There are two additional recommendations I submit to all of my clients:
- Maintain all driver employee files, to the extent possible, as if they were required to comply with CDL requirements – you can never over-document a file; and
- Add a self-reporting clause requiring all drivers to self-report any moving violation at the time of occurrence, regardless of whether or not the driver holds a CDL, and regardless of legal disposition.
Proactively managing the hiring and training of drivers, as well as the lifespan of the fleet, promotes safety and provides some financial control over the fleet investment.
I published this a few years ago, but these basics never go out of style:
The NFPA reports over 200 fires annually due to Christmas trees alone. Because the holiday season should be a time of merriment, we offer the following safety tips to keep your family and your business safe this holiday season:
- Live Trees: Water, water, water! Pine needles dry out quickly and are extremely flammable. Avoid placing your tree too near a fireplace or furnace vent, and check the water level daily. Additionally, make sure the trunk of your tree is cut evenly so it stands level within the stand to avoid tipping accidents.
- Artificial Trees: Use flame resistant artificial trees. Look for the UL (Underwriters Laboratory) label on all pre-lit trees.
- Wood Stoves, Fireplaces, and Candles: The holidays are the perfect time to light a cozy fire or burn a scented candle, so be extra vigilant about hot coals, open flames, and proximity to flammables during this season.
- Extension Cords: All those lights require a great deal of planning. Check all used cords (and timers) for damage each season. Confirm that all cords are UL-approved and are proper for exterior use. Be careful not to overload interior outlets or use an excessive amount of extension cords. Place cords near the wall, out of walkways, and never tuck an electrical cord beneath a rug.
- Children and Animals: Be very alert to plants that may be poisonous when ingested by small children or animals. Likewise, consider wagging dog tails and high traffic areas when positioning your tree or placing breakable or ingestible décor.
- Holiday Lights: Turn off all lights and lighted decorations when you are sleeping or the building is empty. Unplug extension cords if you will be away from the building for an extended period of time.
Happy holidays from our house to yours!
Every business has safety guidelines in place to reduce the risk of harm to workers. Even with the best safety practices, however, there’s still the chance of an employee being hurt on the job and needing medical attention. Workers compensation insurance, of course, will be a part of that, but many companies understand the value of a formalized Return to Work program. These programs can greatly aid an injured employee’s transition back to full-time work.
Establishing a Return to Work program for your company can be challenging. Here are some things to keep in mind when setting up a formal program.
The Return to Work Program Must Be Clearly Laid Out
A Return to Work program isn’t as simple as telling employees that accommodations are available if needed. The program needs to be fully fleshed out, and needs to actively reach out to employees who are injured on the job. The plan also needs to prepare specific solutions for the different outcomes for an injured worker.
At its best, a Return to Work program will actively search for ways to accommodate an injured worker. When Return to Work programs are able to bring a worker back as soon as they’re medically cleared, it improves morale, saves money, and provides more incentive to return to full-time work upon reaching maximum medical improvement and achieving a full release from the treating physician.
A Return to Work Coordinator can help with not only setting up the Return to Work plan, but also walking injured workers through the process. This person can serve as a valuable point of contact, and can help monitor the injured worker as they go through recovery, allowing them to move to their full-time job when they’re ready. A coordinator is invaluable for both workers and for businesses, and keep the Return to Work program running smoothly.
Transitional Jobs Must Be Defined Clearly
The Return to Work program is intended to give injured workers a less strenuous job designed to accommodate their medical restrictions during their recovery process, which means transitional jobs are necessary. These jobs are used to keep the worker invested in the work environment (and connected to the company), allowing them to contribute to the success of the organization while still recovering.
Transitional job choices are important. There are a few different ways to approach transitional jobs. The first is to have light-duty, limited-duty, and modified-duty assignments for all existing jobs. A light-duty assignment excuses an employee from certain tasks they would normally perform. For example, a light-duty warehouse worker may be assigned to a portion of the warehouse where they won’t need to lean over. A limited-duty assignment cuts the hours of the position, so the employee may work part-time instead of full-time. A modified-duty assignment exchanges certain tasks with other tasks that are easier for the employee. Each of these transitional jobs could accommodate lifting restrictions, bending or twisting restrictions, or other specific limitations imposed by the treating physician.
Another alternative is to have specific jobs on hand to assign to injured workers. Transitional light-duty jobs include administrative work, ordering and stocking supplies, labeling, shipping and packaging, providing training to others, or completing their own training. A formal Return to Work program often presents a good opportunity to have employees complete online training modules in situations where employees travel or work remotely, and the worker’s presence at the office location is infrequent or irregular. Any jobs that are mostly sedentary, require low effort, and are constantly necessary are great transitional jobs.
Permanent Disabilities Need Attention Too
Transitional jobs are just that — transitional. They’re not meant to be permanent reassignments; they’re generally expected to last between 30 and 90 days, and the Return to Work Coordinator can help work with the employee and their physician to decide when they’re able to return to their regular job. There are, of course, instances where an injury or disability doesn’t completely heal, and an employee may not reach a level of medical improvement that allows them to meet the full demands of their former position.
Because the employee is already a part of the work environment, and already knows and cares about the company, it will likely be better to change the employee’s job, rather than terminate a valued, experienced worker. The Return to Work Coordinator can be a huge help with this transition as well. The coordinator can communicate with Human Resources, the employee’s physician, and the employee themselves, and help develop a plan to move the injured employee into a more suitable long-term position.
The Company Needs to Care
One of the most important parts of the Return to Work program is that the employee feels like the company has a vested interest in their recovery. When employees feel as though the company is reluctantly providing as little help as possible, they are less likely to Return to Work. The company then has to spend money to find, hire, and train a new worker.
The Return to Work Coordinator adds value to the team by communicating one-on-one with the injured worker, helping identify challenges and construct solutions. The coordinator can assist in identifying what accommodations are necessary to promote an injured worker’s Return to Work, and help implement the necessary changes to accomplish that goal. For most employers, disability accommodations cost nothing, and for those that incur cost, the typical one-time spend averages $600. Moreover, 74% of employers who decided to implement accommodations rated them as either “very effective” or “extremely effective.” Return to Work programs benefit both the injured worker and the company.
Savings Will Be Mostly Indirect
Saving money is, of course, an important part of any business. Paying an employee full or nearly-full wages for less contribution can seem counterproductive at first, but actually results in long-term savings. With a Return to Work program in place, the employee is able to contribute experience and knowledge while continuing to heal. Returning to work, contributing in a meaningful way, can promote positive mental health in addition to aiding in the physical recovery process.
While hiring a Return to Work Coordinator and providing transitional job opportunities may not seem beneficial at the onset, both choices are providing benefits behind the scenes. Return to Work programs improve the chance that an injured worker will return to full-time employment upon recovery and release from medical care, eliminating the costs of finding, hiring, and training a new employee. This program also shows your staff that your organization cares about employee health and well-being, and is prepared to help them Return to Work, while also being mindful of injuries and disabilities. Both employee morale and employer reputation benefit when a workforce watches a company actively “take care of one of its own.”
Return to Work programs are largely beneficial for both employees and employers. By building a program that cares about employees and welcomes them back after an injury, the company builds a stronger relationship with its workers, saves money, and improves morale.
[Source for $600/74% figure: https://www.dol.gov/odep/Return to Work/employer-background.htm]