While injuries vary year to year, here are 5 types which consistently find themselves on the Top 10 (and usually in the Top 5) list:
- Over-Exertion/Strain-Sprain – Lifting, pulling, holding, or pushing objects all contribute to these type of injuries, which are seen frequently among warehouse workers. Over-exertion claims are also often compounded by heat-related claims.
- Falling on Same Level – The good old slip, trip, and fall injury. Torn floor coverings, uneven parking lot surfaces, wet floors, icy parking lots, even improper footwear can contribute to this hazard. Make sure walkways (interior and exterior) are well-maintained and free of obstruction. When mopping or cleaning up spills, be sure to post “Wet Floor” signs. Salt snow-covered and icy surfaces immediately and frequently.
- Falling to a Lower Level – Climbing on ladders, mezzanine level storage areas, scaffolding, or any other work above ground level presents this hazard. Proper fall protection is critical in avoiding serious injury or death when working at heights.
- Bodily Reactions – These injuries occur in near-miss incidents such as when an employee slips or trips, but rights themselves before a full fall, yet still suffers a sprain or strain injury
- Struck By – Objects may fall from shelving overhead, objects may fall from overhead cranes or other heavy equipment, workers may walk into the end of a beam protruding off the bed of a transport truck or even a shelf in the lumberyard.
November 5-12 is Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, a week championed by the National Sleep Foundation to increase awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving. Though bills to prevent this have been introduced in the United States as early as 1997, it’s not until recently that people have started realizing what a danger driving while tired can be.
The purpose of Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is to draw attention to sleep deprivation impairment. Many assume that driving tired isn’t as bad as driving under the influence, or push themselves to drive home after long shifts at work. The culture of pushing yourself to your absolute limits has had a substantial effect on the transportation industry; in many places, it’s not unheard of for truck drivers to take 18-hour shifts, and taxi drivers routinely do the same.
Drowsy Driving Prevention Week has effected change in some ways, however. Drastic alternations are being made every day to make the streets safer, both for those behind the wheels and those riding shotgun.
Drowsy Driving: An Overview
Drowsy driving is loosely defined as driving while tired enough for driving skills to be affected. However, although it presents risks similar to driving drunk, the general public is severely undereducated about the dangers of being fatigued behind the wheel. The need for public knowledge lead the National Sleep Foundation to start a week dedicated to education about the effects this can have, and what can be changed to help.
In a 2005 poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that, in the past year, 60% of adult drivers have driven a vehicle while fatigued, and approximately 37% have actually fallen asleep. Considering that in the last 10 years, the economy has changed such that people are even more encouraged to get less sleep and do more work, there’s a high chance that number has increased.
It’s hard to definitively prove how dangerous fatigued driving is; unlike drunk driving, there are no specific tests that can be done on a fatigued driver. However, an Australian study showed that being awake for 18 hours was as impairing as a blood alcohol content of .05, which rose to .10 after 24 hours. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also estimates that in 2013, fatigued driving was responsible for at least 72,000 crashes and 800 fatal accidents.
Drowsy Driving Laws
Because of the risks, there has been a significant push to introduce laws that criminalize driving after a specific amount of time. However, in the United States, there are no federal laws based around fatigued driving, so the burden falls upon the states. As of December 2016, only two states, Arkansas and New Jersey, have official legislation that criminalizes fatigued driving; both states define “fatigued” as being without sleep for 24 consecutive hours.
Taxis are similarly state-regulated. The only state that has a system set up to track taxi drivers’ consecutive work times is New York, which limits licensed drivers to 10 hours in a 24-hour period and up to 60 hours in a single week. There has been substantial pushback to this legislation; taxi drivers have spoken out vehemently about the potential drop in income that this could cause for many of them.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does federally regulate fatigued drivers that operate commercial vehicles, defined as a vehicle weighing over 26,000 pounds. However, their wording is hazy, disallowing impairment “through fatigue, illness, or any other cause, as to make it unsafe for him/her to begin or continue to operate the commercial motor vehicle.” Truckers routinely take shifts in excess of 12 hours in order to get their cargo to the destination as quickly as possible. The monetary incentives offered for quicker deliveries only encourage the worrying amount of sleep deprivation these drivers go through regularly.
Freelance Drowsy Driving Regulation
Not all professional drivers are employees, however. With the rise of Uber and Lyft, everyday people can drive freelance, signing up to transport people with their own cars. However, the freelance aspect of these new companies makes it even more difficult to regulate fatigued drivers on a company-wide basis.
Uber and Lyft have both spoken publicly about drowsy driving, with Uber focusing more on how their service can help fatigued people and Lyft focusing more on their freelancers. Uber has adopted a 12-hour limit for consecutive shifts in New York City, but does not currently regulate outside the state. Lyft requires that drivers take a 6-hour break for every 14 hours of driving, with a few states having state-specific regulations.
A big problem that freelance driving regulations have is that there are many companies that use freelance drivers, and they’re wary of sharing information with each other. As people have pointed out, many freelancers use more than one app, and there’s currently nothing stopping them from switching between apps to circumvent the regulations. Transportation apps would have to pool their data and keep track of drivers together, and that’s just not something they’re interested in doing.
Most people assume that drivers working long shifts for their company is a good thing. After all, it’s making the company more money, and that can’t be a bad thing. The truth of the matter is that drowsy driving is dangerous. It’s bad for drivers and passengers, and that can easily lead to lawsuits and damage claims that harm the company tremendously.
While many companies enact some kind of regulations for their drivers, they’re not always enforced, and it’s doing far more harm than good. Educating drivers on the dangers of drowsy driving and enforcing rules to keep them off the streets when they’re a danger to others is the only way the transportation industry is going to grow and thrive while also keeping customers safe.
In addition to FEMA and other sources, there are a number of private companies who have responded (and are still responding) to Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters across the country. These companies are often small (in comparison), family-owned operations, but they make a huge impact. Operating their own equipment, and sometimes leasing additional heavy equipment at the destination site, these companies tackle the work of removing debris, downed trees, and opening roadways. They are a huge part of the recovery process.
So here’s to those who leave their homes and families for weeks on end, who live out of hotels and travel trailers, and who dig through the rubble and destruction to allow healing and progress to take place.
This is the heart of America.
Regardless of your industry, there are several easy ways you can reduce injury hazards at your place of business. Take a walk around your premises and see if any of these apply to your property:
- Smoke detectors – This came as a surprise to me. I thought everyone had smoke detectors. Not so. From rental properties to restaurants, to professional offices, I find properties every week that are not equipped with smoke detectors. These devices save lives.
- Hand rails – Stairs with 3 or more risers or 30″ or more in height should be protected by handrails. Most insurance companies want these railings to have vertical balustrades of no more than 6″ apart (some have a maximum width of 4″). I see a lot of missing or deficient handrails in the field – if you have horizontal railings, you might consider enclosing them or adding vertical balustrades.
- Fire extinguishers – Extinguishers should be wall-mounted, and should be inspected annually. Tags should be affixed to the extinguishers evidencing those inspections.
- Overhanging tree limbs/branches – That shade tree is magnificent in the hot summer sun, but how many of those limbs are dead? How many branches are rubbing against the roof or exterior walls of your building? How much pressure are those limbs exerting upon your guttering? Spring is a great time to do a little trimming.
- Swimming pools – I see a lot of swimming pools, which present a high degree of risk, particularly in habitational properties. The most common deficiencies I see when inspecting pools are lack of self-latching gates and/or broken locks, and no emergency phone in the pool area. Many cities have ordinances requiring emergency phones in the pool area; check your local ordinances. Inspect all gates to assure the self-latching mechanism is in good operating order. This is a simple way to protect against small children entering the pool area unnoticed. After hours and off-season, make sure that gate is secured with a lock.
- Electrical panels – I still run across the old Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) electric panels and Stab-Lok breakers, both of present a heightened risk of fire. These panels and breakers were commonly used in construction between 1950 and 1990. I recommend inspection by a licensed electrician every time I locate an FPE panel or Stab-Lok breakers.
- Emergency lighting – All emergency egress and common exit doors in habitational and public assembly properties should be clearly identified with illuminated Exit signs above the door. Reflective paper signs are not sufficient! Emergency backup lighting should also be installed in all common hallways to illuminate paths of egress in the event of emergency.
- Documentation – Alcohol servers in Missouri should be TIPS or TAMS trained to promote safe alcohol service procedures. Bar owners should obtain a copy of server certificates from all serviers and maintain that document on file. Hire the right people, provide the right training opportunities, and protect your business.
- Driver records – Any business that hires employees for a driving position should obtain a pre-hire Motor Vehicle Record, and should review all drivers’ MVRs on an annual basis. Many insurance agents perform this service on behalf of their insureds; however, it is ultimately your responsibility to assure the safety of your driving force. (Oh, and by the way, it’s 2017: Do you have a formal distracted driving policy?)
- General housekeeping – This is the “catchall” category. The most common housekeeping issues tend to be:
- Clutter near mechanicals systems – you should maintain 3′ of clearance around all water heaters, HVAC systems, and electrical panels;
- Obstructed exit doors – this is frequently noticed in restaurants where bread racks and paper products are stacked along both sides of a hallway, creating a narrow path of egress to the exit;
- Debris – take a look around the exterior of your home; are items stored against the outside walls? Are grills located within 10′ of the structure? Are gas or other flammable/combustibles located under the porch? Are old tires laying around? Is the guttering damaged? What about the fascias and soffits?
Incorporating a weekly or monthly walk-through as part of your regular maintenance plan can help you find ways to improve safety and reduce risk on a continuous basis.
Are you the manager or decision-maker at your small business? Call us for a free assessment.