With another scorching month to come, there are plenty of heat-related topics to touch on, and some inspiration can already be found in our previous June Safety Topics and July Safety Topics pieces. Following National Safety Month in June, there are a couple of new and critical topics to cover as well, including safer driving, alcohol abuse, drug overdoses and immunizations.
So, without further ado, let’s explore August’s safety topics…
Contents hide table of content
1 August safety events
2August safety topics
2.1 Safety of COVID-19 vaccines
2.2 Eye safety
2.3 Alcohol abuse in the workplace
2.4 Opioid abuse at work
2.5 The dangers of running red lights
2.6 Drug overdose in the workplace
2.7 Fall protection
3.1 How does alcohol abuse affect the workplace?
3.2 How many people are killed by running red lights?
3.3 Why is opioid use a concern for workplaces?
5 References and further reading
August safety events
In August, there are two month-long themes, and another two observances and awareness days to keep track of.
National Immunization Awareness Month
Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over
Stop on Red Week
International Overdose Awareness Day
August safety topics
Safety of COVID-19 vaccines
One hot topic for August is the safety of COVID-19 vaccinations. This month is National Immunization Awareness Month as sponsored by the CDC, and this annual month of observation is used to highlight the importance of all vaccines.
Get started by giving your staff the option to take the Adult Vaccine Quiz. 10 quick questions will show them which vaccines they should have by now. This is a great starting point to highlight the importance of vaccinations and to get everyone up to speed. However, it is also a relevant opportunity to highlight the COVID-19 vaccine. At the time of writing, only around 50% of adult Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID, so exploring the safety of the vaccine is crucial to improve immunity.
While we touched upon the topic in our July Safety Topics, there is more to explore here. This time we’ll go beyond uncovering the most common forms of eye injuries and relevant Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as goggles and face shields.
To bring theory training to the practicalities of the workplace, eLCOSH has put together a daily toolbox talk that is perfect for the start of the shift. It encourages your colleagues to think about the tasks they’ll be doing that day, their working environment, and what could put them at risk of eye injury. Here is an excerpt:
Things to think about…
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING TODAY?
WILL YOU BE:
- using a power tool?
- working overhead?
- working near somebody who is using a power tool, welding, drilling, soldering, grinding, or working overhead?
Download the full eye safety toolbox talk from eLCOSH below.
Alcohol abuse in the workplace
Substance abuse is a core topic for August and we’ll look at the effects of drugs and alcohol in a few different ways this month. First of all, we’ll start with alcohol abuse.
Alcohol is the number one abused substance in the US. With its ‘socially-acceptable’ and recreational effects, it can be easy to become alcohol-dependent. When broaching the topic of alcoholism or abuse, remember that this affects your workers’ private lives as well as their behavior in the workspaces.
By sharing some key facts about the health effects and symptoms of alcohol, you can help workers to identify their own issues. You can also educate your team on what to look out for in each other. Some symptoms of increased alcohol use include:
- Difficulty with mental processes
- A lack of coordination
- Slowed reaction rates
- Slurred speech and unbalanced movement
- Potential smells of alcohol on breath or clothing.
To keep it relevant to your workers’ lives as well as the impact of alcoholism at work, share some of the key health effects, too:
- Decreased sexual function
- Alcohol dependency
- Fatal liver disease
- Increased risk of cancer (in particular, mouth, throat, rectum, breast, and skin cancer)
- Kidney disease.
Opioid abuse at work
In the same vein as alcohol abuse, opioid abuse is another key topic to cover. Similarly to alcohol, (prescribed) opiates are legal, and their effects can be addictive. Opioids are medications used to treat pain. The trouble is they also boost feelings of pleasure. Common opioids include Morphine, Fentanyl, Heroin, Percocet (Oxycodone) and Codeine.
Misuse of prescribed medication or obtaining it by other methods constitutes opioid abuse. Employees using opioids could face the following effects:
- Slow reactions
- Bad coordination
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Issues with concentration, learning and memory
- Low mood including depression and/or anxiety
- Confusion and delayed reactions
- Difficulties operating heavy machinery.
This can cause all sorts of issues for the worker themselves, as well as those around them. So, keeping everyone on top of the signs and symptoms of alcohol and opioid abuse is key to a safe working environment and a healthy workforce.
The dangers of running red lights
Stop on Red Week is on August 2-8 this year. Sponsored by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, this week of observation is used to bring greater awareness to the number of and severity of intersection crashes. This is a good opportunity to revisit safe driving techniques and traffic signals.
According to data from the National Safety Council (NSC), motor vehicle deaths hit a spike of 24% in 2020 despite a reduction in miles driven. Besides driving vehicles as part of work, many workers could be tempted to engage in unsafe driving behaviours such as speeding, skipping red lights or overtaking if they’re running late for work or a meeting. Other risk factors include not wearing a seatbelt, or driver distractions such as phones and GPSs. With 56% of drivers admitting to skipping a red light at least part of the time, this is a critical message to reiterate.
Drug overdose in the workplace
August also brings to light International Overdose Awareness Day by the Penington Institute. With opiods, cocaine and methamphetamine use so high, drug overdoses are a sad reality to face. The National Institute on Drug Abuse suggested that nearly 50,000 people in the US died from opioid-related overdoses in 2019. That’s around 136 people a day.
Sadly, these statistics also include intentional as well as unintentional drug overdose deaths. OSHA has public records of 91 events of drug overdoses at work. These include drug use on work breaks, combinations of drug abuse with hot temperatures, drug-induced heart attacks and even slips and falls. While mortality rates of drug overdoses vary from 1.9-57.8%, it’s important that everyone is up-to-speed with the signs and symptoms of a drug overdose, to prevent fatalities and workplace hazards.
Symptoms of drug overdose may include:
- Severe chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
They may also include:
- Very cold or very warm body temperatures
- Passing out or loss of consciousness
- Skin color changes
- Abnormal breathing
- Changes in pulse: faster, slower or irregular pulse.
If anyone suspects another colleague may be suffering from a drug or alcohol overdose, it’s critical that they call 911 immediately. Then they should place the person on their side (so they don’t choke on any potential vomit) and stay with them until medical help arrives. Below is a workplace safety talk for the construction industry where, unfortunately, drug misuse is prevalent.
In line with some of the topics discussed for August, it’s important to make sure everyone is up-to-date with the latest fall protection measures. We’ve seen above how falls and ladder slips combined with alcohol and drug abuse can lead to deaths in the worksplace. While you can’t necessarily stop alcohol or drug abuse (even with your best efforts), you can ensure that everyone is as safe as possible while at work.
Reinforcing the importance of harnesses and harness inspection requirements is a good place to start. This will ensure that all equipment is as safe as possible before each use and will prevent potential near misses or even incidents.
We’ve also put together a guide which has various activity-specific toolbox talks for fall protection, including topics such as:
- Hidden openings
- Ladder safety
- Scaffolding safety
- Self-retracting lanyards
And more. You can view this resource below.
DOWNLOAD SAFETY TALK
How does alcohol abuse affect the workplace?
OSHA data shows that a person who is legally intoxicated to a .08 level is 6x more likely to have an accident at work than a sober person. Alcohol abuse is also likely to lead to slower reactions, poor communication and a lack of coordination at work. This not only affects the alcohol user, but also creates unsafe surroundings for those who work with them.
How many people are killed by running red lights?
In the USA, 2 people a day are killed by a red-light running collision. It’s estimated that, of the 40,000 traffic-related fatalities and 4.5 million traffic-related injuries annually, 132,000 are a result of red-light crashes.
Why is opioid use a concern for workplaces?
In the USA, opioid use and misuse can cause lots of issues for workplace safety, as well as a dangerous environment for the user(s) themselves. Signs and symptoms of opioid abuse at work include:
- High staff turnovers
- Lower productivity and quality of work
- Poor morale and mood
- Increased likelihood of accidents and near-misses
- Theft of equipment, materials or tools.
In August, we touch on some somber, yet important topics. It’s your role as the safety manager to make sure everyone has a good understanding of the signs and symptoms of drug and alcohol abuse and overdoses, as well as safe driving techniques. August is also a good opportunity to discuss the benefits and safety of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next month’s article: September safety topics.
References and further reading
- Improving Safety Culture In The Workplace (Step-By-Step Guide)
- International Overdose Awareness Day
- OSHA Drug & Alcohol Misuse Research & Resource
- Fall Protection Toolbox Talks
- OSHA Heat Exposure (Indoor And Outdoor Environments)