Take 5 For Safety – Watch Out For Snakes

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Watch Out For Snakes

Snakes are found in many parts of the country and may pose a hazard for those who work outdoors. Although snakes generally avoid humans or animals, they can attack, particularly if theyre surprised or are protecting their young or territory. Some snakes are considered “harmless,” but others release a poisonous venom when they bite. If youll be working or walking where snakes are found, be aware of their habits, dress for protection, and know what to do or not to do if you encounter or are bitten by a snake.

Poisonous snakes commonly found in Texas are rattlesnakes. A bite from one of these snakes should always be considered a medical emergency. Although deaths from snakebites are relatively rare, people who are bitten cant always positively identify the snake, so should get prompt medical care. Even a bite from a so-called “harmless” snake can cause an infection or allergic reaction in some people.

The key to avoiding snakebites is understanding their habits and staying alert. Snake seasons are spring, summer, and early fall. Theyre usually found where food (rodents), water, and protection are available such as abandoned structures, irrigation ditches, water holes, and in rock piles. They like places that offer both a place to sun and a place to hide. At night when its cool, snakes become active hunting their prey.

If youll be working or walking in snake infested areas, wear protective clothing such as long pants, leather boots, and gloves. Be aware of your surroundings. Be cautious in tall grass and watch where you step. Walk in areas where the ground is clear so you can see where you step. Watch where you put your hands. Dont reach blindly into rock cracks, wood piles, animal burrows or under bushes. And when you sit, look first, especially in shady areas.

Most snakebites happen when a snake is accidentally stepped on, handled or harassed. Many people are bitten because they try to get a closer look or try to kill it. So, leave snakes alone ! If you encounter a snake, stay calm and freeze in place. The snake will often move away. If it doesnt move then you should slowly walk around it, keeping as far away as possible. Usually snakes are not aggressive and will not “chase” a person. Theyd rather escape from noise and commotion or remain quiet and hidden.

The symptoms of a poisonous snake bite vary depending on the snakes size and species, the amount of poison in its venom, the bites location, and the victims age and underlying medical problems. Specific treatment for a snake bite should be left to the emergency medical personnel. Most medical professionals recommend against incisions in the wound, tourniquets, ice or any other type of cooling on the bite and against electric shock. However, if someone is bitten, the American Red Cross suggests a few basic first-aid steps:
* Keep the victim calm and still.
* Have the victim lie down, with the affected limb immobilized and placed lower than the heart.
* Remove rings, bracelets, boots or other restricting items from the bitten extremity.
* Get medical care. Responding quickly is crucial.

Use common sense when youre in areas where there may be snakes. Keep in mind that an unprovoked snake doesnt want trouble any more than you do. Caution and respect are your best weapons against snake bites.


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Take 5 For Safety – Wash Your Hands – Give Yourself a Hand

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Wash Your Hands – Give Yourself a Hand

We assume everyone knows how to wash their hands, but many workers dont realize how important hand washing and skin care can be in the prevention of disease. Proper skin care and hand protection help keep workers productive and on the job.

The best defense against the spread of illness or skin ailments is to prevent them where possible by washing them often, using barrier creams and wearing gloves designed to protect skin from contact with a variety of harmful agents and irritants. If gloves are worn, clean or replace them frequently to make sure they don’t collect or absorb irritants. Check gloves often for wear, cuts or pinholes. Be sure the gloves you choose are the proper type and material to protect against the specific chemical or situation you’ll encounter. Wearing gloves and practicing personal hygiene, especially regular hand washing, helps prevent:
* Ingestion and absorption of harmful substances
* Spread of infection and diseases
* Occupational skin disease
* Absenteeism due to illness
* Lost work time

There are things employers can do to help workers improve attention to skin care and understand the importance of regular hand washing. For example:
* Include personal hygiene and skin care in the employee orientation program and in regular safety training. Videos, education booklets and trainers guides are available from State Fund and skin care product manufacturers.
* Maintain an ongoing awareness program to remind workers of the importance of proper skin care. Posters and pamphlets are excellent vehicles for generating awareness about personal hygiene throughout the year.
* Help workers understand that regular hand washing protects against the spread of illness to their family members.
* Conduct a site survey to ensure that proper hand washing/cleaning products are provided in all suitable places throughout the work environment. Washing facilities and skin care products must be accessible to encourage regular hand washing.

Education and awareness set the pace for good hygiene practices for everyone. It’s a simple matter to use plenty of soap and water, appropriate creams and/or gloves to protect the health and safety of your hands.


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Take 5 For Safety – Warehouse Safety

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Warehouse Safety

Warehouses range from product distribution centers to popular retailers that sell oversize and bulk products. Whether it is an industrial, commercial or retail facility, warehouse workers should follow safety guidelines for loading docks, conveyor systems, forklifts and pallet jacks, material storage and handling, and good housekeeping.

Products enter and exit warehouses through truck and loading dock systems that are usually at a height from the ground. When loading and unloading materials, workers should pay special attention to avoid falls from elevated docks and ramps; yellow striping can draw attention to edges. Trucks delivering goods should be treated cautiously while they are parked at the loading dock. The area between the dock and truck is hazardous because a rolling truck can cause a crush injury; truck wheels should be chocked while unloading.

In some warehouses, products may be placed on conveyor systems that distribute them to different areas in the facility. Workers must avoid placing body parts or hair near conveyors because moving wheels and belts pose a pinch point hazard. Elevated conveyors should have safety nets to avoid dropping products on workers below. Workers need training on the location of on/off buttons and emergency stop buttons for conveyor systems and lock out/tag out procedures are required whenever servicing conveyors.

Forklifts and pallet jacks help move products from the shipping area into and around the warehouse. Forklifts are powered industrial trucks; forklift operators require training and certification while pallet jack operators require training only. Loads should be properly lifted on forks and stabilized, then slowly and deliberately taken to their assigned location. Forklifts and pallet jacks should never be used as rides or man lifts.

When large, awkward, and/or heavy items are warehoused, they become a challenge to store in a safe manner. Storage shelving and rack systems should be sturdy, braced, and spacious enough to allow people and equipment to move freely. When goods are shelved, they require slow and careful placement to avoid disturbing or pushing products off the facing aisle on to coworkers below. Products should be stored flat and inside the shelving units with aisle ways kept clear.

Pallets used for stacking products should be sturdy and in good condition; damaged or unstable pallet items should be restacked on a new one. Where possible, palleted products should be shrink-wrapped or baled for stability.

Workers can protect themselves on the job with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as steel-toed shoes, gloves, and hard hats or bump caps. Proper lifting techniques protect backs. Safe lifting also prevents loads from shifting, falling, and crushing fingers, hands and toes.

Good housekeeping in a warehouse requires keeping dirt, oil, and debris off the docks and floors. Floors should be non-slippery and free from pits and dents. Excess garbage, boxes, baling materials, and other recyclables should be removed and stored properly.

Training on the hazards and attention to procedures will make sure warehouse workers stay safe
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Take 5 For Safety – Walking / Working Surfaces

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Walking / Working Surfaces

Slips, trips and falls are a major cause of injuries and fatalities in the construction industry. The walking surfaces and ladders on a construction site may pose a potential hazard to the workers moving about the site. Construction sites are dynamic places to work, i.e., the working conditions change on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Therefore, care must be exercised every day as you move about the work site, identifying hazards that may cause you to trip, slip or fall.

Falls occur because of various factors; a slip, stumble, trip over an object or a sudden quick movement throwing the body off balance. Slips generally occur as a result of the loss of traction between a person’s foot and the walking surface. If loss of balance occurs, a fall results. The construction site safety and health programs contain provisions to protect workers from falls.

Almost all construction sites have unprotected sides and edges, wall openings or floor holes at some point in time. These openings and sides must be protected at the work site, or falls may occur. These potential hazards may be avoided by:
* Covering or guard floor holes as soon as they are created.
* Using a fall prevention (e.g. guard rails) or protection (fall arrest device) system if the workers are exposed to a fall of six feet or more.
* Surveying the work site prior to start of work, and continually throughout the day to identify and guard any openings or holes.

Many construction sites utilize scaffolding for the workers to gain access to the elevated parts of the building or structure. If the scaffolding is improperly constructed or has unsafe access, it becomes hazardous. Scaffolding hazards can be avoided by:
* Erecting all scaffolding according to manufacturer’s directions and have it inspected by a competent person prior to use.
* Providing safe access to the scaffolding platforms.
* Installing guardrails along all open sides and ends according to established OSHA criteria.

Portable ladders are another common method of accessing elevated parts of the building or structure. If ladders are not positioned safely and securely fastened, they may move and cause a worker to fall. To avoid potential ladder hazards:
* Inspect the ladder before each use for cracked or broken parts. A broken ladder should be taken out of service and clearly marked as being unsafe.
* Do not place more weight on the ladder than what it was designed to hold.
* Secure the top of the ladder to a rigid support.
* The ladder should extend 3 feet above the landing you are accessing.
* Ensure the feet of the ladder are securely placed and will not slip out from under you.
* Ladders made on site must be able to safely hold the weight of the worker and his tools.

Slips and trips result from an unintended or unexpected change between the feet and the walking surface. Good housekeeping is the first and most important way of preventing falls due to slips and trips. Other ways to avoid creating slip and trip hazards are to:
* Wear work boots with slip resistant soles.
* Clean up any liquid spills right away.
* Take your time and pay attention to where you are going.
* Ensure things you are carrying do not prevent you from seeing obstructions or spills.

For more information visit the website maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration


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Take 5 For Safety – Vehicle Backing

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Vehicle Backing

Backing Accidents are the most common type of vehicle accident. Due to limited vision out of the back windows or around long truck beds and equipment bodies, drivers may not see other vehicles, obstacles, or even coworkers and pedestrians when they are driving their vehicles backward. Whether in a parking lot, on the road, a construction site, or an agricultural field, workers who learn the proper techniques can help prevent backing accidents.

Before you back your vehicle, do a vehicle walk around to check underneath and all around it for obstructions and other dangerous situations. Inspect the doors and tailgates for proper closing and safe and secure storage for items and materials. Insure that there is plenty of clearance around the vehicle for backing.

Some employers may use a “cone policy” that requires you to place orange safety cones at either end of the vehicle whenever you park. Walking around the vehicle to pick up the cones before you leave gives you a chance to inspect the vehicle and your surroundings. The cones also provide good visibility and a warning to other drivers that you are working nearby.

While Safety reports backing as the most common type of vehicle accident, speed is the most common cause of accidents. When you are backing, make sure that you do so slowly.
Before you move, if possible, place your arm along the seat backs and turn your head to the left and right to look directly out the sides and back of the vehicle. As the next step, or if you cannot look directly out of the vehicle, use your side and rear-view mirror to look in all directions to the rear of the vehicle. Backup cameras and sensors are good tools that can help you keep watch around your vehicle.

If your vehicle is equipped with a backup alarm and/or is required to use the alarm, make sure that it is working properly. If you do not have a backup alarm but feel that it is necessary to notify others that you are backing, you can put on your flashers and honk the horn as you back. Make sure that the area behind you is clear of obstacles, pedestrians and, other vehicles before you move. If you see pedestrians or vehicles approaching, judge their speed and distance before backing.

At times, spotters can assist you with a backing maneuver by sharing the responsibility for watching the rear of the vehicle. If possible, don’t ask a spotter to exit the vehicle. If you must use a spotter outside the vehicle, make sure that you can see each other in the side-view mirror at all times. Do not proceed with backing if you lose sight of the spotter. Two-way radios and/or hand signals can be used to help communicate.

If you are acting as a spotter or work near backing vehicles, listen for the backup alarms and watch vehicle movement. Never assume that the driver sees you and knows where you are going. Do not walk alongside or ride a backing vehicle. Wear highly visible clothing if you are going to be working on foot around backing vehicles.

If you are in a hurry, you may have cause to worry. With care and caution, you can safely back your vehicle.


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Take 5 For Safety – Use Your Head, Wear Your Hard Hat

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Use Your Head, Wear Your Hard Hat

Your head is the most important part of your body. You think, feel, talk, smell, and hear with your head. Therefore, it makes sense that you should protect your head from any injury.

Wearing a hard hat is the first line of defense against head injuries on the job. A hard hat can protect your head against the hazard of falling material and guard against accidental bumping. The hard hat softens any blow to the head. It resists and deflects the blow and distributes the impact over a large area. The hat’s suspension acts as a shock absorber.Even if the hat dents or shatters, it still takes some of the force out of the blow and off your head. It can also shield your scalp, face, neck, and shoulders against spills or splashes.

Choose the hard hat most suitable for the work being performed and only wear approved hard hats manufactured to meet required standards. These are made to give your head maximum protection. Make sure your hat fits correctly. Hats that fit right provide you with the most comfort and protection.

The ability of a hard hat to protect a worker depends on the shock absorbing space between the shell and head by the suspension provided. Therefore, it is important that sweat bands and suspension straps by properly adjusted to obtain the maximum protection. Sunlight and heat can rot the sweatband and straps, so don’t leave your hard hat on the window ledge of your car. Take good care of your hard hat. Don’t drop it, throw it or drill holes in it. Inspect your hard hat every day for cracks, gouges, and frays or breaks in the straps.

Colors can be used to identify different crafts and supervisory personnel, and should be encouraged and given consideration when purchasing such equipment. All levels of supervision should set the example by wearing hard hats. Observe and comply with “Hard Hat Area” sites. Remember! A hard hat is a status symbol; it identifies a safe worker, one who believes in and practices safety.


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Take 5 For Safety – Trenching Safety

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Trenching Safety

A trench is a narrow channel (up to 15 feet wide), generally deeper than it is wide, made below the surface of the ground. An excavation is any man-made hole or trench that is made by removing earth. Trenching is recognized as one of the most hazardous construction activities. The greatest risk is a cave-in and even a small job can present serious safety hazards. The key to preventing this type of accident is good planning.

Each year in the United States trenching cave-ins result in hundreds of serious injuries and dozens of deaths. Trenches are needed to build roads, for the installation and repair of utility lines, water and sewer lines, television cable and many other uses. (The list of the types of workers that might be involved in working in or around a trench is too long to include here.) Anyone whose work requires them to work in or around a trench must be aware of the hazards so they are not involved in or cause an accident to happen.

In trenching, soil is defined as any material removed from the ground to form a trench or hole. Soil can weigh more than 100 pounds per cubic foot. Most soil is thought of in terms of cubic yards. One cubic yard of soil may weigh more than 2700 pounds. OSHA classifies soil into four groups: solid rock, Type A, Type B, and Type C. Solid rock is the most stable, with Type C soil being the least stable. If you are unsure of the soil type, always assume it is Type C. Soil removed from a trench must be kept at least two feet back from the edge of the trench.

Safety Hazards
* Cave-ins – can be caused by:
+ Vibration of nearby construction equipment or vehicle traffic.
+ Weight of equipment that is too close to the edge of the trench.
+ Soils that do not hold tightly together.
+ Soil that has been dug in before is not as stable as undisturbed earth.
+ Water weakening the strength of the trench sides.
* Hazardous atmospheres – may be generated as toxic gases can be released by the digging or accumulate in the trench bottom.
* Underground utilities – call 811 at least 2 days before digging to determine the location of any utility services.

Protective systems are methods of protecting workers from cave-ins of material that can fall or roll into an excavation/trench or from the collapse of nearby soil structures. Protective systems include shoring, sheeting, shielding, sloping, and benching. For trenches between five feet and 20 feet deep, protective measures must be taken. It is up to the planners of the construction project and the competent person on site to determine which systems will work best. If an excavation is greater than 20 feet deep, a registered professional engineer must design the protective system.

Trenches deeper than four feet must have a way to get in and out (usually a ladder) for every 25 feet of horizontal travel within the trench.


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Take 5 For Safety – Traffic Control Safety

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Traffic Control Safety

When road workers build, maintain, repair, or conduct other work on public streets or highways, they must be protected from traffic or haulage hazards. A variety of traffic control measures such as signs, lights, and other devices, along with continuous patrol, detours, and barricades can be used as traffic control measures, depending on the type of road and the work being done.

When you start work near a road, evaluate the work site for hazards. Look for blind corners, how heavy the traffic is, and how fast it flows. Note the weather, temperature, and visibility and how they will affect the work that you are doing and how motorists will respond. Plan and draw out a diagram of your work site layout including the staging area, buffer area, transition area, and work area. Determine, based on the road type and the typical vehicle speeds, how many advanced warning signs you will need and how long the buffer area and tapers need to be.

Use at least one warning sign before the road work area begins to inform motorists that they are approaching an area where workers may be in the road. You may need more signs depending on sight distance along the road. Use a tapered line of cones to establish and separate the work area and redirect traffic away from workers. Use clean, unbroken, and highly visible safety cones to outline traffic lanes. Inspect all signs, signals, and lights to make sure they are working properly.

Notify law enforcement if you are going to be controlling traffic and request an enforcement zone if necessary. You can also notify and request the presence of the local Department of Transportation. Keep an emergency vehicle, lights, flares, air horns, and signs available on the work site in case there is an accident or other emergency. Inspect all of your tools, equipment, and signage to ensure that they function properly. Ensure that all mobile equipment has a backup warning device or use spotters with radios when moving equipment.

Road workers should be visible to all other workers in the area and to the motorists passing by. Wear warning garments such as vests, jackets, shirts or pants in orange, strong yellow-green, or fluorescent colors. In rainy weather, wear orange, strong yellow-green, or yellow rainwear.

During hours of darkness, your warning garments should be retroreflective, meaning that light shined on the clothing from a headlight or a work light will reflect back toward the driver or user to increase visibility. The retroreflective material should be visible from at least 1,000 feet. Your clothing should have at least one horizontal stripe of retroreflective material around the torso. White clothing with retroreflective material is also allowed.


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Take 5 For Safety – Tractor Safety

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Tractor Safety

Tractors are useful tools that handle the heavy work. Tractor accidents like rollovers, overturns, and runovers are the most frequent cause of injuries and fatalities. Due to their size and power, tractors should be used properly by trained and experienced operators.

Before operating a tractor, get training and review the operating manual. Inspect the tractor before each use. Report and immediately repair any broken parts or leaking fluids. There should be shields and guards on moving parts. Check that lights, controls, and gauges are working. Fill the gas tank when the engine is cold to avoid the risk of fire and explosion. Make sure the tractor is equipped with a fire extinguisher and first aid kit.

Remove loose jewelry, wear snug-fitting clothing, and secure long hair; this will prevent entanglement in any of the tractor’s moving parts. Wear sturdy work gloves and boots. Consider hearing and eye protection depending on the job that you will be doing and how long you will be doing it.

When you mount the tractor, use the handrail and steps to prevent slips and falls. Adjust the seat so that you can comfortably reach the controls. If the tractor is equipped with Rollover Protective Structures (ROPS), put on your seatbelt. Follow the proper startup procedures for the tractor. Never start it indoors; carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless gas, can build up and cause injury and death.

To avoid a tractor accident, drive slowly, watch uneven terrain, and look out for other workers and animals. Rollovers can occur on flat land, but they are more likely near ditches, slopes, and uneven terrain. A tractor equipped with ROPS and a seatbelt can protect the driver from being thrown out of the tractor. Overturns can happen if the tractor attempts to pull something that is improperly hitched. Check the attached or mounted equipment; hitch pins and bolts should be secure.

Serious injuries and death can occur if the driver or a passenger falls off the tractor. Consider retrofitting tractors with ROPS and seatbelts. Ideally, tractors should have safety devices that stop them when the driver is not in the seat. Don’t climb on or off moving tractors and never allow someone to hang onto the tractor for a “ride.”

Before entering a roadway, make sure that the tractor has hazards, headlights and a slow moving vehicle (SMV) warning device on it. Drive slowly at all times. Be wise – use tractors only for the tasks for which they were designed.


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Take 5 For Safety – Tire Wear

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Tire Wear

The condition of your tires is one of the most important mechanical factors in vehicle safety. There are four ways you can improve the safety and performance of your tires.

Keep tires properly inflated. Check them at least monthly to notice if tire pressure appears to be getting low. Incorrect tire pressure can cause uneven tire wear, poor handling, excessive heat build up, and possible tire failure. Check your vehicle manual for recommended tire pressures. If you have new tires installed, check their pressure. Recommended tire pressures can vary depending on the brand of tire. When you check tire pressure, do so the first thing in the morning for an accurate reading. Driving the car heats up the tires and changes their pressure.

Rotate tires to increase life. Follow the rotation schedule in your car’s owner’s manual.

Keep tires balanced and aligned. Improperly balanced tires can produce an uneven ride that can result in poor handling. Defective alignment can cause excessive tire wear and the vehicle to pull to the side.

Replace tires when the tread gets too low. What is too low? All tires have “treadwear indicators” built right into them. These indicators are molded into the bottom of the tread groves and will appear as “bands” when the tread depth reduces to the size of 1/16th of an inch. When the indicators appear in two or more adjacent grooves, the tire should be replaced. Look in your vehicle’s manual for more information. Usually the manual will have a picture showing what the tread wear indicators look like. Take a look at your tires on a regular basis. Have a professional check them out further if you have any doubts about their safety.


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