Occupational Health & Safety

General Safety Articles

  1. The 30 Second Hearing Test
  2. Time Management
  3. A Tip For Computer Users
  4. Why Exercise?
  5. Carbon Monoxide
  6. Safety and Wellness: What's in it For You?

"The 30 Second Hearing Test"

Hearing protection is not just for those who work in noisy environments. The truth is that we all live with excessive noise. We notice the loud noises we encounter occasionally such as the blare of a car horn or the roar of a train. What most of us are not aware of are the low-level but more constant noises that we hear every day such as the hum of our computers and other office equipment and appliances in our home.

Though the sudden loud noises might hurt our ears, it is the cumulative effect of the low-level, but daily noises that leads to permanent hearing loss over time. Age is also a factor in hearing loss, but studies have shown that Americans in their 20's can hear no better than 70 year old African villagers.

To try the 30 Second Hearing Test, sit in a quiet room, cross your feet and rub your shoes lightly together. The sound should be equivalent to a whisper. If you have difficulty hearing the sound, it is a good idea to have your hearing tested.

To guard your hearing, avoid noise when possible, do not play music too loud, check noise levels on some appliances such as blenders and vacuum cleaners, and wear hearing protection such as ear plugs when using noisy equipment like power tools, lawnmowers or snow blowers. Wear hearing protection if it is recommended and provided for the work that you do daily.

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"Time Management"

For anyone wondering why they don't have time for all the activities they proposed in New Year's Resolutions, here are some interesting ideas. The average person spends:

  • Six years eating.
  • Five years of their life standing in line.
  • Four years doing major household chores.
  • Two years trying to return phone calls.
  • One year searching for misplaced objects.
  • Eight months opening junk mail.

From: "Safety Watch" Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 1990.

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A Tip for Computer Users

The most commonly reported problems related to the use of computers are eyestrain, eye irritation, and eye fatigue. Factors which may contribute to these problems are office lighting which may be too bright or not bright enough, reflections or glare from the monitor, ergonomic factors such as the height or angle of the monitor, and/or the natural deterioration in eye sight which for most people begins at about age 40.

To help address these problems check the arrangement at your computer work station to eliminate as much glare on the screen as possible from windows or overhead lighting and check that the screen height is at or near eyelevel and that the screen is free from dust.

One very beneficial suggestion to limit eyestrain or fatigue is to take regular eye breaks from computer work. Relax the eyes about every twenty minutes by focusing on a distant object for a minute or so. One idea is to post a newspaper page on your wall about eight feet away. When looking at the paper, focus on the headline; then look back and focus on the computer screen. Repeat this 3 or 4 times to relax the eyes.

Optometrists recommend that people who use computers frequently and are experiencing eyestrain, headaches, and muscle aches should get their eyes examined.

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Why Exercise?

Exercise reduces your appetite. It is a truly healthy way to control the amount that you eat. Exercise is an antidepressant. Exercise reduces stress. Exercise causes chemical changes in the brain that relax you and may improve your mood. It can also create a sense of commitment and control that help you to feel better about yourself.

Stress can help us get work done but the tension it builds in our body can lead to illness. Stress causes our body to produce adrenaline and tenses our muscles for combat. Exercise burns off adrenaline and allows muscles to dissipate the tension.

Exercise works even when you are not exercising. One of the best benefits of exercise is the increase in metabolism which occurs with regular exercise. What this means is that you are able to burn more calories than someone who doesn't exercise, even when resting.

Adapted from At Risk Kentucky School Board.

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Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colourless and odourless poisonous gas produced as a by-product of normal combustion of fossil fuels. Because of these properties it is often called the "silent killer." It does not irritate the nose or throat when inhaled, but at some concentrations produces symptoms like those of flu including headache, dizziness, and nausea. If a number of people sharing a common space all begin to experience these symptoms, CO may be suspect. Normal exhaled air contains about 3 ppm (parts per million) CO. The permissible exposure limit is 50 ppm. No exposure symptoms occur at 100 ppm while unconsciousness, respiratory failure, and death can occur at 1000 ppm. Hemoglobin in the bloodstream which carries oxygen to the body's cells actually has an affinity for carbon monoxide, so CO poisoning is a serious problem wherever it is present.

Any piece of equipment that has a flame is capable of producing carbon monoxide. The most significant residential sources of CO are wood stoves, fireplaces, oil or gas furnaces, gas heaters, and appliances. If these appliances are not properly maintained or if they do not have proper ventilation, CO can be produced and the result can be deadly. There are an increasing number of products on the market that can detect carbon monoxide and warn you of its presence. The best type is one that combines detection with an alarm to give you audible warning. These detectors are easy to install and can give you peace of mind.

Additional Safety Tips

Heating systems and flue pipes should be checked annually by a qualified person. Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys. Make sure that vent pipes are in good condition as rust spots and/or black, dripping liquid are a warning sign of CO. Provide fresh air with fireplaces, wood stoves, and gas space heaters. Blue flames are good indicating complete combustion while a yellow flame indicates incomplete combustion and likely CO production.

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Safety and Wellness: What's in it For You?

Developing and keeping a safe attitude is the most important thing that you can do to reduce safety risks and prevent accidents at work. A safe attitude begins with a positive attitude towards safety combined with safety knowledge, training, and a determination to make safety a part of your work.

Keeping a safe attitude means being attentive, following safe procedures, using personal protective equipment, resisting pressure to take shortcuts or work unsafely, being involved, and taking personal responsibility for your own safety.

It is a proven fact that employees who take safety seriously are most likely to avoid painful personal injuries. In spite of this you may feel that you can never be certain that taking a particular safety precaution prevented a health and safety problem for you. Sometimes though, you need only see what happens to others that do not have a safe attitude, to become convinced.

The safe attitude first learned on the job can become a habit which reduces safety risks and prevents accidents off the job. This can lead to a safety lifestyle that contributes to your total well being. Your safety lifestyle shows that you care about yourself, your family, your co-workers, and others around you.

When you practice a safety lifestyle, wellness is not far behind. You will find it easier to make decisions that will contribute to all aspects of your personal well-being; physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, psychological, and environmental.

What's in it for you? Safety and wellness can improve your life.

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