TAKE A MINUTE FOR YOUR SAFETY
NIRMA’s Toolbox Talks, a.k.a., Safety Minutes, are an easy way for managers, foremen, and supervisors to supplement their training efforts. These short, pre-written safety meetings are available for you to use from your mobile device or print them off along with a sign-in sheet for your records.
Back Injury Prevention
Back injuries continue to be one of the most common types of injuries suffered by member employees. Generally, these injuries occur when we are handling materials, and most commonly when we try to lift or move an object that is too heavy for a single person to handle. Following these recommendations should help prevent a back injury.
Should I Lift This Alone?
Before attempting to lift an object, go through this checklist to ensure you are physically capable of the lift:
- Can I move the object without assistance?
- How high off the ground does it have to be?
- Is the object awkward to carry?
- How far must I carry the object?
- Is this a one-time lift or something that must be completed frequently?
- Are you trying to prove something by lifting it alone?
Plan the Lift
- Make sure the pathway is clear.
- Remove any tripping hazards.
- Ensure floor is dry.
- Use lift assists whenever possible, i.e. forklift, dolly, cart, hand truck or hoist.
- If a lift assist is not available and the item exceeds your ability, wait to perform the lift until you have access to a lift assist or another person.
Lift It Correctly
When you must lift an item that weighs over 25 pounds you should follow these procedures:
- Stand close to the object, then squat or kneel.
- Maintain a natural curve in your lower back.
- Ensure a good grip on the object.
- Keeping the object close to your body, lift it with the power of your legs and keep your back straight as you stand up.
- As you stand up, tighten your core muscles.
- Do not twist at your waist, pivot with your feet.
Bloodborne pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Bodily fluids, other than blood, that could possibly be infectious are referred to as other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). The purpose of this safety minute is to discuss ways in which we can reduce or eliminate the risk of exposure in the workplace.
To prevent disease transmission, all human body fluids should be treated as if they are infectious for HIV, HBV, HCV or other bloodborne pathogens:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before and after providing first aid and after cleaning up bodily fluids.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Use protective gloves if you may come into contact with blood or any other bodily fluid.
- Inspect the gloves for damage prior to putting them on and remove them correctly to prevent exposure if they are contaminated.
- Use protective eye wear or a face shield if there is a possibility that bodily fluids could be splashed on your face.
- Don a protective gown if available.
- Clean up bodily fluids with an EPA approved cleaning solution or a mixture of 10% bleach and water. Leave bleach water solution on surface for at least 20 minutes.
- Dispose of contaminated clothing and cleaning material in a red biohazard plastic bag if available. If not, place the contaminated items in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of safely.
- Employees who may be exposed to bodily fluids during their workday should be trained in proper clean-up of bodily fluids.
- Bodily fluid clean-up kits are recommended.
- If you are exposed to bodily fluids, report it to your supervisor and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Browsing the Internet Safely
Browsing generally refers to reading and scanning through data, when done on the Internet it is also called surfing. Browsing or surfing the Internet safely can be difficult. Browsing the Internet safely means leaving as little evidence or personal information as possible behind. Especially information that hackers could use to do you harm. This safety minute will provide you with some recommendations to help reduce your footprint when browsing the Internet.
How to Identify Secure Websites
Before entering sensitive personal or work information on a website be sure to verify the website is secure.
- Look for the padlock icon displayed somewhere in the web browser. This indicates a secure mode between the browser and the server, the communication is encrypted.
- Look for the “https” prefix to the Web address. The “s” indicates a secure, encrypted connection.
- If you encounter a warning about a website’s security certificate, check with your IT department before proceeding.
Identifying Suspicious Websites and Links
Much like the suspicious links and attachments that can be sent via phishing emails, Internet users need to avoid malicious content when browsing online. These links can be disguised in pop-up adds or hidden in clickbait type articles.
- Avoid clickbait, pop-ups and advertisements. While they don’t all contain viruses, this is a very common method of transmitting them.
- Pop-up adds try to get you to click on them by making incredible sounding offers. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. If you want to seriously check out a product or service offered in a pop-up or clickbait type add, google it and check it our directly, not via the link in the pop-up.
- The same hackers that create the phishing emails are creating the clickbait and pop-up adds. Look at the spelling and grammar, if it is incorrect this could be a clue that it is not legitimate.
- Hover your cursor over links to reveal where the link may be sending you. If it doesn’t seem to match, be wary. It may look similar, like the phishing emails.
- Treat all these interactions (clickbait, pop-ups, advertisements) as less than trustworthy. With phishing and social engineering being so common, a healthy level of distrust is a good thing.
- A link can be hidden within clickbait or a pop-up, you may think you’re closing the pop-up when you are clicking a link to download malware.
Tasks that we have been performing for a long time, or very frequently, can cause us to become complacent. Think of driving an automobile. Do you realize it is arguably the most dangerous thing you do on a regular basis? Complacency, per Merriam-Webster, “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” We know what it is, but how do we fight complacency in our workplace? The first step is recognizing it when it appears.
- Before starting a task or project, list the hazards that you and your co-workers will encounter. Then list the ways in which you will protect yourself from these hazards. Congratulations, you just performed a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)!
- As a group, discuss what could possibly go wrong and what you can do to prevent it or protect yourselves from it.
- When performing a dangerous task, ask yourself, “Would I allow my grandchild to do it this way?” If not, perform the task the same way you would teach them to perform it.
- If you hear the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way” or “It’ll be fine this one time” or “O.K., but hurry up and be careful,” complacency is present. Stop, evaluate the hazard and do the right thing.
- Keep your safety “front of mind.” Bring up concerns, discuss them.
- If you see something, say something. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper. How would you feel if you chose not to say something and the worst happened?
- Always examine equipment, procedures and the hazards that may exist, and focus physically and mentally on your work, no matter how many times you may have done the same job in the past.
Data Storage and Destruction
How to Keep Data Secure
- Do not allow unauthorized persons access to your work areas.
- All computers should be locked when not in use.
- Keep software current, install and maintain critical software updates.
- Use up-to-date virus protection.
- House network server hardware in a secure environment.
- Ensure data is backed up and protected.
- Maintain only critical PII; if you don’t need the information, don’t store it.
- Limit data access to specific job functions.
- Review and update data access policies on a regular basis.
- Make sure wireless networks are password protected.
- Use shredders to destroy sensitive confidential documents.
How to Dispose of Data and Equipment
- Adopt an equipment disposal policy and identify who is responsible for disposal.
- Document how and when equipment was disposed of
- Remove or reformat and securely dispose of hard drives from the following:
- Computer hard drives
- External USB devices (flash drives/external drives)
- Printers, copiers and scanners
- Cell phones
- Back-up tapes (video and date)
- Leased equipment prior to returning to the vendor
The most dangerous activity we take part in regularly is operating a motor vehicle. Defensive driving is when you are actively attempting to identify and avoid hazards to prevent crashes, regardless of road and weather conditions and the actions of other drivers.
Defensive Driving Techniques
- Always maintain a safe following distance. The National Safety Council recommends 3 seconds, plus an additional second for each additional hazard.
- Slow down. Speeding is a major contributor to serious injury and fatal car crashes. Driving slower gives you more time to identify and avoid hazards.
- Avoid distractions. Driving distracted is the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents. Talking on the phone, texting and eating are all activities that take your focus off driving safely.
- Avoid driving while impaired. Alcohol, illegal controlled substances, over the counter medications and prescriptions medications can all impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Check the side effects of all medications before use and avoid drugs and alcohol when driving.
- Be predictable. Keep your vehicle visible by staying out of another vehicle’s blind spots. Signal your intentions early and act accordingly.
- Ensure intersections are clear before proceeding. Look left, forward, right and then left again before entering an intersection.
- Cover the brake whenever you spot a possible hazard. This refers to taking your foot off the gas pedal and holding it over the brake, causing the vehicle to slow down and reducing the time it takes to stop the vehicle if needed.
- Maintain a proper lookout. Keep your eyes moving. Check your mirrors every few seconds. Our most important job while driving is identifying and avoiding hazards.
- Yield to aggressive drivers. Is a crash worth it just because you thought you had the “right of way?” The right of way is to be given, not taken. Never assume you have the right of way or that another driver is going to yield it to you. Always be prepared to yield if necessary.
Fortunately, accidental fires are a rare occurrence in our member counties and agencies. It is easy to forget how dangerous and destructive accidental fires are. This safety minute provides you some general tips and reminders to help prevent accidental fires.
- Do not store combustible materials near an ignition source. Furnace and mechanical rooms should not be used to store combustible materials.
- Smoking should be permitted only in designated areas free of combustible materials. Butts should be placed in the designated receptacles. (Smoking bans are another option.)
- If space heaters are allowed in your workplace, ensure it has a safety switch that shuts it off if it falls over.
- Keep all combustible materials at least 3 feet from space heaters. Place space heaters on a nonflammable surface like ceramic tile.
- Turn off and unplug space heaters when not in use. Space heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet.
- Do not allow candles in the workplace.
- Do not overload outlets or circuits. Inspect electrical cords and replace if damaged or frayed.
- Install and regularly test smoke alarms.
- Inspect portable fire extinguishers monthly to ensure they are fully charged and accessible.
- Inspect storage and office areas to ensure nothing is stacked within 18 inches of a sprinkler head.
- Emergency evacuation plans should be displayed and drills held annually. This should be included in new employee orientation as well.
We’re not talking about the hardworking folks that prepare hotel rooms between guests, we’re talking about one of the most important topics when it comes to maintaining a safe workplace. Effective workplace housekeeping reduces the number of hazards employees are exposed to, resulting in fewer injuries and a healthier, happier and more productive workplace. Housekeeping is everyone’s responsibility.
Reduce Fire Hazards
- Do not store flammable materials near a heat source. Clean out your furnace/mechanical room, it should not be used for storage.
- Inspect for and repair electrical hazards.
- Store flammable liquids in an approved metal storage cabinet.
- Change clothing if it becomes contaminated with a flammable liquid
- Keep passageways and fire doors free of obstructions. Keep all items at least 18 inches away from automatic sprinklers, fire extinguishers and sprinkler controls.
Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls
- Clean up spills, leaks and tracked in moisture immediately.
- Keep walkways clear of items; sweep and mop regularly.
- Replace worn, ripped or damaged flooring.
- Install mats at entrances to absorb and capture moisture and dirt. Replace mats if the edges or corners curl.
- Use warning signs when floors are wet.
- Inspect and mop entrances frequently when conditions warrant.
- Do not store items on the stairs.
- Return tools and items to storage when finished using them.
- Maintain a tidy workstation.
- Dispose of items that are no longer needed.
- Empty trash receptacles frequently.
- Ensure electrical panels are unobstructed – 36 inches in each direction.
- Clean out vehicles after each use.
There are many reasons incidents go unreported– “wasn’t me,” “not my job,” pride, fear of punishment, unsure of the process, etc. There are many more, and more important, reasons that all incidents should be reported. This safety minute will discuss the reasons you should report all incidents, accidents, injuries and near-misses that occur in your workplace.
Your Own Protection
It is human nature to not want to draw attention to ourselves if we are injured. A very common occurrence is someone strains their back at work. It happens to everyone and usually it gets better on its own. They decide not to tell anyone and not to seek treatment, hoping that an icepack or heating pad, ibuprofen and some rest will fix everything. It bothers them on and off for a while until they can’t take it anymore and seek medical treatment. They tell the doctor it happened at work, can’t remember when or how and no one else at work can verify. They have just put themselves in a position to possibly have a workers’ compensation claim that may not be compensable. They are unable to document that the injury occurred at work, which may result in a denial of benefits. Do yourself a favor and report every injury to your supervisor, no matter how small it may seem. If you’re injured, file a workers’ compensation claim, you don’t have to seek treatment, but you’ll be able to document when and how it happened if you seek treatment in the future.
The Protection of Others
Incidents need to be reported so others can learn from them and prevent reoccurrence. This includes any type of incident, from a minor property claims to serious injuries to near misses. These incidents are reported so they can be investigated, the investigation is analyzed, and the information learned is shared with others. This process allows everyone to learn how to prevent a similar incident from occurring again.
Incidents that are not reported are not investigated. Investigations serve two purposes, prevention and protection from liability. Any event that leads to injuries could result in a claim being made against a NIRMA member. The initial investigation could make or break the defense of such a claim. It is far too common that incidents go unreported and uninvestigated leading to an ineffective defense because of the lack of information.
Please Report and Investigate All Incidents, Accidents and Injuries!
- Inspect your ladder prior to use. Check rails and rungs for damage. Ensure step ladders have two spreaders that function properly. Ensure the fly section of the ladder extends and locks into place. Discard and destroy any damaged ladder.
- Make sure feet are on a level and stable surface and that spreaders are fully extended and locked into place (step ladders).
- Identify and stay at least 10 feet from energized electrical conductors.
- Always maintain three points of contact. Either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Always face the ladder.
- Follow the “belt buckle” rule. Ensure that your belt buckle area stays between the rails of the ladder and never past the top rung. This keeps your center of gravity between the rails and prevents overreaching.
- Ensure that the ladder is rated to support the weight of the user.
- Utilize the 4:1 rule. For every 4 feet of elevation, move the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall.
- Ladders should extend 3 feet from the leading edge and the top should be secured to keep it from tipping.
- Don’t use a step ladder like an extension ladder. For example, do not lean it against the wall without the legs open and spreaders fully extended.
- Don’t carry anything in your hand(s) while climbing up or down a ladder. Remember, three points of contact.
- Never stand on the top two rungs of a step ladder. Remember the belt buckle rule.
- Never use a ladder made of conductive material (aluminum) any where near energized electrical conductors or equipment.
- Never place and use a ladder in front of a doorway. If you must, place barricades, warnings and spotters to ensure the user’s safety.
According to Gallup, 79% of Americans feel stress “sometimes” or “frequently” during their day. Stress can come from many sources: work, personal life, children, finances, medical issues, the list is countless. How you choose to respond to stress plays a role in the impact stress will have on your health and well-being. This safety minute will provide you with some ways to reduce the negative impact of stress.
Focus on Your Health
- Exercise regularly, even if it is just taking a walk.
- Eat healthy. Keep the comfort foods to a minimum.
- Make time for the things you enjoy.
- Get plenty of rest, shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Learn and practice a relaxation technique. Meditation, yoga or tai-chi are all believed to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Do not rely on alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.
Get Assistance if Needed
- Does your employer offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? If so, reach out and see what resources they have. Most offer assistance with family issues, financial problems, emotional problems, substance or alcohol abuse.
- Speak with a friend or family member. Sometimes a good talk is what you need. It helps when you find out other people are dealing with the same feelings. Lean on them for support.
- Professional help is always an option. There are health care experts that are specifically trained to help people work through their stress. Therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can help with stress and anxiety. Your mental health and well-being are just as important as physical health and well-being.
- Uncertainty is a huge source of stress. The more you know about something the more prepared you become. Learn all you can about whatever it is that is causing your stress. Being prepared is a much better feeling that uncertainty.
- Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that will increase stress.
- Learn to manage your time.
- Face the cause of your stress. Ignoring your stressors is tempting, this is more likely to make it worse. Focus on and address the things you can control and work from there.
Mobile Device Security
When you think of cyber security don’t forget your mobile devices. Phones, tablets, laptops, even thumb drives. Protecting your employer from data breaches and malware must be done in and out of the office. Did you know that there is such a thing as Android mobile ransomware? This safety minute will provide you with ways to maintain security while using various devices outside of the office.
Mobile Device Hazards
- Lost and stolen equipment can lead to breaches of Personal Identifying Information (PII) and other valuable data.
- Keep in mind that any mobile device (phone, tablet, laptop) connected to the Internet can be affected by viruses and malware.
- If those devices are also connected to your office network and servers, this could provide hackers with an opportunity to access your employer’s data.
How to Protect Your Mobile Devices
- Regularly update your operating system and apps.
- Use relevant built-in security features that allow you to track your phone and remotely erase data in case you cannot recover your device.
- Avoid connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks by turning off your automatic Wi-Fi connection feature on your phone or tablet. If connecting is necessary, avoid logging into key accounts or financial services.
- Disable Bluetooth when not in use.
- Download Apps from trusted sources.
- Set automatic locks on mobile devices. Ensure the device locks automatically and is protected by a strong password. Biometric authentication features such as fingerprint scanner or facial recognition makes unlocking the device more convenient and makes it more secure.
- Know your county or agencies mobile device policies and procedures. If your county does not have a mobile device security policy one is available on the eRisk Hub under Mobile Computing Policy.
Most people don’t realize that there are a multitude of different techniques used by hackers to crack your password. The beauty is that the strength of your password is up to you. Nowadays, it is common for websites to have their own minimum requirements for your password, this keeps us from getting lazy. Passwords are one of the daily nuisances that you need to take seriously and learn to appreciate. This safety minute will discuss what makes a secure password and some behaviors to avoid.
How to Create a Secure Password
- Do not use the same password on multiple accounts.
- Do not share passwords with anyone.
- Use three to five of the following character classes
- Lower case letters
- Upper case letters
- Special characters (@#$%^&*)
- Use at least eight characters to create your password
- Create passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess.
- “To be or not to be?” – 2b-or-Not~2B?
- Never use personal information. No birthdays or kid’s names.
- Change them periodically.
- Consider using a password manager.
- Do not use the “save password” or “remember me” function.
- If the site you are logging into has a password strength analyzer, use it to your advantage.
Phishing and Social Engineering
Social engineering is the art of deceiving, manipulating or influencing a person into sharing information or taking action that is not in their best interest or the best interest of their organization. The social engineer will then use the sensitive information for nefarious purposes or to gain access to your network and install viruses or malware. Ransomware attacks are becoming more prevalent and organizations are forced to pay a ransom to recover access to their data. Local government has become a target of hackers. This safety minute will help you identify and avoid phishing attacks.
Types of Attacks
Phishing is email-based social engineering targeting an organization. Spear Phishing is similar, but it is aimed at a specific person or role.
USB attacks are when a person uses a thumb drive to install malware on your computer. This can be done in person if your computer is left unsecured or they can simply leave thumb drive lying around near a business and hope someone plugs it in to see what is on it.
Tailgating is when a hacker bypasses physical security by following an authorized person inside.
Text-based social engineering is referred to as Smishing, while over-the-phone-based social engineering is referred to as Vishing.
Red flags are signs of danger or that something is wrong. Trust your gut instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t click the link, don’t download the item, don’t open the attachment. Call the sender to verify. We are going to cover some common red flags that occur in social engineering emails.
An email from an address you do not recognize or an email from a person you recognize but the email is unexpected or out of character.
You are one of multiple people copied on an email and you don’t recognize any of the other people it was sent to.
An email you normally receive during business hours was sent in the middle of the night and the person sending it has never sent you an email at that time.
The subject of the email does not match the content of the message or is irrelevant. It’s an email about something you never requested or a receipt for something you didn’t purchase. The subject line simply says “Re:”. Again, trust your instincts.
Look very closely at hyperlinks for misspellings or for a hyperlink asking you to take an action. When you hover your cursor over the hyperlink, the link address is for a different website.
The sender is asking you to click on a link or open an attachment. The email is asking you to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of yourself of someone you know. You have an uncomfortable feeling, or it just seems wrong. Again, trust your instincts.
Any attachments that you were not expecting or are included in an email containing any of the red flags listed above.
We’ve all heard the term a “culture of safety.” Cyber security experts are now recommending a “culture of security.” What they mean is this, from now on we need to scrutinize every email we get, look at each email as if it is a scam or a phishing attempt until we can prove that it isn’t. Before you click on any link, open an attachment, or download anything, you need to consider the fact that it could be malicious and act accordingly.
Portable Fire Extinguishers
The most common type of extinguisher utilized in the workplace is the ABC dry chemical. Portable fire extinguishers are named and labeled for the types of fires they are designed to extinguish. An ABC dry chemical extinguisher is designed to extinguish a fire that is fueled by class A, B or C materials. The purpose of this safety minute is to familiarize you with the ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher and then to cover when and how to use one.
Class A fires consist of ordinary combustible materials such as cardboard, paper, wood, dried vegetation, trash. Basically, anything that leaves an ash after it has burned.
Class B fires consist of flammable and combustible liquids, such as gasoline, diesel, oil, oil-based paints, and many solvents.
Class C fires consist of fires that involve appliances, tools, and other equipment that is plugged in or otherwise electrically energized, as well as fires burning near electrically energized equipment.
Only Fight a Fire If
- It is small and contained
- You are safe from toxic smoke
- You have a means of escape
- Your instincts tell you it is ok
How to use an extinguisher (PASS)
- Pull the pin
- Aim it at the base of the flames
- Squeeze the operating lever
- Sweep the nozzle or hose slowly from side to side until the fire is out
Portable fire extinguishers should be inspected monthly by the property owner to ensure they are not damaged, discharged or missing. Extinguishers should be inspected annually by a vendor that can repair, recharge and recertify their readiness.
Safe Winter Driving
Winter driving in Nebraska can go from dry roads to 100% snow and ice in very little time. This safety minute will cover what we should do to our vehicle, what we should have in our vehicle and tips for driving on snow and ice-covered roads.
Winter Vehicle Preparedness
- Check coolant/anti-freeze level.
- Check wiper fluid level.
- Check condition and function of battery.
- Inspect tires for wear and proper inflation.
- Replace worn wiper blades.
- Ensure all lights function properly.
- Stock vehicle with warm clothing, hat, gloves, boots and a warm blanket.
- Maintain not less than one-half tank of fuel.
- Flashlight and batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Small shovel.
- Gravel or kitty litter for traction.
- Cell phone and charger.
- Clear ice and snow from entire windshield and lights.
- Remove as much ice and snow as possible from all other vehicle surfaces.
- Decrease speed and increase following distance to match road conditions.
- Do not use cruise control on wet or icy roads.
- Monitor road conditions and temperature when possible.
- Reduce speed over bridges as they freeze before other road surfaces.
- Use headlights whenever you use your windshield wipers.
- Check road conditions before leaving and give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination.
- Don’t hesitate to cancel or postpone a trip if road conditions warrant.
Sidewalk and Stair Snow Removal
- Ensure walks and stairs are clear before employees arrive.
- Remember to clean out curb cuts again after the streets are plowed.
- Document when snow removal started and when it was completed. Document how much ice melt was used and where.
- If snowfall continues, reinspect and remove snow to keep up with the storm.
- Clear all entrances and exits of snow and ice. Even if not used, all exits should be clear of snow in the event of an evacuation.
- Slip and fall incidents commonly result in workers’ compensation and liability claims. Thorough snow and ice removal, along with detailed documentation, is very important.
Parking Lot Snow Removal
- Parking lots can be troublesome if you must work around vehicles. But remember that employees and customers must be able to get safely from their vehicles to the sidewalks.
- Document parking lot snow removal as well as ice melt usage, to include location and amount.
- Use good posture, stand up straight and ensure your head, neck and spine are in alignment.
- Walk toward the snow until the shovel is full. When moving snow, turn your entire body by pivoting on your feet, do not twist at the waist and throw the snow.
- Do not throw snow over your shoulder or to the side, carry it in front of you.
- Snow pushers are excellent for light snow or small snow accumulation.
- Start shoveling early if the forecast is for heavy snow. It is easier to lighter snow twice than heavier snow once.
- If at any time you experience chest pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing and immediately seek medical attention.