Safety Tip of the Week: Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Sunglasses resting on sand with setting sun

This week as we look forward to the summer, Safety and Risk Reduction Manager Wendy Couture shares information to make sure we are familiar with the hazards of heat-related illness. It is important to be aware of the potential hazards that summer brings. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has provided these tips to help us stay safe!

Stay Cool

Wear Appropriate Clothing: Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

Stay Cool Indoors: Stay in an air-conditioned place as much as possible. If your home does not have air conditioning, go to the shopping mall or public library—even a few hours spent in air-conditioning can help your body stay cooler when you go back into the heat. Call your local health department to see if there are any heat-relief shelters in your area.

  • Keep in mind: Electric fans may provide comfort, but when the temperature is in the high 90s, they will not prevent heat-related illness. Taking a cool shower or bath or moving to an air-conditioned place is a much better way to cool off. Use your stove and oven less to maintain a cooler temperature in your home.

Schedule Outdoor Activities Carefully: Try to limit your outdoor activity to when it’s coolest, such as morning and evening hours. Rest often in shady areas so that your body has a chance to recover.

Pace Yourself: Cut down on exercise during the heat. If you’re not accustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment, start slowly and pick up the pace gradually. If exertion in the heat makes your heart pound and leaves you gasping for breath, STOP all activity. Get into a cool area or into the shade, and rest, especially if you become lightheaded, confused, weak or faint.

Wear Sunscreen: Sunburn affects your body’s ability to cool down and can make you dehydrated. If you must go outdoors, protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and by putting on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher 30 minutes prior to going out. Continue to reapply it according to the package directions.

  • Tip: Look for sunscreens that say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.

Do Not Leave Children in Cars: Cars can quickly heat up to dangerous temperatures, even with a window cracked open. While anyone left in a parked car is at risk, children are especially at risk of getting a heat stroke or dying. When traveling with children, remember to do the following:

  • Never leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open.
  • To remind yourself that a child is in the car, keep a stuffed animal in the car seat. When the child is buckled in, place the stuffed animal in the front with the driver.
  • When leaving your car, check to be sure everyone is out of the car. Do not overlook any children who have fallen asleep in the car.

Stay Hydrated

Drink Plenty of Fluids: Drink more fluids, regardless of how active you are. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink.

  • Warning: If your doctor limits the amount you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
  • Stay away from very sugary or alcoholic drinks—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.

Replace Salt and Minerals: Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body that need to be replaced. A sports drink can replace the salt and minerals you lose in sweat.

  • If you are on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic conditions, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.

Keep Your Pets Hydrated: Provide plenty of fresh water for your pets, and leave the water in a shady area.

Stay Informed

Check for Updates: Check your local news for extreme heat alerts and safety tips and to learn about any cooling shelters in your area.

Know the Signs: Learn the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and how to treat them.

Use a Buddy System: When working in the heat, monitor the condition of your co-workers and have someone do the same for you. Heat-induced illness can cause a person to become confused or lose consciousness. If you are 65 years of age or older, have a friend or relative call to check on you twice a day during a heat wave. If you know someone in this age group, check on them at least twice a day.

Monitor Those at High Risk: Although anyone at any time can suffer from heat-related illness, some people are at greater risk than others:

  • Infants and young children
  • People 65 years of age or older
  • People who are overweight
  • People who overexert during work or exercise
  • People who are physically ill, especially with heart disease or high blood pressure, or who take certain medications, such as for depression, insomnia, or poor circulation

Visit adults at risk at least twice a day and closely watch them for signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Infants and young children, of course, need much more frequent watching.

Safety Tip of the Week: Remember safety when using coffee makers

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about coffee maker safety.

Coffee cup being filled by glass coffee pot decanter filled with black coffeeBrookhaven National Laboratory Fire Safety Engineering Group reports that there have been several coffee pot “meltdowns” over the years. All were due to the coffee maker being left plugged in, the coffee evaporating out, and the over-temperature sensor failing to limit the hotplate’s temperature. Fortunately, none of these meltdowns has resulted in significant fires. It is important that if we have a coffee maker in our workspace that we check it often.

Here is a summary of rules for safe electric coffee maker operation:

  1. Electric coffee makers should be UL listed. If it is an older pot, check the
    Consumer Product Safety Commission website to see if it has a recall. When purchasing a new coffeemaker, choose a model with an automatic shutoff feature. It is very important for the safety of students and staff that all coffee makers have this shutoff feature to reduce the potential for fire, injury and property loss.
  2. Place the coffee maker on a noncombustible surface, and keep combustibles away from it (ex. draper, paper towels).
  3. Ensure coffee makers are turned off at the end of the work day (even those with automatic shutoffs). Assigning a person to unplug it from the electrical outlet is the best method of ensuring that it is off. Use of timers is not a guaranteed safety improvement. It is important to know that timers can turn equipment on after-hours, they do not adjust for holidays, and they are affected by power outages.
  4. Now is a good time to check the GFCI receptacle to ensure it works. If coffee makers cause the circuit breaker to trip, disconnect power loads on the circuit immediately. Have the power circuits examined by the maintenance department prior to using again.
  5. Many staff enjoy a cup of coffee periodically throughout the day. We need to all take responsibility for using this convenient piece of equipment by making sure it is in good working order and has the safety features identified above. In addition, it is a good work practice to unplug your coffee maker during the weekends and over holidays to reduce the potential for a fire hazard.

Safety Tip of the Week: Limited space in the classroom? Organization is key

Four binders filled with papers and stacked on a desk

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about how to create a safe classroom, even with limited space.

One of the biggest hazards to safety is clutter. You may find you need many items in your classrooms for activities and lessons but are not sure what to do with it all. Like last week’s blog on organizing your storage or workspace closet your room or workspace needs to be just as organized. Not only does clutter put a stop to the efficient flow of lessons and activities, but also it adds new opportunity for danger to any task. Having clutter could very easily hurt an employee or student. Having floors strewn with backpacks or binders can lead to injuries. Anything you can do to minimize this hazard and keep these areas clear will improve the overall safety, quality and efficiency of anyone working or learning in these areas.

Backpacks and binders

I know you have heard this before but utilizing bins and containers can transform a space from a cluttered mess into a streamlined learning area. Loose items such as backpacks, binders, coats and extra clothes can be put into bins or hung up in designated areas. This is not just good organization, but a good safety practice as well. Uncontained items can easily move into walking paths that may block things like safety equipment or exits.

This allows you and your students to move freely around the room without the potential from falling over items left on the floor or which have been kicked out into the aisle way.

Coats and clothing

Coats and extra clothing like umbrellas and extra P.E. clothes can also add to the clutter. Is there a place for students to safely place their items during class? Do they have to put them under their desk or beside their desk? Can they be stored on hangers on the wall nearby? It is important to think about how these items can affect the safety of the people in the room when planning storage options. Another thing to think about is if the OSD warehouse has storage closets or bins that are available to help store these items in your class.

Desks and chairs

Are desks and chairs arranged in the classroom so that you and your students can move freely between them without having to “squeeze” by? It is important that the chairs and tables are arranged in a fashion that best utilizes the space safely. Making sure the students tuck in their chairs when they leave the classroom helps create a safer space.

Let’s share!

Being organized is never easy and getting organized with 20 plus students can be even harder. Let’s help each other out! Do you have something organizational that has worked for you in your classroom or work space? If you have ideas that you can share with other staff please forward them to wcouture@osd.wednet.edu so that your organizational ideas can get out to others who may find them useful. I will compile shared ideas and send them out to all staff. This can help everyone find a way to organize his or her space for safety and efficiency.

Safety Tip of the Week: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

road-people-street-smartphone.jpg

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the dangers of distracted driving.

The National Safety Council states that distracted driving is a public health issue that affects everyone. The latest statistics show motor vehicle fatalities are up 6% from 2015. More than 40,000 people were killed on our nation’s roadways last year, and distracted driving is a major contributor.

Each death is 100% preventable. From cell phones to dashboard infotainment systems to evolving voice command features –- all pose a threat to our safety. Just one second of your attention is all it takes to change a life forever.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April is a united effort to recognize and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving. Join the National Safety Council at Distracted Driving Awareness Month for more resources.

According to the Center for Disease Control, each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

What are the types of distraction?

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road.
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving.

Distracted driving activities

Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. Sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving are a few examples of distracted driving. Any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph.

Take the pledge!

Take the pledge to be an attentive driver at Distracted Driving Pledge at the National Safety Council Web page.

Safety Tip of the Week: April showers bring May flowers … and wet floors!

Close up of two feet jumped in a puddle of water

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about how to maintain your safety and the safety of coworkers and students when there are wet floors.

April showers may bring May flowers, but lots of rain or other liquid tracked inside from melting snow or mopped floors may also cause wet floors inside a school or support building.

Remember that wet floors, no matter what the reason, can be extremely dangerous. Wet floors are a major contributor to slips and falls where serious injuries are the result.

Review these wet floor safety tips to help maintain your safety and the safety of your coworkers and students:

Hazards of wet floors:

  1. Slips with rearward falls: Rearward falls produce injuries to the head, back and pelvis.
  2. Employees or students could fall into another person or onto a sharp object like a desk, table or filing cabinet creating a serious injury.
  3. Falls from a standing position can be fatal — for example, slipping on water and falling down stairs or hitting your head on the sidewalk.

Making safety a priority:

  1. Keep floors clean and dry.
  2. Place warning signs in wet areas.
  3. When mopping a hallway or entrance way, mop only one side at a time so employees and students won’t be forced to walk through the mopped area. Do not walk through a freshly mopped area.
  4. Block off areas with wet floors.
  5. Maintain good drainage.
  6. Clean up spills immediately.
  7. Wear footwear that limits slips on wet surfaces.
  8. Place fans to help dry the floor surface quickly if needed.
  9. Do not run on wet floors.

Ever wonder how to safely and efficiently mop a floor? Check out this Safe and Efficient Mopping Techniques handout by Solutions 1.

Wet floors are a hazard at work and at home, so take safety home with you!

Safety Tip of the Week: Organizing storage closets for safety

Poster that says Think Keep This Workplace Safe and Clean

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about the importance of organizing storage closets for safety.

Organizing Storage Closets for Safety

Have you ever opened the door to a closet that cannot possibly hold one more thing or it will burst the door off its hinges?

Having everything on hand is important, but it can be overwhelming. There needs to be space for everything and a way to find it quickly. It is important to find the right kind of organizing system. We can improve safety and reduce injuries by properly organizing the storage rooms in the district. Consider the following important details when planning how to effectively arrange your classroom or workspace storage area.

Bin Storage

Utilizing storage bins and containers can transform the storage space from a cluttered mess into a streamlined storage area. Loose items such as hardware, office supplies, rolls of tapes and wire and small tools can be placed into bins. This is not just good organization, but a good safety practice as well. Small, uncontained items not kept in bins can easily fall in walking paths or cause clutter that may block things like safety equipment or exits. Therefore, always keep your smaller items in their proper containers.

Bins come in many different shapes and sizes to fit several different needs. Some bins are designed to be nested. Stacking bins vertically makes the most of the storage space. There are also shelf bins, which sit on the shelf open, allowing for easy access. These are a good choice for smaller items that are used frequently.

Shelving

Shelves seem like a simple thing, but the wrong type or size shelving may cause unnecessary issues. Shelves need to accommodate the items that are being stored. Check the school district warehouse for possible surplus shelves that may suit your storage needs.

Labeling

When thinking about storage, do not overlook labeling. The best storage system can fail if you do not know what is inside the container, or on the shelf. When organizing a storeroom, be sure to include all the pertinent information you need to find what you are looking for quickly. For example, product names and descriptions, and even pictures can save time and effort when trying to locate an item.

The best way to care for the things kept on hand is to store them in a safe, organized, easy-to-understand fashion. This can protect from damage, clutter and save time while selecting items. Most of all, it helps keep track what is available; consequently there is a better idea of what may be needed.

Safety Tip of the Week: Understanding seasonal allergies

Field of yellow flowers in bloom against a blue sky with white clouds

This week, Wendy Couture, the district’s safety and risk reduction manager, shares information about seasonal allergies.

Are you sneezing and coughing? Are your nose and eyes itchy and running? During certain times of the year, you may have seasonal allergies. Tree, grass and weed pollen are common triggers of seasonal allergies.

In many areas of the United States, spring allergies begin in February and last until early summer. Tree pollination begins earliest in the year followed by grass pollination later in the spring and summer. Ragweed blooms in the late summer and fall. Mild winter temperatures can cause plants to pollinate early, and a rainy spring can promote plant growth and lead to an increase in mold and allergy symptoms.

The most common culprit for allergies is ragweed, a plant that grows wild almost everywhere. Ragweed blooms and releases pollen from August to November.

Other plants that trigger allergies include:

  • Alder, Ash, Cedar and Cottonwood (Trees).
  • Bermuda, Rye and Timothy (Grass).
  • English Plantain, Lamb’s Quarters, and Redroot Pigweed (Weeds).

The following environmental factors also influence how bad your symptoms might be when the pollen counts are at their highest:

  • Tree, grass and ragweed pollens thrive during cool nights and warm days.
  • Molds grow quickly in heat and high humidity.
  • Pollen levels tend to peak in the morning hours.
  • Rain washes pollen away, but pollen counts can soar after rainfall.
  • On a day with no wind, airborne allergens are grounded.
  • When the day is windy and warm, pollen counts surge.

Avoiding allergy triggers can help with managing allergy symptoms. Call your doctor if you cannot avoid your allergy triggers and you need help managing them. Your doctor can refer you to an allergy specialist who will help identify your allergy triggers and create a suitable treatment plan for you.

Check the pollen count here.