Operation Safe Driver Week is July 12-18 With a Focus on Speeding

CVSA’s Operation Safe Driver Week will go on as scheduled, July 12-18. Law enforcement personnel throughout North America will be looking for drivers who are engaging in unsafe driving behaviors on our roadways. Identified drivers will be pulled over by law enforcement and may be issued a warning or citation. CVSA selected speeding as the focus area for this year’s Operation Safe Driver Week to address the alarming trend of increased speeding on our roadways during the pandemic. Read More»

COVID-19 pandemic: Association asks public to help keep sanitation workers safe


Photo: Minertree/iStockphoto

Silver Spring, MD — The Solid Waste Association of North America is asking the public to take simple steps to help protect sanitation workers from exposure to COVID-19. That includes holding off on spring cleaning projects that generate large amounts of trash.

According to a press release from SWANA, residential waste collection has increased up to 38% in some communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting workers at risk. “You’re picking up waste from homes where people may have COVID-19, and so there’s concern about exposure to the virus through the trash,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman told Safety+Health.

Citing research that shows the coronavirus may last on cardboard for 24 hours and live on plastic for up to three days, SWANA offers several recommendations for safely disposing of waste and recycling materials. They include:

  • Wash your hands before taking out trash and recycling containers.
  • Sanitize container lids and handles.
  • Don’t place plastic gloves, masks and other medical waste in recycling bins. Put them in your trash can.

Other ways you can help, Biderman said, are breaking down large cardboard boxes to make sure they fit inside your recycling bin; and taking the time to empty, rinse and dry other recyclable items such as plastics and glass.

“There’s a lot more recyclables being generated, and so people need to really know how to manage that material in their home and put the right stuff in the blue bin,” he added.

SWANA recommends you check with your service provider about potential changes such as temporary closing of drop-off centers or suspension of yard waste collection.

Osha has a new webpage with guidance specifically for keeping construction workers safe during the pandemic

Construction worker with PPE | Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Turner Construction

This section provides guidance for construction employers and workers, such as those engaged in carpentry, ironworking, plumbing, electrical, heating/ ventilation/air conditioning/ventilation, masonry and concrete work, utility construction work, and earthmoving activities.

Click here to visit the new webpage. 


Drinking alcohol won’t protect you against COVID-19, experts say


Photo: coldsnowstorm/iStockphoto

Bethesda, MD — Although alcohol is a key ingredient in hand sanitizers that can help kill the coronavirus, alcoholic drinks don’t have the same effect and may actually hinder your immune system’s response to COVID-19, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is cautioning consumers.

To be effective against the coronavirus, hand sanitizers must contain at least 60% ethyl alcohol, NIAAA says in a May 12 press release. In contrast, a typical drink is only 0.01% to 0.03% alcohol – “a tiny fraction of the concentration needed to produce an antiseptic action.” A blood-alcohol concentration of 0.4% can be fatal.

“Alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections and can worsen the prognosis,” the institute adds. “Alcohol in the body at the time of exposure to a pathogen tends to impair the body’s immediate immune response to the pathogen, making it easier for an infection to develop.”

Longer term, excessive alcohol consumption impairs the immune system’s response in the lungs and has been linked to acute respiratory distress syndrome. “In fact,” NIAAA says, “individuals who misuse alcohol chronically are more likely to develop ARDS, more likely to need mechanical ventilation, have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit and have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS. All of these effects of alcohol misuse could certainly complicate COVID-19 prevention, treatment and recovery.”


In response to the unemployment impact of COVID-19, Arizona has established a
financial program to support employers and continue reenergizing Arizona’s economy.
The Rapid Employment Job Training Grant provides support by reimbursing costs
associated with training substantial numbers of new employees quickly. Read More»

Build a strong culture: Tips for ‘talking safety’


Image: Missouri Department of Transportation

No one can keep an entire organization safe on his or her own. Collaboration is needed to create a strong safety culture in which everyone looks out for each other.

There’s no magic formula to make someone heed safety advice. But improving the atmosphere around safety conversations can make it easier to give and receive advice in a graceful, constructive way. Here are some ways you can do that:

Retire the ‘safety police.’ The “gotcha” approach is counterproductive, experts say. When workers feel they’re being policed, they find ways to hide their unsafe behaviors, resulting in lost opportunities for improvement. To make a genuine, long-term impact, take a persuasive approach rather than a punitive one.

Speak the worker’s language. Instead of presenting the information in the way that makes the most sense to the speaker, consider how the worker will receive it. Before saying anything, take a moment to think about who is being spoken to and what he or she cares about, and tailor the conversation to speak to those motivations. And remember: Good communication goes both ways. Instead of doing all the talking, listen to what workers have to say – especially any questions or objections they bring up, which can reveal their motivations.
Demonstrate care and concern. By far, the greatest reason to give a worker for adopting a safe behavior is concern for his or her well-being, and the best way to avoid the appearance of lecturing is to show concern for that person. Be calm and keep emotions in check to help send the right message.
Focus on specifics. To avoid expressing judgment or disapproval and provoking a defensive reaction, limit comments to the precise unsafe behaviors or conditions that were witnessed.
Get (and give) permission. If you’re concerned that well-intentioned advice will come off as intrusive, it may help to set the stage for the safety conversation beforehand.
Lead by example and encourage others to do the same. Workers tend to do what those around them are doing, so it’s essential to demonstrate safe behaviors in addition to talking about them.

A safe drive


Photo: Jennifer Yario

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace death. Preliminary estimates released in May by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show a 1.2% decrease in motor vehicle-related deaths in 2019 from the previous year.

“While we are heading in the right direction, more work needs to be done to ensure safety on our roadways,” NSC says. Keep it safe every time you get behind the wheel by following these best practices from NSC:

  • Adjust your mirrors to limit your blind spots.
  • Program your GPS before you leave.
  • Set your cellphone to “Do Not Disturb” and put it and any other distracting devices or items away.
  • Adjust your seat so you can reach any knobs and switches.
  • Have an emergency kit stocked and stored in your vehicle. Inspect it before setting off.
  • Make sure you’re in the right head space to drive – free of impairment, distraction and frustration.
  • Obey all traffic signs and posted speed limits.
  • Use your signals and lights when driving.
  • Give pedestrians the right of way.
  • Don’t drive if you’re tired. Try to take a nap before getting behind the wheel.
  • Drive slowly and cautiously in parking lots and garages.
  • Check the potential side effects of your medications before getting behind the wheel.
  • Stop for breaks on long driving trips.
  • Buckle up.
  • Leave yourself enough time to safely reach your destination.

“Any drop in motor vehicle deaths should be well received, but the ultimate goal we need to reach is zero,” NSC says.

Focus on mental health


Workers might be facing a number of issues during the COVID-19 crisis that can have an impact on mental health, including furloughs and layoffs, social isolation, financial hardships and worries, and health concerns for themselves and their families.

“I’ve heard it said that the next pandemic wave may be mental health,” said Marissa J. Levine, a professor at the University of South Florida, during an April 14 webinar on mental health hosted by NSC. “Honestly, I’m concerned about that. It’s affected every state, every one of us, in some way.”

Employees might be getting information from numerous, and sometimes unreliable, sources at this time. “It’s very difficult, in these anxious times, to catch peoples’ attention,” Eric Goplerud, chair of the board of directors for the Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, said during the webinar. “There are 11 words which will help you communicate and break through the anxiety: A simple message, repeated often, from a variety of trusted sources.”

Levine recommended employers and managers follow and share coping strategies from sources such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which suggests taking breaks from consuming news reports related to the pandemic, taking time to unwind, working on physical fitness and social connections, setting goals and priorities, and focusing on the facts.

For employers, human resources teams and safety leaders, Goplerud encouraged more communication about benefits programs, such as an employee assistance program. Leaders also should encourage more interaction with benefits vendors.

Employers and managers can share honest updates about COVID-19 while also providing a positive outlook for the path forward.

“There’s a real opportunity here for focusing on the positives without minimizing the issues that we’re dealing with,” Levine said. “Having a can-do attitude and the power of positive thinking are needed now more than ever.”

Advocacy group releases guidelines for safe return to work


Photo: National COSH

Los Angeles — To help ensure the safety of people returning to work – as well as those already on the job – during the COVID-pandemic, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health has released guidelines for workplace safety; worker participation; and fair compensation for sick, injured and at-risk workers.

In a report released May 14, National COSH states that essential businesses should have critical safety measures in place that are enforced and monitored. Contributing to the report – A Safe and Just Return to Work – were physicians, certified industrial hygienists, attorneys, academics, and leaders of nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations.

“The United States is far from being ready to open for business without putting not only workers but entire communities at grave risk of illness and death,” the report states. “Only the most essential businesses should be open, and even those must only be allowed to operate if critical safety measures are in place.”

The guidelines emphasize that protections must follow NIOSH’s Hierarchy of Controls, which places personal protective equipment as the final line of defense.

According to National COSH, a safe return-to-work strategy requires, at a minimum:

  • Effective and stringent health and safety protections informed by science; backed by robust enforcement; and designed with input from workers, employers and unions, among others.
  • A planned, detailed and meaningful system for testing, screening, contact tracing, isolation and epidemiological surveillance.
  • Guaranteed job protection and just compensation for workers, as well as individuals who can’t work.
  • Respect and inclusion of meaningful worker and union involvement in decision-making, return-to-work plans and workplace safety.
  • Measures to ensure equity, inclusion and a path to end health and economic disparities.

“Employers who adopt a ‘business-as-usual’ approach could cause workers and their family members to become sick or even die,” Sherry Baron, a professor of public health at Queens College in New York City and a contributor to the report, said in the release. “The right way to reduce risk and limit harm is to include workers in making the plan and implementing effective safety programs, based on the best available scientific evidence.

Safety Leadership: Your brain on Zoom

Editor’s Note: Achieving and sustaining an injury-free workplace demands strong leadership. In this monthly column, experts from global consulting firm DEKRA Organizational Safety and Reliability share their point of view on what leaders need to know to guide their organizations to safety excellence.

A lot of us have frequently used virtual meetings to keep connected on important matters and with people who are important to us.

Now that it has become a primary way to work, you may find yourself feeling mentally drained as you hop from call to call, often without breaks in between.

The neuroscience of human communication tells us we’re wired to communicate for our very survival. Our social brain structures are attuned to guide us toward positive connections and are sensitive to “social errors” (cringeworthy virtual moments) we and others might make.

Part of the “brain drain” from virtual meetings comes from the cognitive loading involved in attempting to listen more intently even as audio quality fluctuates, people navigate their cameras and mute buttons, and the social brain searches for cues that indicate if the meeting is going well. These cues are abundant in face-to-face meetings through body language.

When these cues are less available on virtual calls, however, our brain works twice as hard. People who are highly skilled at “reading a room” will notice the brain drain even more when communicating virtually, as that kind of super-power becomes limited.

Although virtual meetings have many benefits, they require us to do some “brain alignment” of our meeting process to include building in some easy actions that will enhance our well-being, keep us alert and energized, and confirm relationships with others.

Here are a few suggestions for combating the “virtual brain drain” inherent in virtual meetings and presentations:

Block out break times in your calendar for the next three weeks. A 10-minute refresh break built into your schedule allows you to get up and move, grab a healthy snack and say hello to family if you’re working from home, as well as gives your brain time to change gears between one meeting and the next. If you don’t, you won’t be at your best throughout the day, as cognitive performance will suffer.

Stay hydrated. Our brains are largely water-based. Drink lots of it.

During meetings you’re leading, take a moment to ask how others on the call are doing or where they are physically – or simply tell them it’s great to see them. Purposely setting the tone for the meeting experience is important, but it gets overlooked. Instead, it often gets replaced with a frantic “Do we have everybody here?” and an unnecessary urgent tone that erodes social connection and engagement.

Explicitly ask for attention to one another’s ideas and suggestions. Share and ask questions within the meeting, especially if your meeting runs late in the day or there are distractions. Recognize those attending in time zones where it’s early morning or late at night.

Set up your screen so you can see who’s talking. Seeing everyone at once can be distracting. If you were in a live meeting, you would look to the person talking, not at all 20 people in the room.

Asking people to use their webcam makes meetings more engaging. The brain is wired to study faces and engages immediately when one appears on screen. Setting up a photo of yourself rather than the default name initials helps others when you’re not on camera as well.

For important meetings, block out time beforehand to prepare and afterward to decompress. If you’re planning meetings, give thought to how important ones could be spaced within the day or week to avoid feeling drained.

Practice with the various virtual meeting platforms if you need to use more than one. Distraction and stress can be experienced when you have to fumble to find screen share, audio controls or the record button, so practice. Also, arrive early enough to be logged in and ready to go in case technical issues show up and add to your brain drain.

Virtual meetings are an important, efficient and effective way of getting big things done across distance. Enhancing skills in virtual meeting design, as well as applying the neuroscience to make it a more natural and effective tool, are worth pursuing, especially as these meetings become more expansive within the new normal. See you on the next meeting.

This article represents the views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

Vice President David Musgrave leads the Brain-Centric Reliability practice area at DEKRA that focuses on human performance reliability. He is a highly requested consultant and speaker who offers extensive experience in safety improvement.