Hello everyone, and welcome back to Safety Corner, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Division of Worker's Compensation (DWD/WC) safety blog! I'm using this forum to share some of the current, pertinent safety news and information that I receive from my network of workplace safety professionals and pass along to employers and organizations across Wisconsin.
As we move into the heart and heat of the summer, heat stress and heat illness pose an ever-present threat both to workers and family members, particularly to the very young and elderly family members or those with underlying medical conditions. We all too often hear the unfortunate stories of infants, young children, pets, and elderly individuals left in cars where interior temperatures can soar to dangerous and deadly levels in as little as 20 minutes. Prescription medications can make one even more vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heat stroke emergencies – and both can pose life-threating consequences.
Universally, stay hydrated and be aware of basic heat-stress personal safety measures. For those in the workplace, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) advocates ongoing periodic "Water. Shade. Rest." breaks. See OSHA Heat Stress Prevention Tips & OSHA Occ Heat Exposure Safety for more information.
Be aware of the various heat illness symptoms and be familiar with the appropriate first-aid responses: Heat Exposure & Illness - First-Aid.
Also, visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) heat stress – heat illness prevention resources at: CDC - 'Keep Your Cool In Hot Weather!' & CDC - 'Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness'.
Summer is synonymous with barbecues, parades and fireworks. The National Safety Council advises everyone to enjoy fireworks at public displays conducted by professionals, and not to use any fireworks at home. They may be legal, but they are not safe.
In 2017, eight people died and over 12,000 were injured badly enough to require medical treatment after fireworks-related incidents. Of these, 50% of the injuries were to children and young adults under age 20. Over two-thirds (67%) of injuries took place from June 16 to July 16. And while the majority of these incidents were due to amateurs attempting to use professional-grade, homemade or other illegal fireworks or explosives, an estimated 1,200 injuries were from less powerful devices like small firecrackers and sparklers.¹
Additionally, fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires each year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires and nearly 17,000 other fires.¹ Thus, the National Safety Council advocates leaving fireworks to the experts.
Even sparklers can pose a risk to children. Sparklers burn at about 2,000 degrees – hot enough to melt some metals. Sparklers can quickly ignite clothing, and children have received severe burns from dropping sparklers on their feet. According to the National Fire Protection Association, sparklers alone account for more than 25% of emergency room visits for fireworks injuries.
For children under 5 years of age, sparklers accounted for nearly half of the total estimated injuries.² Consider using safer alternatives, such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.²
Two recent tragic Southeast Wisconsin teenager beach drownings, mere days apart, illustrate the dangers posed to inexperienced or non-swimmers due to rip tide currents. Previous recent Safety Blogs have focused on Water Safety (May - National Water Safety Month), and the importance of knowing and rendering CPR (June awareness week - American Heart Association home page - AHA - Hands Only CPR).
Inexperienced or non-swimmers often panic if swept out by rip tide currents resulting in "fear and fatigue" in attempting to swim back to shore, fighting against the outflowing rip tide current. Knowing how to survive a rip tide current event can save your life, even for experienced swimmers!
First, learn to swim if you do not already know how. Heed posted beach rip tide warning signs and active rip tide weather alert warnings. If you must cool off and swim, choose a beach with lifeguard(s) on duty.
Finally, learn and remember the 5 "F's" to survive a rip tide event - Don't "Fear & Fight" / Don't "Fatigue" – Do "Float & Flow" - with the current until it ceases in intensity. If caught up in a rip tide while swimming, swim parallel to the shore or towards the incoming breaking waves to conserve your energy. The rip tide will eventually subside, usually in less than a minute or two, and the incoming breaking waves will push you back to shore.
Most rip tide victims panic/'fear", then "fatigue" in "fighting" the current – Do "float" and go with the "flow" to conserve your energy to survive a rip tide. See YouTube – Danger Rip Current: Instructional Guide - 3:44 mins.³
As offices and the economy reopen, daily commute and pent-up summer vacation leisure traffic increases are inevitable. The year 2019 saw 33,244 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States, in which 36,096 deaths occurred. Wisconsin saw 526 fatal crashes, with 566 related deaths occurring in 2019.⁴
This year's Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) 2021 Operation Safe Driver Week is slated for the week of July 11-17, 2021. Operation Safe Driver Week is a safe-driving awareness and outreach initiative aimed at improving the driving behaviors of passenger vehicle drivers and commercial motor vehicle drivers through educational and traffic enforcement strategies and interactions with law enforcement.
Law enforcement personnel will be on the lookout for commercial motor vehicle drivers and passenger vehicle drivers engaging in risky driving behaviors, with this year’s emphasis on speeding. Identified unsafe drivers will be pulled over and issued a citation or warning. View the full press release.⁵
Data shows that traffic stops and interactions with law enforcement help reduce problematic driving behaviors. By making contact with drivers during Operation Safe Driver Week, law enforcement personnel aim to make our roadways safer by targeting high-risk driving behaviors.⁶
As a look ahead, August will focus on pedestrian safety and the National Safety Council's related "Stop on Red" campaign to draw awareness and prevent the running of red lights, which can have horrific negative impacts for many innocent victims. August is also "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over Week" as we approach the Labor Day Holiday. The end of August also includes "overdose awareness" day, drawing attention to the many lives lost annually through chemical dependencies and addiction, and ways to seek assistance and help for those affected. More information to follow as we approach August.
Have a Safe Day, Always!!
Dave Leix, CSP, Safety & Risk Manager - Bio: Dave Leix - CSP, Safety & Risk Manager
Dave brings over 40 years of professional safety and health (EHS) consulting and managerial experience to his role as Safety & Risk Manager for DWD's Worker's Compensation Division. He presents at a variety of association/industry trade group safety and risk management training events. Full bio for Dave Leix.