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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Working Safely in Confined Spaces

By Roy Maurer

Working in confined spaces presents many challenges. In addition to restricted movement, confined spaces could contain a hazardous atmosphere, material that could engulf a worker, a configuration that could trap or asphyxiate a worker, or other safety and health hazards such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires or dangerous temperatures.

Even though confined-space work has been regulated since 1993, an average of 92 workers are killed each year in this type of environment. Sixty percent of those fatalities are untrained rescuers who succumb to the same hazard as the initial victim.

A confined space is defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as having limited openings for entry or exit, large enough for entering and working but not designed for continuous worker occupancy. Confined spaces include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos and pipelines.

Confined-space hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry and shipyard employment. The general industry standard has not yet been extended to construction; however, general industry rules cover some work on construction sites. The agency intends to issue a confined space in construction rule in July 2013, according to the semiannual regulatory agenda published Jan. 8.

Hazards Found in Confined Spaces

There are two types of confined spaces: nonpermit and permit-required, said Stuart Becker, senior manager at MSA, a safety-products manufacturer that specializes in confined-space work. The spaces that OSHA requires a permit to enter and work in are the ones that potentially contain hazards, Becker explained during a webinar sponsored by Occupational Health & Safety magazine and MSA.

Confined-space hazards vary and include atmospheric, physical, corrosive or biological dangers.
Atmospheric hazards are some of the most dangerous and can be attributed to:

  • Oxygen deficiency. “This occurs when oxygen levels in confined spaces dip below 19.5 percent of the total atmosphere,” said Becker. Normal ambient air contains an oxygen concentration of 20.8 percent by volume. Workers also have to be aware of an oxygen-enriched atmosphere containing more than 23.5 percent oxygen by volume, which has the potential for combustion, Becker cautioned.
  • An atmospheric concentration of any toxic contaminant above OSHA’s permissible exposure limits.
  • Airborne combustible dust.

Although airborne dust may be easily spotted with the naked eye, oxygen deficiency or enrichment conditions, as well as hazardous vapor and gas concentrations, must be detected with reliable instrumentation, said Becker.

Other hazards in confined-space work include moving machinery; uneven or wet surfaces; engulfment within areas where loose materials such as grains, crushed stone or sawdust are stored; corrosive acids; molds; and dangerous animals and insects.

Entering Confined Spaces

Supervisors must complete an entry permit before anyone may go into a permit-required confined space, said Becker. A permit, signed by the entry supervisor, must be posted at all entrances or otherwise be made available to entrants before they enter a permit space. The permit must verify that pre-entry preparations outlined in the standard have been completed. Specifically, the permit must clearly identify the location of the confined space; the purpose of entry; the date of entry; the authorized duration of occupancy, the lists of authorized entrants, attendants, equipment and hazards; the results of initial and periodic tests; and a list of rescue and emergency services.

After confined-space work is completed, permits are canceled but must be retained for at least one year.

A formal safety procedure should also be documented to cover critical safety concerns such as first aid and decontamination. To help ensure that entrants understand the responsibilities and hazards found within confined spaces, they should attend pre-entry sessions before going into such spaces.

Employee Requirements and Responsibilities

All personnel involved in confined-space entry, including supervisors, entrants and attendants, should be well-trained and know their roles and responsibilities.

Confined-space training should include such precautions as lockout/tagout protocols, testing of breathable air quality, forced ventilation, observation of workers in the space, and a predetermined rescue plan with an appropriate safety harness and other rescue equipment.

Entry supervisors are required to:

  • Know the space hazards.
  • Verify emergency plans and specified entry conditions, such as permits, tests, procedures and equipment, before allowing entry.
  • Prevent further entry and cancel permits when entry operations are completed or if a new condition exists.
  • Verify that rescue services are available.
  • Ensure that entry operations remain consistent with the entry permit and that acceptable entry conditions are maintained.

Authorized entrants are required to:

  • Know the space hazards.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Maintain communication with attendants.
  • Attendants are located outside of confined-space work areas and must remain on duty at all times during entry operations. They are required to:
  • Perform nonentry rescues when specified by the employer’s rescue procedure.
  • Know existing and potential hazards, including modes of exposure and exposure signs or symptoms, consequences and physiological effects.
  • Maintain communication with, and keep an accurate account of, confined-space entrants.
  • Order evacuation of the space when a prohibited condition exists, a worker shows signs of hazard exposure or there is an emergency outside the confined space.
  • Coordinate rescue and other services in an emergency.
  • Ensure that unauthorized people stay away from confined spaces.

Attendants may monitor more than one space at a time, said Becker.
“The same rules apply,” he explained. “You have to be able to communicate with all entrants and, more importantly, be able to communicate with emergency personnel if a situation arises in one of the spaces.”

Confined-Space Rescues

Attendants may perform nonentry rescues using retrieval systems specified by the company’s rescue procedure, but under no circumstances should attendants ever enter confined spaces unless another attendant has arrived at the scene, Becker said.

“More than 60 percent of all confined-space fatalities occur because attendants or unauthorized persons rush into hazardous environments without protective equipment,” he observed.
Outfitting attendants with proper personal protective equipment and instruments necessary for rescue is an option.

“Annual-rescue training is required, as well as actual simulated rescue using dummies,” said Becker. Classroom training is not sufficient, he added.

Help may come from in-house rescue, local emergency services or contracted emergency-response teams.

The OSHA standard provides guidance on evaluating rescue teams or services, which includes an initial evaluation, in which employers decide whether a potential rescue service or team is adequately trained and equipped to perform the type of confined-space rescues the facility needs and whether such rescuers can respond in a timely manner, and a performance evaluation, in which employers measure the performance of the team or service during an actual or practice rescue.

“Rescue services need to be on the planning end, before confined-space work begins,” said Becker. “More importantly, after the rescue, employers need to know where the injured worker is going to be treated and how far away the critical-care facility is.”

Electrical Safety Myths

1.Tires are electrical insulators


Tires are electrical conductors, not insulators. It is true that you are safe in your vehicle when a live wire falls on it. But that’s because electricity always seeks the easiest path to the ground. If you remain in the vehicle, the path of the electricity will be on the outside of the vehicle, through the tires, and into the ground. As long as we do not provide a path to the ground through our body the electricity will not enter it. So when an electrical wire falls on your vehicle, stay in your vehicle until help arrives and the power is shut off by the utility company. If you have to get out of your car because of a life-threatening situation, jump out with both feet together, making sure that you are not touching any part of the vehicle when your feet hit the ground and hop or shuffle at least 30 feet away.

2. Power lines are insulated


Ninety percent of outside power lines are not insulated. There may be a weather coating over the wire that provides no insulation or protection from electric shock. Further, the lines that are insulated are exposed to the rigors of weather, so you never know what condition the insulation is in. No line is safe to touch or approach too closely, ever.

3. Only high voltage is dangerous


Voltage is the pressure that pushes electricity along, like water though a hose. Amperage (amp), the amount of electricity in any given spot, is what will hurt or kill you. It takes less than one quarter of one amp to put a heart into ventricular fibrillation (irregular beating). Most residents have at least 100-amp service coming into their houses. Many residents have 200-amp service.

4. When a wire falls to the ground, it automatically shuts off


Often when a wire falls to the ground, it falls on materials that are poor conductors like snow, asphalt or ledge. When this happens, our distribution system sees an increased request for electricity.
Our system can’t distinguish between increases in request for electricity caused by a break in the line or increases caused by many people in one area are coming home from work and turning on their electrical appliances.
Our circuits are designed to sense short circuits—sudden requests for unusual amounts of electricity. If this doesn’t happen because the wire has fallen on a poor conductor, our line will remain energized. Some circuits may shut off momentarily and automatically re-energize.

Always treat a downed wire as energized until the utility company has shut it off and stated it is safe! Keep at least 300 feet away (two full pole spans) for downed wires.

5. When a live wire falls, it makes sparks



A power line sparks if it falls to the ground and does not make firm contact with the ground or other material. When a wire falls to the ground and makes firm contact, it will often make no noise or sparks, and will give the impression of being de-energized. Always treat a downed wire as energized until the utility has shut it off and stated it is safe! Keep at least 300 feet away (two full pole spans) from downed wires.
6. Wood is an insulator



Wood is in fact a conductor, though not a good one. The molecules in wood are far apart, so it becomes difficult for electricity to jump from molecule to molecule. But the higher the voltage, the easier it is for electricity to move through wood. And if the wood is damp, it changes the equation and wood becomes a good conductor, even at low voltage. So be careful standing on a wooden crate to turn on your main fuse box or when you use a wooden ladder.

7. Household rubber gloves or rubber-soled shoes insulate



Only 100% pure rubber insulates against electricity. Household gloves and shoes are not made of pure rubber. Often, to make these shoes more marketable and durable, additives are mixed in with the rubber-like material. And that makes these gloves and shoes conductors.

When the bulb breaks, the cleanup will rock

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have been marketed to employers as a way to reduce energy consumption and save money. However, CFLs create some challenges, too. Because CFLs contain mercury, they cannot simply be thrown away, but must be managed according to EPA’s universal waste regulations at 40 CFR Part 273.

There is also the issue of what occurs when a CFL breaks.

If a CFL breaks at your workplace, you’ll have to take precautions to make sure workers are not exposed to hazardous mercury vapor. EPA has published detailed cleanup instructions that include steps to take before, during, and after a break.

Before cleanup:

  • Have employees leave the area.
  • Air out the room for 5 to 10 minutes by opening windows and doors to the outdoors.
  • Shut off central forced air heating or cooling systems.
  • Gather materials needed for the cleanup:
  • Stiff paper or cardboard;
Sticky tape;
  • Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes; and
  • A glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

During cleanup:

  • Do not vacuum the mess until after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury vapor throughout the area.
  • Collect all broken glass and visible powder by using the stiff paper or cardboard to scoop fragments into the glass jar or plastic bag. Use sticky tape (such as duct tape) to pick up any remaining residue.
  • Place all cleanup materials in a sealable container.

After cleanup:

  • Place the sealed container in an outdoor trash container or a protected area until the materials can be disposed of.
  • Check with your local government or authorized waste disposal facility about what to do with the waste.
  • If practical, continue to air out the area where the bulb was broken and leave the heating and cooling system shut down for several hours

 

Who is most likely to be killed by lightning?

From 2006 through 2012, 238 people were struck and killed by lightning in the U.S. Were most of these deaths during leisure or work activities? Were more deaths while people were playing golf or soccer? The National Weather Service (NWS) has tallied statistics and has some advice, too.

Answer 1: Far more people were killed by leisure activities than at work, according to the NWS:

  • 64% leisure activities
  • 17% daily routine
  • 13% work, and
  • 6% of cases unknown.

Daily routine includes walking to or from a vehicle, waiting outdoors for transportation, walking to or from home, and yard work. The breakdown by type of work:

  • 34% farming/ranching
  • 9% construction
  • 9% lawn care
  • 9% roofing
  • 6% working on a barge
  • 6% military, and
  • 25% other.

Included in the other category were deaths related to loading trucks, surveying, door-to-door sales, logging, mail delivery, utility repair and work at an amusement park. Fatalities that occurred when traveling to or from work were categorized as daily routine.

Is golf a big factor?

Answer to our second question: More are killed by lightning while playing soccer than while golfing. Here’s a partial breakdown of leisure activities:

  • 11% fishing (largest number of lightning deaths due to leisure activities)
  • 6% camping
  • 6% boating
  • 5% soccer, and
  • 3% golf.

The common belief that golfers are responsible for the greatest number of lightning deaths was shown to be a myth. Why is that the case?

The NWS “has made a concerted effort to raise lightning awareness in the golf community since we began the campaign in 2001,” said John Jensienius, a lightning safety specialist with the NWS. “We believe our outreach has made a huge difference since lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75%.”

In other words: Safety training and education work.

Some advice for outdoor workers from the NWS when thunderstorms threaten:

  • Stay off and away from anything tall or high, including roofs, scaffolding, utility polls and ladders.
  • Stay off and away from large equipment such as bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, track loaders and tractors.
  • Don’t touch materials or surfaces that can conduct electricity, including metal scaffolding, metal equipment, utility lines, water, water pipes and plumbing.
  • Leave areas with explosives or munitions.

 

If workers hear thunder, they should get to a building or enclosed vehicle.

Advice if someone is struck: Lightning victims don’t carry an electrical charge, are safe to touch and need urgent medical attention. Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death. Some deaths can be prevented if the victim receives the proper first aid immediately. Call 9-1-1 and perform CPR if the person isn’t responsive. Use an automated external defibrillator if available.

Tips to Reduce 
Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace

Slips, trips and falls (STFs) are one of the largest causes of injuries in workplaces around the World. In 2010, the United States National Safety Council registered a total of 26,100 fatalities as a result of falls (an increase of 7% from the previous year). In Canada, falls make up the vast majority of injuries suffered by people aged 12 and older and in the UK, over 10,000 workers were injured by STFs in 2011.

With such significant statistics, it is clear the STFs cause a lot of damage to both individuals and businesses, but how can they be reduced in number? While there is no way to eliminate all slips, trips, and falls, it is most definitely possible to reduce both the number, and the severity of such events. Here are six tips to help you keep your workplace on the right track to reducing your employees’ risk of injury.

1. Wear appropriate footwear. Not all shoes will provide you with the traction that you need on every floor. If possible, choose a pair of non-slip shoes.

a. Many new rubber-soled non-slip shoes will still to slip and slide immediately after purchase. Take them out for a 30-minute walk on a rough concrete sidewalk or gravel road to develop some roughness on the sole and improve traction. Alternatively you can take the shoes off and scratch the heels with a rock or even a knife. Doing so will provide the shoe with additional grip that the shoe would otherwise not provide until it becomes broken in.

2. Clean up spills and leaks immediately. If the area of wetness is located on the floor, be sure to place a “wet floor” sign visibly near the area.

3. Ensure that no objects are resting on the floor in designated walkways or open areas. This includes boxes and cases!

4. Never work in the dark. Doing so can increase the chance that you will fail to see slippery areas, objects on the ground, or even a person coming around a corner.

5. Do not climb onto a chair (especially one with wheels!), desk, or other surface in order to reach objects located on high shelves. Instead use a ladder and ask someone to spot you as you climb.

6. Do not carry boxes, crates, or any load that obstructs your line-of-sight. Doing so can cause risk of collision, slip, trip or a fall to yourself, as well as to others that may be walking nearby.
These tips may not completely eliminate STFs in your workplace, but they certainly will help.

Why You Should Enforce Ladder Safety

Ladders might not seem as dangerous as other equipment on the jobsite, but ladder safety should be stressed and reviewed to keep all employees safe and healthy

There are around 724,000 people injured in the U.S. from a ladder-related incident each year.
When your employees use ladders on the construction jobsite, do they give more than a passing thought to ladder safety? As a construction business owner, do you? You and your employees should consider ladder safety just as important as all other areas of safety on a construction jobsite.

Ladder safety statistics:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that in the U.S. 724,000 people are injured in a ladder-related incident – nearly 2,000 each day!
  • Little Giant Ladders estimates that 100 of those people injured experience a long-term or permanent disability
  • Several agencies report more than 330 people die each year from ladder accidents
  • Handling injuries (strains and sprains to neck, shoulders, back, knees, ankles, etc.) are the most common type of ladder-related injury on the jobsite

The American Ladder Institute offers a free, online ladder safety training tool for all employees using ladders. The training tool covers the proper selection, care and safe use of all types of ladders. The program outlines safe ladder practices in all applications, including construction sites.

There is also an OSHA standard for ladders and ladder use. In addition, OSHA offers several reference resources for safe ladder use and preventing falls from ladders. While falls from ladders can cause serious injury, it’s important to note that handling injuries can be almost as detrimental to a construction business. If an employee can’t work because of a strain or injury from improper handling of a ladder, the construction business will not only have to worry about the costs but also how to make up for the missing employee and the work that needs to be done.

Do yourself and your employees a favor. Just like with any aspect of safety, make sure anyone using a ladder is properly trained and employees are reminded of ladder safety often to keep best practices top of mind on the jobsite.

Seven Tips to Prevent 
Heart Attacks in the Workplace

With an aging workforce, the danger of a heart attack occurring at work is a constant worry. To help mitigate the risks of heart attack, follow these seven simple steps to keep your workforce happy, healthy, and alive.

Encourage Employees to Spend 30 Minutes Exercising Each Day

Setting aside a small amount of time each day towards physical activity such as taking brisk walks or gardening helps keep the heart muscles strong and reduces stress.

Spend Time in Nature and Create More Office Green Space

Studies have shown that the human body reacts well to natural surroundings. Take steps to reduce blood-pressure including visits to natural places like local parks and add some greenery to your office space.

Educate Employees on the Benefits of a Healthy diet

Ensure that heart health information is readily available for anyone interested and commence a program to educate employees on the effects of sodium, fats, cholesterol, and other substances on both heart and overall health.

Provide Employees with Healthy Meal Options

If you provide snacks to your employees, help them to take care of their hearts by providing heart-friendly options like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains instead of less-healthy options like chips, carbonated drinks, and sweets.

Encourage Regular Health Screenings

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two major risk factors linked with heart disease. They are also silent dangers because they do not have any visible symptoms. Educate employees on the importance of being checked by a physician for these conditions. Early detection and treatment can help to reduce the risk damaging the heart or blood vessels.

Provide Smoke-Free Areas Around Your Workplace

Many smokers go outside and smoke near the entrance to their workplace. Create non-smoking zones in front of the entrances and exits to your workplace so that your non-smoking employees are not exposed to second-hand smoke while leaving or arriving. Your customers will also thank you!

Take Steps to Reduce Workplace Stress and Anxiety

Sit down (or take a walk) with your employees and discuss how they feel. Employees with chronic stress may be at higher risk of a heart attack and steps should be taken to assist in managing or reducing that stress.

Top 5 Exercises for a Healthy Heart

Heart disease is the number 1 killer in North America and inactivity is one of the major risk factors. Because of this, it’s never too early to start thinking about your cardiovascular health. Here are the top 5 exercises for a healthy heart:

Brisk Walking



Walking doesn’t require special equipment, can be done almost anywhere, and is effective at keeping your heart healthy. In fact, a recent study at the Harvard School of Public Health revealed that walking 30-60 minutes a day can reduce your risk for heart disease by 18%. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that just two hours of walking per week can cut the risk of death from heart disease by 34%.

Running



Running is another heart-healthy activity that the human body is ready-made to do (barring physical limitations or injuries). Also, it is one of the best ways to burn calories (a 150-pound person can burn 100 calories per mile). If you are new to running, start with a brisk walk and add 1 to 2 minutes of running for every 5 minutes of walking. As you progress, you can increase your running until you don’t need to walk in between.

Interval or Circuit Training


Interval training switches from fast to slow throughout an activity and circuit training involves moving from various types of activities. Each is a great way to mix up your cardio. For example, for every 3 minutes of cardio, do 1 strength training exercise or a high-intensity burst of cardio for 1 minute. The key is to move quickly from one exercise to the next so that you keep your heart rate up. This type of training will not only keep you motivated to exercise, it will also improve your muscular strength, endurance, and heart health.

Swimming

Lap swimming is great for your heart, but is also easy on your joints. The water also provides a multi-directional resistance that will improve your muscular strength and tone. Leisurely swimming doesn’t really get your heart rate up, so be sure to keep a consistent and challenging pace.

Cycling


Cycling on a regular basis can significantly reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. In fact, the British Medical Association found that cycling 32 kilometers a week reduced the potential to develop heart disease by a whopping 50%. Another benefit is that it uses the large muscle groups in your legs to elevate your heart rate, which helps to improve not only your cardiovascular fitness but also burns more calories, and has even been shown to improve mental health.

No matter what exercise you choose to do, 30 minutes for five days a week is an ideal place to start. Anyone with heart disease or risk factors for developing heart disease or a stroke should seek medical advice before beginning a workout program.

How Safe Is Your Home?

DID YOU KNOW?

Most fire fatalities occur in your home.

Fire victims die of smoke inhalation, poisonous gases, or lack of oxygen, not from 
severe burns!

Cooking is the leading cause of residential fires and burns.

Careless smoking is still the leading cause of residential fire deaths.

SAFETY TIPS.

Make sure your family has an escape plan.

Sleep with your door closed.  A closed door provides safety against heat and smoke.

Install a smoke detector in every bedroom and change the batteries twice a year, 
use the time change as a reminder.

Crawl low in smoke.  In a fire, the super heated air and toxic gases fill the room from the top down.  These leaves a “Safety Zone” of breathable air about 12 to 24 inches above the floor.

Have everyone in the household listen to the smoke alarm, so they will be aware of what it sounds like.

Put matches and lighters out of reach of little ones.

HOME SELF-INSPECTION CHECKLIST

Yes / No     All-family members know to dial 9-1-1 for emergencies
Yes / No     There are working smoke detectors in every room
Yes / No     House numbers on your residence
Yes / No     Matches and lighters out of reach of children
Yes / No     Gasoline is kept in a approved container
Yes / No    Electrical cords in good condition and used properly
Yes / No     Fire extinguisher in the house and know how to use them
Yes / No     Change batteries twice a year with the time change
Yes / No     Check smoke detectors at least once a month
Yes / No     Each room in my house has two exits
Yes / No     Do you have a Co2 detector in the house (to check for carbon monoxide 
in your home).
Yes / No     My family developed and practices an emergency escape plan

“DON’T BE THE PROBLEM BUT BE THE SOLUTION OF FIRE SAFETY”

Ten-Minute Training Topics Distracted Driving Month

Statistics

“Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. In 2010 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.” – National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

“Reaching for a moving object increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by 9 times; looking at an external object by 3.7 times; reading by 3 times; applying makeup by 3 times; dialing a hand-held device (typically a cell phone) by almost 3 times; and talking or listening on a hand-held device by 1.3 times.” – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI)

“Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.” – VTTI

“Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Introduction

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  Drivers should expect a greater mention of distracted driving in the press, but they can also expect to see a greater enforcement emphasis by police departments around the country as well.

Distracted driving comes in all shapes and forms – drivers whose focus is on something other than their driving duty are distracted and could become involved in a collision.  There are three main types of driver distraction:

Visual: taking your eyes off the road;

Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and

Cognitive: taking your mind off what you are doing.

We commonly associate talking on a hand-held phone, texting, eating, reading maps, and conducting personal grooming as the activities chiefly responsible for distracted driving crashes.  Recent studies have also measured significant levels of distraction for parents who are taking care of toddlers while they drive.  Just about anything could distract us from driving since experienced drivers have a certain “comfort level” with driving – so much so that it feels like placing the vehicle on “auto pilot”.

Naturally, driving without paying proper attention is very dangerous and can lead to crashes.

Defining the Scope of the Problem

Distractions continue to grow, and youthful (new) drivers are less cautious in their habits.

Consider the following details:
In June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009.

31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.

Reading email, surfing the internet and using “apps” on smartphones while behind the wheel are also becoming more common.

Still, electronic distractions, while truly dangerous, are only the tip of a larger distraction iceberg.  Eating while driving may seem tame in comparison since it doesn’t require deep thought, but consider that scalding coffee spilled on your shirt or lap could lead to losing control of your vehicle.  Eating with one hand while trying to avoid getting greasy crumbs on your shirt certainly makes for an impressive “juggling act” while reducing your control of steering – especially if you have to make a panic maneuver.

Applying makeup or shaving on the way to the office takes our eyes off the road and occupies our hand with delicate maneuvering while the other is holding the vehicle in it’s travel lane.

There’s not much wiggle room for mistakes in either case.

Pets as passengers may be nice companions, but their behavior can be unpredictable and they (sorry to say) become airborne missiles during a crash that leave both of you with serious injuries.  Restraints make sense for both your pet’s sake and your own. (This is an additional reason we mandate car seats for infants and toddlers!)

Talk radio can be fun to listen to, but it’s designed to get listeners engaged, enraged and upset.  That’s not a good combination of temperament if you’re behind the wheel – better to find calm music and keep the volume reasonable.

As mentioned earlier, tending to children’s concerns while driving may seem like a necessary evil, but setting simple to follow safety rules for riding in the car may help.  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, passengers are ranked by drivers as among the most frequent causes of distraction. Young children are four times as distracting as adults, while infants can be a whopping eight times more distracting, the AAA Foundation reports.

Realize that driving while drowsy is a form of impaired or distracted driving!  Getting consistent, quality sleep is critical to keeping you focused when behind the wheel.  Over the counter drugs, prescription medications and the simple ill-effects of colds/flu or chronic conditions can each mess with our focus, too.

What Can I Do?

First of all realize that your first (and only?) job when behind the wheel is paying attention to the road ahead, traffic around you and your position on the roadway.  You’re not in a mobile office or video arcade where you can busy yourself with other activities.  Driving is one of the most complex tasks a person can do during the course of a typical day.  Give it the attention it deserves – even if you’ve been driving for many years.

Consider the list of distracting situations we mentioned above – if any of those seem familiar to you, change your habits now, before your distraction scenario leads to a crash.

Learn about any safety policies your employer may have published – and follow them precisely.  If you have questions, ask a supervisor for clarification so that you’re certain about expectations.

Last, you ought to comply with your state and local laws regarding driver conduct.  Thirty-nine states have a complete ban on texting while driving for all vehicle operators; six have restrictions for certain operators and five currently permit texting while driving Eleven states prohibit hand-held cell phone use; five have partial bans on hand-held cell phone use.  All states allow hands-free conversations, but it’s best to stay off of the phone for two reasons – your employer may forbid all cell phone use while driving (even hands-free), studies suggest that the cognitive distraction is just as great regardless. http://www.iihs.org/laws/maptextingbans.aspx

Summary

There is always a temptation (especially on long drives) to try to get work done or find interesting entertainment while driving.  The trouble is that we can become overconfident in our use of radios, navigation systems or cell phones while driving.  Further, other drivers may take excessive risks: reading, applying makeup, shaving, eating lunch (with both hands) and doing other weird activities while trying to drive a car or truck!

Remember that at only 45 miles per hour, a driver glancing away for two seconds is driving blind for a distance of 132 feet—almost half the length of a football field. As a result, the driver’s reaction time is shortened dramatically.  Looking away from the road, reaching to pick up something from the floor, or letting your attention focus on anything other than driving can have immediate, deadly consequences.  Still, it takes about five seconds of attention to a screen and keyboard to send a brief text. Disturbingly, 77 percent of young adult drivers say they can safely drive while texting http://www.stoptextsstopwrecks.org/

Stay focused.  Plan ahead.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Avoid the temptation to “get lost” in conversations, talk radio programs or respond to aggressive drivers.  Talk to your managers, family and friends about other ways to avoid distraction or inattention while driving.

SafetyFirst has additional information on: Cell Phone Use, Aggressive Drivers and Drowsiness if you have additional questions or concerns.

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