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Prevention Archives - Harbor America

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OSHA: Agricultural Risks and Prevention

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With all the risks involved in agriculture, employees must remain diligent in their efforts to prevent injury. Noise exposure is one of the leading causes of hearing loss in the agriculture industry. As such, the agriculture industry should implement ways to educate the risks associated with the work, as well as provide adequate training to prevent such injuries.

Exposure to high sound levels increases a worker’s likelihood of hearing injury. Because agriculture uses noisy equipment like tractors, chain saws, grain dryers, and other heavy equipment for extended periods of time, OSHA [recommends] hearing protection for sound levels above 90 decibels or exposure to high sound levels of eight hours or longer.

Employers undertake the responsibility to protect their employees. Here are a few tips to help reduce noise exposures:

Equipment

Both providing appropriate and sufficient equipment is imperative to adequate protection. Perform regular maintenance checks on all equipment to ensure there are no machine parts increasing decibels while in use. Replacing outdated, worn, or defective parts can reduce noise levels. Remaining up to date on equipment models and featured tools for such equipment can also reduce noise levels.

Administration

Delegating work on rotation can help reduce exposure to noisy equipment. For example, having a worker or group of workers operating a loud machine rotates to a less noisy task after a set period of time could reduce exposure to such high noise levels and risks. Individuals with already developed hearing problems should not be tasked with high noise tasks or work in high noise work areas.

Proactive

Be proactive in identifying any potential risks and preventative methods to reduce hearing injuries. For example, if an individual displays symptoms or complains of symptoms of potential hearing loss, referring him or her to an audiologist to determine a potential injury can prevent further injury. Being proactive can also include awareness of your surroundings, such as ensuring all employees are following safety protocols and adequate safety equipment is provided to all workers. For more information on safety and health in agriculture, please visit OSHA’s website which provides helpful tools to assist with such concerns. If you’re not sure if you are in compliance with OSHA standards or would like to learn more about risk management, please contact Harbor America. We value the safety and wellbeing of all employees and have a team of safety and risk management experts that are more than happy to help find a solution that best suits your business needs.

 

Source: Agriculture Risk Advisor

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Avoiding Dust Hazards in Agriculture

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While we have already explored the importance of prioritizing respiratory protection for safeguarding employees from exposure to airborne contaminants while on the job, we wanted to dive in a little further on organic dust toxicity syndrome (ODTS) in the agriculture industry.

Agriculture is “defined as embracing all forms of activity connected with growing, harvesting and primary processing of all types of crops; with breeding, raising, and caring for animals; and with tending gardens and nurseries.”[1] As one of the oldest activities known to man, agriculture is one of the more common professions around the world.

While the notion of farming brings wide open, rolling fields and clean, fresh air to mind, the reality is that farming is filled with potential respiratory hazards, including dust. Dust can appear in any work setting, including:

  • Mineral dust from mineral processing
  • Chemical dust from bulk chemicals and pesticides
  • Vegetable dust and pollen from wood, flour, cotton, or tea
  • Mold and spores

Workers who are most likely to become exposed to work-related dust include those who are “[exposed] to soil, intensive animal husbandry, dry vegetable products, or agrochemicals.”[2] This organic dust (dust that comes from hay, grain pesticides, chemicals, feed and bedding particles, or hair, feathers, and droppings “can lead to congestion, coughing or wheezing, sensitivity to dust, and frequent infections, such as colds, bronchitis, and pneumonia.”[3]

The best ways to prevent prolonged dust exposure or limit the amount of inhaled dust particles are:

  • Wear proper respiratory protection or personal protective equipment at all times.
  • Supply and regularly employ automated equipment to maneuver materials with high organic dust content.
  • Use proper wetting techniques when moving or working with feed, cleaning grain bins, or any dusty surface or container.
  • Ensure ventilation systems are well maintained in barns and silos to minimize worker exposure to dust.

Harbor America approaches safety as a crucial business element. Contact us to learn more about our wide range of accident prevention and OSHA compliance resources, including respiratory safety and procedures for avoiding dust hazards.

[1] American Thoracic Society: Respiratory Health Hazards in Agriculture

[2] World Health Organization: Hazard Prevention and Control in the Work Environment

[3] United States Department of Labor: Youth in Agriculture: Organic Dust

Ladder Safety Tips

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Not only are falls one of the top three most disabling workplace injuries, but ladders are also sixth on OSHA’s Top 10 Most Cited Volitions list.[1] Most of the ladder-related workplace incidents occur due to basic ladder safety rule violations. Proper use of ladders including ladder storage and adequate training can significantly reduce related injuries and accidents. Contact Harbor America to inquire about OSHA compliance resources, online training manuals, or compliance posters as an extension of your total package of safety and risk management resources.

What Employers Need to Know

  • More than 700 ladder injuries occur every day.
  • The most common ladder accidents include missing the last step/rung when climbing down or overreaching.
  • Choose the right ladder by thinking about the task, the size or style of the ladder, and the ladder can handle your weight.
  • Avoid climbing the ladder if you feel dizzy, if it is too windy, or the ladder is not in proper operating condition.
  • Always remember to take your time and never rush to finish a job.

Contact Harbor America to bolster your total safety and risk management resources.

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Implementing a Good Agricultural Practices Program

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Good agricultural practices (GAP) is a voluntary audit used to “verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimize risks of microbial food safety hazards.”[1]

GAP programs are emerging as a standard practice for most agricultural producers. Developing a GAP program will help to increase the chances your products will be safe for consumption while outlining the general policies and procedures that should be used to ensure the safety of the products. Additionally, GAP helps to monitor producers “in terms of their environmental impact, labor practices, and possibly ‘carbon footprint’.”[2]

A great resource for producers is the National Good Agricultural Practices Program website hosted by Cornell University. Here users can access educational materials, research, take GAP-related online courses, or schedule in-person GAP training sessions.

GAP focuses on specific areas of the FDA guide that should be given special consideration including:

  • Water quality
  • Employee health and hygiene
  • Sanitation
  • Transportation
  • Bio-solid treatment
  • Field sanitation
  • Parking facilities

These areas receive special attention due to the “public concern over the safety of produce…due to well-publicized outbreaks of [E. coli], Salmonella, and listeria, among others.”[3]

To ensure your products maintain the highest levels of safety and are free from dangerous microbes, a GAP audit checklist is recommended. The checklist should mirror the USDA checklist, which includes, but is not limited to, the below sections:

  • General farm review
  • Harvesting and packing activities
  • Packinghouse facility
  • Storage
  • Transportation
  • Distribution

Establishing a well-thought-out program to minimize the risk of foodborne illness benefits not only your business but the people consuming your products. To learn more about GAP and how we can assist in promoting workplace safety, contact Harbor America today.

[1] USDA: Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) & Good Handling Practices (GHP)
[2] North Dakota State University: Market Forces—Good Agricultural Practices
[3] University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: Good Agricultural Practices

The SPCC Rule: What you Need to Know

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The Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) rule helps organizations create, maintain, and implement an SPCC plan to prevent or control spills should one occur. Information on how to create your own SPCC plan can be found on the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site, along with plan templates and examples. While risks are a natural part of any business, Harbor America aims to control risks, including environmental oil spills, in order to establish the long-term success of your business. Contact us for additional information.

What You Need to Know:

  • SPCC stands for Spills Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure
  • The SPCC Task Force was formed in 1988 after the Floreffe, Pennsylvania oil spill.
  • The rule clarifies provisions in the Oil Pollution Prevention regulation, regulates facilities, and requires facility-specific response plans.
  • The goal of SPCC is to prevent oil spills from reaching waters or shorelines.
  • In the event of an oil spill, contact the National Response Center, the EPA regional office, or the US Coast Guard Marine Safety Office.

Learn more about where your organization stands in terms of the SPCC rule by visiting the EPA website. Contact Harbor America to learn more.

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Hazard Communication Program Plans

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Each employer who has employees working with or around hazardous chemicals is required to implement a formal hazard communication program to help manage and maintain employee safety. These five steps are crucial to keeping employees safe from hazardous chemicals.

  1. Develop a written program plan to document the business policy for hazardous chemicals. Details of the plan should include how to communicate a chemical hazard, employee training, and an inspection schedule. The plan can and should contain additional details specific to your business that may be pertinent to a successful hazard communication program plan.
  2. Create a complete inventory of all hazardous chemicals. Inventory should be taken regularly with any deviations reported immediately.
  3. Employees should be able to access chemical safety data sheets (SDS), which include a full library of the chemicals housed on-site. Find the full 16 sections required for a complete SDS here.
  4. Hazardous chemicals should be clearly labeled with highly visible permanent labels.
  5. Employees should receive regular training and communication regarding hazardous chemicals. Reinforcing the hazard communication program plan and details about how to handle and report issues when dealing with hazardous chemicals is the key to the success of your program.

OSHA’s sample hazard communication plan can be found here.

Employee safety is one of the most important investments you will routinely make as an employer. It helps to reestablish a strong sense of culture and workplace safety for employees and managers. Contact us today to learn about the different compliance resources offered by Harbor America.

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Improving Cyber Security at Your Business

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With smaller amounts of data, assumed minimal levels of security, and a smaller sample of employees from which to target, small businesses are an appealing group to hackers and cyber criminals. Cyber criminals are interested in everything from client data and financial information to employee login credentials and personal details.

Employers can help defend their small business security by implementing these improvements:

Employee Education

Encourage employees to actively participate in cybersecurity training. The selected training should contain details as to cybersecurity best practices and how to identify red flags.

Back-Up Data Regularly

No security protocol will protect your business data 100%. For this reason, backing up data is one of the best ways to safeguard your documents, spreadsheets, financial information, human resources files, payroll information, etc. It is always recommended to back up all data to a storage system kept off-site to maintain data security in the event of a natural disaster, including a fire or flood.

Computer Updates

Consider keeping all computers updated regularly, including desktops, laptops, and any mobile devices used to access the company network or Wi-Fi. Updates to devices typically include improved security and new versions of the operating system software.

Multi-factor Authentication

One of the key ways to ensure strong security is to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA). This means identifying a user by validating two or more factors, including password, mobile device verification, or fingerprint matching, among others. MFA is typically recognized in single sign-on portals.

Check out these cybersecurity resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Investing in cybersecurity improvements means you’re making a commitment to the digital safety of clients and the education of your employees. Harbor America is proud to support your efforts to improve cybersecurity. Contact us today to learn more.

Machine Safeguarding Basics

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Machine guards may not always make your job easier, but they will keep you safe and are a necessity of the workplace and industry. Designed to protect workers from dangerous moving parts, employers recommend that machine guards are used as intended without being tampered with or removed. Check out our recommendations for machine safeguarding basics. Contact Harbor America with any questions.

Thousands of workers each year suffer injuries that could have been avoided with proper machine safeguarding. Safeguards must be in place to prevent a worker’s body from making contact with dangerous moving parts.  There are no workarounds; creating a workaround to avoid a safeguard defeats the purpose and can introduce new hazards to the work environment.  Guards should be secured to the machine and made out of durable material to withstand normal use conditions.

Contact Harbor America to learn more about accident prevention strategies.

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Manufacturing Accident Prevention

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Since 2014 there has been a 14%[1] drop in work-related fatalities in the manufacturing industry. And while a drop in this number is good, there is still work that can be done to help prevent work-related accidents, injuries, and fatalities. As the industry continues to grow, additional precautions may need to be put into place to ensure employee safety.

Here are our top five tips for maintaining a safe and accident-free manufacturing workplace:

  1. Inform management of unsafe or questionable conditions. As an employee of the company, if you see something that is, or could be, a concern or risk, notify a supervisor or manager immediately.
  2. Eye and face protection. While eye and face protection may be a requirement for all employees, the employer is required to provide necessary eye and face protection to employees when they may be exposed to eye or face hazards.
  3. Correct and current protective equipment. Before starting work, the employee should be well trained in how and what equipment to use in regard to the specific job they are doing, and be properly outfitted with the right protective equipment.
  4. Keep all preventive maintenance schedules. Preventive maintenance schedules are put in place to keep the equipment in optimal operation. When service is not completed correctly or on time serious machine complications can occur, including jams, broken gears, or overheating.
  5. Never remove machine guards. Machine guards are put in place by design to prevent operator injury and are critical for maintaining safety. Only trained, authorized personnel should remove guards only in the event of a repair or necessary maintenance.

Employers and employees in the manufacturing industry are responsible for machine operation and safety for themselves and those around them. While these machines are critical to keeping the business running smoothly, the operators of the machines are even more important to the business. From safety development to claims management and online training manuals, Harbor America is your partner in controlling risk in order to continue to invest in the long-term success of your business. Contact us today to learn more.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag31-33.htm

Prioritizing Respiratory Protection

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Respiratory protection is a priority when it comes to safeguarding employees from exposure to airborne contaminants while on the job. While employees may find the act of wearing respiratory protection to be a hassle, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that “when respiratory protection is required employers must have a respiratory protection program as specified in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard.”[1]

Some respirator safety and use tips include:

  • Different types of respirators (single-use, half-face, full-face, air purifying, etc.) should be available as various types of protection may be required in a single workplace.
  • Respiratory protection facepieces should be inspected prior to use. Instruct employees to alert their supervisor if the inspection yields a crack, puncture, tear, leak, or displays any other unusual condition.
  • Request that employees keep track of their respirators to reduce the risk of inadvertently using/wearing another employee’s equipment.

OSHA sponsored respiratory protection training videos can be located on the United States Department of Labor website. Click here to access it.

Harbor America helps take the burden off employers by supplying necessary OSHA compliance resources. Contact Harbor America for more information.

[1] https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3789info.pdf