Workplace Hazards 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:


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 Replacing outdated, worn, or defective parts can reduce noise levels.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.


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.


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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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.

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.


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


Staying Healthy On the Job Site: 6 Health Tips for Construction Workers

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When you’re out on a construction job site all day, every day, it can be difficult to make sure that your health stays at the top of your priority list. Still, you don’t want to start racking up sick days or find your overall health deteriorating. If you want to stay healthy on your job site, try some of these handy health tips!

Tip #1: Pack a Protein-Packed Lunch

All too many construction workers find themselves hurrying off the job site without a lunch box in hand each day. By the middle of the day, you’re starving, so you find yourself looking for the nearest fast-food restaurant, preferably one with a drive-through. Unfortunately, that leads to an unhealthy diet that can leave you feeling less than your best and your health suffering as a result.

Instead, take the time to pack a healthy lunch filled with things like lean meats, hard-boiled eggs, and protein bars. This will give you more energy to tackle the tasks on your list every day.

Tip #2: Avoid Repetitive Stress Injuries

Hauling shingles onto the roof, swinging a hammer, or even painting a room can all cause repetitive stress injuries over time. Don’t leave yourself open to these injuries! Instead, take steps to protect yourself. Perform these movements correctly. Don’t overload yourself when lifting heavy objects, and ask for help if you need it. If you start to notice continuing pain or soreness, talk with your doctor about what you can do to alleviate symptoms.

Tip #3: Plan Your Breaks

When do you take your breaks each day? Some crews will all take their breaks at the same time, but others prefer that you take your lunch break when the job is done. Try to plan your breaks effectively. You want to take your lunch break before your blood sugar crashes, which can lead to irritability or overeating. If your job allows it, taking a quick break every few hours just to stretch, clear your head, or go on a short walk will also help keep your energy levels up.

Tip #4: Hydrate

You’re working out in the hot sun all day–or perhaps working inside, often in a hot environment. Chances are, you’re sweating. Are you drinking enough to make up for it? Symptoms of dehydration often don’t show up until you’ve waited way too long to start drinking water. Keep a jug of water next to you on the job site to increase the odds that you’ll get enough throughout the day.

Tip #5: Invest in the Right Gear

As a construction worker, you don’t always get a choice about the weather conditions you work in. You might find yourself working out in the heat of summer or shivering through the cold winter months. Make sure that you invest in the right gear to keep you safe and comfortable! High-quality gloves, shoes, and other gear can make you much safer on the job, not to mention making you more comfortable.

Tip #6: Know Your Risks

Every day, you work with solvents, glues, and other materials that have the potential to be hazardous. Take the time to read those safety training materials and know what the risks are when you’re dealing with them. Make sure that you know how to safely operate all the equipment that you use on the job site, and don’t cut corners with safety precautions. Your health and wellness aren’t worth a slight increase in productivity!

Staying healthy on a construction site is an ongoing process–and it’s one that you have to pay attention to. With these tips, you’ll increase the odds that you’ll stay healthy, keeping you working in spite of what’s going on around you.

Does your company need more help handling HR tasks, including instituting a solid company wellness policy? At Harbor America, we’re here to help! Contact us today to learn more about the great services we offer, all of which are designed to help you save time and money. We even have services dedicated to improving your company’s safety and risk management.

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Your Construction Business NEEDS a Safety Plan: Here’s Why

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Construction site safety is a hot topic of conversation lately. Everyone seems to have something to say about how to accomplish it if the number of articles and blog posts published online are any indication. From must-implement procedures to DIY safety plan templates, the spectrum seems to be covered – except for one question.

 Why does my business need a safety plan?

If your business is in the construction industry, and you do not already have a safety plan, here are a few of the biggest reasons you truly need one.

 1. Safety plans prevent avoidable accidents.

Not every construction accident is avoidable, but a safety plan helps to lower the overall risk of them occurring on a job site. Start by identifying the most common types of accidents and the steps necessary to stop them from happening. Add procedures for others as necessary. As your workers follow procedures, the number of these accidents will decrease.

 2. Keeping your workers safe helps your bottom line.

This does not just apply to your budget for a specific job you are working on. It applies to your entire business. Workers will not stay long with a business that cuts corners and puts them in danger just to save a few dollars here and there.

Some employees may find it irritating to have to continually sign forms saying they understand and will follow the safety procedures for whichever site you send them to. However, they would rather do that than get hurt because there was no safety procedure to stop it. You, on the other hand, may have to go through the hassle of generating the paperwork your workers need to sign off on, but that is nothing compared to the costs you may incur if an accident happens.  Besides, with a streamlined and efficient safety plan, there should be minimal time or paperwork involved.

 3. Safety plans lower your insurance rates.

Implementing a safety plan will help you save money on insurance down the line. Why? An effective safety plan reduces the potential for accidents on the job. The fewer accidents there are, the more willing your insurance company will be to lower your rates. The lower your insurance rates, the more money you have to expand your business.

 4. You need to protect yourself.

Safety plans do not just protect your employees. In certain situations, they protect you as well. A thoroughly written and effective safety plan puts procedures in place that everyone agrees to perform before starting the work. A written safety plan and signed documents from all the workers on the project takes some of the liability off of you if an accident occurs.

5. Safety plans help your business’s reputation.

People are attracted to businesses that actively work to keep their workers safe – potential customers and employees alike. If you want to be known as a safe and reliable construction business, setting a safety plan into motion is a step in the right direction. Word of mouth is a power machine, and it will build your reputation as a business that values safety. Customers and quality workers are drawn to that, and they will be drawn to you.

6. Your bids stay competitive.

Do you have to include a safety plan when you send in your bid? Not necessarily, but worksite safety is becoming more of a concern all the time. Companies are starting to add safety plans to the list of required documents in a bid package. Creating a safety plan now and including it in future bids will help you stay in the running for more of the jobs you want to get.

Ready to take the next step and create a safety plan for your business? Harbor America can help with this and many other HR and compliance tasks – click here to get started today.

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6 Risk Management Tips for Your Construction Company

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Your construction company’s success and reputation hinge upon your ability to provide high-quality services while simultaneously minimizing risks for your employees. You can mitigate risks for your construction company by investing in the proper training, equipment, and best practices established by leaders in the industry. Here are six risk management tips for your construction company:

1) Conduct thorough background checks on all employees

The path to successful risk mitigation begins with thorough employee background checks. Hiring well-trained workers with a proven track record of success in the construction industry is important. However, many employers overlook the importance of conducting a background check and contacting references. Make sure that you carefully check references and ensure that you hire workers who are known for their commitment to adhering to industry safety standards.

2) Provide regular safety training and require all employees to participate

Providing employees with proper safety training helps to ensure that they are adequately prepared to handle problems that may arise on the job. Make sure that employees receive ongoing training and continued education throughout their tenure with your organization, as industry guidelines are often subject to change.

3) Ensure that employees have the proper protective gear at all times

Protective gear helps to shield workers from workplace injuries that can result from tripping, slipping, or being injured by falling debris. Some key examples of protective gear that employees should always have on hand include the following:

  • A well-maintained safety harness that is securely attached to an anchor
  • hard hat to help provide protection from falling debris or possible head injuries
  • Work boots with excellent traction to help keep employees grounded

 4) Resist the urge to schedule projects in bad weather

Inclement weather can significantly increase the risk of injury for construction workers. Falling rain and snow can impede visibility and increase the likelihood that a worker could slip or fall. Be sure to monitor the weather before committing to that day’s project schedule.

5) Do not allow employees to work on projects alone

While it may be tempting to send one worker to complete a small project, this practice is risky. If an emergency should strike or the sole employee is injured, there will not be anyone to provide assistance or call for help. When scheduling a phase of a project, make sure to send a minimum of two workers, even if the project is small in scope.

6) Instruct employees to keep the work area free of debris

Maintaining a clean work area is vital to preventing injuries and accidents. Rusty nails, screws, drywall, and old construction materials can increase the likelihood of trips, falls, cuts, and other injuries. Train all employees to keep each project site neat and free of debris at all times.

What is the best way to manage risk for your construction company?

Following the tips above will provide a strong foundation to help your construction company manage risks. However, the most important step you can take to mitigate risks is to seek the guidance of a leader in the safety and risk management industry. By enlisting the support of an expert in accident prevention strategies and safety compliance, you can make your company a safer, more desirable place to work.


Watch Out for Common Workplace Hazards

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Construction work comes with some inherent risk. As the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) points out, “The fatal injury rate for the construction industry is higher than the national average in this category for all industries.” However, you can work to keep your company below that average by taking precautions. Workplace safety is essential not only for keeping your employees healthy and injury-free, but also to bolster job satisfaction and trust in the managers and the company, and to protect yourself against the expense of lawsuits and replacing injured workers.

Common Workplace Hazards

These are some common construction workplace hazards that your safety and risk management plan should consider and address:

  • Falls, struck-by, caught-in-between, and electrocution: these are the top four construction risks as outlined by OSHA.
  • Scheduling mistakes that result in overworked employees who haven’t gotten enough sleep when they arrive on the job site.
  • Broken, worn-out, or out-of-date equipment.
  • Improper or ill-fitting protective gear.
  • Overuse injuries (caused by repetitive motions day after day, year after year).
  • Poorly trained or unskilled workers.
  • Failure to comply with safety guidelines.

Preventing Injuries at the Workplace

You can help prevent some of these injuries with the following tactics:

  • Arrange for thorough training and skills assessments for all employees.
  • Give each new employee a complete employee handbook. Update this handbook as necessary.
  • Have periodic reminders about safety guidelines. Sometimes, a failure to comply isn’t because the employee is defiant, but because he or she forgot the rules.
  • Protect against the top four construction zone risks by ensuring equipment is installed properly; checking equipment periodically for wear and tear and replacing worn-out items immediately; using guardrails, harnesses, and safety nets; keeping walkways clear; using tread and handrails on stairs; choosing the right ladder length for each job; not overloading equipment; providing well-fitted protective gear for all employees; knowing where the power lines are and keeping ladders and scaffolding away from them; and more.
  • Educate employees about overuse injuries and offer care plans that might help prevent the injury, like chiropractic care, acupuncture, gym or yoga memberships, and physical therapy. Even learning proper body mechanics can help an employee avoid some joint, back, and muscular pain. Consider the possibility of allowing certain employees to rotate positions to help prevent this type of injury.
  • Schedule employees to ensure adequate rest between each shift.

Your Workplace Safety Plan

One of your main objectives should be to minimize safety hazards for the benefit of your workers and the company as a whole, and that starts with a solid Workplace Safety Plan. Each plan is unique to the company it serves and should be carefully written to address as many potential safety concerns as possible.

A professional employer organization like Harbor America can help your small- or medium-sized business create an appropriate Workplace Safety Plan. It starts with a complete understanding of OSHA standards. From your training manuals to your employee manuals to compliance posters, we can help you ensure your workers are up-to-speed about all safety guidelines and regulations, and we offer a wide range of accident prevention strategies.

Of course, accidents do happen despite precautions. In that case, your thorough workers’ compensation insurance will be able to help your injured employee through his or her recovery. Hiring a PEO to handle the claims also saves you time and ensures the procedure is done correctly to prevent any legal complications.

Minimizing Your Risk

Workplace injuries don’t have to be common or inevitable. Do what you can to limit the risk so your employees can enjoy a healthy, happy work environment that leads to greater job satisfaction and greater productivity. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about your Workplace Safety Plan, or how Harbor America can help you with your safety and compliance strategy.