Workplace Safety Archives - Harbor America

Group of diverse factory workers all wearing protective mask to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

Best Practices for Workplace Safety in Blue Collar Industries

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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has instilled global fear, especially in the workplace. For those working office jobs, it can be daunting to be in close quarters with others. But how has COVID-19 impacted workers in manual labor industries, such as trucking, warehouse, agriculture, manufacturing, and construction?

While they may not be frontline workers, their work is integral to other industries’ operations. For example, manufacturers might make boxes for supplies, such as food and medicine. Other manufacturers create parts for aircraft carriers and submarines. Construction workers might work on roads or new buildings that help the economy flourish. Agriculture workers provide food supplies. Implementing safe work environment policies and procedures can enhance the defense against COVID-19 in the workplace.

Here are a few best practices for workplace safety.

Stagger start times to reduce contact. Modifying start times to reduce contact with other employees can assist in decreasing exposure. Have employees wait in their vehicles before a shift instead of congesting the time clock area. Remaining at a specific workstation unless needed elsewhere can also reduce traffic through the workplace.

Practice personal hygiene. It might seem like stating the obvious but practicing proper handwashing and other healthy hygienic routines can help prevent the spread of illness in the workplace. Some employees may change clothes or shower, if the option is available, before leaving the workplace to decrease the chances of bringing any exposure risk to their homes.

Utilizing and proper handling of personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing a mask is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of illness. Ensuring the mask is worn properly also increases the chances of not spreading illness. Wiping down equipment after each use and implementing regular cleaning of PPE (i.e., washing cloth face masks) will aid in decreasing the exposure of illness.

Incorporating formal company policies regarding these best practices can assist in enforcing them in the workplace. If you don’t have these policies and procedures already in place or would like to have an HR professional review your employee handbook for improvements, please contact Harbor America. Our safety and risk management team can also evaluate and mitigate workplace risks, as well as provide resources and support for implementing solutions for your business. Whatever you may need, Harbor America is your select PEO partner in developing a safer work environment.



How COVID-19 Showed America’s Dependence on Blue-Collar Workers

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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

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Maintaining Clean Room Safety Standards

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Cleanrooms are a standard facet in most manufacturing facilities. Cleanrooms control the working and storage environment to regulate air quality, temperature, and moisture (humidity). These rooms are reserved for sensitive electronic equipment, pharmaceuticals, sterile medical devices, or the manufacturing of products where the contamination could compromise the products’ structure or functionality. And of all potential contamination threats, people pose the largest risk of contamination.

There are different cleanroom standards for which organizations should abide by as they help to determine the level of production safety. Ensuring the facility meets the air quality standards begins with employees wearing proper cleanroom equipment and attire, as specified by the organization. Contamination, no matter how inadvertent or small, could cost your company downtime and increased production costs.

Here are some helpful tips to prevent contamination:

  • Encourage employees to practice good hygiene to limit contaminants. Everything from perfume or cologne, jewelry, make-up, or gum can be important to consider when working in a cleanroom.
  • Regularly remind employees of the proper way to put on and take off disposable cleanroom garments. Each company’s garment procedures may be unique, but the one constant is that specific garment procedures will be required, and employees should receive follow-up training on a regular basis.
  • Supplies used in a cleanroom should be designated as such. From pens and notebooks to any other tools or instruments needed to complete day-to-day activities should be used only in the cleanroom.
  • Instruct employees to clean their workstations, tools, equipment, and supplies after their work, or use of those items, is complete.

Ensuring your employees are well trained and reminded regularly of cleanroom guidelines will save your company thousands of dollars in lost productivity or downtime by lessening the risk of cleanroom contamination.

As you understand the best practices for your business, Harbor America understands the areas of your business that will require documented procedures for continual employee development. Adding a Harbor America human resources expert to your arsenal of valuable resources can help to ensure cleanroom contaminants are limited and not the result of insufficient training or miscommunicated policy and procedure. Are you ready to learn more about effectively managing contamination risk?

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

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

Tractor Safety Tips

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The most common causes of serious injury on a tractor include rollovers, falling when climbing on or off, and being run over by a tractor or towed machinery. The Centers for Disease Control reported that tractor rollovers/overturns were the leading cause of death for farmers or farmworkers.[1] Regular review of tractor operation safety rules and regulations with employees can minimize the risk to employees.

What You Need to Know

  • The greatest dangers when driving a tractor include collisions, rollovers, run-overs, or being caught in moving parts.
  • Reduce your speed when turning to avoid a roll-over accident.
  • Each day, inspect the tractor before beginning work. Use a safety operation checklist in addition to visual inspections.
  • Collision hazards can include hidden obstacles such as rocks or a tree stump, or low hanging branches or power lines.

Take control of employee safety by regularly reviewing tractor safety rules and regulations. Contact Harbor America to start improving employee safety today.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/default.html



Farm Machinery: Ensuring Employee Safety

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As one of the longest-running professions, agriculture in the United States has a rich history. Agriculture and modern-day farming have turned into one of the most hazardous industries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As an example, “every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.” – [1]

Here are a few recommendations to reduce an employee’s injury risk:

Remain Alert

Aside from making sure employees are trained and fully able to handle heavy machinery (i.e. not impaired in any way or too tired), it is recommended that employers follow these general awareness safety tips:

  • Allow machinery to shut down fully prior to inspecting or performing repairs.
  • Do not remove or modify safety features.
  • Read and follow manufacturer instructions for operation.
  • Supervise inexperienced workers at all times.

Dress the Part

To avoid injuries, ask employees to wear tight-fitting clothing, tuck shirt into pants, and button long-sleeved shirts at the cuff. In an instance where gloves are necessary, verify they are task appropriate. Jewelry should not be worn. If a medical alert bracelet is necessary, secure it with an adhesive band.

Plan Ahead

Create a farm safety emergency plan, if you don’t have one already. The plan should contain information on the location of the nearest first aid kit, routes to the nearest hospital, and a list of emergency phone numbers and addresses. This plan should be reviewed regularly with family and employees to ensure familiarity with the plan’s location and contents.

Harbor America supports employer safety practices, including those mentioned here. Learn more about safety and risk management solutions including accident prevention, OSHA compliance, and unique safety plans.


[1] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/aginjury/default.html


Managing Safety in an Aging Workforce

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n 2017, nearly 45% of all employees were age 45 or older.[1] This number indicates that employers need to manage and maintain the safety of their mature employees in a diligent and effective manner. Despite older workers having a lower injury rate, their work-related injuries tend to be more serious than those incurred by their younger co-workers. Safety concerns could include:

  • Short-term memory
  • Slower reaction time
  • Declining vision and/or hearing
  • Declining balance

The most important aspect of any work environment is safety. Here are a few ways to help keep your mature employees safe in the workplace.

Routine Facility Maintenance

Regularly check that machinery is properly secured and guarded, and ensure repairs or parts replacement on office equipment is made in a timely manner. Makeshift repairs or temporary fixes could result in injuries, especially for aging employees.

Ergonomic Assessment

A job safety and ergonomic assessment can identify potential improvements to an employee’s workstation and environment. An audit of the employee’s environment can allow management to remove hazards and help determine the safest way for the employee to perform their job.

Prioritize Safety

Because slip and fall accidents and injuries are one of the major causes of aging employee injuries, prioritizing slip and fall prevention is incredibly important. Instead of putting off improvements, reprioritize your budget or annual plan to make necessary adjustments sooner than later.

Sponsored Exercise Programs

Encourage employees to participate in an exercise program. Lead the charge in a ‘Wellness Wednesday Walk’ around your building or campus, or sponsor a weekly exercise group. Regular exercise could reduce the risk of an on-the-job injury.

Harbor America supports employers’ efforts to control and reduce risk. Learn more about our Safety and Risk Management solutions.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cps/demographics.htm


Office Ergonomics 101

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If you run a small business, you may be familiar with the term ergonomic workstations but have wondered what it meant. Simply put, ergonomics pertains to how a workplace environment is designed so that it benefits its workers as well as supports their limitations.

The main goal of office ergonomics is to ensure a workplace is as safe and comfortable as possible. This way, employees are less likely to be fatigued or distressed, besides not be injured. Here are some basic guidelines for improving a workstation, along with other considerations.

Benefits of Office Ergonomics

There are many advantages of office ergonomics, such as employee comfort. When your workers are more comfortable, they tend to be more efficient, productive and engaged in their work. They’re less likely to be become fatigued or be injured at their workplace.

According to one study, an insurance company reported an increase of $620,000 in productivity after spending $500,000 in ergonomic furnishings. Moreover, 90 percent of the decision-makers who were surveyed confessed that an improvement in office design resulted in better productivity. On the other hand, poor office ergonomics can lead to problems, including musculoskeletal (MSD) injuries. These injuries often mean increased employee absences and reduced productivity.

Office Chairs

Because many workers spend up to eight hours sitting, having the right type of office chairs is especially critical. When selecting chairs, choose ones that provide exceptional lumbar support. As for the height of a chair, a user’s feet should be positioned flat on the ground and should not dangle. While shorter people may need to use a footrest, taller workers may have to adjust the height of a desk.

There should be adequate room between the back of a person’s knees and the edge of the chair, which is about the size of a fist. You may be able to adjust the depth of the seat on some types of chairs. Be sure your chairs offer good neck support. The entire weight of the typist’s head needs to be positioned directly above his or her neck so that the neck receives full support. Consider how craning the head forward when working can lead to neck strain or even injury.

Computer Stations

Show your employees how to position their computer monitors directly in front of their heads at about an arm’s length. The top of a computer screen needs to be at eye level or slightly below it. Employees wearing bifocals should lower their monitors about an inch or two inches, so they can comfortably see their screens.

A computer keyboard needs to be directly in front of the monitor. Don’t have your keyboard too far to either the left or right because this can force you to turn your head and neck frequently to see what you’re typing, leading to repetitive stress.

Your team members need to be able to easily reach a computer mouse. Furthermore, a mouse should be on the same surface as a keyboard. To minimize mouse use, it helps to use keyboard shortcuts.

Other Considerations 

  • Tell your employees to keep their desk phones, printed materials, staplers and other key desk essentials near the body so that they don’t have to reach far. If they can’t reach something without having discomfort, they need to stand up to get it.
  • Employees who do a significant amount of writing, typing or talking on the phone at the same time should use a headset to prevent neck strain from having a phone cradled between their neck and head.
  • If you see employees sitting in an odd position, such as sitting on a single leg or their feet tucked behind them, this may be a sign that their chair needs to be adjusted.
  • Encourage your employees to get out of their chairs and move to stretch their arms and legs. This should be done at least once every hour. Consider that it’s important to stretch the body, so health problems won’t develop from extended sitting.

Helping design employee safety plans is one of the many services of a PEO (Professional Employer Organization.) If you’re spending too much time on administrative tasks and HR, we want to help you. Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation.