Employers Can Take Steps to Minimize Workplace Violence
Workplace violence continues to be a serious problem for U.S. employers, though worker-on-worker homicides account for only 7 percent of such cases. Workplace homicides were the fourth-leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in 2009.
According to the University of Iowa Injury Prevention Research Center, the vast majority of workplace homicides (85 percent) involve criminal intent by people with no relationship to the company or its employees. A lesser number of cases involved customer/employee disputes and domestic violence incidents.
Economic stress, job loss and the threat of a job loss raise the risk for workplace violence. Revenge, jealousy and general workplace stress are motivating factors for worker-on-worker homicides, while financial gain from crimes such as robbery lead the criminal-intent motivators.
Employers should have prevention programs and policies in place to help protect employees:
- Provide safety training to increase employee awareness and recognition of potentially violent situations.
- Secure the workplace with employee ID badges, alarm systems, extra lighting, and secured or limited access to buildings or work areas.
- Develop a buddy system for those who work alone or at night or for any workers who may be in situations of increased danger.
- Develop policies and procedures pertaining to a worker’s right to refuse to provide services or perform tasks in situations that are clearly hazardous.
- Encourage employees to report any concerns about safety or security and follow up with written reports.
- Take all threats of violence seriously and investigate all reports.
- Provide programs or resources that assist with identifying and resolving personal or financial problems or other risk factors for violence.
For more information on workplace safety and security, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Treadmill Test Provides Insight Into Firefighters’ Fitness
Firefighters’ ability to display cardiovascular fitness during a treadmill stress test can be a lifesaver for one of the most physically demanding professions.
The Occupational Medicine team at Saint Francis Medical Center observes firefighters at high levels of physical activity as part of a detailed evaluation that includes blood pressure and respiration monitoring, balance, and stamina.
“Most fatalities for firefighters are cardiovascular in nature, not from an injury occurring while fighting fires,” explains Dennis J. Straubinger, DO, MPH, MRO, occupational medicine physician at Saint Francis. “Firefighting is an incredibly stressful job, and firefighters have to be able to call upon their bodies to work immediately at high levels of energy.”
The American Heart Association® recommends an exercise target heart rate ranging from 50 percent to 75 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate for most healthy people. You can arrive at this figure by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying by the appropriate percentage.
The Saint Francis team uses the Bruce protocol treadmill assessment with firefighters, which helps to determine if an individual is safe to perform highly demanding physical jobs. This sub-maximal test calls for a standard series of steps that advances treadmill speed and inclination.
The treadmill assessment provided by the Occupation Medicine team at Saint Francis is the only one like it in the region. The results of the test not only provide evidence of health in relation to heavy exertion, but they also can be used to tailor conditioning regimens and training.
“Some firefighters are quite athletic, and if they are doing well on the treadmill test, we will let them go beyond their target heart rates to let them reach the point where they incur fatigue,” Straubinger says. “We use their test results to write an appropriate exercise prescription for our healthier firefighters.”
For more information on employee fitness testing, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.
Reduce Fall Hazards With These Simple Tips
Identifying fall hazards and deciding how best to protect workers are the first steps in minimizing one of the most serious workplace safety issues.
The U.S. Department of Labor lists falls as one of the leading causes of traumatic occupational death, accounting for 8 percent of all fatalities. While fatal falls to a lower level account for 85 percent of all falls, a substantial number of fatal falls occur on the same level.
Anytime workers are at a height of 4 feet or higher, they are at risk and in need of protection. Fall protection at the 4-foot level is required in general industry; the limit is 5 feet in maritime occupations and 6 feet in construction. However, employers must provide fall protection for employees working over dangerous equipment and machinery, regardless of the potential fall distance.
Conventional systems, such as guardrails, safety nets and personal fall protection devices, are effective in most cases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permits the use of warning lines, designated areas, control zones and similar systems in some situations. These alternative systems can provide protection by limiting the number of workers exposed to the risk of falls.
The Construction Roundtable of OSHA’s Alliance Program has developed the following informational employer tips:
- Develop a written fall prevention plan.
- Identify potential fall hazards before each project and during daily walk-arounds; pay attention to hazards associated with routine and nonroutine tasks.
- Eliminate the opportunity for a fall when possible by rescheduling, isolating or changing the task.
- Ensure fall protection equipment is appropriate for the task, in good condition and used properly.
- Conduct general fall prevention training regularly.
- Train workers on specific fall hazards identified and on required personal protective equipment.
- Conduct regular inspections of fall protection equipment in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations and OSHA requirements.
- Emphasize fall hazards unique to the site, such as open floor holes or shafts, riser penetrations, and skylights.
- Team up with other construction employers and employees to identify best practices and share fall prevention solutions.
- Get more information from OSHA at www.osha.gov.
To schedule a Saint Francis Medical Center physician to assess your workplace, call Jason Bandermann, MBA, referral services manager, at 573-331-5825.