Archive for category quality of life

National Safety Month, A Time for Awareness, Planning, and Prevention

Image source: National Safety Council

National Safety Month takes place every June to bring together communities, organizations, and health professionals to help prevent injuries and fatalities at work, at home, and on the road.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2017 preventable workplace injury-related deaths totaled 4,414, and medically consulted injuries totaled 4.5 million. Total injury costs reached an estimated $161.5 billion, including wage and productivity losses, medical expenses, administrative expenses, motor vehicle property damage, and employer costs.

Keeping Truck Drivers Safe

Having a written company safety program is the best way to keep truck drivers safe at work, and it’s the law in Washington State. An effective safety program should include: safety policies, steps to identify job hazards and solutions, an incident reporting system, personal protective equipment standards, and a safety training program. It should also clearly list responsibilities for safety directors, managers, supervisors, and employees. Review, evaluate, and update your safety program often to reduce everyday injury risks and when you change equipment, skills, and supplies.   

Participate in National Safety Month by planning a few training activities that will show your employees how to work safely. Some ideas to help get you going include having a safety fair, 5-minute toolbox talks, tip sheets, hands-on training, holding a lunch-n-learn, safety trivia contests, and safety excellence awards.

Check out the links below for resources to plan your events:

Free trucking safety training materials at KeepTruckingSafe.org.

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries training, videos & workshops.

National Safety Month training resources from the National Safety Council.

Take the SafeAtWork Pledge and let others know here.

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Litter Prevention and Load Securement Emphasis begins May 28

Image of blue square with the text "Secure Your Load For Safer Roads!"

As a part of Washington’s new We Keep Washington Litter Free campaign, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) will be conducting statewide emphasis patrols over four weekends from May 28 to June 20. The patrols will coincide with National Secure Your Load Day, which takes place annually on June 6th to remind motorists about the importance of secure loads and litter prevention.

Unsecured loads and road debris cause serious traffic safety risks. According to WSP Sgt. Darren Wright, “Every year, road debris contributes to an average of nearly 90,000 property-related crashes on U.S. roadways. More than 17,000 people are injured from those crashes and over 700 are fatal. . .These crashes are entirely preventable and the power to stop them is in the hands of Washington drivers.” Debris on Washington State highways cause about 300 traffic crashes and 30 injuries every year. More than 12 million pounds of litter ends up on Washington roadways and up to 40% – almost 5 million pounds – comes from unsecured cargo and debris blowing out of pickup truck beds.

State troopers as well as environmental and road officials are always on the lookout for drivers with unsecured loads to keep roadways safe, clean, and clear. Violations for littering and unsecured loads are punishable with fines from $50 to $5000 and potential jail time for severe offenses that cause bodily harm or property damage.

Secure Your Load Day began with activist Robin Abel, the force behind Maria’s Law, which criminalizes improperly secured loads. Abel pushed for the law after her 24-year-old daughter Maria Federici suffered near-fatal injuries which left her blinded after unsecured particleboard from a rented trailer smashed through her car’s windshield on I-405 in Renton. Abel’s work has spread, attracting over 40 other states and territories to participate in Secure Your Load Day.

Tips for Truck Drivers

Unsecured loads cause injuries and fatalities that are 100% preventable. Here are a few tips to help make sure your load is secure:

  • Binders, chains, nettings, and tarps must be securely fastened to the trailer.
  • Make sure unused dunnage, broken pallets, or other loose debris are cleared off your trailer.
  • Freight should be neatly stacked and tightly fastened inside trailers.
  • Don’t overload your vehicle.
  • Double check to make sure your trailer doors are properly closed.
  • Keep your cab clean to make sure trash or debris do not fly out of the window.

If you see someone traveling with an unsecured load, pull over to a safe area and call 911 to report it.

Visit the following links for additional information and resources:

Washington State Department of Ecology:

Litter prevention website

Load securement tips

Tip sheet in English

Tip sheet in Spanish

Secure You Load Safety video

Washington State Patrol:

Secure Your Load video

King County:

Load securement resources and information

Secure Your Load for Safer Roads video

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:

Driver’s Handbook on cargo securement

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National Missing Children’s Day is May 25th

Image source: U.S. Department of Justice

National Missing Children’s Day began in 1983 after several high-profile disappearances took place, including the kidnappings and murders of 6-year-olds Etan Patz and Adam Walsh, and the alarming recoveries of twenty-nine bodies of children and young adults in Atlanta. National Missing Children’s Day honors missing and abducted children while celebrating those who have been recovered. It also raises awareness of the need to improve searching for those missing.

The Problem

At the end of 2017, the FBI’s National Crime Information Center had active records on 88,089 missing persons. Children and young adults under the age of 21 accounted for 46.6 percent of the total records. Hundreds of thousands of new records are added each year, but fortunately most of these are found. The top circumstance for those who go missing is running away from home followed by abductions by non-custodial parents or strangers. One in seven of the more than 23,500 runaways reported in 2018 to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children were likely victims of sex trafficking.

Truck Drivers Can Help

Being on the road puts truck drivers in a position to be the eyes and ears that help find a missing child. The trucking industry is a hot spot for sex trafficking because truck stops are ideal places for prostitution as they have little law enforcement presence and close access to highways. Don’t intervene directly if you think you see trafficking taking place. Instead, gather as much information as you can, and then call 911 immediately if you think it’s an emergency or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline

Drivers can join several efforts that are already in place to support this important work.  Founded in 2012, The Truckers Missing Child Project uses social media like Twitter and Facebook to share information with truck drivers about missing children and Amber Alerts. The project’s secondary mission is to help end human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, and child abuse and child porn, which often exploit missing children. Truckers Against Trafficking began in 2009 as an initiative of Chapter 61 Ministries. The organization’s goals include saturating trucking and busing industries with anti-trafficking materials, partnering with law enforcement and government agencies to help investigate trafficking, and working with other partners fighting against trafficking.

For more information about missing persons in Washington State, please visit:

Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs:

Washington State Missing Persons web site

Washington State Patrol Missing and Unidentified Persons Unit:

Amber and Missing Person’s Alerts

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Safety Stand-Down Week to Prevent Falls is May 3-7

Image source: NIOSH

Falls cause more hospitalizations, disabling injuries, and deaths in Washington State than any other workplace hazard. Falls injure about 1,600 workers in Washington each year, that’s about 4 per day. To raise awareness of fall prevention, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is partnering with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to sponsor “Safety Stand-Down” week from May 3-7. The annual event encourages employers to educate and train their workers to identify fall hazards and prevent injuries.

Falls in Trucking

Falls in the trucking industry account for about 20% of all injuries. Severe falls from heights rank first in average medical costs among all trucking injuries. The most common activities leading to falls among truck drivers include:

  • Entering or exiting the cab.
  • Falling off the back of the trailer or liftgate.
  • Falling off of a load.
  • Missing a step or getting a foot caught in a rung of ladder.
  • Ladders slipping out from underneath a worker.
  • Slips, trips, and falls around jobsites caused by debris, slippery steps, uneven surfaces, or inclement weather.

Fall injuries are 100% preventable. Here are a few tips to prevent falls for truck drivers:

Show your employees that you are committed to fall injury prevention by holding a Safety Stand-Down event in your own company. This could include short toolbox talks, refresher training, reviewing safety bulletins or watching a safety video.

Need resources for your event? L&I’s Trucking Injury Reduction Emphasis (TIRES) project can help. TIRES offers free tip sheets, posters, interactive simulations, and true stories about injured truck drivers.

More information about Safety Stand-Down Week is available from L&I, OSHA, and NIOSH.

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Well, Well, Well, Global Employee Health and Fitness Month is Back

Image source; National Association for Health and Fitness

Global Employee Health and Fitness Month takes place every year in May to promote health and fitness in the workplace. When workers practice healthy lifestyles that include a nutritious diet and physical exercise, they lower their risk of injury and illness and increase productivity. For truck drivers, health and fitness are vital to safe vehicle operation and overall job performance. Healthy and fit drivers benefit trucking companies because they are in better physical and mental condition and are more likely to maintain CDL medical requirements.

Challenges for Truck Drivers

Maintaining a healthy diet and physical exercise routine can be challenging for truck drivers. Although truck drivers are always on the go, food options on travel routes often reflect food desert conditions. Truck stops, rest areas, convenience stores, break room vending machines, and fast food restaurants usually offer unhealthy processed foods that are high in calories and low in nutrients. Exercise is especially important for long-haul drivers who travel for extended distances without much physical activity. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that truck drivers lack adequate exercise and many see themselves as being out of shape. Poor diets and lack of exercise lead long-haul truck drivers to have obesity and morbid obesity two times higher than other workers.

Research shows that obesity negatively impacts job performance and can cause sleep apnea, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. A recent RAND study reports that nearly 60 percent of the United States population has one or more of these chronic conditions. Treatment costs for these conditions account for 90% of national health care expenditures. Another study found that combined annual costs of covered medical, sick day, short-term disability, and workers’ compensation claims for normal weight employees averaged $3,830 while costing $8,067 for morbidly obese employees.  

The Road to Better Health

A recent national survey of over 20,000 employees found that healthy workers were 16 to 27 percent less likely to have recent absenteeism. The research showed that higher job performance was more likely for: 

  • 25 percent of workers who ate healthy the entire day.
  • 20 percent of workers who ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables on four or more days in the past week.
  • 15 percent for workers who exercised for 30 or more minutes on three or more days a week.

Being on the road doesn’t mean that truck drivers have no chances to improve their health. Instead, it means that they must adapt to their mobile workplace by doing things a little differently than most other employees who work in one location. The tips below can help steer drivers in the right direction, but it is always important to consult a health care provider before making any dietary or lifestyle (exercise) changes, to make sure you can safely do so.

  • Shop at grocery stores and pack your own meals, snacks, and drinks instead of stopping at truck stops, convenience stores, and fast food restaurants.
  • Eat foods that are high in protein and omega 3-fatty acids, and low in carbs, preservatives, and sodium.
  • Smaller portions will help you lose weight.
  • Eat smaller meals more often during the day to help steady your blood sugar level.
  • Drink more water instead of sugary drinks like soda.
  • Sleep in a quiet, comfortable place, and avoid large meals, spicy foods, coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and television before going to sleep.
  • Find a safe area near your truck to take a walk, stretch, do push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, or jump rope.
  • Locate truck stops that provide food and services that support a healthy lifestyle for truck drivers.
  • Quit using tobacco products, stimulants, and alcohol.

Click on the following links for more information and resources:

Keep Trucking Safe.org – Truck Driver Health Issues

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – Truck Driver Health

NIOSH – Total Worker Health Programs Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Driving Healthy.org

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National Work Zone Awareness Week, April 26-30

As spring returns with warmer and longer days, roadway work zones will appear more often. That’s why it is time to remind ourselves as motorists that we share a responsibility in keeping work zones safe. National Work Zone Awareness Week is an educational campaign that invites government, business, safety professionals, and the public to help spread the word about work zone safety.

Although work zones are safer than ever, the risk of distracted drivers hitting road construction workers remains high. U.S. Department of Labor data indicates that vehicular incidents caused 444 roadway work zone fatalities across the nation between 2011 and 2018. The Washington State Department of Transportation reports that around 680 highway work zone injuries occur each year in the state. In the past 10 years, officers in the state have cited inattention in 5,335 work zone crashes.

Go Orange for Work Zone Safety

Orange makes work zones safer as the color of hi-visibility vests, traffic signs, cones, and barrels. National Work Zone Awareness Week will celebrate Go Orange Day, Wednesday, April 28 to show support for work zone safety and the families of victims who were killed in work zones.

Move Over or Pay

Washington State’s “Move Over” law requires drivers to proceed with due caution, slow down and, if safe, move over or change lanes when approaching any authorized construction or maintenance vehicle or worker in a designated roadway work zone. The rules specifically describe work zones to include adjacent road lanes 200 feet before and after stationary or slow-moving construction, maintenance, solid waste, or utility service vehicles that display flashing or rotating lights that meet state requirements for vehicle warning light systems. Fines range from $136 for failing to move over to $1,000 for reckless endangerment offenses. Penalties can also include jail sentences and driver’s license suspensions. Following the rules of the road will keep Washington State’s roadway workers alive and safe.

Use the following tips to keep work zones safe:

  • Slow Down – follow the speed limit, it’s there for your safety.
  • Be Kind – road crews are out there working to keep our highways safe.
  • Pay Attention – both to workers directing you and surrounding traffic; put your phone away when driving.
  • Stay Calm – expect delays, leave early or take a detour if possible; no meeting or appointment is worth risking someone’s life.

Use the links below get information and resources for your own National Work Zone Awareness Week event or training:

Washington State work zone traffic laws

RCW 46.61, Rules of the Road

RCW 46.61.212, Approaching emergency zones – Penalty – Violation

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

Work zone and flagger safety

Asphalt worker safety

Keep Trucking Safe

No Distance, Know Pain tip sheet

Distracted Driving is Dangerous tip sheet

This is What Motorists See poster

National Work Zone Safety information Clearinghouse

Homepage

Washington State Department of Transportation

Work zone safety

Work Zone Safety Awareness Week

U.S. Federal Highway Administration

National Work Zone Awareness WeekWork Zone Management Program

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Stress Less, Feel Better

Image of person with his head up high and eyes close with a title "Stop Stress In Its Tracks"
Image source: American Heart Association

Driving a truck requires being ready to take quick, sensible action at any time. Responding wrongly to a traffic hazard or other dangerous work condition can end in serious injuries, death, and costly damage. But maintaining a constant high level of readiness can be a challenge when workplace stress diminishes a driver’s mental and physical health. Medical research increasingly shows that chronic stress can raise the risk of mental and physical health problems. Prolonged stress can cause a driver to become a risk to themselves, their co-workers, and other motorists. Trucking companies can reduce workplace stress by including stress management and training in their safety programs.

Stress Factors and Symptoms for Truck Drivers

Truck drivers experience stress from several sources. Recent studies have listed the following factors as leading stressors among truck drivers:

  • Long routes and social isolation
  • Abrupt schedule changes, rotating schedules, long detention times, and tight deadlines
  • Compliance with hours of service regulations
  • Traffic delays and adverse road and weather conditions
  • Road rage and fear of violence
  • Vehicle noise, equipment vibration, and temperature extremes
  • Transporting hazardous freight

Signs and symptoms of stress include:

  • Fatigue
  • Digestive problems
  • Anxiety, headaches, and depression
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration issues
  • High blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
  • Social withdrawal
  • Job dissatisfaction
  • Workplace violence
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Stress Management for Driver Safety, Health, and Wellness

A trucking company can reduce workplace stress by including a stress management and training plan in their safety program. Having such a plan can help employees identify workplace stress, its sources, and its effects on their safety, health, and wellness. It should also provide stress prevention and control methods for employees. Effective workplace stress management can improve driver health and wellness, equipment operation, attendance, productivity, employee retention, morale, and job satisfaction.

Stress management methods include:

  • Improving work schedules and driving routes that are more compatible with demands and responsibilities outside the job
  • Providing health, vacation, and retirement benefits
  • Balancing work and family life
  • Teamwork
  • Regular medical exams
  • Taking breaks and getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy food and staying hydrated
  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Preventing job hazards
  • Having a vehicle maintenance program
  • Arranging safe lodging when needed
  • Providing ergonomic equipment and well-fitting PPE

Plan a stress management plan for your safety program using these resources:

Keep Trucking Safe:

Dealing with Stress at Work

Got Stress? poster

Managing COVID-19’s Impacts on Driver Stress

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health:

Stress. . .at Work

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Workplace Stress Management

American Heart Association

Stress Management

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Be Wise, Protect Your Eyes

Image of title: "Prevent Blindness, Bringing Americans to Eye Care"

March is Workplace Eye Wellness Month—a time to take a fresh look at preventing eye injuries at work. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that around 2,000 workplace eye injuries requiring medical care occur every day in the United States. About 20% of these injuries result in missing one or more workdays to recover, with 10-20% causing temporary or permanent vision loss.

The most common workplace eye injuries are from airborne particles and objects that strike, scrape, or penetrate the eyes. Chemical, thermal, and flash burns also cause many eye injuries. Welders, power tools, and solvents are major sources of such injuries.  

The best way to prevent workplace eye injuries is to have a company safety program that identifies, assesses, eliminates, and controls hazards that can cause such injuries. Your program should include performing job hazard analyses that identify eye injury hazards and prevention solutions. Providing safe equipment and tools, proper lighting, machine guarding, and employee training can prevent many kinds of eye injuries.

In addition, Washington State workplace safety rules require employers to provide appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to workers who are exposed to eye injury hazards. Depending on the specific hazard, PPE selection may include:

  • Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses
  • Goggles
  • Eye protection with side shields
  • Face shields
  • Welding helmets
  • Full-face respirators

PPE must meet current American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standards. The International Safety Equipment Association’s Eye and Face Protection Selection Guide can help you find the right PPE to keep your workers safe.

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Stay Upbeat with a Healthy Heart

American Heart Month takes place each February to raise awareness of the dangers of heart disease. Since its first observance in 1964, improvements in medical research, treatment, and public education have greatly helped people live longer and healthier lives. But heart disease is still America’s top health threat and killer, claiming around 2,300 lives each day.

Heart disease is a major health problem among truck drivers. Research shows that truck drivers have higher heart disease rates than other workers. Truck drivers also have a higher prevalence of heart disease risk factors, including obesity, hypertension, and smoking. These risks stem from lifestyle and occupational factors such as irregular schedules, long hours, physical inactivity, high stress, and limited healthy food options on the road. Age, gender, family history, and social factors can also influence a person’s risk of heart disease. People with poor heart health are also at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Heart Disease and Trucking Safety

Heart disease can interfere with the ability to control and drive a truck safely. In a sample of 182 fatal truck collisions, the National Transportation Safety Board attributed 10% of collisions to medical problems, with 90% of them being heart-related. A recent study also shows a link between heart disease risk and crashes among truck drivers. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, a result of high blood pressure and plaque buildup in the arteries. The buildup can create blood clots that block blood flow to the heart, which can lead to a heart attack. Truck drivers who feel a heart attack approaching should immediately pull over to a safe area and call 911. Warning signs of a heart attack can differ between men and women. While chest pain and discomfort are most common to both, women are more likely to have the following symptoms:

  • Back and/or jaw pain.
  • Nausea, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and dizziness.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Indigestion and abdominal pain.
  • Pain and discomfort when resting or sleeping.

As it raises safety risks, heart disease can potentially disqualify a truck driver from holding a commercial driver license. Don’t wait to be disqualified or for a serious incident to occur before taking your heart health seriously. In addition to following your doctor’s orders, consider adopting these healthy habits to prevent heart disease:

  • Control your blood pressure.
  • Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Manage stress.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Get enough sleep.

Companies can help their drivers beat heart disease by enhancing their safety programs to include:

  • Training on healthy diets, smoking cessation, exercise breaks, and stress management.
  • Providing fitness facilities at your terminals, locating truck stops that have them, and offering gym memberships.
  • Teach drivers about power naps and sleep hygiene.
  • Have incentive programs that motivate and reward healthy lifestyles.
  • Provide health insurance.
  • Allow time in driving schedules for medical visits.



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Lead the Way with a Smart START

Inspiring other trucking companies to enhance their safety programs can help prevent injuries and fatalities across the industry. You can start the trend by becoming the company that others will look up to. Start now by participating in the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries’ Safety Through Achieving Recognition Together (START) program. START is a new on-site consultation program that assists small businesses in achieving safety program excellence. Having a high-performance safety program will make your workplace safer, lower costs, and improve morale. The program’s recognition of your achievement will make you stand out in your business community as a leader and model to follow.  

The program requirements are:

  • Employ fewer than 50 workers at a specific work site, and not more than 250 at all work sites within Washington State (some flexibility is allowed).
  • Operate for at least one year at the particular work site.
  • Demonstrate an injury / illness rate below the industry average for that industry.
  • Receive full-service safety and health consultation visits for a comprehensive review of their safety and health management systems; and agree to correct all hazards.
  • Receive a free risk consultation.
  • Agree to provide notification when changes in working conditions or processes introduce new hazards into the workplace.

Learn more about the benefits of L&I’s START program here. You can also contact the program coordinator:

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