The Construction Industry’s”Fatal Four”

 

According to a report released in December of 2016 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,379 private industry worker fatalities occurred in the 2015 calendar year.  These industries include jobs in industries such as transportation, farming, fishing, forestry, and truck drivers, among others. Of those injuries, 21.4% were in construction. That’s one in five workers!

The Fatal Four

The “fatal four” in the construction injury represents the four leading causes of fatalities. They are responsible for more than half of the construction worker deaths in 2015. They include:

  1. Falls (38.8%);
  2. Struck by an object (9.6%);
  3. Electrocution (8.6%);
  4. Caught in/between (7.2%) (This includes fatalities due to being caught-in or compressed by equipment or objects, and struck, caught, or crushed in collapsing structure, equipment, or material).

Injuries and fatalities to contract workers are on the rise. Why?

  • Because many contract workers are thrown into dangerous jobs without the health and safety training that a regular employee would get.
  • They may not be fully or properly trained in the use of machinery and equipment.
  • Being unable to identify unsafe or improperly maintained workstations, buildings, or equipment can create risks for those unfamiliar with related hazards.

Other reasons for construction site injuries include:

  • Rush jobs. There may be pressure to finish a job quickly, which may result in forgoing safety protocol in favor of completing the work.
  • Most work accidents occur after lunch indicating that concentration levels are better earlier in the day. It would then make sense to switch to lower risk tasks when brains and bodies are tiring.
  • Unsafe behavior by the worker. Misusing or improperly using equipment, or not wearing appropriate safety gear for example, can lead to injuries.
Top Ten Citations

OSHA sets the standard to which employers and workers need to comply. Sadly, protocol is often ignored. The top ten OSHA standards included in citations are:

  • Scaffolding
  • Fall protection (scope, application, definitions)
  • Excavations (general requirements)
  • Ladders
  • Head protection
  • Excavations (requirements for protective systems)
  • Hazard communication
  • Fall protection (training requirements)
  • Construction (general safety and health provisions)
  • Electrical (wiring methods, design and protection)
Injury Prevention

It’s obvious that the disregard of OSHA standards directly impacts construction workers’ “fatal four” injuries. OSHA has specific advice for preventing construction accidents, but here’s also a few universal safety measures that can also be implemented.

  • Mandatory Daily Safety Meetings. Keep management and workers on the same page where safety is concerned.
  • Safety Gear. Every employee should be trained about safety gear usage – which gear for which task. Safety gear should be a requirement, not a choice. Gear should also be examined routinely to check for damage and wear.
  • High Visibility Clothing. Wearing something like orange vests with reflective material will reduce chances getting hit by vehicles and other machinery.
  • Regular Breaks. Taking breaks will help reduce accidents due to exhaustion.

 

Construction site injuries can be prevented. Be safe while you’re on the job, whether you’re in a management or labor position. It’s also good to know how you’re covered, if at all. This especially applies to contract workers. You don’t want to get injured on the job, only to discover you have no means to cover medical bills and lost wages.

If you are injured on the job and need advice, give me a call. I’d be happy to discuss your rights with you.

Avoiding Spring Cleaning Injuries

Warmer weather is right around the corner (we hope). It’s time to climb out of hibernation and get to spring cleaninglawn mower and tidying up our yards. This time of year also sees an increase in visits to the ER due to all of this cleaning and tidying. Most spring cleaning injuries include shoulder, neck and back problems, and general exhaustion and aches and pains. Understandably, many are gung ho to get their projects started. That is part of the problem. We tend to lead more sedentary lives during winter, and should ease into our spring cleaning and gardening rather than jumping in full force. Here are some ways to stay healthy while spring cleaning and working in the yard.

Warm Up

Get your muscles ready for the hard work in which you’re about to engage. Walk or stretch to get prepare your body for the cleaning work out.

Lawn Mowers

Sure, your lawn mower turns your overgrown mess into a well maintained yard, but it also has the potential to injury and maim.

  1. After sitting around idle for a few months, your mower will need a little maintenance. Tuning it up to get it back in working order will lower the risk of injury.
  2. Never reach under the mower deck. While this may seem obvious, it’s the very reason for many ER visits. Hands and feet can be severely injured after encountering a spinning mower blade. If needing to dislodge clogged grass, turn off the mower first.
  3. Keep children away from lawn powers. It’s not a toy. One little slip can cause severe injury or death. This is especially true with riding mowers
  4. When mowing wet grass, be cautious. People and mowers can slip on wet grass. Be extra cautious if mowing wet grass on a hill.
  5. Watch for objects that can become projectiles. Rocks, branches, toys can all be sent flying at great speed if hit by a mower blade. Risks include injuries to eyes and skin.
  6. Wear protection. Mowing presents a number of risks to the eyes. Also, it’s best to wear long sleeves and pants to protect as much skin as possible.

 

Falls

Ladders are used frequently during spring cleaning and yard maintenance. We need to reach those high spots to clean gutters, trim trees, dust door jambs and paint. Stay safe while using it.

  1. A ladder should be secured on a firm surface and against a solid wall. Falls can easily occur from ladders shifting or sinking from its original position.
  2. It’s best to have another person secure the ladder while you climb. Focus is crucial for the person spotting you on the ladder. Have them put phones and other distractions away while helping.
  3. Don’t reach too far when on a ladder. This can cause it to slip or fall. Keep your body vertical and in line with the ladder.
  4. If needed, dry the ladder and the bottom of your shoes to avoid slipping. If you’re using your ladder in wet weather, have a towel handy and continuing drying when needed.
  5. Clear or avoid potential hazards if possible. Railings, bushes, rocks and sidewalks are all probable dangers. It’s much softer landing on grass or dirt than a fence.

Tools

Many people, men especially, love using power tools for projects and yard maintenance. More power, right? Unfortunately, a variety of tools also mean a variety and array of potential injuries.

  1. Like with the mower, make sure your tools are in good working order. With electric tools, make sure the cord is intact and has no frays, exposed wires, or breaks.
  2. Know how to use the tool. Inexperience with tools is a common source of injuries.
  3. Do NOT remove or bypass safety features. They are there for a reason – your welfare.
  4. Never let children use power equipment or sharp tools.

Burning Brush

If you burn your brush, make sure to follow this advice to keep your small fire to turning into an inferno.

  1. Keep your burn pile away from other flammable objects such as hanging limbs of trees, bushes, or porches.
  2. Heed the burn ban. Ensure burning is safe by contacting your public works or fire department. They should know if it’s too dry or windy to have an outdoor fire.
  3. Poison ivy/oak/sumac are poisonous, and inhaling them can be very dangerous. Keep them out of your burn pile.
  4. Always have a plan to put the fire out just in case it gets out of control. Keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby. Also keep a phone handy in the case it DOES get out of control and you need to phone 911.
  5. Never use an accelerant like lighter fluid or gasoline. Oxygen plus accelerant can lead to a disastrous and volatile situation.

Back Injuries

Hard manual labor can be demanding on your back. Be mindful to pain and take the following advice.

  1. Use proper lifting techniques. Improper lifting techniques are a common cause of back pain and injury. Learn how to lift the right way.
    1. Bend at the knees, rather than the waist
    2. Keep your back straight.
    3. Use your legs to do the lifting work, rather than your back.
    4. Hold heavy items close to your body, and avoid twisting while holding a heavy item.
    5. If you need to place an object to the side, turn your whole body to the side.
    6. If you need to lift a very large, heavy item or move furniture, have someone help you; do not attempt to move these items on your own.
  2. Avoid bending and reaching whenever possible. Try to do as much as you can while standing upright. For spring cleaningexample, mop as much as you can rather than scrubbing on hands and knees. Use a mop or a similar device to clean the tub and shower. If you need to reach high-up areas, use a step stool or ladder; do not strain to reach it. Limiting the amount of bending and reaching you do will reduce the risk of straining back muscles.
  3. Keep the items you need nearby. When items are within arm’s reach you avoid having to bend or reach to grab them. The less you need to twist, reach, bend, or strain your back, the better.
  4. Don’t try to do everything in one day. Do the work in chunks, room to room, focusing on a couple areas per day. Take breaks and stay hydrated.

Stay unscathed while doing your spring cleaning this year. Many trips to the ER are preventable. Take your time and make the effort to keep your cleaning and yard work as safe as possible.

The Perils of Spring Break

Some college student’s spring breaks have come and gone. For some, it’s just around the corner. The safety of spring break drinkingchildren during a spring break trip is a concern for many parents. Spring breakers are basking in the freedom of vacation away from parents and there seems to be a never-ending flow of alcohol. This combination can be injurious and deadly. With four college aged grandchildren, I share that concern. Being injured in a strange place, away from home and the comfort and care of parents can be frightening for a young adult. Here is some information I found regarding spring break safety that you can pass on to your children.

Over-service of alcohol: This is a huge. When college aged students go on a spring break trip, you know alcohol will more than likely be consumed – and a lot of it. Most states have dram shop laws, which allow licensed establishments such as restaurants, bars, and liquor stores to be held liable for selling or serving alcohol to individuals who cause injuries or death as a result of their intoxication.

Social host liability: Similar to dram shop laws, if an adult hosts a parties and alcohol is consumed by minors and as a result, injury or death occur, the host of the party may be held responsible. Injuries in the case of social host and dram shop laws don’t have to be traffic related. This also includes acts of violence.

Traffic accidents: Between the last week of February and the first week of April, a considerably higher number of traffic fatalities occur in popular spring break destinations compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year. Sometimes, it’s as dangerous to walk home. With an elevated amount of negligent driving this time of year, there is also risk of getting struck by a car as a pedestrian. It’s best to leave the car behind, stay off your feet and hail a cab or use Uber or Lyft for a safe ride back to the hotel.

Alcohol related injuries: Binge drinking can come with a price. We’ve all read stories about young adults dying from alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much can also turn any normal activity into a dangerous one, such as a boating, swimming, sitting in a hot tub or standing on a balcony.  Also, binge drinking has also resulted in a number of sexual assaults.

What is the best way to protect your child? If your child is going on a spring break trip, make sure you educate them on the dangers of binge drinking. Tell them to stay in groups with people they know and never leave a party or bar with strangers. Ensure they understand the risks of drinking and driving or getting in the car with someone intoxicated. Perhaps even give them access to your Uber account for a free ride back to their hotel. The best course of action is to keep them from going on a spring break vacation. Of course, that is easier said than done.

Cold related injuries

Most individuals have the luxury of working in an office or some other type of edifice, so cold related injuries wouldcold rarely, if ever, be a concern. However, there are organizations and industries in which people work outside on a frequent or regular basis. Parks employees, road workers, construction, military, for example, have duties that involve braving the elements to earn a paycheck. While working outdoors, especially during winter weather, it’s important to take precautions to avoid injuries related to the cold.

Though apathy and lack of awareness may contribute to risk, there are other contributing factors to cold related injuries.

  • Inadequate or wet clothing
  • Consuming substances that inhibit the body’s response to cold, or that impair judgment.
  • Poor physical fitness
  • Illness, such as a cold or the flu
  • Becoming fatigued, restrained, injured, lost or entrapped out in the elements
  • Also, men have a notable higher rate of cold related injury than do women.

Damage can occur through the following conditions:

Cold stress: When the body struggles to maintain its normal temperature, the body will begin to shift blood flow from the extremities and outer skin to the chest and abdomen. Exposed skin and the extremities will cool more rapidly and increase the risk of more serious cold related injuries, such as frostbite and hypothermia. First indication is shivering.

Rewarm an individual suffering from cold stress by wrapping their body in blankets, finding shelter, and providing a radiant heat source. Encourage him or her to stay in motion to generate body heat.

Hypothermia: When the body is unable to replace heat lost to the elements, body temperature will become abnormally low.

Symptoms include:

  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Disorientation

More advanced indicators may involve:

  • The lack of shivering
  • Blue skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat

In the late stages, the victim might feel so hot they may want to remove clothing. If left untreated hypothermia can result in unconsciousness and eventually death.

Helping someone with hypothermia:

  • Request immediate medical assistance.
  • Move the person to a warm, dry room or shelter
  • Remove wet clothing, including shoes and socks
  • Keep the person in a horizontal position.
  • Cover him or her with layers of blankets or towels and a vapor barrier for example a tarp or garbage bag.
  • Cover the head and neck but not the face
  • If alert, offer a warm, sweetened, nonalcoholic beverage.
  • Place warm bottles or hot packs in armpits, the groin area and along sides of the chest.
  • Ask emergency technicians for additional rewarming instructions.

 

A person in late stage hypothermia and unconscious is in a lethal situation. Wrap him or her in blankets and quickly transport them to where they can receive medical attention. Do not attempt to rewarm them.  If they stop breathing or don’t have a pulse for the period of one minute, CPR should be started. However, don’t apply chest compressions without the direction of an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Immersion Hypothermia: This condition is when exposure to cold water results in hypothermia. Damage occurs more quickly when a person is wet as water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. Don’t let warmer water fool you. Immersion hypothermia can occur in water temperatures below 70°F.

Helping someone with this type of hypothermia is similar to nonimmersion hypothermia.

 Frostnip and Frostbite:  Frostnip is a mild freezing of the top layers of skin tissue and is reversible. Frostbite is irreversible and occurs when the skin freezes, causing ice crystals to form between cells. Toes, fingers, ears, cheeks and the nose are particularly prone to frostbite. In serious cases, tissue, muscle and bone may be affected and amputation may be required.

Symptoms of Frostbite:

  • Numbness, tingling, stinging or aching,
  • Bluish or pale, waxy skin.

If caught early, recovery from frostbite is possible.  If there is no danger of freezing, mildly frozen tissue may be rewarmed and insulated until medical attention is received.

In case of frostbite:

  • Get indoors immediately.
  • Seek medical attention.
  • Remove constrictive clothing and jewelry that could impair circulation.
  • Place dry, sterile gauze between toes and fingers to absorb moisture and keep them from sticking together
  • Elevate the affected area to reduce pain and swelling

Immediate care recommendations for deep frostbite:

  • Follow guidelines for the treatment of hypothermia.
  • Do not rub or massage the affected area to warm it.
  • Do not apply snow or water, or break blisters.
  • Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
  • Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area without professional medical assistance. For example, do not place in warm water. Rewarmed tissue sustains further damage if it refreezes.
  • Warm with radiant heat. Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp or the heat of a stove, fireplace or radiator. Numb extremities can be easily burned.

Trench/Immersion Foot:  This happens when the body, to reduce heat loss, constricts blood vessels to cut down circulation in the feet. Without circulation, the skin tissue will die. This can occur in temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet.

Symptoms include:

  • Numbness, a tingling and/or itching sensation accompanied by,
  • Redness, swelling, leg cramps, blisters or ulcers, and bleeding under the skin.
  • In some cases, gangrene may turn feet dark purple, blue or gray.

 For immediate care:

  • Avoid walking
  • Remove footwear and socks, and dry the feet.
  • Moving to a warm, dry area and using rewarming techniques is usually only minimally effective.
  • Seek medical treatment.

Chilblains: These are damaged capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. They are caused by repeated exposure to temperatures just above freezing and up to as high as 60°F. Damage is permanent.

Symptoms:

  • Redness and itching—usually on cheeks, ears, fingers and toes
  • Blistering, inflammation and, in severe cases, ulceration.

Caring of chilblains:

  • Avoid scratching.
  • Slowly warm the skin.
  • Use corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling.working outdoors
  • Keep blisters and ulcers clean and covered.
  • Seek medical advice.

 How to prevent these cold related injuries:

  • Use your head:
    • Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.
    • If working on ice, be sure it’s thick enough to safely support applied weight.
    • Take extra precautions if you are unaccustomed to the cold or exerting yourself at higher elevations.
  • Clothing:
    • Wear layers of cold weather clothing retain body heat and repel water.
    • Wool, silk and most synthetics retain their insulating properties when they are wet.
    • Pack extra clothing in case you get wet.
    • Wear goggles or sunglasses to protect your eyes and sunscreen to protect your skin, even when it’s overcast.
    • The Army Medical Department website states to remember the acronym COLD.
      • C: Keep it Clean; O: Avoid Overheating; L: Wear clothing Loose and in layers; D: Keep clothing Dry
    • Follow the rules:
      • Stay on paths and trails and out of restricted areas.
      • Use your phones for emergencies and do not use it while engaging in a work or recreation activity.
    • Avoid fatigue:
      • Staying fit year-round is one of the best ways to manage fatigue and prevent serious injuries.
      • Follow an exercise regimen that helps build strength, stamina and flexibility.
      • Always stretch before and after your activity.
      • Take a break in a warm place if you are in pain or feel exhausted.
      • Keep your body fueled and well-hydrated. Drink plenty of water, eat nutritious meals and carry snacks to boost your energy.
      • Cold-weather workers who wear heavy, protective clothing require 10-15 percent more calories a day compared to those working in temperate climates.

Much of this advice is common sense. Don’t put yourself in peril by not being prepared for being in cold weather. This information isn’t only for those who work in the cold, but those who play in it as well – skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, etc. Whether at work or play, use your head, wear appropriate clothing and bring extra, and stay out of restricted areas and you should be able to avoid cold related injuries.

Liquor licensee risks with New Years alcohol sales

The new year begins at the end of this week, and many people will be out reveling and ringing it in. Some may stay alcoholat home, but other will have a night out on then town. Those celebrating are not the only ones that need to be careful. If you are a bar or restaurant owner, bartender, or server, be vigilant when serving alcohol. You can be liable of you serve a minor or over-serve an overtly drunk individual. Under dram shop law, bar owners, servers, and retail stores can be held liable if they sell alcohol to a minor or someone who is already drunk, and that person in turn injures or kills a third party due to driving drunk or other by other means (such as assaults).  If the wounded party provides evidence that the serving or selling of the alcohol was the proximate cause of their injuries, they may be entitled to compensation.

Dram Shop law were put into place to protect the public from the irresponsible selling of alcohol to minors or discernibly intoxicated patrons.

Violations may include:
  • Selling alcohol to a minor
  • Over service of alcohol
  • Selling alcohol without checking ID
  • Selling alcohol without a license
  • Selling alcohol after hours
There are many ways to avoid becoming the defendant on the end of a dram shop claim.
  • If unsure about a patron’s age, check ID. This will prevent serving liquor to a minor.
  • Don’t be afraid to cut someone off. It’s not only a right, but a duty to stop serving a visibly intoxicated customer.drunk
  • Avoid overcrowding. Capacity is not just a number – overcrowding can lead to fights among other safety hazards.
  • Know the signs of intoxication. Not sure what they are? The State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission created a comprehensive list. View it here.
  • Don’t serve alcohol outside of legal sales hours. In Washington, liquor sales are allowed from 6 A.M. to 2 A.M. For more info, Wikipedia has a detailed list of liquor law by state.

Don’t think it can’t happen to you. I’ve helped many clients with dram shop claims. Whether in a car accident or assaulted by an intoxicated individual, I’ve proven liquor licensee liability.  Err on the side of caution when serving alcohol this weekend. You might save your business, your job, or even save a life.

Happy New Year to you.

Don’t let the New Year start deadly

New Year’s Eve is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol related car crashes and deaths.  According to the drinking and driving new yearNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on average, 130 deaths take place on New Year’s Eve.

Here are some tips regarding staying safe on New Years:

  • Designate a sober driver.
  • Save the number of a local cab service in your phone prior to heading out.
  • Hire a shuttle or limousine service to transport you and your friends to and from your event.
  • Take an Uber or Lyft home.
  • Stay in a hotel.

 

 

Don’t assume walking is a safe option.  New Years has the highest death rate of pedestrians than any other day of the year.  The walker is drunk in over a third of pedestrian fatalities.  Alcohol impairs your ability to walk and navigate, especially in the dark.  If you must walk:

  • As silly as it sounds, have a designated walker.
  • Drink responsibly
  • Stay on the sidewalk. If no sidewalk is available, walk facing traffic
  • If you plan ahead of time, wear bright colored clothing and carry a flashlight to be more visible to drivers.
  • Walk in groups. This help with visibility also.

If you’re driving, it’s very simple. Don’t drink.

Have a fun, but safe New Years Eve.

‘Tis the season for holiday decorating injuries

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but also ‘tis the season for emergency room visits to surge due to holiday decorating decorating injuriesinjuries. More than 15,000 individuals “decking the halls” find themselves in the ER during the month of December according to estimates by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a number that has steadily risen since 2009.

The most common injuries this time of year are falls, followed by lacerations and back strains. Fires are also a dangerous and deadly hazard. The U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System annual survey show that in 2009-2013, Christmas trees were the item first ignited in an estimated average of 210 reported home structure fires per year. These fires resulted in an annual average of 7 deaths, 19 injuries, and $17.5 million in direct property damage.

To see how fast a Christmas tree can ignite, watch this video.

Stay out of the ER, and better yet, the grave this holiday season by abiding by these safety tips while decorating:

Ladders

The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries offer the following tips when using a ladder to decorate:

  1. Carefully inspect the ladder for defects, checking for cracks, corrosion and that bolts and rivets are secure.
  2. Make sure the ladder’s feet work properly and have slip-resistant pads.
  3. Use a fiberglass ladder if there is any chance of contact with electricity.
  4. When setting the ladder, look for a safe location with firm, level footing and rigid support for the top of the ladder. Be sure to set it at an angle per the manufacturer’s guidance.
  5. When climbing off a ladder at an upper level, make sure the ladder extends three feet above the landing.
  6. When climbing the ladder, use three points of contact – keep one hand and both feet or both hands and one foot in contact with the ladder always.
  7. Never carry any load that could cause you to lose balance.
  8. Never stand on top of a ladder.
  9. Don’t pull, lean, stretch or make sudden moves on a ladder that could cause it to tip over.
  10. Avoid setting the ladder near exit doors, near the path of pedestrian or vehicular traffic.
Trees and Decorations
  1. If you buy a live tree, check for freshness. The fresher the tree the better and longer it will last. Make sure it is green, the needles are hard to pull from the branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The bottom of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  2. Place your tree away from heat sources. Trees should not be placed near fireplaces, vents, or radiators. Monitor water levels daily, and keep the tree stand filled with water.
  3. If you buy an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.” It’s doesn’t mean the tree will not catch fire, but it does mean the tree is more resistant to catching fire.
  4. Decorating with small children? Avoid sharp, weighted, or breakable decorations. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to reach for and swallow them.
Candles
  1. Keep burning candles within sight. Extinguish all candles before you go to bed, leave the room, or leave the menorah firehouse.
  2. Keep candles on a stable, heat-resistant surface. Place candles where kids and pets cannot reach them or knock them over. Lighted candles should be placed away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, other evergreens, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  3. Consider using flameless LED candles especially if small children and/or pets live in the home.
Lights
  1. Only use lights that have been tested by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. On decorative lights available in stores, UL’s red holographic label signifies that the product meets safety requirements for indoor and outdoor use. UL’s green holographic label signifies that the product meets requirements for indoor use only.
  2. Check each set of lights. Examine new and old lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Throw out damaged sets, and do not use electric lights on a metallic tree.
  3. Check each extension cord. Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use and are in good condition.
A few more tips to prevent holiday decorating injuries:
  1. Ensure all fire detectors are in good working order.
  2. Don’t overload outlets, inside or out.
  3. Keep pets away from trees, lights and cords.
  4. Don’t drink and decorate.

Don’t let your holiday become hazardous. Add safety to your list of  traditions and stay out of the ER this season.

Halloween Safety Part Two: Trick-or-Treating

If you read my last blog, you’ll know that Halloween is one of the top holidays for emergency room visits. WednesdayTrick-or-treating

I talked about costume safety. Today I talk about safety while Trick-or-Treating. Younger children should always be accompanied by an adult while trick-or-treating.  If you’re children are old enough to go on their own, make sure you talk to them about dangers they may encounter. Here are some tips to give older kids about Trick-or-Treat safety:

  • Have cell phones charged and on.
  • Be home by curfew or call immediately if there is a delay.
  • Take a flashlight, or at the very least, wear or carry glow sticks.
  • There is safety in numbers; don’t trick-or-treat alone.  Go in a group and stay together.
  • Never, ever go into a stranger’s house or car.  If this somehow happens, for instance, you’re forced in, scream as loud as possible to draw attention, and run away if feasible.
  • Only approach well lit houses.
  • Be aware of neighborhood dogs when trick-or-treating and remember that pets can impose a threat when you near their home.
  • Always use sidewalks and don’t walk in the streets, down alleys, or cut across lawns or driveways.
  • Use caution when crossing the street and make eye contact with drivers. Even the brightest, most reflective costumes can be hard to see when the sun goes down.
  • If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
  • Only cross the street as a group at corners, using traffic signals, and crosswalks when available. Never cross between parked cars or out driveway
  • There is a difference between tricks and vandalism. Don’t cross that line. Vandalism is illegal.

As a parent, you should know what route your child is travelling, where else they might be going, and with whom they’re going.

If worried about sexual predators, look up where they reside in your area and tell children to stay away from those houses. In many states, registered sex offenders are prohibited from passing out candy and some even have to post a “no candy” sign in their yard.

Don’t assume your children know the rules. It’s better to give them reminders and get the eye roll rather than end up in the emergency room.

 

Next week I’ll discuss driving safely on Halloween, and tips for keeping your home safe for trick-or-treaters and your family.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

sexual harassmentDonald Trump’s lewd video with Billy Bush once again brings his treatment of women to the forefront. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against Donald Trump and his companies with regard to sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. This isn’t breaking news either. Accusations against Trump and his upper echelon staff members date back at least 20 years.

Trump may make light of his behavior and call his vulgar conversation with Bush “locker room talk,” but sexual harassment and mistreatment of women is no laughing matter. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from sexual harassment. Unfortunately, even with legal protections, many employees still encounter this type of behavior in the workplace.

There are two types of sexual harassment.
  1. Quid pro quo:
    1. Submission to sexual harassment is a term or condition of employment.
    2. Submission to or rejection of such behaviors are used as a basis for employment decisions.
    3. Examples of Quid pro quo sexual harassment:
      1. Demanding sexual favors for a promotion or raise.
      2. Disciplining or firing a subordinate who ends a romance.
      3. Changing work standards after a subordinate refuses repeated requests for a date.
  2. Hostile work environment:
    1. Sexual harassment makes your workplace environment intimidating, hostile, or offensive.
    2. Examples of behaviors that can create a hostile environment:
      1. Verbal
        1. Sexual jokes or insults.
        2. Comments about a person’s body or sex life.
        3. Sexually demeaning comments.
      2. Non-Verbal
        1. Gestures or staring.
        2. Display of sexually suggestive or degrading materials.
        3. Giving sexually suggestive “gifts”.
      3. Physical
        1. Touching, hugging, kissing or patting.
        2. Brushing against a person’s body.
        3. Blocking a person’s movement.
What to do if sexually harassed at work
  1. Follow company policy: Look up your employer’s policy on sexual harassment and follow the procedures.
  2. Write everything down: Note the date, time, and place of each incident, what was said and done, and who witnessed the actions.
  3. Speak up: Let the other party know that his or her behavior is offensive and unwanted and ask them to stop.
  4. Tell a supervisor or human resources department: According to the Supreme Court, you must report sexual harassment before you can sue. Your employer needs a chance to fix the situation before taking the next step. Put it in writing as well. Everything should be documented.
  5. File a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): If you’ve followed company policy and reported harassment at work and the employer doesn’t or won’t take action, file with the EEOC. The EEOC will notify your employer that you have filed a charge and will begin an investigation into your complaint. You are legally protected from retaliation if you file a harassment charge with the EEOC.
  6. Litigation: If the EEOC issues a “right to sue” letter, you may bring a civil lawsuit for any damages you suffered due to the sexual harassment. You do not need to show physical injuries.  The most common injuries in a sexual harassment case are the emotional injuries suffered by the victim.

 

Courts consider the following when ruling on a hostile work environment:
  1. Was the conduct verbal, physical, or both?
  2. Frequency of conduct in question.
  3. Was the conduct hostile or patently offensive?
  4. Is the alleged harasser a co-worker or supervisor?
  5. Did others joined in perpetrating the harassment?
  6. Was the harassment directed at more than one individual?
A legal recovery may include:
  • Reinstatement, if job loss occurred;
  • Back pay;
  • Damages for emotional distress;
  • Policies or training to stop harassment may be required of your employer; and
  • Attorney’s fees and court costs.

If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, whether man or woman, or same-sex harassment, don’t be afraid to report it. Retaliation is also unlawful under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Pedestrian fatalities

A woman was killed last Friday night walking across 6th Avenue to her 50th high school reunion. Tragedies such as pedestrianthis happen all too often and are usually preventable. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 4,700 pedestrians were killed in traffic deaths in 2013, and more than 156,000 were treated in emergency departments for nonfatal injuries.  Though children 14 and under make up the majority of pedestrian fatalities (21%), the 65 and older demographic come in at a close second (19%).

Like the accident that occurred on Friday, most pedestrian deaths occur in urban areas, at night, at non-intersection locations. It’s important to be careful while crossing the street, especially at night. Even if it’s a bit of a walk, it’s better to cross at a designated crosswalk or intersection than in the middle of a busy thoroughfare.

Another factor in pedestrian deaths is alcohol. About a third of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher.

The NHTSA has advice for both pedestrians and drivers on how to avoid pedestrian traffic accidents.

For Pedestrians:
  • Walk on a sidewalk or path whenever available.
  • If there is no sidewalk or path available, walk facing traffic, on the shoulder, as far away from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including smart phones and other devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road environment.
  • Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles.
  • Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you).
  • Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.pedestrian crossing
  • Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections whenever possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for traffic while crossing.
  • Stay off of freeways, restricted-access highways and other pedestrian-prohibited roadways.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flash light at night.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs when walking; they impair abilities and judgment.
For Drivers:
  • Always and everywhere, be on the watch for pedestrians. Very often pedestrians are not walking where they should be.
  • Be especially vigilant for pedestrians in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or in inclement weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Always stop for pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They are stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
  • Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit, especially around pedestrians.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where there are children present.

Many cities across the United States have seen an increase of pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and are making changes accordingly. In Tacoma, they have added:

  • 167 curb ramps
  • 23 bulbouts
  • 157 crosswalks
  • 4 flashing beacon systems
  • 44 countdown pedestrian signal heads

Still, even with improvements by government entities, it is up to the pedestrian to be in charge of their own safety.  Be diligent and aware, whether you are the driver or pedestrian, it will help save lives.