Health & Wellness

I live in a moderate climate, but we had some 102 degree weather and it reminded me of how important it is to have a heat stress program and educate our workers.

Here are some tips and suggestions for keeping this hazard under control:

  • Mandatory rest/water breaks (time between work & break dependent on heat) in shade
  • Monitor/measure water consumption (& urine, if extreme)
  • Educate employees on symptoms and factors which might contribute (medications, were you drinking last night?= deydration)
  • Always work with a partner
  • Flexible work schedule (start early, leave when conditions get unbearable)
  • Increase ventilation
  • Consider the space (attics can be worse than conditions outside)
  • Provide easy access to emergency services
  • One of the coolest (pun intended) ways is a “smart” vest with a downloadable app – workers wear this safety vest and it will alert people when symptoms/conditions get bad (heart rate, temperature, etc). Developed in Australia by RMIT University in Melbourne.



Can we measure an exposure accurately with just one sample? (statistically, no.) Also consider: Can we measure a “worst case” scenario and be OK for the rest of the project? (again, hypothetical question)

There was a blog post, here by Mike Jayjock, which reminded me of how silly our data points (aka industrial hygiene sample results) are in the big picture of statistics.  I’m slowly reading a book titled, “Control Banding” by David Zalk who is with Lawrence Livermore National Labs. The CDC also has a section on control banding here.

Another side of this is a common practice we all perform called Risk Analysis. There is much on the subject, but essentially it’s similar to triage at an emergency room. What is the easiest, best thing you can do: given what you have available and what you are able to muster?safety triangle

Too often (myself included) we perform air monitoring for a specific situation and use that information as the gospel-truth. Well, this might be like living in the United States and never traveling. We meet a very nice person from the Ukraine. They seem very typical Eastern European and have a thick accent, but are they really like everyone in Russia? Is this person typical? Are they exactly like every other person from Russia?

This type of stereotyping is the same as taking one sample and drawing conclusions about all exposures. You might be right, BUT…you might be wrong.

There is a fun app you can download called, IH DIG by Adam Geitgey (Apple & Android).  This app illustrates the importance of using statistical tools, rather than guessing. (It’s a game)

Sorry I do not have many answers in this post, just a lot of questions.

Industrial hygiene (aka occupational hygiene) focuses on occupational-related diseases due to many reasons.home fireplace

Have you considered, at your home, maybe even as you sleep, you might be exposed to something hazardous? Below are seven possible hazards in your home (related to IH):

  1. Radon. It comes from the ground and they say it causes cancer* (*some people question this toxicological data). You must perform a test to know if you have hazardous levels.
  2. Formaldehyde. If you have a newer house you have 2 things going against you: 1. your house is tightly built (no air leaks and limited fresh air) and 2. more particle board (recycled wood) was used in construction. Also, many furniture contains multidensity fiber wood (MDF) which off gas formaldehyde. Again test for it to know if you have dangerous levels.
  3. Lead. Is your house built prior to 1978? It probably has leaded paint. Any remodeling might distrupt it and you can expose your kids to lead.
  4. Isocyantes. (HDI, TDI, MDI, and others) Can cause asthma & respiratory issues. If your house was insulated with spray foam (polyurethane type) it needs to off-gas for awhile before you move right in.
  5. Asbestos. Causes cancer when airborne. If your house was built prior to 1980, you might have asbestos in your pipe insulation, popcorn ceiling, etc. Be sure and have it checked prior to remodeling.
  6. Mold. Respiratory diseases.
  7. Cleaning products. The symptoms can vary depending on the type of chemicals in the product. Use the recommended gloves, eye protection and respirator, if necessary, while cleaning with chemicals.

Do not be overly concerned about any one thing. Simply test and make any necessary adjustments. However, do keep in mind that most health recommendations for substances relate to normal working adults who go home to a non-hazardous place. There can be issues if you are either: not considered in the general population of healthy workers and, you go home to a place that isn’t free of additional hazards.

I had the opportunity to attend a construction safety award presentation and listen to various commercial construction companies (GC, and Specialty Contractors) explain why their company deserved an award. Owners, CEOs, Safety Directors, and Employees spoke about their company. Their stories were amazing. Below I have listed some of the ideas that inspired me. They may not, at first glace, appear to be amazing. However, consider when the CEO tells a story that makes him cry, or when a superintendent explains how he is part of a family,…. it makes the words ring different.

Here are my takeaways:

  • Safety really starts at the top. It’s not a priority, it’s a core value. Check out the Injury Free Forum (IIF).
    • This is basically a club/meeting for CEOs to gather and talk about how to prevent injuries. It’s ‘almost’ an invite-only type of event. But, if you’re a CEO/President you should think about it. (helps if you live in the NE part of the US)
    • Here are some companies participating, Gilbane, Gilbane video (yep, it’s good), JMJ Associates, Baker Concrete video
  • During initial employee orientation;
    • one company has each employee write a letter to their family saying (apologizing) why they are gone/dead. This really emphasizes to each individual why they need to work safe.
    • the CEO gives each new employee his business card and tell them to call him directly if they are asked to do something unsafe.
    • each new employee is assigned a mentor (the time period varies from 2 weeks to 1 month) to watch them work safely.
  • Each employee has the right to stop work due to safety. If they do it: the CEO/President writes them a personal thank you note.
  • Make each near miss a incident, but do NOT have a lot of paperwork, just simple documentation for future learning.
  • Have a innovative idea challenge at your company for good safety ideas.
    • Put a bar code on infrequently used tools. Link to a short video which explains how to use it.
    • Zip tie PPE onto the tools upon checkout.
  • Send your “Safety Incident” or “Safety Summary” to their home. Ask them to put it on their fridge. Then, run a contest. Randomly find a name & call that employee to see if they can tell you what the safety topic is. Give a prize. Repeat.
  • Look at the design. A large GC mandated that every hole in their project have safety netting installed during the concrete pour. …and they did it!
  • An electrical firm uses no knives. None. Think that helps cut down on injuries? (pun intended)

The goal is zero injuries. So, what happens after zero injuries? How about sending your spouse to work…and they come home healthier! It’s not far away for some companies, Health & Wellness programs are already being implemented. For whom are you working? Here’s one of my reasons:

live work