Drug and alcohol use and abuse in the workplace come at a high cost. The U.S. Department of Labor says on-the-job errors, as well as absenteeism and accidents, can often be traced to alcohol and drugs. Some costs are not so obvious. They include low morale and higher illness rates. Many deaths in the workplace are a result of alcohol or drug abuse, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
Employers can help do something about it. They can start education programs teaching workers the dangers of drug use. They can urge employees with drug and alcohol problems to get help. Or they can initiate random drug tests or pre-screen job applicants.
The Oklahoma Drug Free Workplace Alliance is one answer to the problem. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao participated in a ceremony recently that broadened the Alliance.
At the signing ceremony were five union representatives and the representatives of several contractors. Unions on hand were the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers, the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Contractors included the Associated General Contractors, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, the National Asphalt Pavement Association, NEA – The Association of Union Constructors, and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association.
The alliance was set up in 2004 by the U.S. Labor Department to create cooperation in order to prevent drug abuse and thereby improve the safety of workers. It is aimed specifically at the mining and construction industries. Its general goal is to focus attention on the dangers and problems in the workplace that result from alcohol and drug abuse.
“Only by addressing drug and alcohol abuse among the entire workforce – those currently employed and those preparing to enter employment – can a drug free American workforce be achieved,” said a spokesperson for the Labor Department.
Have you ever used a powered industrial truck, or forklift? The Oklahoma OSHA recently reported that there are a high number of injuries and deaths that are related to powered industrial truck instability. These machines are among the most hazardous of workplace equipment, and they are used in almost every industry. According to statistics offered by the Dept of Labor, about 20,000 workers are seriously injured in a powered industrial truck accident every year.
Would you believe that most of these accidents were preventable? We all know the phrase ‘accidents happen,’ but we should start saying that accidents can be prevented. Each year about 100 people die due to accidents with power industrial trucks. How many of them did not have to die? The “Employer’s Guide to Material Handling Safety” has many helpful guidelines that could prevent many of the accidents that take place in an average year.
Here are some important tips to remember when you are operating a powered industrial truck:
Forklifts are not as stable as cars.
Wear you seatbelt.
If you aren’t trained, don’t use one (unless you are training).
The forks should be lowered when the truck is in reverse, with or without a load.
Remembering these tips can help you and your colleagues avoid accidents. Remembering the instability of powered industrial trucks will help people be more cautious when operating them. One of the most common misconceptions that untrained people assume is that the truck will handle like a car. Powered industrial trucks don’t have the same maneuverability as cars or the same stability or speed. They should be driven slower, sharp turns should never be made, and the weight and positioning of the load has to be considered.
Employers should make sure that all powered industrial truck operators are properly trained. Safety information should be labeled on the trucks. Most importantly, workers should be reminded of precautions and occasionally monitored for adherence to those precautions.
The Oklahoma Drug Free Workplace Alliance is expanding. The alliance was created in 2004. The US Department of Labor created the alliance in an effort to protect employees by focusing on alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace.
The alliance demonstrates how important the country feels this problem is. By joining forces with unions and contractor associations, the US Department of Labor hopes to reduce the problem of abuse.
OSHA has pointed out how big this problem is. Most drug users are employed, and their abuse problem follows them to work. Consider that of the 16.7 million adults who use illicit drugs, 74.3% of them have full-time or part-time jobs. That means that 12.4 million workers use drugs. To get a clearer view of the problem, also consider that OSHA has said that of the workers killed on the job, tests show that 20% of them had drugs or alcohol in their systems.
Oklahoma employers can do a lot to help workers and to protect their businesses. Employers can educate workers on the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. They also can help employees with abuse problems find assistance. In addition, many employers do random drug testing along with pre-employment drug screenings.
The Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao, was at the signing ceremony marking the expansion of the Oklahoma Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The program will work to reduce the hazardous problem of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace.
Abuse costs the nation’s businesses a great deal. For instance, increases in employee absenteeism, errors, and accidents, along with low employee morale and more illnesses are all the result of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace. Moreover, OSHA has stated that of the fatal workplace auto accidents, most of them involved alcohol or drug abuse.
Solving the hazardous problem of alcohol and drug abuse, especially in industries where machinery is operated, is the goal of the alliance.
Old abandoned mines may seem like a great place to play. But the old sites, some of them water-filled quarries and some of them heaps of old stockpiles, can be deadly.
The danger is not only a threat to Oklahoma worker safety. Outdoor sports enthusiasts and children are also at risk.
Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, or MSHA, estimates there are about 500,000 abandoned mines and 14,000 active operations throughout the U.S. Of them, many contain “hidden hazards, and for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly.”
As a result, MSHA has begun urging rock climbers, swimmers, bikers, and workers to “Stay Out – Stay Alive,” a public safety push warning workers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts about the risks of trespassing on mine sites.
More than 200 people have died in mine-related mishaps since 1999 alone, and many of those were children and recreational users. Children sometimes go one mining property to play. To help stem the danger to children, U.S. mining professionals in safety and health will be visiting schools, scout organizations, and other groups to talk to youngsters about the risks involved in playing on mine property.
Whether you’re a rock climber, a hiker, a swimmer, a bicyclist, or a worker not directly related to the mining site, the old abandoned mines can be a danger. Quarries and surface mines are two kinds of hazards. Surface mines, for example, may pose dangers to all terrain vehicle drivers, when their ATVs roll over on hills of loose materials from old stockpiles. Quarries may look harmless, but there are potential hidden dangers. They frequently contain sharp objects – old machinery below the surface of the water. The cold, deep waters can surprise swimmers. The rock ledges may be unstable and the slopes dangerously slippery.
Mine accidents are not just the disastrous collapses featured in the news. Most involve these risks to children, recreational enthusiasts, and workers from other industries.
If you are an employer, now is the time to post an updated Slips Trips Falls poster in your workplace.
That’s because Oklahoma OSHA standards on the subject of slips, trips, and falls have been revised recently. Slips, trips, and falls are a common workplace problem. They are second only to vehicle accidents when it comes to fatalities, and they cause 15% of all accidental deaths. They are the leading type of general industry mishaps.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, strong safety awareness programs are important when it comes to stopping accidents – and that includes slips, trips, and falls. The most commonly overlooked way of stopping the problem is simple housekeeping. If you as an employer keep all of your areas – whether they are service rooms, storerooms, or passageways – clean and orderly, you are helping promote safety. That, plus the prominent display of your Slips Trips Falls Poster, will go a long way toward accident prevention. Posters will remind workers to clean up every spill and spot.
The revised Oklahoma OSHA standards apply to just about all workplaces. The few exceptions are those permanent places where agricultural, mining, or domestic work is being performed. According to OSHA, every workplace floor must be kept clean and as dry as possible. Sometimes, industrial work requires a “wet” process. In those cases, you must have drainage, as well as mats, raised platforms, or gratings.
Besides cleanliness, obstructions must be eliminated. No loose boards, protruding nails, holes, or splinters are allowed. Aisles and passageways come in for special consideration. They must be kept free of dangerous obstructions, and must be marked. They must be wide enough for two people to pass, because narrow aisles, traffic, and messes can lead to injuries. They can also cause equipment damage, and even block exits in emergencies. Blocked exits become serious issues when workers are rushing to leave buildings.