Lone worker safety tips

Home healthcare workers, janitors, maintenance and repair staff, delivery personnel, late-night gas station attendants, and security workers have something in common: they often work in isolation. And as businesses try to do more with less, the ranks of lone workers are likely to increase.

These employees face special risks, and employers must do what they can to ensure their safety.

According to OSHA regulations, an employer must visually or verbally account for lone workers during each work shift, at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment. While this requirement is open to interpretation, one basic question can help guide what level of monitoring is appropriate: Based on the risks associated with this job, what is an acceptable amount of time for a worker to wait for help?

A three-pronged approach to isolated worker safety might also help:
  1. Identify the hazards.
  2. Evaluate the level of the risks involved.
  3. Put measures in place to avoid or control the risks.
Just as hardhats, steel-toed shoes, safety glasses, and reflective clothing are common elements of personal protective equipment, a reliable communication system should be considered safety equipment for lone workers. Cell phones or two-way radios may be appropriate for most situations, but if a worker is unable to call for help, a lone worker man-down warning system automatically will send an alarm signal to supervisors at a monitoring station.

Education and experience are probably the most effective ways to ensure the safety of isolated workers. Employers should provide proper training so lone workers will more likely be able to avoid dangerous situations or know how to respond to challenges or emergencies that arise.

How to recycle unusual items

You likely know about recycling cans and bottles, but what about those uncommon items like fluorescent bulbs, half-empty paint cans, or old medications? Read on to learn how to properly dispose of those unusual personal and household items.

Unused or expired medicine and prescriptions
Some medications can be very hazardous to others and the environment. Do not flush old medicines down the toilet or leave them in your cupboard.

Benefits:
  • Improve water quality
  • Reduce drug-related crime
  • Prevent prescription drug abuse
  • Prevent accidental poisoning, especially in children and pets
Many pharmacies will take unused medications. Find a drop-off location near you.

Intact eye glasses and hearing aids
Has your eye prescription changed or have you gotten a newer hearing aid? Donate your unused items to help others see and hear the world around them.

Benefits:
  • Help those in need and others in underprivileged countries enjoy better vision and hearing
  • Reduce waste in landfills
Contact your local Lions Club to learn more about donating eyeglasses, and visit the National Hearing Aid Project to donate a hearing aid.

Household hazardous materials
This includes items like waste oil and filters, drain or oven cleaners, household cleaners, paint, weed killers, herbicides, and pesticides.

Benefits:
  • Avoid environmental hazards and protect scarce natural resources
  • Reduce the nation's reliance on raw materials and energy
Learn more about how to dispose of hazardous waste, and search online for drop-off locations near you.

Lights, bulbs, and ballasts
Many people do not realize that fluorescent bulbs release hazardous chemicals when broken. Proper disposal is important.

Benefit:
  • Keeps mercury-containing products out of waste disposal streams
Many utility companies will accept your old light bulbs, as well as many national retailers including Lowes, Home Depot, IKEA, and most hardware store chains. Other items that should be recycled include holiday lights and extension cords.

Plastic bags and plastic film

One of the biggest pollutants in our landfills and oceans is plastic bags. Additional items include plastic product wrap used to package paper towels, diapers, bathroom tissue, water bottles, electronics, and other items.

Benefits:
  • Conserve energy
  • Keep bags and wrap out of our landfills, streets, and the environment
  • Plastic bags are recycled into many different products, including composite lumber, small pellets, and resin used in a variety of products including new bags, pallets, containers, crates, and pipes.
Search for local drop-off sites.

Do your part to protect our world and recycle when possible.

How to properly dispose of an American flag

When your American flag becomes too worn to serve as a proper emblem of our country, it’s time to retire the flag and replace it with a new one. In honor of Flag Day, here’s a quick reminder about how to properly retire and dispose of unserviceable American flags:

Seek local resources
Contact your local veteran services groups such as the VFW, American Legion Post, or D.A.V. to ask about dropping off your flag. Some of these groups will hold an annual flag retirement ceremony as a community service.

Burn safely and respectfully
You may burn a flag to retire it. The flag should be burned completely and the ashes buried. To add the appropriate respect, the VFW recommends all those present come to attention, salute the flag, and recite the Pledge of Allegiance before observing a brief moment of silence.

Be aware, however, that burning is best for cotton flags. Nylon or polyester flags give off fumes when burned, and these can be hazardous to both observers and the environment.

Cut and bury
The Boy Scouts of America recommends a procedure to cut the flag (never through the blue star field). When that is done, the flag ceases to be a flag and can be disposed of in any proper manner. Other resources suggest burying the flag as a respectful disposal method.

Send off for recycling
You also may send your flag to a recycling group such as Flag Keepers or American Flags Express. This is a safer alternative to burning flags made of synthetic materials. Notably, Flag Keepers also accepts state flags as well as those from friendly foreign governments.

For more information, see The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions.

7 bathroom safety tips for seniors

Bathroom safety is critical for aging seniors. As reported in the New York Times, more than 235,000 emergency room visits can be attributed to bathroom accidents each year. And injury rates increase rapidly for people over 75.

Follow these tips for bathroom fall prevention:

1. Add grab bars
Bathroom grab bars can help an older person or those with physical limitations lift or lower themselves from the tub or toilet. Install these securely by anchoring them to the studs in your walls.

2. Raise the toilet seat
For those experiencing mobility issues, a raised toilet seat can make it easier to use the bathroom. Raised seats with built-in arms provide additional leverage.

3. Improve lighting
Many people need to use the bathroom throughout the night. Install nightlights in the bathroom and adjacent hallway to ensure seniors can see their way around.

4. Lower barriers
Replace traditional tubs with a walk-in shower or tub. Walk-in tubs allow users to enter the bath via a door, without having to lift their legs over a high threshold.

5. Use a chair
For those with balance or dizziness issues, a plastic chair with non-skid legs may be an appreciated addition to the shower.

6. Prevent slips
No-slip bathmats and tub decals are a recommended safety tool for people of any age. But these become particularly important as we age and become less steady on our feet.

7. Accommodate visiting seniors
If you have older relatives who visit regularly, consider purchasing toilet safety rails. Some systems screw into the wall, but portable models are available so you can fold and hide the rails away after a visit.

Visit a home medical store to learn about other bathroom safety aides. Your local charity shops also may have donated equipment in stock. Or, look for home modification programs in your area.

4 overlooked boat maintenance tips

No one should expect to pull their boat out of winter storage and head to the water without first performing some basic maintenance. Batteries need charging, oil needs changing, and belts, hoses, and cables need checking.

But in the excitement, we sometimes forget these other boating maintenance essentials.

1. Regulations and responsibilities

Familiarize yourself with state and federal regulations and changes since last season. Renew registration and insurance if necessary. New boaters should take a boater education course and carry their certification. If you’ll be fishing, carry that license too.

2. Safety equipment
Check the personal flotation devices (PFDs) to ensure they still fit the passengers they were meant for. If needed, recharge or replace fire extinguishers, expired signal flares, and air horns or similar signals. If your boat has an enclosed cabin, replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector. Restock the first aid kit.

3. Trailer

Don’t overlook the trailer. Repack bearings, inspect tires and spare, and tighten lug nuts. Check the safety chains and coupler hitch, and test the lights and turn signals.

4. Tools and parts

Despite your best maintenance efforts, breakdowns can occur, but with the proper tool kit you may still save the day. Allen wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, a spark plug wrench, utility knife, adjustable wrench, vise grip, and long needle nose pliers are essentials. A telescoping magnet is handy for retrieving dropped nuts and bolts.

Cover the tools with a light coat of oil to prevent rust. Bring extra parts that are most likely to fail: spark plugs, fuel filter, fuses, belts, hoses, clamps, shear pins, and light bulbs. Add electrical tape, terminals and connectors, motor oil, and hand wipes.

Following these tips will help you prepare for all but the most serious boat breakdowns and make sure your day on the water is smooth sailing.