Chemical injuries: More than skin deep

Work-related skin diseases affect employees in a wide range of jobs. Construction workers, hairdressers, mechanics, and healthcare providers all are considered at high risk for skin damage.

An allergic reaction or bout of dermatitis can force employees to take time off work. And in some cases, chemical exposure can lead to serious illness and permanent disability, including burns, poisoning, or systemic organ damage.

Here are tips for a safe work environment:

Provide the right gloves. Get a compatibility chart from the glove manufacturer and check it against the chemicals your employees use. Be aware that for some applications, frequent glove changes are the only way to provide protection.

Promote proper hygiene. If employees don’t wash regularly, dangerous chemicals can linger on their skin. Also warn employees about using creams and lotions before washing, as they can trap contaminants against the skin.

Go beyond gloves. Farm and landscape workers should wear long-sleeve shirts to limit pesticide exposure. More than 90 percent of all pesticide exposure occurs through the skin, and sweat often results in chemicals being absorbed more readily.

Educate and train. Increase employee awareness about the dangers of chemical exposure. Employees may forget about the long-term impact when they don’t see an immediate skin reaction. Review your chemical risks and train employees to respond appropriately. 

Limit exposure. Look for ways to eliminate chemical exposure. Are newer, non-toxic chemicals available? Can you automate a manual process? For example, Portland cement and metalworking fluids both have evolved over the years, and safer versions are now available.

Recognize that people’s reaction to chemical exposure will vary. Some employees may experience symptoms after just a single incident, while others can work with a chemical for years without issue.

How safety training and a lack of distraction saved a life

The following is a guest blog post written by Dom Mongarella, our Director of Risk Management. 

My daughter drove off to continue her sophomore year at college, nearly two hours from our home.

About 20 minutes after she left, she called because she thought the car was acting funny. I told her to go to the rest stop about a mile ahead of her, and I’d bring a car so she could drive that back while I drove her car.

On my way, I eased into the left lane to pass an 18-wheeler. I wasn’t fooling with the radio or on my phone. I was just driving.

Something caught my eye in the air ahead of me. It was a tire. In the air.

Now, a car tire and rim weigh about 40 pounds. I was traveling 73 miles an hour. That’s roughly 2,900 pounds of force in an impact, which is what happened.

Often, people will say time slows down in an accident, but that’s actually your adrenaline kicking in.

As the impact occurred, I braked and ducked to my right instinctively, causing me to start fishtailing. I didn’t know how close the truck was, and I knew there was a drop off on that side of the road. I decided to go left since there was a wire rope barrier separating the interstate. I hit the barrier and started seeing the support poles coming up out of the ground.

I told myself to duck in case one came through the windshield. I also thought, since my life wasn’t flashing before my eyes, I was going to be OK (a lot of thinking, right? There’s the adrenaline!).

After taking out seven support poles, I came to a stop. Because of the slope of the median, the car was tilted to the left and the door wouldn’t open. I saw what I thought was smoke (it was in fact just mist from the broken radiator and remnants of the dirt flying up), but I wanted out of there NOW. I threw my body against the door hard several times and it opened enough for me to get out.

I got away from the car and did a quick inventory. I didn’t see any blood, I could move, my head didn’t hurt, and my vision was clear. I couldn’t locate my phone anywhere, but a nice man stopped and called 911 for me.

When the Trooper arrived, all we could surmise was either the tire fell off a pickup or it was already on the roadway and an 18-wheeler clipped it and put it in motion. I’ll never know.

Safety lessons learned 
In my “safety” life, I spent seven years as a AAA Driving Improvement instructor and another five teaching defensive driving courses in Texas. I think my training helped guide my actions during those 30 seconds after the tire hit my car.

That I walked away unhurt is a testimony to the seat belt. That I was able to maintain some semblance of control is because I wasn’t messing around with something that distracted me.

I am sharing my story because in an instant, my life was almost changed and I don’t want that to happen to you. Wear your seat belt, avoid distractions, and take an afternoon to attend a defensive driver’s course. It doesn’t make any difference how long you’ve been driving; I guarantee you’ll learn or remember something, and you may save a few bucks on your insurance, too*.

*As a SECURA policyholder, you may be eligible for a discount if you are over the age of 55 and complete a driving course. Talk to your independent agent to learn more.

Dom Mongarella is SECURA’s Director–Risk Management. In this role, he is responsible for enhancing risk management services, and leveraging the knowledge and strengths of his team to support our agent partners and promote safety for our policyholders. In addition to his long history of safety, risk management, and loss prevention roles, Dom served 21 years in the United States Air Force.

Your spring farm equipment checklist

Many farmers already are out in their fields. But it’s important to spend some time in the maintenance shop, too. Make sure your equipment is ready and reliable from planting to harvest.

Tractor maintenance.
Your tractor should idle smoothly. Check or change fluids to ensure purity and remove any water that may have condensed inside mechanical housings and hoses.

Make sure brakes, clutches, and cooling systems are all in working order. Check rubber hoses and belts for cracks, as those could lead to breakdowns in the future.

Think about accident prevention, too. Double check that front and back hazard lights are in good working order and that appropriate slow moving vehicle placards are placed correctly, visible, and in good condition.

Farm tire inspection. Check tires and rims for rust, damage, or premature wear. Next, make sure tires are properly inflated for the work ahead.

According to the USDA, properly inflated tires will generate 25% more pull than over-inflated tires. The right inflation will reduce fuel consumption, field time, and soil compaction.

Since ideal tire inflation varies based on your load and task, Titan and Goodyear Farm Tires developed a mobile Tire Manager app to help you manage air pressure in the field.

Ventilation. Test fans and confinement ventilation systems to make sure they’re in working order. Same goes for your floor fans and any other cooling systems in your buildings.

Watering systems. Check the plumbing and replace filters if you use a purification system. Periodic inspections are important to ensure proper operation and care of livestock.

Proactive maintenance will help you avoid safety issues and equipment malfunctions, and hopefully keep you out of crisis mode during the busy season.

Smoking and driving — more dangerous than cellphones?

The driver of a heavy SUV sped through a stop light while trying to light a cigarette. You can imagine the scene: a cigarette in his mouth, an elbow on the steering wheel, and the other hand fumbling with a butane lighter. The driver narrowly missed several cars waiting to make a left-hand turn.

A lot of attention is focused on distracted driving and cellphone use lately, and rightly so. But many can become complacent about the dangers that smoking and driving can present.

An Italian study suggests that smoking and driving is even more dangerous than cellphone use while driving. In this study, at 31 mph, it took the average cellphone user 10.6 seconds to react to stimuli, while smokers took 12 seconds. The former group took 492 feet to come to a stop, while the latter took 523 feet. Those results in distance and danger increase exponentially with speed. The study suggests that smoking while driving is a hazard for both drivers and the public with whom they share the road.

Another study suggests that the smoke and particulate matter inside the vehicle, combined with the distraction of handling smoking materials and the behavioral risk habits of smokers themselves, leads to increased danger while driving. Smokers frequently squint to see through smoke in their vehicles or try to find a lit cigarette that fell from their lips before it burns a hole in the seat or carpet. 

Many states do not allow smoking in the workplace. In theory, employees who use their vehicles or company-assigned vehicles should not smoke while on company business. However, enforcement is often lax and varies from business to business. Smoking in a vehicle decreases its value, saturating upholstery and carpet with odors and burns. It also leaves a film on glass and hard surfaces.

The link between smoking and driving is so strong for many drivers that some counselors recommend quitting lighting up in the car before quitting altogether. It is not an easy behavior to correct, but it is one that affects the bottom line of every business owner.

Employers should enforce no-smoking-while-driving rules and educate their employees about the other dangers smoking drivers can create for their business.

Get more safety resources on Prevention Connection

If you visit our blog often, you know you’ll find lots of risk management tips and insurance information. We also have another online safety resource: Prevention ConnectionSM.

This site features a variety of topics to help you improve your safety, whether you run a business or nonprofit, have a home, or own a farm.

Plus, SECURA policyholders have access on the site to on-demand video training geared toward helping business owners and employers educate their employees about safety. You’ll need your SECURA policy number to view the videos.

Access Prevention Connection on secura.net.