If you’ve ever worked a job which involves night shifts, you’ll be all too familiar with the havoc it can wreak on your body. Human beings are ultimately incredibly intelligent and complicated animals – animals who are supposed to hunt during the day and sleep at night. As a result, our body clock is adapted to work with the sun, causing us to feel awake and alert during the day and tired and sleepy at night. It’s simple biology. However, in the 24-hour world we consistently find ourselves in, more and more workers are being forced to fight their instincts and work tirelessly through the night.
This leads to a whole host of contradictory advice which doesn’t get anyone anywhere. People might say “take a power nap” or “eat a snack”, and although this can temporarily help when working unnatural hours, you’re fighting against millions of years of biological evolution – it’s a losing battle.
The effects of shift work and exhaustion
Approximately 16% of shift workers frequently work shifts in the evening or night, causing their sleeping patterns to go haywire. As a result, they are 60% more likely to fall asleep on the job compared to people who work regular hours in the day. This is obviously dangerous, especially seeing as many night shift workers are employed in dangerous of critical jobs, such as hospitals or warehouses with dangerous machinery.
This, of course, means that there’s an increased risk of accidents on the job due to falling asleep, with sleepy shift workers endangering both themselves and others. The commute home can be dangerous too, especially if exhausted drivers are trying to stay awake while behind the wheel. Needlessly to say, this irregular sleep also leads to reduced efficiency and productivity during the shift itself, leaving employers dissatisfied.
So what is the solution?
Alas, the best cure for shift work-related tiredness is sleep, and lots of it. If you cannot get the required sleep, taking regular naps can help to improve one’s alertness, at least for a while. It’s recommended that shift workers take a nap before driving home in the morning, improving their alertness for their commute, although this is obviously not always practical, and many people find it difficult to sleep when not in a cozy or familiar environment.
You should ideally take a nap for more than an hour in order to improve alertness, although this is obviously not practical in most workplaces. The other downside here is that longer naps can lead to sleep inertia, making you feel sluggish and groggy after waking up. Ironically, the hour after a long nap can actually make your performance even more impaired than before, making it difficult to strike a balance of naps and regular sleep which fulfills your needs and keep you running at an optimal pace throughout the night.
If you’re going to nap but you have limited time to do so, 30-minute (or less) “power naps” may be your best option. These power naps help to improve your alertness without giving you that groggy feeling which makes it hard to concentrate.
What about food?
Although it can be tempting to binge on high-energy foods during a long night shift, the body simply is not designed to digest food during the night, meaning that eating may actually make you feel more sluggish. Studies conducted on night shift workers have found that people who eat large meals during night shifts find it harder to concentrate than those who don’t eat anything at all. Those who ate a lot during their night shift also felt sleepier and more bloated than those who ate nothing or very little. It seems that snacking or eating nothing at all is the best solution for night shift workers, although once again, this isn’t a very practical option either.
Ultimately, power naps and snacks are not enough to sustain someone through a night shift. In reality, there is very little than you can do other than apply the tips we have discussed in the blog and try to catch sleep whenever possible in the rest of the week. Although you may get paid extra for working nights, is the constant tiredness you feel on your days off really worth it?
If you’re looking for advice on night shift work and accidents which are more likely to happen in workplaces during nights, feel free to speak to a member of our insurance team today!
Heat exhaustion and heat stress are very real concerns for people who work in hot climates, especially if their workplaces don’t come equipped with air conditioning, like if they work outside. Heat stress in the workplace can be a problem for many US workers, especially if they live in a cold area which is unequipped for heat and then a heatwave strikes out of nowhere! Here we offer you some tips for managing heat stress in the workplace.
If you suspect that you may be undergoing heat stroke or heat exhaustion, you should initially tell someone and seek medical aid if necessary. If possible, you should move to a shaded area or a cool, air-conditioned area where you can begin to cool down and rehydrate. Be sure to drink plenty of cool water and spray yourself with cool water to control your temperature, and try to remove or loosen any clothing which may be making you too hot, as long as it is safe to do so.
Take preventive action
Certain everyday measures are likely to make you better in heat-stress situations. For example, staying fit and healthy will naturally regulate your body temperature more effectively. In addition, you should avoid working in the full sun if possible, taking breaks as you feel necessary. Regular sunblock application is recommended, as well as wearing lightweight clothing which covers your skin to avoid burns. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol if possible too, as these can dehydrate you and wreak havoc in a hot situation.
How employers can help
Employers should provide free drinking water to their workers, allowing them to take rest breaks in cool/shaded areas regularly. They should also provide fans and A/C where possible and automate any labor-intensive processes with machinery where they can. It’s also good practice to schedule work for cooler periods of the day if possible, especially if your employees are working outside.
Heat stress, heat stroke, and heat exhaustion are all growing concerns for many workplaces in the US and overseas, and more and more employers are realizing that their workforces may be at risk. If you’re looking for advice on heat stress and insurance policies which cover it, why not speak to a member of our team today?
Although the US is known for its romanticized “workaholic” culture, more and more workers are finding themselves becoming ill and fatigued as the demands of their working lives and personal lives make it difficult for them to cope. Fatigue itself has become a big issue in workforces as of late, with the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine defining fatigue as the body’s response to sleep deprivation or lengthy mental or physical hard work.
What causes fatigue in workers?
Although some causes of fatigue are out of employers’ control, many factors of it are related to subpar working conditions. For example, working long hours, a lack of sleep, and having a heavy workload are all conducive to the development of fatigue, as well as miscellaneous medical conditions and environmental factors which could indeed be aggravated by a rigorous working culture.
Matthew Hallowell, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, explains how fatigue can even come about due to social interactions in the workplace:
“You can be fatigued simply if you go to work and have really poor social interactions with your co-workers – it’s not just about how much sleep you get.”
The professor explained the main reasons for workers developing fatigue in American workplaces:
“The industries that are at highest risk would be those where people are working long hours, overtime, many days in a row, when they’re exposed to harsh environmental conditions, like working outside in the rain, snow. Environmental conditions can include things like noise or vibration, really heavy mental task loads for long periods of time. You can extend to what industries that defines, like electrical transmission and distribution line workers, or people who drive snowplows.”
As the cost of living rises, especially in well-populated states such as California, more and more citizens are being forced to work multiple jobs, something which is leading many people to develop fatigue. According to research, those who work multiple jobs get 40 minutes less sleep per average on a daily basis than those with simpler working lives.
What are the effects of fatigue?
All of this is a problem for employers, as fatigue can cause their workers to become not only disengaged and unenthusiastic but physically and mentally impaired too, making them less efficient at their jobs due to their fatigued condition. For example, fatigued individuals have slower reaction times, decreased cognitive ability, and have a tendency to make more mistakes than their well-slept counterparts. Although fatigue is found in industries across the job market, it is particularly prevalent among healthcare workers, drivers, and shift workers, who often work long/unusual hours and are in positions where they could seriously injure themselves or others if their concentration lapses due to exhaustion.
The annual incidence rate for US workers who sleep 7-8 hours per day is around 2.27 per 100 workers. However, for those who sleep 5 hours or less per day, there are around 7.89 incidents per 100 workers. As a result, fatigued workers are more than 3 times as likely to get involved in an incident when compared to well-slept workers.
Fatigue risk management systems
The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a statement in 2012 advising employers on lowering rates of fatigue in their workers. The fatigue risk management system proposed by the ACOEM suggests that employers should balance their staffing and workload so that workloads are reasonable, manage their shift schedules so that employees have reasonable time to adjust to sleep patterns, and train employees on managing fatigue and sleep disorders. Furthermore, they suggest that workplaces should be designed to minimize the effects of fatigue, and the condition should be monitored by management before it gets out of hand.
The ACOEM statement also suggests that workers should be trained and educated regarding health issues relating to sleep and fatigue, as well following a proper diet and exercise routine which is conducive to good sleep. There are also other strategies, such as “alertness strategies” whereby work environments are intentionally designed to be cool, bright, not humid, and stimulating, minimizing the risks of falling asleep or “drifting off” on the job.
Protecting your employees from fatigue is becoming increasingly important in the 24/7 culture we are creating in the US these days. If you require any advice on minimizing tiredness in your employees, speak to a member of our helpful team today for world-class advice!
A total of 30 young workers aged 15-24 died as a result of work-related accidents between 2012 and 2016, and the numbers are yet to drop. Inexperience is often blamed for this, with younger workers simply having less experience in dealing with workplace hazards. As a result, here we offer you 5 tips for protecting your younger workers from hazards.
1. Assess the risk of violence in the workplace
It is essential to have policies and programs in place for violence and similar forms of harassment. This is pretty basic and common sense stuff, stating that employees should immediately report any threats or violent incidents to management as soon as possible. If you have to fire someone who is being violent or threatening, then so be it – your workplace will be better off as a whole.
2. Conduct basic health and safety training
According to most legal systems, employees must receive at least basic health and safety training before they can work legally. The training may vary according to your industry, but it should be given nonetheless. For example, workers in the food industry may have to undergo training in using kitchen knives and cooking food safely.
3. Organize hands-on training
The easiest way to impart health and safety knowledge is to show your employees hands-on. Give your young employees demonstrations on how to load/unload materials, handle materials, and use heavy machinery.
4. Display health and safety documents
Display both federal and state-level healthy and safety documents in a common area (such as the canteen) where employees are able to observe the documents and peruse them at their leisure. Informative posters about workplace safety are also valuable, especially if they are memorable and well-designed.
5. Maintain good equipment and machinery
The machinery and equipment used by your workforce should be well-maintained and in good condition, making sure that your employees are working with equipment that is safe and fit for purpose. Regular maintenance and equipment checks are the easiest way to ensure this, and any faulty equipment should be replaced or fixed as soon as a problem is found. One of the most common causes of injuries, for example, is faulty electrical equipment, despite being incredibly easy to prevent with a little regular maintenance.
Although all industries have their workplace hazards, young people are particularly vulnerable when working in the retail, tourism, hospitality, restaurant, and recreational services industries. These industries all pose unique threats to the safety of young workers, in addition to general hazards such as slips, trips, and falls. Whatever industry young people find themselves in, many workplace accidents can be avoided with the proper training and preventive measures in place.
Looking to make your business a safer place to work for young people? We deal with these cases all the time, giving us limitless experience. Contact us today for more information on young peoples’ safety in the workplace and how it may affect your company.
As times and technologies progress, there are more and more risks presenting themselves for US employers in 2018, as well as employers around the globe. Workplace safety is, of course, a never-ending concern, although phenomena such as data security and the upcoming mid-term elections are also of great concern too.
Corporate accountability for data breaches
With regulations such as GDPR now being enacted in the European Union, companies all over the globe are being forced to respond and up their game in terms of data protection and security. Hackers and becoming more and more prevalent, and it only takes a couple of inconsistencies or weak spots in your system for people to breach your databases and hold them to ransom. Companies handling sensitive data should look into hiring penetration testers who can make sure that there are no (or very few) vulnerabilities in their system.
When it comes to wage pressure, you only have to look to states such as California to see the problems with inadequate salaries and sky-high living costs. As conditions worsen economically, many employers are maintaining a hardline policy of maintaining their current salaries as a means of ensuring their companies’ futures in these trying times, although this understandably isn’t going down well with workforces and is causing drops in employee morale. Nonetheless, there are mixed views about the best way to progress with workplace wages.
Sexual harassment claims
As campaigns such as #MeToo continue to gain steam, we are beginning to see less and less tolerance for workplace harassment, with more and more women (and sometimes men) coming forward to make sexual harassment claims against preying coworkers. 60% of US women claim to have been sexually harassed at some point in their lives, with many of these claims originating from workplaces. Of course, a shift away from harassment is good for society as a whole but could prove costly for employers who may have to foot the bill legally.
Upcoming mid-term elections
November’s upcoming mid-term elections could undoubtedly have a great effect on workplace regulations and protections, and this is something that employers need to be mindful of, as policies could always change in late 2018 or early 2019. Trump’s presidency has been something of a controversial one, which leaves the fate of the mid-term elections dangling in the balance.
If you’re concerned about these areas or anything else which could be detrimental to your business in the upcoming years, you should consider performing a thorough risk assessment of your business from top to bottom. A thorough assessment allows you to identify your weakest spots are your biggest vulnerabilities, enabling you to take preventive measures and take out insurance policies which cover your business where it needs it most.
We’re always on the lookout for insightful information about insurance topics that are relevant to the ever-changing times we live in. If you’re looking for insurance information which could help your business’s profits and longevity, speak to a member of our team today.
Sexual harassment is not a new topic amongst businesses, but it’s an incredibly important one. All men and women deserve to work in an environment that they feel safe and secure in, and that starts with cracking down on sexual harassment in the workplace.
No matter what industry you work in, if you’re a business leader, then you have the responsibility to create a safe workplace for your employees. To start addressing this worldwide problem in your business and set the tone for responsible business practices, there are a number of things that you should prioritize.
Here are five of the most important priorities for establishing a workplace that is safe for every single employee:
Priority One: Treating Claims Seriously
Suffering from sexual harassment in the workplace and having the courage to report it, only to be turned away by business leaders and HR representatives, is a trust-destroying experience. Individuals who have the courage to report harassment, should be treated to the respect of having the claims taken seriously.
All business leaders should strive to build a workplace that supports employees and shows that mutual respect is a guarantee. This means taking all claims, big and small, seriously, with investigations carried out to get to the bottom of the accusations.
Priority Two: Get Support from the Top
Support for sexual harassment claims should come from the top of a company and filter down to the bottom. New plans for sexual harassment prevention and all forms of support should come from the management team, setting a firm tone for the rest of the company to follow.
By taking control from the top, a business shows that they’re serious about sexual harassment crackdown and that they are willing to do whatever it takes to put a stop to the issue.
Priority Three: Full Organizational Support
Support from the top shouldn’t start and end with giving direction to another department. Leaving the problem of sexual harassment solely to one department to work out is demonstrating a lack of commitment from the rest of the organization, and the business leaders in particular.
Leaders need to make sure that the full organization is informed of the rules for sexual harassment and are fully on board. Every single employee and leader needs to feel comfortable speaking up and dealing with the issue head on.
Priority Four: Making Everyone Accountable
One rule for one person and another rule for someone else is never going to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. Just as the employees need to be accountable for their actions, so do the leadership and management team of any sized organization.
It should be made clear that the leaders are as accountable for sexual harassment laws, policies, and standards, as every other member of the workforce. A singular rule for everyone must be enforced.
Priority Five: Zero Tolerance Rules
There are few quicker ways to break the trust and lose the respect of a workforce than by going back on rules for something as important as sexual harassment. The only way to end sexual harassment once and for all is through zero tolerance that applies to everyone.
Zero tolerance sets the rules and tells every member of an organization what will happen if they’re broken. By setting a zero-tolerance rule, a leader can begin changing the company culture for the better, telling everyone exactly where they stand with sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is something that is slowly but surely being tackled in workplaces around the world. As more and more business leaders get their priorities straight for eliminating sexual harassment, workplaces are starting to become safer, more secure, and much more positive places.
Need advice on insurance cover for sexual harassment claims and disputes? Concerned about your insurance coverage from reputation damage and settlement costs? Whether you’re an employee or employer, you can call us today to get the answers you need about insurance and sexual harassment in the workplace.
Workers face a number of risks every day, but when summer rolls around, there are a whole new set of risks to deal with. One of the most serious of these is heat-related hazards and the associated illnesses that can arise.
Heat-related illnesses (HRI) are suffered from by thousands of US workers on a yearly basis. These can quickly turn into much more serious problems, like heat stroke and exhaustion, when the right safety measures and prevention tactics are not put into place. In the worst cases, HRI’s can turn fatal, killing 30 people each year on average.
While the statistics are truly shocking, especially when you look at the big picture and realize hundreds of people have died in just a decade, the reality is, every one of the HRI fatalities could have been avoided.
Want to better equip your workplace to avoid the risk of HRI’s from occurring? Here’s what you need to know…
The Different Types of Heat-Related Illness
There are five different types of HRI, each of which has clear warning signs that you should always be on the lookout for. Some employees are more prone to suffering from HRI’s, including those that are over the age of 65, take medication, or have certain existing conditions, like obesity or heart disease.
The five HRI’s and their symptoms, include:
- Heat Stroke
- Dry hot skin
- Red skin with no sweat
- Unconsciousness or incoherency
- High body temperature
- Heat Rash – The result of consistently sweaty skin and blocked sweat glands
- Raised rashes
- Blistered rashes
- Heat Cramps – The result of loss of electrolytes and water
- Cramped legs
- Cramped abdomen
- Heat Exhaustion
- Pale Skin
- Vomiting and nausea
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Severe sweating
- Heat Syncope – The result of sudden movement or standing for too long
Risks in the Workplace
There are a number of key risks in the workplace, and those that are associated with certain jobs, that can increase the risk of an HRI occurring. These include:
- Long hours working
- High humidity and air temperature
- Radiant heat
- Direct sunlight exposure
- No access to water
- No air movement
- Difficult work
- The wrong type of clothing
The Warnings Signs to Be on the Lookout for
While different job types expose workers to different risks and a varied likelihood of an HRI occurring, there are some major symptoms that could indicate that a worker may be suffering from, or likely to suffer from, an HRI. These include:
- Increased Heart Rate
- Dark Urine
- Swollen Lips
- Reddened Skin
- Changing Moods
Employers – Take Action!
If any of the symptoms arise, it’s important to give your employee time to cool down and get a drink. However, there are also prevention measures that should be put in place, including:
- Training to spot risks and signs
- Caffeine, alcohol, and sugar avoidance
- Easy access to water
- Humidity and temperature monitoring
- Better work schedule, work cycles, and worker acclimatization
- Heat-control related work equipment
- Heat management emergency program
- Buddy system for risk identification
In the heat of summer, it’s of the upmost importance to keep a check on the conditions that you or your employees are working in. Through the implementation of essential tactics for safety, you can provide a much more suitable workplace.
If you want more information about how insurance can help you to get the treatment you need for HRI’s, or what you are covered for, please contact us today so we can answer any questions you might have!
As an employer, you may be responsible for replenishing lost wages if one of your employees suffers a job-related injury. Most of the time, you will also be required to have workers’ compensation insurance, which is designed to pay a portion of your employee’s usual salary during the time in which they are recovering from a work-related illness or injury.
Some types of workers, such as railroad workers and independent contractors, are not covered by workers’ compensation laws. Additionally, employees can also sue their employers (albeit rarely) if they sustain injuries due to health and safety violations in a workplace or from employer negligence in general.
Is your employee’s injury work-related?
If your employee’s injury is truly work-related, meaning it happened during their work duties or performing a task on your organization’s behalf, then they can claim for workers’ compensation, as well as other forms of relief which you should provide for them. Sometimes your employees may even be covered if they have disregarded your workplace safety rules, for example, if they were “messing about” when they should have been working. This is contentious, however, and tends to divide state governments and courthouses across the country.
Generally speaking, to count as work-related, your employee’s injury has to have occurred during an employee’s work hours, which means that their lunch breaks are disregarded unless they spent it on your premises and suffered an injury in that time. Injuries resulting from drunkenness can still be deemed work-related, particularly if they occur during a work-sponsored Christmas party, for example.
If your employee has a pre-existing medical conditioned which is aggravated by working at your business, this also usually constitutes a workplace injury. Similarly, mental conditions can be treated the same as physical conditions if they are determined to have been sustained as a result of your workplace.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Most states will require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance, though it’s worth noting that Wyoming and Idaho don’t require the coverage of undocumented workers. On the other hand, states such as California, Texas, and Arizona include undocumented workers specifically in their coverage of “workers”.
Domestic workers (such as nannies and babysitters), seasonal workers, undocumented workers and agricultural workers may not be deemed “workers” by many states, so be sure to take this into account when reviewing your Workers’ Compensation Coverage.
Employees who fall under the eligibility guidelines can file a claim for benefits, which is usually around two-thirds of their regular salary. However, they are not entitled to sue you for their injuries in court too. Nevertheless, employers must provide the insurance coverage which is required by the laws in their state. If they don’t, they could receive steep fines and legal troubles galore.
Employees who don’t qualify for Workers’ Comp benefits
Employees who are not covered by Workers’ Comp benefits are often still entitled to legal benefits and compensation from you. Independent contractors, for example, may have contracts which stipulate that an arbitrator settles legal disputes between you and them. Occasionally, in rare cases, an employee may try to sue you. However, this requires very specific circumstances, and is not likely to occur.
Employees who aren’t covered by the Workers’ comp agreements have other options available to them legally, such as the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, the Federal Employment Liability Act, the Merchant Marine Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Black Lung Benefits Act.
As you may have guessed, a lot of these legal acts are very industry-specific, relating to industries such as railroads, maritime business, and mining. Unless your business fits into these industries, it is unlikely that you will have to learn too much about them. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to check what options your injured employees have available to them, whether they’re covered by your insurance policies or not. It can be incredibly useful to be one step ahead of your injured employees, as it allows you to take precautions and predict the legal actions they may take.
Got an injured employee? Looking for legal advice about what your responsibilities are in this situation? Put your mind at ease today by getting touch with one of our knowledgeable advisors.
Workplace related deaths are rising as of last year while workplace illnesses have decreased. The top 3 non-fatal injuries being sprains, strains, tears.
There is a need to remain vigilant in protecting workers from death while continuing to also manage workplace safety to maintain overall individual health. Health affects safety and vice versa, so companies should take an integrated approach to enhance both their safety and health management capabilities.
The three most impacted industries for health and safety issues include:
- Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
- Health care and social assistance
(The health care/social assistance and manufacturing industries reported more than half (52.7 percent) of all private industry illness)
For workplace deaths, the leading cause by a wide margin is transportation incidents. The second cause is workplace violence… and both are on the rise.
The minorities suffering the largest increase in fatal injuries include Asian and African-American workers. Hispanic or Latino workers have actually seen a slight decrease in fatalities. In addition, foreign-born workers make up about 20% of the total fatal work injuries.
Age also is apparently playing a factor. Workers 55 and older saw a significant increase in fatal injuries when compared with other age groups. (In 1992 they made up about 20% of fatalities. By 2016 it was 36%.)
Steps to take in your company to avoid becoming one of the statistics:
Preparing Your Workplace for an Active Shooter
It’s heartbreaking to acknowledge that violence in the workplace occurs. According to the CDC more than 15,000 employees became a workplace homicide victim over the last 20 years. Four-fifths of these injuries were a result of gunfire.
It’s difficult to imagine something like this would occur where you work. Yet nearly half of all shooting incidents take place in commercial locations.
Survivors of active shooting incidents have successfully sued their companies for neglect in not offering defensive training on how to handle such situations. Refusing to address the potential hazards of an energetic shooter in your office might also be a violation of the OSHA Health And Wellness Act.
It’s important to help your staff understand the potential danger of a situation as well as how handle one should it occur.
First, be on the lookout for employees that show signs of:
- Radical changes in behavior.
- Aggressive behavior such as yelling, pushing, or intimidating others.
- Outward aggressive anger toward coworkers or supervisor.
- Increasing frequency of referencing violent actions.
Encourage your staff to be aware of and report these indications to their supervisor, security or police as required.
You should also ensure your staff knows how to stay safe.
Most active shooter incidents happen quickly and last minutes. You need to train your team to be prepared for potential scenarios, as well as when to leave, shelter, or fight in place as necessary.
Leave– This is the primary way of protection, provided there is an available path to safely escape. Training should include emergency contact processes and how to quickly evacuate facilities.
Shelter– Occasionally escape is not possible. Your staff will need to find a safe hiding area. Places to hide should be out of the active shooter’s line of vision and be very easy to evacuate if the situation changes. Good hiding places allow your team to secure or blockade doors.
Fight– This is a last resort. The key is to distract or incapacitate. Methods can include screaming, hand-to-hand protection strategies, and also improvising weapons.
Finally, you should be sure your team understands how to behave when the authorities show up. When evacuating the building, advise staff to leave personal items behind and keep their hands empty, up, and clearly visible. They also must comply with instructions issued by law enforcement.
And also remember, we’re only a phone call or email away if you have questions about workplace safety and how it impacts your insurance costs.