Monday, March 11
Personal Wellness and the Workplace
Living a healthy life depends a lot on how we learn to manage both our work life and personal life. We spend about a third of our lives at work so making sure that work is a healthy experience is very important. This week, we’ll look at some wellness related topics that identify both illness and lifestyle scenarios that can impact our work life and how to mitigate them.
Allergies are an issue that many people have to pay attention to every day. There are many sources of allergens that can cause an allergic reaction. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, food, drugs, latex, animal dander, insect stings, and mold. A few of these allergens may be only minor inconveniences with symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes. However, some can be more serious and be an issue while on the job. It is important to know what you are allergic to and to communicate it to others, in case of an exposure resulting in an emergency situation.
Two common allergens that could be the source of a severe allergic reaction are:
- Insect stings – Insect stings are a common cause of allergic reactions on the job. Most people respond to an insect bite with redness and some minor swelling in the sting area. Some individuals have a much more severe reaction that can be life threatening. A life threatening reaction to any allergen is called anaphylaxis. This is a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and affect the heart rate.
- Food allergies – Food allergies can also cause severe reactions and anaphylaxis. According to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America, people visit the emergency room about 200,000 times each year because of food allergies. Also, almost 10,000 people stay overnight in the hospital each year because of food allergies. The eight most common food allergens are milk, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, shellfish, fish, wheat, and eggs.
While many employers will not ask for allergy information due to HIPPA privacy regulations, it is important to communicate any allergens to someone on the job who is in a management position. Make arrangements with your safety team or first responders to be aware of your vulnerability, have Epi Pens ready, and make sure that first aid responders know how to use and administer them. Proper and immediate treatment is crucial for someone suffering from a severe allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment, including an injection of epinephrine and a trip to a hospital emergency room.
Tuesday, March 12
The Common Cold
The common cold virus is just that- common. There is no true vaccine or medicine that completely relieves you from having a cold; however, there are ways to lower your chances of getting a cold or minimize the effects if you happen to get one.
Preventing the spread of the common cold comes down to a few basic principles, however it can be hard to avoid if enough people around you are spreading the virus. A few quick tips from the CDC:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Stay away from individuals who are sick.
- Disinfect commonly touched surfaces.
If you happen to get a cold, prevent spreading it by practicing good hygiene tips, staying home from work if needed, and avoiding gatherings or social events while sick.
Some ways a cold can affect you:
- Lower energy - One of the biggest effects the common cold has is robbing you of your energy.
- Decreased focus - When you are not feeling your best you cannot fully focus on the task at hand.
Most of us can battle through a common cold with no major issues. That being said, it is still important to try to prevent having a cold or spreading it to others. When you are feeling under the weather realize the effects it has on you and your work. Fight the urge to cut corners or take shortcuts especially when it comes to working safely when you are sick.
Wednesday, March 13
We face hazards any time we operate a motor vehicle. Weather, wildlife, road conditions, and other drivers are some common hazards on the road today. While those may be out of your control, one very deadly, but preventable, activity that is taking place far too often is Drowsy Driving.
There is more fatigue and drowsiness in the general population than arguably ever before. Because of our fact paced lives, drowsy driving is a major concern on our roadways. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, an estimated 37,000 injury crashes and an estimated 45,000 property damage only crashes occur annually related to drowsy driving.
While general fatigue is a major cause of drowsy driving there are also several other causes.
- Lack of sleep - The amount of things we have going on in our lives can make it hard to get plenty of sleep.
- Medical issues - Certain medical issues or health conditions can bring the onset of drowsiness even if a person has had plenty of sleep.
- Drugs/ alcohol - Drugs and alcohol on their own can cause an obvious hazard while driving. When they are paired with a lack of sleep or medical issues, it can be an extremely dangerous situation.
To prevent drowsy driving, you should:
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Eat a good diet and drink plenty of water.
- Consult your doctor for unusual or excessive fatigue.
- Never drink and drive.
- Use caution even when only using prescribed medication.
- Pull over when drowsiness is setting in.
Do not be a drowsy driver. Take the necessary precautions to avoid putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Pay attention to the drivers around you and practice defensive driving techniques to protect yourself from other drivers who may be driving drowsy.
Discussion point: Does anyone have an experience with being so tired that they were falling asleep behind the wheel or almost was in an accident due to drowsy driving?
Thursday, March 14
Fatigue is a dangerous thing in the work place as it can negatively impact our focus and concentration on safe work practices. It also carries an overall estimated cost of more than $136 billion per year to employers in health-related lost productivity.
- Lack of sleep – There are a number of common reasons why more and more people are not getting enough sleep. There are more demands than ever for personal life management such as raising a family, pursuing education, and maybe even having to work two jobs to make ends meet.
- Health issues - Other mental or physical health problems such as depression, anxiety, snoring, and apnea can affect sleep. It’s important to have the right kind of mind discipline to allow your mind to relax. Mediation is an easy practice to establish, usually really good before bed time or first thing in the morning.
Here are some best practices to help reduce fatigue in the workplace:
- Get plenty of rest.
- Understand the side effects of medication before using it at work.
- Take care of your general health.
- Eat a better diet – be aware of foods difficult to digest, and set limits for caffeine and alcohol.
- For short periods of less intense fatigue take a break, walk around, and stretch your body.
If your work schedule is too demanding or the hours you are working are making you feel fatigued every single day, talk with a supervisor. Sometimes responsibilities or schedules can be altered to improve productivity and safety in the workplace. Overtime may be nice on the paycheck, but long stretches of work can begin to take a toll on your health and focus. Focus on a healthy work – life balance and be sure to manage your rest.
Friday, March 15
There is good stress as well as bad stress. We are more familiar with the bad stress. Stress from our work and personal lives affect us every day. A combination of high expectations for productivity and limited resources to complete work often leads to high stress levels on the job. It is important to be able to handle stress in a constructive way and to recognize when you are stressed and step away from the situation to take time to relax.
There are things you can do that don’t have much impact on productivity to help you relax a bit:
- See the big picture – Understand what the most important deliverables are and if time gets short, narrow your focus to only the most important things.
- Take a time out – Take a quick walk around the facility. Maybe take a note pad or safety opportunity form with you and make some observations that are outside your immediate work area. Sometimes observing others work helps relieve what you’re experiencing in yours.
- Don’t be a hero – Don’t put as much pressure on yourself. The business will survive should you miss a deadline, just make sure you learn about why it was missed, and how you can become more efficient or eliminate wasted time.
- Get enough rest and exercise.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself or others.
Some people may feel they thrive on pressure. But you’re truly not performing under pressure unless you’re making sure that each step for quality and every standard for working safely is being performed also. Taking short cuts to meet demands is not truly meeting demands. While the task may be completed, at what potential risk or cost was it done?
Overall stress can often be reduced or eliminated if we take the time to evaluate the source and work through it with a team.
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