Off-the-job events are directly linked to safety on the job—things that affect us outside of work don’t fall off our radar as soon as we punch in to be on duty for work. Talking about safety 24/7 is a great way to highlight risk outside of the workplace. March has a number of specific off-the-job safety topics that could change the way employees react at work like the weather changing, getting a head start on spring cleanup and the time changing too. Include these topics and the following three for March in your safety meetings or as a toolbox talk.
Daylight Sleep Debt Time
March is often the month when you start incurring sleep debt—if you need 8 hours of sleep per night but you only get 5, you have 3 hours of sleep debt—due to losing an hour to daylight saving time. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recognizes Sleep Awareness Week beginning at the start of daylight saving time each year.
“Sleep Awareness Week is a time of year when everyone is reminded about the importance of our sleep and how it affects the way we feel and perform each day,” said Temitayo Oyegbile-Chidi, MD, PhD, Chair of the NSF Board of Directors.
Fatigue is an important off-the-job safety topic as there aren’t many workplaces that pay you to sleep. Being tired might not seem like a big deal to most but fatigue has been proven to decrease concentration, motivation, reaction times, accuracy, and attention and increase errors, serious incidents, expenses, stress, and distraction, ultimately impacting normal daily functions in a negative way.
And it doesn’t only affect your work. Sleep debt has known effects on type 2 diabetes, increased risk for depression, severe mood swings, mental illness, stroke and asthma attacks. Sleep Awareness Week is a great time to talk to employees about creating good sleep habits and setting a realistic sleep schedule to ensure proper sleep (and allow time to pay back sleep debt) to improve their safety not only on the job but off the job as well.
Self-Injury Awareness Day
Did you know that nearly two million Americans engage in self-harm? March 1 is host to a global awareness event called Self-Injury Awareness Day.
Taking care of yourself is a huge part of 24/7 safety. Feelings of depression, anxiety or stress are common—talking about how they affect your employees is the first step in eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Since you can’t turn these feelings off during work hours, this 24/7 safety conversation can reduce the impact these feelings will have both on and off the job. The more common something is, the more likely employees will talk about it. And since it’s such a sensitive subject, having smaller groups or private sessions can help participants feel comfortable sharing. No one wants to be the only one experiencing something like mental health issues, and knowing that other people within the workplace are experiencing the same thing is a great first step in talking it through. Even though Mental Health Awareness Month isn’t observed until May, mental health is a stigma that needs to be talked about more and shouldn’t only be limited to mental health awareness month.
Not everyone who inflicts pain on themselves has intentions of suicide. Self-harm is often a way for a person to feel like they’re in control, especially when life feels out of control. When it comes to self-harm, it’s important for people to be able to identify and talk about what’s causing their distress. As part of your 24/7 safety talk, ensure that employees know the options offered within your workplace. Many employers offer an EAP program, and an initial conversation in the workplace may spark someone who is suffering to seek professional help, whether it’s through the EAP or otherwise. The sooner employees get help, the sooner they can make the steps toward recovery. Postponement is a great habit that self-harmers can learn while in treatment. When they reach the point of distress that they can’t cope and want to self-harm, they need to wait a little bit longer and find something to distract them within that time to keep themselves from harm. In doing so, they may find that the distress comes down on its own and the urge to self-harm will lessen.
If you come across someone who discloses that they self-harm, talk to them about it. It’s a hard subject to broach so the fact that they trusted you with the information is a huge step. Let all workers know that professional help is available and let the individual that came to you know that you’re there to support them through receiving it. The most important thing is for them to know that you want to help and you care about their well-being. And by addressing the topic with a group of people, hopefully the stigma will decrease.
Brain Injury Awareness Month
March is Brain Injury Awareness month—while you may wonder how this topic applies to off-the-job safety, awareness should be brought to the fact that 1 in 60 people suffer from brain injury. According to the Brain Injury Association of America, brain injuries are a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. The main causes of brain injuries include:
- Falls 47.9%
- Being struck by or against something 17.1%
- Motor vehicle accidents 13.2%
- Assaults 8.3%
- Unknown/other causes 13.2%
At least 2.8 million Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury each year and it’s no wonder since the causes (external force or trauma) are things most people could encounter regularly both at work and at home. Human factors training like SafeStart could help with the state of mind that contributes to most of these causes. In fact, human factors training could help with all 24/7 safety initiatives.