Compare workplace injury rates with any injury or fatality statistic outside of work and it’s obvious why a safety professional would see the value in 24/7 safety. But it can be hard to justify to senior management why off-the-job safety needs on-the-job time for discussion. With that said, the connection is clear: what happens off the job has a direct impact on workers that will carry over into business hours, whether it’s an injury that affects their performance or the emotional effects of an injury to a loved one that bleeds into the workplace.
Off-the-job safety measures are foreign in some workplaces when resources and budgets are thought to be strictly for compliance safety measures. But that’s where this information will help. By focusing on 24/7 safety, not only will employees be able to show up healthy to work every day but they’ll be more productive. You’ll also build resilience and employee engagement to propel you toward more good days ahead. Overall, 24/7 safety measures are good for the bottom line.
Similar to our February toolbox talk topics, here are some off-the-job safety topics for February that you can include in your safety meetings, newsletters or communications with employees.
Emergency Roadside Kit
Whether you live in a climate that has cold winters or hot summers where being stranded could be downright scary, it’s important to have an emergency car kit to help survive being stranded in your vehicle. Any number of situations can be helped by the kit, but do people really know the value of its contents? Or have they become complacent, overconfident or over-reliant on their cellphone and roadside assistance services to the point that they feel like they’d never need an emergency kit? As you describe the following uses of the kit, also emphasize the limits of cellphone coverage and the importance of having a backup plan because you never where you’ll be or what you’ll need when something unexpected happens (you could even appeal to their priorities and mention that a car charger for their phone is a good idea, just in case there is an emergency).
Emergency Car Kit Breakdown
• Blanket, gloves, extra clothes, hat, extra shoes
In the event your clothes/shoes get wet, you’ll want to take them off and put dry ones on. Wet or damp clothes will draw heat out of your body more quickly. Hypothermia can happen in temperatures as high as 50°F. The blanket, hat and gloves can provide essential warmth.
• Candle in a deep can and strike anywhere matches
The candle isn’t meant to make you warm (that’s what the previous items are for) but rather it will keep the cabin of the vehicle from getting to a point where you could freeze. While a lighter would be more convenient for igniting, they often don’t work if they’re left sitting in an emergency kit for too long. Strike-anywhere matches can be ignited on any hard surface (it’s a good idea to keep them in some sort of waterproof case to ensure they’ll light when needed).
• Wind-up flashlight
A flashlight will not only help you see at night, but it can also signal for help so that rescuers have a better chance of finding you. A wind-up flashlight is powered by a battery that is manually charged by a hand-cranked generator. These are great in an emergency kit as the manually charged battery ensures the flashlight will work after being in the kit for an extended period.
• Food that won’t spoil, such as energy bars
Energy bars are easy to store and can be sustaining in an emergency situation. The candle from earlier can be used in combination with a steel cup to boil water for instant meals, so it’s a good idea to have both in your emergency roadside kit in case you’re stranded for a long period.
• Water and water bottles (change every six months)
Water is essential for survival and you never know how long you’ll be stranded. It’s helpful to bring water with you when you travel as water stored in your vehicle can easily turn into a useless block of ice in cold temperatures. Water purification tabs can turn any surface water into drinking water (keep an empty bottle for collection of water, just in case).
• Small shovel, sand, salt, safety absorbent or cat litter (non-clumping), scraper and snowbrush
There may be ways to get yourself out of your situation. A shovel, sand, salt, safety absorbent and kitty litter can clear a path and provide traction to prevent wheels from spinning and allow your car to become “unstuck”. A scraper and a snowbrush will allow you to see out the windows in the event of inclement weather.
• Warning light or road flares, whistle, jumper cables, tow rope
If you do end up stranded, you’re going to hope that someone can come and find you to help. A warning light or road flares will help rescuers locate you. A whistle can also help alert people to your location. When they do find you, make sure you have the tools that can allow them to give you assistance, such as jumper cables and a tow rope (these are also good if you break down on the side of the road or if your battery dies unexpectedly and you’re in need a boost).
• Fire extinguisher and first aid kit
In the event of an accident, these items could be vital to your survival until help arrives.
Winter can be an extremely dangerous time and not just on the road. Talking to employees regularly about the different hazards that people experience during the winter months can go a long way to staving off complacency. Unfortunately, there’s a news story every winter about a family who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes. Use those news stories as an example of how your employees could prevent that from happening to their own families.
People often don’t realize that snow and ice can build up on the heating vents outside their houses. When the vent is blocked, carbon monoxide travels back inside the house. It’s known as the silent killer because it’s undetectable by smell, so homeowners will not notice the carbon monoxide in their homes until it’s too late. Help employees understand the importance of cleaning snow and obstructions from vents in the winter and having working CO2 alarms by communicating this off-the-job safety measure to help avoid a tragedy.
There are a great number of other winter-related hazards that your employees will encounter off the job. Our 12 months of toolbox talks post touches on a lot of them like winter driving, slips, trips and falls, the importance of wearing sunscreen in the winter, and snow removal.
February 5 is Disaster Day—a time to reflect on the many disasters that can impact our lives in order to reduce the potential damage caused by adverse events. One thing that employees should know is how to have an emergency plan at home. According to the NFPA, only one in three households have an emergency plan. And of the ones that do have an emergency plan, less than half have actually practiced it.
In order to have an effective emergency plan at home you need to ensure that it prepares you for any number of disasters, and not just fires—think floods, earthquakes, extreme heat or cold or storms that cause lengthy power outages.
Next, consider your own needs. There’s a reason why emergency plans can’t be generic. Every household has a different physical environment as well as a different dynamic among its residents. Special accommodations may need to be made for certain family members, and pets need to be included in this plan too.
Home plans often aren’t put in writing. While it’s important to communicate your plan verbally, it’s also a good idea to have it in writing so that all members of the household can review it. Another key to a successful emergency plan is practice. And when it comes to disasters, practice will need to be applied to the various situations you could be in. You will also want to assemble a disaster survival kit (similar to the emergency car kit listed above) and include that in your practice to ensure it will work well in the event of an emergency.
Any one of the off-the-job incidents outlined in this post could impact workers’ on-the-job performance. Be sure to use these topics to help workers with 24/7 safety, and take note of the improvements you see on the job too as you demonstrate that you care for their entire well-being and not just for their productivity at work.