Hurricane preparedness checklists often include supplies such as bottled water, batteries and first aid kits. Should your plans include mitigation projects, such as trimming trees and limbs, installing storm shutters, or other tasks that involve physical labor, Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Corporation strongly encourages residents to add safe work practices to their hurricane checklist.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) report, the most common nonfatal injuries in the workplace for 2011 included sprains, strains, and tears of the back, shoulder or knees. Injuries suffered from slips and falls are also frequent. Preparing your home or business for an approaching storm, or cleaning up in the aftermath of one, can be hard work.
The leading contributor to sprain, strain, and tear injuries is overexertion when lifting or lowering objects. When preparing to lift an object:
- Reduce exposure by using mechanical equipment/aids to move items or seek assistance from others for “team lifts.”
- Before you lift, determine the weight of the object; most adults can handle 30-50 pounds. Clear debris, obstructions, or other tripping hazards from the intended path of travel and make sure the item does not block your line of vision while carrying it. Also, know where you intend to place the item once you arrive.
- Bend your knees to get as close down to the load as possible. Ensure you have firm footing before you lift the load and keep your back straight, head up, and abdominal muscles tight. Keep the load close to your body, and slowly straighten your legs to stand. Also, do not twist your body while handling the load. If you need to change direction with the load, move your entire body in the desired direction.
Another common workplace accident includes employees falling from ladders. But falling from a ladder can lead to more than just an injury. According the BLS, in 2011, of the fatal workplace falls in the United States in which the distance of the fall was known, 25 percent were from 10 feet or lower. Before you use a ladder, consider the following:
- Do not set up a ladder—either an A-frame or extension ladder—on bricks or other material that can render it unstable.
- Never climb with tools or equipment in your hands and never stand on the top two steps of an A-frame ladder.
- Always maintain three-point contact with the ladder. That is, always have two feet and one hand or two hands and one foot on the ladder at all times.
Timber harvesting is one of the most dangerous occupations, so use caution if using a chain saw to clear a path. The use of personal protective equipment is paramount and a thorough inspection of the chain saw is critical. Consider these guidelines before using a chain saw:
- Personal protective equipment should include, at a minimum, safety glasses and hearing protection, but consider that tree removal professionals are also encouraged to wear hard hats, face screens or shields, cotton gloves, heavy-duty, waterproof boots, and ballistic nylon leg protection (chaps).
- Always start a chain saw on the ground and ensure the brake is engaged. Place one foot on the handle and hold the top of the handle firmly.
- Allow a chain saw to cool before refueling. Move at last 20 feet from the spot of fueling before starting the saw.
- When handling the chain saw, place the muffler away from the body and the bar facing the rear when carrying. Never leave a chain saw running unattended, and do not hand a running chain saw to another person.
Improper use of power tools can cause injuries from debris striking the worker, foreign matter in the eyes, and even electrocution. Here are a few basic guidelines for hand tools:
- Always inspect the tools prior to using and use eye protection.
- In the case of an electric drill, never use it if the case is cracked. This could result in being exposed to an electrical current. Firmly grasp the drill, anticipating the possibility that the bit could bend. Never use the drill while standing in water.
- When operating power saws, always use the proper size saw and the proper blade for the job. Do not use a wood blade to cut metal or a metal blade for wood. To prevent kickbacks, also support the material being cut with sawhorses and always stand slightly off center to reduce the possibility of being struck by a kickback.