Fermilab Safety Tip of
the Week Archive

Every Monday, a new Safety Tip of the Week appears in Fermilab Today, Fermilab's daily email publication for employees, users and subscribers. Safety Tips of the Week remind employees and users of ways to prevent injuries and illnesses. We hope that these safety tips will encourage you to work safely all week.

Fermilab Safety Tip of the Week Archive - 2008

 Dec. 15, 2008
 Compact fluorescent lights

You can help the environment, and save yourself money at the same time. And it takes little effort, just use compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs.

The bulbs use as little as one-fourth the electricity, and last up to ten times longer than incandescent bulbs. Although they have a greater initial purchase cost, a typical CFL can save you $30 in electrical bills over its lifetime.

 Dec. 08, 2008
 Winter safety

As last Wednesday’s storm approached Fermilab, Dave Shemanske sent an e-mail to Fermilab Today noting that “winter caught up to us quickly this year” and might have caught users and employees unprepared for winter travel.

Shemanske has more than a passing interest in Fermilab’s vehicle and pedestrian safety. Besides his role as group leader in FESS Roads & Grounds, he is a member of the laboratory’s Traffic Safety Subcommittee.

 Dec. 01, 2008
 Utility knives

Utility knives are handy tools for a wide variety of tasks but also pose risks. Utility knives cause as many as one-third of all manual tool injuries. Taking a few simple precautions can help prevent or minimize accidents.

First, check to see if a specialized cutting tool exists for your task. Typically, purpose-built devices, such as wire strippers, are safer and more effective than a utility knife.

 Nov. 24, 2008
 Holiday safety

This special time of year carries with it some special hazards. As you plan your holiday activities, it pays to keep a few precautions in mind to ensure you end up with only good memories.

Traffic accidents increase around the holidays as large numbers of people head out on the roadways at the same time and some of them mix driving with drinking. To stay safe, you need to pay extra attention when behind the wheel. Make sure you have a good idea where you're going to minimize fumbling with directions. If you consume alcohol, wait an hour for each drink before you drive or designate a non-drinking driver. To avoid fatigue-related accidents, consider leaving early or sleeping over if the celebration will go on past your normal bed time.

 Nov. 17, 2008

Repetitive tasks on a job can increase the risk of injury. As people become comfortable with the task, they establish mental shortcuts to selectively block out unnecessary information. While this reduces stress and improves efficiency, it can also block information necessary to prevent accidents.

Simply urging people to pay more attention seldom has a significant or lasting effect. Here are some suggestions that are more likely to improve attentiveness.

 Nov. 10, 2008

In any emergency dial 3131. This familiar instruction is posted all over the Fermilab site and shows up repeatedly in safety training. What actually happens when you make that call?

All calls to x3131 are first routed to a dispatcher in the Communications Center located on the ground floor of Wilson Hall.

The dispatcher is responsible for figuring out the caller's problem and providing assistance, usually by dispatching emergency response personnel. The laboratory’s Chief of Security, Bill Flaherty, explained that x3131 gets called multiple times each day.

 Nov. 03, 2008
 Tire failures

With use and aging, the risk of tire failure and accidents increase. George Davidson, head of Fermilab’s Transportation Services Department, advises you to routinely inspect your tires to check for wear and tear and signs of age.

Tires often last 60,000 to 80,000 miles as long as they are properly installed, maintained, aligned, inspected and used within their limits.

At Fermilab, Davidson inspects tires for wear pattern, tread separation, cuts and bulges. Tread depth is measured and tires are replaced if the depth is less than 4/32”. Tire pressure is adjusted to meet the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Davidson advises pressure checks at least monthly or whenever the temperature changes significantly. Low tire pressure increases sidewall flexing and overheating, which is a leading cause of catastrophic failure.

 Oct. 27, 2008
 Keep up the good work

FY2008 was Fermilab’s lowest year for occupational injuries. There were 96 cases reported to the Medical Department. Twelve were recordable and three of these were DART cases. This resulted in TRC and DART rates of 0.66 and 0.16, respectively. Though we narrowly missed DOE’s ambitious “best-in-class” goal of 0.65 for TRC cases, we actually beat their mark of 0.25 for DART cases.

 Oct. 20, 2008
 Watch out for deer

During autumn, deer become more active as they search for mates and food sources. Their additional activity greatly increases the risk of deer-vehicle collisions.

In 2007, there were 25,006 deer-vehicle crashes reported in Illinois, with 496 occurring in Kane County, making it the ninth deadliest county in the state. Statewide, these accidents injured 846 people, including five fatally.

 Oct. 13, 2008
 Autumn leaves

Autumn brings falling leaves and with them, several safety hazards.

Wet leaves can make surfaces slippery for people and vehicles. This makes starts and stops difficult and it can also lead to slips and falls. Leaves can also hide road markings, branches and rocks. Leaf accumulation can also lead to localized flooding from clogged drain inlets.

 Oct. 6, 2008
 Fire Prevention Week

Sunday started the annual National Fire Prevention Week, an event to remind us of the importance of taking precautions to prevent fire at homes.

The theme for this year’s fire prevention week, which takes place Oct. 5-12, is prevent home fires. Home structure fires accounted for 80 percent of fire deaths in 2006. That same year, there were The 396,000 home fires in 2006 resulted in 2,580 deaths, 12,500 injuries and $6.8 billion in direct losses. Most fires were caused by cooking equipment (38 percent) or heating equipment (19 percent). Fatality rates and fire rates were comparable, except in fires where smoking was the cause. Smoking caused 4 percent of fires, but 24 percent of deaths.

 Sept. 15, 2008
 Process reviews

Most Fermilab safety incidents have a simple, obvious cause. But while being unaware of your surroundings or not taking the proper safety precautions causes many incidents, occasionally the cause is something more technical.

One such case occurred last spring at Argonne National Laboratory. A post-doctoral student suddenly became ill while conducting clean fuels research. Blood tests revealed carbon monoxide exposure.

 Sept. 8, 2008
 Watch out for West Nile virus

Although we've experienced mosquitoes all season, the number of mosquitoes infected with West Nile virus typically increases in late summer and early fall. We recently recorded the first instance of a positive mosquito sample for the virus, so the danger of human exposure, while low, is present on site.

Last year, Kane and DuPage counties together recorded 23 human cases of infection. So far this year, Kane has recorded one case and DuPage has not had any. Only four human cases have been recorded in Illinois, none of which were serious.

 Aug. 4, 2008

During the summer, people spend a lot of time outdoors. Unfortunately, so do insects. As temperatures fall in late summer, the yellowjacket population peaks.

Although yellowjackets (a type of wasp) normally consume carbohydrates, they feed their larvae captured insects. The peak in the yellowjacket population happens just as the supply of insects is declining. They scavenge more aggressively at this time, taking food from trash containers and picnickers.

 July 28, 2008
 Screwdriver safety

During the past 10 years, Fermilab employees have had 15 injuries associated with both power and manual screwdriver use. In two-thirds of these cases the accident occurred when the drive head of a manual screwdriver slipped off the item being worked on. Usually, the screwdriver slipped off a fastener, but sometimes the screwdriver slipped off an object that the employee was trying to pry open with the screwdriver. In two cases, power screwdriver bits slipped off and caused injuries. Other screwdriver injuries were due to excessive force and repetitive motion.

You can avoid screwdriver injuries if you follow a few simple guidelines.

 July 21, 2008
 Avoid (or treat) poison ivy exposure

Walking through nature is a great summer activity, but one that can also lead to unwanted problems. When spending time outdoors, watch for poison ivy plants, which have three leaves. Touching the plants can give you an itchy rash that can last for weeks.

The component in poison ivy that causes the allergic reaction is an oil called urushiol. It is present in all parts of the plant and can maintain its toxic properties for more than a year. Your best bet is to avoid all contact, even if you have never had a reaction.

 July 14, 2008
 Recycle alkaline batteries

Fermilab staff, users and students utilize about 30,000 alkaline batteries per year. The popularity of alkaline batteries stems from their relatively high-energy density, long shelf life, relatively low cost and low environmental impact.

But what happens when these batteries no longer have a charge? Although alkaline batteries are not hazardous, they can be corrosive when they degrade. Since most batteries end up in landfills, this can cause large problems. Batteries can also pose a safety hazard when improperly used. Improper use of batteries, such as using damaged batteries, can result in chemical burns.

To help reduce battery waste, Fermilab has a battery recycling program.

 July 7, 2008
 Is this up-to-date?

Using out-of-date manuals and safety documents can be a serious safety hazard. Fermilab reviewed the employee ES&H Manual use as part of its preparations for the ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 registrations. The review found workers using out-of-date materials.

In response, the laboratory put together a new chapter of the ES&H Manual that outlines content control procedures. Here are some recommendations for keeping your ES&H information up-to-date:

 June 30, 2008
 New online map to raise traffic safety awareness

You can learn about traffic accident hot spots at the laboratory with a new interactive, online map. DOE Site Office representative John Scott proposed the map and Fermilab Traffic Safety Subcommittee members Dave Peterson, Jean Reising and Chuck Morrison put it together.

Fermilab officials hope the map will raise awareness of traffic safety and thereby reduce accidents. There were 56 vehicle accidents in 2007. Fortunately, none of these resulted in personal injury.

 June 23, 2008
 Safety feedback

When giving someone feedback about safety performance, it can be difficult to avoid a confrontational style.

If you tell people that they are working unsafely and need to do something about it, they may consider that safety advice simply an opportunity to deliver criticism.

Here are five ways you can improve your effectiveness in providing safety feedback.

 June 9, 2008
 The heat is on

Remember a few weeks ago when we complained that it would never warm up? Well, it looks like the summer heat has arrived. Uncomfortable? You bet. Keep in mind that extreme heat can cause illness and death as well.

To avoid heat stress:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.

 June 2, 2008
 Give safety a hand

Hands represent one of the greatest tools a worker has, and one of the most vulnerable. At Fermilab, one-third of recordable work-related injuries occur to hands. In the last 24 years, that accounts for 933 cuts, sprains, pinches and repetitive-motion injuries.

Fingers and thumbs accounted for the majority of hand injuries at 62 percent. Palms and the back of the hand accounted for 24 percent, while wrists accounted for the remaining 18 percent. The major types of hand injuries were lacerations, at 40 percent, and contusions, at 10 percent.

 May 19, 2008

Fermilab’s senior safety officers can easily point to a common denominator in the most common recurring workplace inspection issues: poor housekeeping.

The orderly management of operations, tools, equipment and supplies is an important part of getting work done properly and safely.

Poor housekeeping accounts for a host of injuries from minor bumps to explosions. These problems easily can arise when workers focus closely on completion of a task while navigating limited or difficult-to-access storage space.

Poor housekeeping can result in slips, trips or falls caused by materials left on walking and working surfaces. “Struck by” and “struck against” injuries may occur when objects fall or protrude into occupied spaces. Fire protection also may suffer when combustible materials accumulate or exits become blocked with clutter.

A habit of poor housekeeping can foster worker tolerance for unsafe conditions, which can lead to more injuries as other serious hazards become taken for granted.

 May 12, 2008
American dog tick lives on the Fermilab site. Photo courtesy of Fermilab Visual Media Services.

Fermilab employees report that ticks have made their seasonal appearance at the laboratory. The American dog tick is the largest of the Eastern wood ticks, and the most common type found in Illinois. They are most active during the months of April and May. American dog ticks don’t carry Lyme disease, but they can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Deer (or blacklegged) ticks, though rare in this area, can transmit Lyme disease.

 May 5, 2008
 Yard work

There's nothing like a weekend filled with gardening and landscaping activities. But this type of work has plenty of hazards. In a 10-year study of groundskeeper injuries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 55 percent of injuries resulted in sprains, strains, bruises, contusions, soreness or pain. The back was the most commonly injured body part followed by fingers, knees and eyes.

 April 28, 2008
 Wild Fermilab

With all of Fermilab’s open spaces and natural areas, crossing paths with a wild animal is not unusual. Most of the time, these situations result in mutual observation and both parties part ways, uneventfully. Sometimes, however, creatures need a “hands-on” intervention.

This can occur if an animal takes up residence in a space that’s intended for people or equipment. At other times, we might feel compelled to help an injured animal or one in harm’s way. Other times, such as spring, when most animals mate, nest and raise their young, they can become a nuisance. This can happen particularly when animals conduct these activities in locations intended for people or equipment or when they get aggressive, such as during mating season.

 April 14, 2008
 Safety is my co-pilot

Last week, we talked with three members of the Fermilab community regarding personal experiences that demonstrate that safety techniques can apply to home and work.

Mark Bollinger, DOE deputy site manager at Fermilab, worked with steel framing when finishing his home basement. Bollinger took off his eye protection to wipe his face, but forgot to put it back on. Two minutes later, a razor-sharp piece of steel swung out of place and cut his face, barely missing his eye.

 April 7, 2008
 Share the road

Fermilab is a great place to ride a bicycle. We have interesting scenery, a paved bike path and plenty of lightly-traveled roadways. Unfortunately, when motorists and bicyclists meet, rules of the road and common courtesy can get overlooked. Remember that getting angry, hostile or abusive won't help the situation. Instead, we need to stay calm, exercise caution and show respect for each other, no matter how we're traveling.

 March 31, 2008
 Wild goose chase

It's mating season, the time of year when Canada geese aggressively defend their nests and goslings. This instinctual behavior is understandable in the wild, but problems arise when the nests are in human high-traffic areas, such as near building entrances, and the intruders are people who need to enter those buildings.

If you get near a nest or gosling, you may hear a goose's defensive hiss. This is typically a first warning. If not dissuaded, the birds may charge or even fly at you. The aggressive behavior usually lasts from the time eggs are laid until the offspring take on adult coloring. Close encounters typically occur around Wilson Hall, Industrial Center, Feynman Computing Center and the Village.

 March 24, 2008
 Preventing disc damage

At a recent meeting of the Central States Occupational Medicine Association, Dr. Terry Nicola, from the Chicago Medical Center at University of Illinois, gave a presentation on lower back vertebral-disc damage. He noted that each disc is like a chewy jelly donut. It has a central, soft core surrounded by 15 layers of fibrous tissue. In spite of their toughness, the outer layers can rupture causing the contents to leak and press on adjacent nerves. This, in turn, can produce pain and weakness.

 March 17, 2008
 Dealing with risk

Errors often happen when sudden, unfamiliar situations require immediate action. When Associate Director for Accelerators Steve Holmes was 6 years old he decided to go down a steep gravel road on his new bike, and his regular method of braking - dragging his feet - failed. He caught a chin full of gravel. Accelerator Division Senior Safety Officer John Anderson was 12 when he fell through ice after he and a friend decided to walk across a frozen river rather than use a bridge some distance away. Fortunately, he moved toward shore where his friend pulled him out.

In both cases, Holmes and Anderson had completed these activities many times without incident. However, changes affecting the level of risk went unrecognized.

 March 10, 2008
 Work within your limits

During the past year, some of our most serious injuries occurred when employees attempted to perform tasks that were slightly beyond their normal knowledge, skills or abilities. The reduction in staff created by furloughs might make those at work feel the need to fill in on tasks that they do not normally perform. Here are some suggestions for dealing with increased demands.

 March 3, 2008
 Disrupted routines

For those who work the night shift, the disruption in routine isn’t as easy to fix. Bob Mau, head of AD Operations Department, manages 25 accelerator operators on rotating shifts. According to Mau, “Not everyone is cut out for this kind of work.” Predictors of success in these shifts include youth, experience with shift work, ability to sleep well at all hours, few family commitments and a desire for challenging work.

 Feb. 25, 2008
 Tips from Minnesota colleagues
Alec HabigDennie ParzyckJen Adelman-McCarthy

Most of us at Fermilab have grown tired of repeated snow storms and cold blasts. How do our colleagues from Minnesota stand it? This week, we talked with three Fermilab folks with ties to the state that houses the coldest town in the continental United States. They offer a few tips and observations. They also remind you to look past the cold and enjoy the pristine beauty and invigorating outdoor opportunities afforded by a frigid wasteland.

 Feb. 18, 2008
 Winter driving trends & tips

Given the limited availability of salt, you are more likely to encounter surfaces covered with a layer of packed snow or ice. Fermilab has experienced a number of minor occupational slip and fall injuries this season. A few simple precautions can help reduce your chances of getting hurt.

  • Use footwear that provides traction on snow and ice.
  • Hang onto railings or other stable objects. Use your vehicle for support when entering or exiting.
  • Use designated clear walkways or a grassy edge.
  • If you must walk on ice, take short steps or shuffle. Bend slightly and walk flat-footed with your center of gravity over your feet.
  • Be prepared to fall. If it happens, bend your back and head forward. Fall with sequential contacts at your thigh, hip, and shoulder.

 Feb. 11, 2008
 Winter driving trends & tips

When winter weather hits, trouble can find even the most skilled driver. Improper winter driving caused 15 of the 23 motor vehicle accidents reported onsite since Dec. 1, 2007. Here are some tips to help you avoid becoming a statistic:

  • Maintain clear visibility. Clear away all ice and snow from windows, mirrors and wipers to make sure you can see clearly in all directions. Make sure head and taillights also are clean.
  • Prevent slippage. Remove ice and snow from shoes and boots to prevent pedal slippage.
  • Slow down. Driving too fast for conditions contributes to many winter weather accidents. Don't follow too closely to the vehicle in front of you.
  • Avoid harsh actions. Any quick force input to the tires, including quick starts, hard breaking or steering, can contribute to sliding. Steer, brake and accelerate slowly.
  • Avoid distractions. Pay attention to road conditions and other vehicles.

 Feb. 4, 2008
 2008 ES&H plans

Each year, as a way to strengthen their ES&H programs, all divisions and sections develop plans for the coming year that focus on their ES&H actions. Their plans incorporate input from employees and supervisors and division and section managers. The laboratory director evaluates both the planned actions and the subsequent results. ES&H posts the plans on the ES&H Section's Web site.

 Jan. 28, 2008
 Laptop computer safety

You may have noticed an increasing number of laptop computers in meetings at Fermilab. People are busy checking online materials, taking notes, and other miscellaneous tasks. Laptops can have the power of some desktop computers, while weighing typically far less. The average laptop weighs 5-7 pounds and provides a viewing area of about 15 inches wide. Although extremely convenient, laptop computers do have problems. ES&H staff members concern themselves mostly with ergonomics and heat generation.

A keyboard in a well-designed computer workstation should sit low and tilt downward toward the user. The screen top should sit near eye height. Amber Larson, chair of Fermilab's Ergonomics Subcommittee, pointed out that meeting these criteria takes work because of the connection of the keyboard and screen. Setting the laptop on a stand that tilts the base down in front and up in back can help.

 Jan. 14, 2008
 Seasonal viruses

According to Medical Department Nurse Karen Swanson, the Medical Office has seen an unusual number of people sick with sinusitis and pneumonia. These illnesses are often brought on by viral respiratory infections. They also see people ill with gastro-intestinal viruses accompanied by high fevers.

Site Occupational Medical Director Dr. Brian Svazas said that viruses are primarily transmitted via contaminated surfaces and direct person-to-person contact. A major factor is the close proximity of people to each other. The same phenomenon is seen on ship cruises, at scout camps, and in military recruit bases, no matter what the weather.

 Jan. 7, 2008
 Winter Driving

Three factors can help you stay safe while driving in winter: visibility, traction and driving style. Reduced visibility and traction make things difficult, while driving style determines how well you deal with winter hazards, as well as those imposed by other drivers.

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