By Karla Simon, U.S. Army Public Health CommandJune 4, 2013
How much of the on-the-job safety culture is being incorporated into an employee's home life? The National Safety Council has launched the "Safety Starts with Me" campaign to celebrate National Safety Month in June. It marks the beginning of summer, and summer is a good time to remind employees that safety is 24/7.
As soon as the thermometer hits 70 degrees, our bodies wake up and we want to do more because of the warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours. We increase our indoor and outdoor activities when we are off work. This means more home improvement projects, exercise and sports, or leisure activities that can put us at risk for injury.
Some of us become do-it-yourself warriors. The lawn mower is dragged out of the shed and the grass is cut, flower beds are weeded and planted, gutters are cleaned out, siding and decks are power washed.
Others try to keep New Year's resolutions so they crank up their exercise by hitting the gym, Zumba class, weight training, and playing sports. For many people, vacation is a time to try new and exciting things like bungee jumping, skydiving or whitewater rafting.
We tend to dive into new activities headfirst especially during the much-anticipated vacation. Quite often, we push our bodies too far too fast. Sprains, strains and falls can be minor or they can become life-altering. Staying active is part of a healthy lifestyle, but doing it safely needs to be incorporated into everyday life.
Home improvement projects: A sturdy ladder in good condition will make do-it-yourself projects easier, from replacing light bulbs to painting a room to putting up a ceiling fan to cleaning gutters.
Make sure the ladder is the right height and the right type for the job. Use nonconductive ladders for electrical work. Check your tools and equipment before using them. Look for worn handles, frayed electrical wires and broken parts. Check saws for operating safety guards; they protect hands and fingers from injuries. Take a free class at the local hardware store before beginning new projects.
Exercise and sports: Warm up first. Include some stretches into your warm up routine before exercising and playing sports. The safety equipment and sports gear you wear are key to preventing injuries. Always wear a helmet and the proper footwear made for the sport you're playing, along with eye protection, mouth guards and pads for contact sports.
More sunny weather means more outdoor time spent walking, jogging, hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing. Beware of rough terrain, turbulent waterways, and poor weather conditions before you hit the trail or launch your canoe on the river.
Getting caught outdoors in bad weather can become a disastrous experience quickly. Bikers should know on-the-road quick fixes like patching a tire. Kayaking and canoeing beginners should take a boating safety course.
Vacationing and recreation: Ahhh … the much-needed vacation. Be prepared before going camping, boating, fishing, hunting or sightseeing, whether it is traveling abroad or to the nearest national park or beach.
Any activity that places you somewhere that is unfamiliar or isolated requires you to practice due diligence. Your physical safety and that of your family is your main priority; having the necessary equipment and supplies is second.
Travel with the basics: These include a first-aid kit, sunscreen, a charged cell phone, insect repellent, proper clothing, healthy snacks and water. For activities on the water, wear properly fitted life jackets, or personal flotation devices. Watch out for bugs, wildlife and poisonous plants. Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member and check in with them upon your return.
Bring safety home! Don't leave it at work. Use these safety tips with your family to enjoy the weather safely and to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital.
Editor's Note: Karla Simon is an industrial hygienist at the U.S. Army Public Health Command.