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Electricity & Office Safety: Listen & Learn, Don't Sizzle & Burn

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 @ 04:00 PM

History of Electricity

600BC: A mathematician in Greece named Thales (one of the 7 sages of Greece) is thought to be the first person to discover what we know as static electricity by rubbing amber with animal fur.

Late 1500s: An English scientist, William Gilbert (one of Queen Elizabeth’s physicians) found out that amber was not the only conductor. He added many more substances to the list and coined the term electricity.

Early 1700s: Stephen Gray discovered conductivity and that even water could be electrified. Charles Du Fray, in Paris, performed experiments based on Gray’s work and came to the conclusion that everything and everybody contained electricity (leaving out lightning, ironically).Benjamin Franklin, Electrical Safety, Office safety

1752: Ben Franklin conducted his famous kite experiment. In the process, he proved that pointed rods conduct electricity better than balls do and that lightning is a form of electricity. Franklin then invented lightning rods and sold them throughout colonial America.

1870s: Thomas Edison built a DC (direct current) electric generator in America and later provided all of New York’s electricity.


1800s: Nikola Tesla invented the AC (alternating current) system for electrical transmission. This is what is used today over DC due to its many advantages; the biggest is that you can generate much more power from AC than DC. He also invented motors that run on AC and designed the world’s first Hydroelectric Plant.

Nikola Tesla, Electrical Safety, Office SafetyThe short answer to “What is electricity?” as OSHA states it, is the flow of electrons though a conductor. Since atoms make up any and everything, and electrons are particles that make up an atom, electrons are therefore everywhere. Because of this, electricity is everywhere. We are going to discuss how this affects us and how it is paramount to take a few extra steps in our daily lives and remember a few tips to keep ourselves safe with regards to electricity and electrical apparatuses.

Electricity is conducted through some materials better than others. Returning for a moment to the definition given earlier about electricity being the flow of electrons through a conductor, we know that conductors are materials that loosely hold electrons. Great examples of these are most metals: copper, aluminum, or steel. Other things hold electrons very tightly, these are called insulators. Insulators include: rubber, cloth, plastic, glass, or dry air. 

Electricity has a few important properties:Electrical Safety, Office safety

  • It must have a complete path (or circuit) to continuously flow.
    • Without two points of contact on the body for current to enter and exit, respectively, there is no hazard of shock. In fact, this why birds and squirrels can sit on power lines; there's only one point of contact!
  • It will all paths back to the source, but it will follow paths proportionally according to the conductivity of each path.
    • When impedance (resistance to electrical currents) increases even slightly, the electrical current seeks other paths to ground, such as through a person in contact with an energized surface.

As electricity is a serious workplace hazard, exposing employees to electric shock, burns, fires, and explosions, it is very important to understand how to avoid these risks and learn how to reduce electrical accidents down to 0.

The good news is that these electrical accidents are 100% preventable with proper knowledge and training!

In short, there are only 3 things needed to achieve this.

  1. Understanding how electricity works.
  2. Recognizing potential electrical hazards.
  3. Learning about safety devices that prevent shock.

All three of these things are taught (and then some) in Safety Training Service’s NFPA 70E training course. For more information contact us and find out more information. For anyone not interested in the training at this time, read on for more information/tips on reducing these risks in your workplace.

Electrical equipment used in an office is potentially hazardous. It can cause serious shock and burn injuries if improperly used or if equipment is poorly maintained. Remember, periodic self-inspection should be conducted of your area to help identify and correct electrical hazards and maintain compliance. Follow these tips to reduce exposure to electrical hazards.

  • To reduce the risk of fires, turn off all appliances at the end of the day.
  • Only use 3-prong (grounded) outlets and grounded appliances.
  • Immediately disconnect any malfunctioning electrical equipment or any equipment giving off a strange odor.
  • Promptly disconnect and replace cracked, frayed, or broken electrical cords.
    • Don't "yank" cords out by pulling on the cord itself.
  • Keep extension cords clear of doorways and other areas where they can be stepped on.
  • Do not use staples to fasten extension cords. Do not hang cords from nails, or suspend by wire.
    • It is recommended to keep all wires and cords off the floor to prevent injuries caused by tripping.
  • Don't use equipment with worn or frayed cords or cables.
    • Ensure that unsafe electrical conditions and practices are promptly reported to a supervisor.
  • Never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn't fit!
  • Plugs should fit securely into outlets, but check for those that have loose-fitting plugs, which can overheat and lead to fire.
  • Ensure that all appliances are certified by an independent testing lab! E.g., Underwriter's Laboratory (UL).
  • Maintain at least 3 feet of clearance in front of all electrical panels. (Overlooked way too often!)
  • Water and electricity should never be very close to each other.
    • Electric plugs at cubicles should be away from places where water or coffee spills are most likely to occur.
  • Inspect space heaters!
    • Verify the devices are approved for commercial use and have a switch that automatically shuts off the heater if the heater is tipped over. Further, make sure space heaters are not powered through an extension cord or placed near combustible materials such as paper.
  • Never block fire sprinklers!
    • Furniture and tall stacks of materials can block the range of fire sprinklers, reducing their effectivemess in the event of an emergency.
  • Do not block escape routes or prop open fire doors.
    • Items should never be stored along an emergency exit route. These paths should remain free from clutter, according to OSHA. Fire doors should not be held open by unapproved means (such as with a garbage can or a chair), as this creates a significant fire hazard.
      Electricity safety, office safety,  electrical safety program
Last, but not least, and most of all, insurance is essential. Although it is not an office safety tip, it often helps to have it just in case an emergency occurs. With these safety tips for your workplace and your informed knowledge on the topic of electricity and electrical safety, you can be sure to avoid some of the most common accidents and emergencies of electric shocks and fire!
For more information on STS's NFPA 70E course, click the button below!
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Tags: electrical safety, electrical safety program, office safety, osha electrical safety, electrical safety training, electricity safety

Office Safety, Part 2: Mental Health in the Workplace

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 @ 12:30 PM

Welcome to part two of our new 6-part web series on office safety. In this blog article, we will be covering a once overlooked topic that has now been brought more to light, “Mental Health in the Workplace.”

Workplace Mental Health

The workplace is most definitely a double-edged sword. It can be a great contributor to one’s mental well-being, giving them an opportunity to feel productive, but also contribute to mental health problems and illnesses including depression and anxiety. Most adults spend as much time (if not more, an average of almost 9 hours) at their workplace as their own homes. This makes it an important topic to discuss and vital to general office safety. In fact, just over 26% (almost 58 million) of Americans ages 18 and older (the demographic that make up the American workforce) are affected by ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) alone.

Workplace mental health is a factor that actually impacts both productivity, employee retention, and well, the bottom line really. It is a crucial factor in maintaining a successful business that is often likely to be overlooked. Mental health and substance abuse disorders are costing American businesses an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually. You can calculate the cost of depression and alcoholism in your workplace by utilizing some free Web-based calculators (for example: www.alcoholcostcalculator.org).

Office safety, Employee mental healthA recent study was made by Harvard University Medical School of the financial impact of 25 chronic physical and mental issues for employers. Here are the top five:

  1. Depression (single most expensive ailment for employers)
  2. Obesity
  3. Arthritis
  4. Back and neck pain
  5. Anxiety (an extraordinarily common occurrence in the stressful modern workplace)

Harvard University Medical School’s study also suggested that untreated mental illness cost U.S. businesses $105 billion in lost productivity alone. A 2011 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 45.6 million adults (18+) suffer from a form of mental illness, or 19.6% of all Americans. Of the 45.6 million, the DHS study estimated that 38.2 million received some treatment during the previous 12 months.

According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good business. It can lead to:

  • Healthier employees
  • Lower total medical costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Less turnover and retention of valued employees
  • Lower absenteeism
  • Decreased disability costs

Investing in workplace mental health is a win-win for employers — and employees. Some quick tips the American Psychiatric Foundation about mental illness and substance abuse that employers should know include:

  • Mental illness in the workplaceAccording to the Surgeon General, 1 in 5 adults (20%) will experience a diagnosable mental illness in any given year.
  • Among those of working age, it is estimated that the prevalence of mental illness and/or substance abuse in any given year approaches 25%.
  • More workers are absent from work because of stress and anxiety than because of physical illness or injury.
  • Stress and depression probably explain "close to 30% of the total risk of heart attacks," according to a cardiovascular physician at the University of Florida.
  • In one large manufacturing corporation, depression accounted for at least as much medical and disability costs as hypertension, diabetes, back problems, and heart disease.Workplace mental health, office safety
  • Mental illness short-term disability claims are growing by 10% annually and can account for 30% or more of the corporate disability experience for the typical employer.
  • Less than one-third of adults with a diagnosable mental disorder receive treatment in any given year.

And remember is your company does not have a proper Employee Action Program (EAP), help is not far off. The internet is full of great information to help implement a program that works for you! Safety Training Services, Inc. is another great resource for you and your company. Remember to ‘Like’ us on Facebook or ‘Follow’ us on Twitter if you would like additional safety information, or contact us on our website to find out how the services and training courses we provide can help you.

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Tags: workplace mental health, mental issues in the workplace, employee mental health, mental illness in the workplace, mental health workplace, mental health in the workplace, mental health matters, office safety

Ergonomics: Office Biotechnology and Improving Your Quality of Work!

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Mon, Jun 10, 2013 @ 12:00 PM


Since the beginning of mankind, humans have adapted a sense of using the right tool for theErgonomics, Office Safety job. In ancient times, it was tying rocks or bones to sticks for use as a hammer or sharpened to make hunting easier. Essentially, they established that using crude items could be used to make life easier. Ergonomics is just that, an applied science (not just a buzzword for marketers!) of work. That is, it’s intended to maximize productivity of workers by reducing/eliminating fatigue or discomfort. The literal definition of ergonomics, as Dictionary.com states, is “the study of the relationship between workers and their environment.” Also known as “biotechnology,” and first coined by Wojciech Jastrzebowski in 1857.

However, these early adoptions were merely used to optimize tasks. Ergonomics has since evolved into learning how to include worker safety and health by addressing muscle force, cardiovascular activity, maximum weight, etc. This is seen by Frederick Winslow Taylor in the 19th century in which he used his “Scientific Method” (AKA ergonomics) to assist coal workers in tripling their productivity by designing shovels that were lighter and smaller. Also in the 1900s Frank and Lillian Gilbreth further expanded Taylor’s methods by coming up with the “Time and Motion Studies.” This was meant to reduce the amount of unnecessary motions required to perform a task. With this approach, they reduced the number of motions bricklayers used (from 18 to 4.5) and allowed them to increase productivity from 120 bricks per hour to 350.

“Formal” ergonomics is generally credited to the development of more complicated machinery in WWI and WWII. As aircrafts, tanks and other complex machines were being developed; human errors were piling up, resulting in catastrophes. Non-combat casualties were an outcome of bad engineering and design. This begged the necessity of better results through better designing, and the most “modern” form of ergonomics (how we know it today) is now becoming the norm.

Office Ergonomics, Office Safety

Engineers and psychologists are working together in collaboration to improve our daily lives through better design. A multi-disciplinary approach has been taken to include anthropologists, industrial engineers, cognitive scientists and physiologists in order to understand the human operators and to design systems and machines to fit said user.

Today, most of us know ergonomics in a workplace context. As the average worker in America works for about 8 hours a day, the need for ergonomic office furniture and practices is of the upmost importance. The idea is to be sure that as technology and design make our homes safer and more comfortable, and in the case of the workplace, to increase productivity, increase comfort and prevent injuries and fatigue.

Hazards Associated with Ergonomics

Back injuries - Common back injuries include sprains, herniated disks and fractured vertebrae. Lower back pain is often the result of incorrect lifting methods/habits and poor posture.

  • Tips include:

    • Properly train employees on appropriate lifting techniquesBack injuries, office safety

    • Utilize material handling equipment (carts, dollies, hand trucks)

    • Encourage stretching for employees to reduce muscle strain

Carpal tunnel syndrome - A nervous system disorder causing parethesia (limbs falling sleep), pain and numbness. Carpal tunnel can be caused by environmental factors such as heavy manual work or work with vibrating tools. There is even a small amount of clinical data to suggest that lighter, repetitive tasks can cause it. This includes activities when frequent/constant wrist flexion is needed or when there is pressure against the underside of the wrist.

  • Tips include:

    • Use of ergonomics equipment (includes ergo chairs, mouse pads, wrist rests, etc.)

    • Taking proper breaks and stretches

    • Use keyboard alternatives (voice recognition, digital pens)

Industrial/occupational noise - A hazard generally associated with heavy industries, in which sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. However, it should be noted that OSHA identifies noise as "hazardous to worker safety and health" in many different places of employment (office work included) and by a variety of causes. Noise not only can cause hearing loss/impairment, but can be a factor in raising stress levels or even raising blood pressure. Lastly, it can impede concentration and be a factor in work accidents (office or otherwise).

  • Tips include:

    • Use earplugs or earmuffs

    • Be mindful of noise control strategies (architectural design, sound insulation/absorption, vibration damping, etc.)

    • If lighting *noise* is the issue, reduce light or retrofit fixtures

Repetitive strain injury - RSIs are as OSHA states them, "injuries to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that may be caused by repetitive tasks, forceful exertions, vibrations,Ergonomics, office safety mechanical compression, or sustained or awkward positions."

  • Tips include:

    • Use ergonomics tools for specific tasks (clipboards for lots of writing, pliers for example, for electricians, ergo mouse for office workers, scissors for retail workers)

Tendonitis - Is a hazard in which a tendon becomes inflamed generally due to overuse of affected limb. This is common in upper and lower limbs and is less common in hips and torso.

  • Tips include:

    • Find the cause

    • Stop the stress

    • Maintain a healthy body

    • Introduce variety

How STS Can Help

Safety Training Services, Inc. can help you in many ways with regards to providing you assistance with any office safety advice. Our toll-free number (877) 724-2744 is a free service to utilize if you have a quick question regarding ergonomics or any office safety topic. If you would like to take a step further in educating yourself or your workers on office safety, STS offers courses related to general industry OSHA topics (including ergonomics and office safety). This is a great way to help your employees to understand the importance of safety in the workplace. Click the button below for more information on our OSHA-related courses.

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Tags: general safety tips, office safety, general office safety, ergonomics, workplace safety, osha general industry training, osha safety topics

New STS "Office Safety" Web Series Next Week!

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Tue, Jun 04, 2013 @ 12:00 PM

As you may remember, we previously covered the topic of “office safety” in an earlier blog, broken up into a 4-part web series. This was a great success in that it helped many to discover another side of an office setting in which hazards were uncovered and myths debunked. Still, it was meant to be a general coverage of the office setting and now we aim to uncover some more in-depth safety info, tips and practices involving office workers and those who work in an office area.

In our new 6-part weekly web series, we will spend time expanding on several subjects including workplace mental health, ergonomics, emergency plans, fire/electrical hazards, “common sense”/housekeeping practices, and the most common workplace injuries: slips, trips and falls.

So mark your calendars for this Monday, June 10th when part one, “Ergonomics: Office Biotechnology and Improving Your Quality of Work” will come out exclusively on the Safety Training Services’ Safety Blog!

Remember that the safest workplaces are ones where every employee knows and practices appropriate office safety!

Office Safety, General Office Safety

Tags: general safety tips, office safety, general office safety, workplace safety

Grill Brats, Not Your Body: Summertime Grilling Safety

Posted by Joshua Fleishman on Mon, Jun 03, 2013 @ 10:00 AM

Here we are already in June, and summer is around the corner. June and July are peak months for grilling fires. But before you dust off that spatula and run to the store for some steaks and A1, let’s take a moment to discuss grilling safety and some tips to keep you from ending up like this poor guy.

The Office - Grill Burn, Grill Safety

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends grillers are mindful of safety. Grills, in general, pose an obvious risk for fires and burns. Gas grills pose a slightly higher threat than charcoal grills in that gas grills contribute to a higher number of home fires than charcoal ones.

Charcoal Grill Safety

Running the Numbers

According to an analysis done by the NFPA, in 2006-2010, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 8,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues per year, including an average of 3,600 structure fires and 5,000 outside fires. These 8,600 fires caused an annual average of 10 civilian deaths, 140 reported civilian injuries, and $75 million in direct property damage. Once again, July was the peak month for grill fires, but these incidents occur throughout the year.

Flammable or combustible gas or liquid was the item first ignited in almost half of home outdoor grill fires. In almost half (46%) of the home outdoor fires in which grills were involved, 53% of the outside gas grills, and 26% of gas grill structure fires, the fire started when a flammable or combustible gas or liquid caught fire. 




Gas vs. Solid-Fueled (Information from NFPA “Grill Fact Sheet”)

  • 83% of grills (5 out of every 6) involved in home fires were fueled by gas while 14% used charcoal or other solid fuel.
    • Gas grills were involved in an average of 7,100 home fires per year, including 2,800 structure fires and 4,300 outdoor fires annually.
      • Leak or break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill fires.
    • Charcoal or solid-fueled grills were involved in 1,200 home fires, including 600 structure fires and 500 outside fires.
      • The leading cause of these structure fires was something that could burn being too close to the grill.

More than one-quarter (28%) of the home structure fires involving grills started on a courtyard, terrace, or patio:

  • 28% started on an exterior balcony or open porch.
  • 6% began in the kitchen.
  • 5% started on an exterior wall surface.

Emergency Room Visits Due to Grills

In 2011, 16,600 patients went to emergency rooms because of injuries involving grills. 7,800 (about half) of the injuries were thermal burns.
  •  Children under five accounted for one-quarter (26%) of the thermal grill burns. These were typically contact burns rather than flame burns.
  • Almost one-third of the gas grill injuries were burns incurred while lighting the grill.

Before the Season Starts

Before using a propane grill for the first time each year, make sure to check the gas tank hose for leaks. If no visible cracks or holes are apparent, use the “bubble test.” A propane leak will release bubbles. Do this by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose. If turning off the grill and gas stops the leak, get its serviced before using again. If the leak doesn’t stop, call the fire department.

For a charcoal grill, there are several ways to get ready to use. Using a charcoal chimney starter allows you to start the charcoal using newspaper as fuel. If you use starter fluid, use charcoal starter fluid. Do not add charcoal fluid to the fire! Make sure to keep charcoal fluid out of the reach of children and away from any other heat sources.  There are also electric charcoal starters, which do not use fire. With charcoal grills, let the coals completely cool when finished grilling. And always dispose of coals in a metal container.

7 Quick Tips for Grill Safety

  1. Propane and charcoal grills should only be used outside.

  2. Children and pets should be kept at least 3 feet away from the grill area.
  3. Grill Safety, Grilling Safety

    Never leave your grill unattended.
  4. Never ignite a gas grill while the lid is closed.
  5. Clean your grill often by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  6. If the flame goes out, turn the grill and gas off and wait at least 15 minutes before re-lighting it.
  7. If you smell gas while cooking, immediately get away from the grill and call the fire department. Do not move the grill.

Make sure to keep grills a good distance away from your home and any deck railings. They should be out and away from under eaves and overhanging branches. Keep fuel away from home and other structures as well. Harmless as it may seem, if fuel positioned too closely to the home and there is fire involving grill equipment, it may become fodder for said fire to ignite the home/structure.

Fire Marshall Bill, Grilling Safety Tips


Remember, fire is an indispensable tool when used to grill outdoors. Kick off your summer fun right, with hot dogs and burgers, not fire and destruction!


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Tags: grill safety tips, outdoor safety tips, summer safety, outdoor grilling safety tips, outdoor safety