Monthly Archives: July 2016

A Safety Message About Ergonomics, Repetitive Activities And Proper Lifting

” Avoid the Pain ”

Did you know there is still a place in the world where trained elephants provide the power for a centuries- old operation?  It’s a fact! Myanmar which was formerly called Burma, is one of the few countries to use elephants extensively for logging.

Handlers ride behind the elephant’s head and use hand signals and verbal commands to signal the animals to push, pull or stack the logs.

These beasts of burden are easy to train and loyal to their handlers for life. Despite their size, the elephants are adept at navigating the rough terrain.  However, they have a very sensitive back, which must be protected because they drag logs weighing up to 3,000 pounds over uneven ground.  Each elephant’s handler is responsible for preparing a large pad of leaves and bark to make a thick, soft layer on which the dragging gear is balanced. The saddle-like arrangement prevents the logging chain from straining the elephant’s back.

In most parts of the world machines have taken the place of elephants in logging.  Machines can help us do our work safely and more efficiently.  But operating a machine, working with tools, or even poor posture for extended periods can put us at risk and lead to repetitive stress injuries.

The human back, along with knees, wrists, hands and shoulders must be protected from strain, especially repetitive stress. Injuries from repetitive stress can be extremely painful and can affect your ability to work.  Fortunately, they can be prevented.

*Always be aware of your posture.  Your posture should be relaxed yet upright when sitting, standing or walking.  Good posture also reduces fatigue.

*Rearrange your workstation if possible.  Adjust work surfaces so that they’re not too high or too low for you.  If you’re working overhead, stand on a platform to avoid keeping your arms extended upward.  And place containers, tools and other equipment within easy reach.

*Watch your wrists.  They’re susceptible to repetitive stress.  Keep them relaxed and straight when grasping objects, using tools, or using a keyboard.  Make sure your tools are well –oiled and sharp so you can use them without strain.  Avoid jerky movements, which can cause added stress.

*Try to alternate repetitive activities if possible.  Alternate tasks if you can to avoid repeating the same activities hour after hour.

*Lift with your legs.  You risk serious back strain every time you lift improperly.  Remember, lifting’s a breeze when bend at the knees.

A well trained elephant in the jungles of Myanmar may be able to lift a 3,000 pound log without strain, but we always have to be aware of repetitive stress and strain on the job.  Avoid it and your work becomes a lot easier.

Avoid the Pain of Repetitive Strain

*Copyright Harkins Safety 2005



Safety Message About Confined Space And Personal Protective Gear

” Trapped ! ”

At 9:53 p.m., there was a frantic call to 911.  So began one of the most harrowing underground mine rescues in history.  It was a five-day saga in which lives hung in the balance.  Anguished wives, mothers, fathers and children held vigil while nine coal miners sat trapped 300 feet below the surface in a 4 foot-high mine shaft. Here’s their gripping story.

Miners working the night shift at Quecreek Mine in Somerset, Pennsylvania, mistakenly tunnel into the shaft of a nearby abandoned mine. Suddenly a wall of coal collapses, sealing them in and 50 million gallons of groundwater flood into the cramped mine shaft. Seeing their peril, the miners radio another mining team—they’re trapped.

As the water level rises, breathable air grows scarce and the numbing cold threatens the miners with hypothermia.

But on the surface rescue teams are already in place.  By 3:30 a.m., they have drilled a 6 inch air supply shaft and are pumping water out.  The rescue team hears faint tapping, a signal that the miners are still alive.

After three days of drilling and two delays to repair broken drill bits and other equipment, the rescue team reaches the miners at 10:15 p.m., four days after the ordeal began.

A rescue capsule just 24 inches wide descends the shaft.  The first miner squeezes into the capsule for the ascent to the surface.  One after another, the miners emerge from the cramped mine shaft, exhausted and cold but grateful to be alive.

This rescue, dubbed “the miracle in the mine” had a happy ending—you may not be as fortunate.  Confined spaces include any spaces that have limited openings for entry and exits, such as pits, vaults, vessels, tanks, tunnels, pipelines, railroad tank cars, sewers and open surface tanks more than 4 feet deep.

The hazards of confined spaces include too little or too much oxygen and dangerous concentrations of gasses, vapors or combustible dusts. Other life-threatening situations can arise if the space has poor ventilation or if the work requires welding or the use of electrical or mechanical equipment that generates toxic fumes.

If your job requires you to enter a confined space, make sure you know how to work safely in that specific space and that the prescribed precautions are in place before you enter.

A Confined Space is a Dangerous Place.  Stay Alert!

*Copyright Harkins Safety 2002



Safety Message About Lifting Properly And Ergonomics

” A Matter of Mechanics ”

In the blistering deserts of the Middle East, archeologists work patiently to gently unearth secrets of three and four thousand years ago.  How were the palaces, temples, pyramids, and even whole cities built without the bulldozers, gantry cranes, “Chicago booms” and all the other sophisticated hoisting devices so common today?

All the evidence seems to indicate that the ancients had only four basic tools—the ramp, the lever, the pulley and a constantly replenished supply of muscle power, both human and animal.

Blocks of stone weighing many tons could be moved and lifted because the ancients understood the rudiments of Mechanical Advantage.

Today durable rugged machine power is substituted for animal power—and the application of human muscle power is kept to a minimum.  But when human muscle power is required—it is still largely subject to the same limitations that applied in ancient times.

Except for some minor changes in musculature—mainly in leg muscles below the knee—the human body of today is almost identical with human structures of the days before Christ.  Today’s human body may be a bit taller, heavier, stronger and more durable, but one similarity continues: the human back is as vulnerable today as it was centuries ago.  It remains the somewhat inflexible support mechanism and compared with other parts of the body, it is a weak link.

In ancient times ruined backs condemned the victims to helplessness, even death.  Slave masters who built the pyramids cared little for the well-being of humans in their charge.  If a body could not lift or pull its weight, they would discard it and bring in a new slave. Today every effort is made to teach and enforce means of avoiding back injuries incurred through improper lifting.

Use the legs and spare the back.  Don’t subject that slender column of bones, discs and ligaments to strains it was not designed to handle.

Use the muscles that were designed for power.  Use legs…keep the fragile back straight.  Bend the knees…let thigh and leg muscles supply the upward thrust required to lift.

Position the feet properly, one slightly ahead of the other…assess the load to be lifted.  Grip it firmly—avoiding sharp or irregular edges.  Plot the path of both the lift and the carry.  Be sure it is free of obstacles and slippery surfaces.  If the load is too heavy, get help in lifting it—rather than help for yourself after you have sustained an unnecessary injury.

Lifting is a matter of mechanics…just as it has always been.  So is protecting the back.  Lifting with the legs will save your back and keep you healthy, pain free and active.

Take advantage of the mechanical advantage like the ancients and remember…


*Copyright Harkins Safety 1999



Safety Message About Avoiding Slips And Falls, Lifting Properly, Fire Prevention

” Finish First ”

He learned how to drive by running moonshine in North Carolina and went on to become a NASCAR legend.  Let’s take a glimpse at the fascinating life of Junior Johnson.

Born Robert Glen Johnson Jr., in 1931 in North Carolina.  Junior Johnson grew up on a farm in Wilkes County.  He ran the moonshine that his father made in a homemade still, and even served 11 months in prison after a dust up with Federal agents at the still in the Carolina mountains.

Junior eventually traded the moonshine runs for the racetrack.  The all-out, go-for-broke driving that Junior showed on the back roads of Carolina transferred easily to the paved straightaways and banked curves of NASCAR.  In his first season, he won five races and finished sixth in the 1955 NASCAR Grand National points standing.

After his short stretch in prison, Junior returned to NASCAR in 1958 and won six races.  The following year, he won five more NASCAR Grand National races and made his reputation as one of the best drivers ever.

But his biggest win came in 1960 when he finished first at the Daytona 500.  It was during his preparation for that historic race when he accidentally discovered the idea of drafting.  By following extremely close to the car in front, Junior found that he could travel in the first car’s slipstream, reducing strain on his car and gaining additional speed.  That’s how Junior won Daytona against faster, higher-powered cars.

Just as Junior Johnson found ways to drive smarter and win, we can find ways to work smarter when it comes to safety.  For example, always….

*Practice good housekeeping to avoid slips, trips and falls.

*Br alert to fire prevention and know where extinguishers are located.

*Lift carefully with your legs—not your back.

*Handle chemicals with care and always read SDSs.

*Inspect your tools and keep them in good working order.

*Check with your safety supervisor for more safety smart tips.

Recognize that safety is a highly regarded value at your company and work accordingly, because slip-ups can happen to anyone, even to Junior Johnson.

The worst crash Junior had was at the World 600 in Charlotte.  Junior was driving full-throttle with a two-lap lead when a spectator threw a bottle onto the track, causing Junior to crash.

When Junior retired in 1966, he had an amazing 50 victories to his credit.  Why not make your safety record one of victory over accidents?  You can do it by working safely each and every day.  Remember…


* Copyright Harkins Safety 2006




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