As we covered in the January safety topics, it’s important to keep your daily toolbox talks and safety messages of the month as topical as possible. While workplace safety is a theme that works year-round, you need to stay focused on the potential hazards that your employees are currently faced with.
Don’t forget that you can also use our December safety topics piece for inspiration. Many of the hazards from the last two months are still relevant today.
February Safety Topics
Although, at some latitudes, the month of February is a little lighter and slightly less cold than December and January, we’re still better off talking about best practices for winter safety. What’s important to remember is that your toolbox talks don’t have to be boring. You can liven them up with funny safety moment ideas or even some funny OSHA violation memes and videos. This can help fill up your February safety calendar and make it easier to get your message across.
Lighting and visibility
Low lighting and poor visibility are two of the most prevalent issues which affect most workers. Even if they work inside during the day, the short days will mean that your coworkers get to and leave work in the dark. Not only does this affect their safety, but also on their fatigue levels — something we will talk about next.
As to visibility, it’s important to make sure your staff is safe when they are working past sunset at warehouses, construction sites, and the like. If you’re not sure about the latest rules, take a look at OSHA’s high-visibility warning garments requirements.
In short, these regulations cover:
- Who needs to wear high visibility workwear
- The difference between appropriate daytime and nighttime high-vis clothing
- Which colors and reflective tape patterns are required
- If and how requirements change between weather types, seasons, and temperatures
Winter fatigue and its implications
As above, the low visibility and dark evenings can cause worker fatigue. While this is a year-round concern due to long hours, irregular working patterns, or shift work, it is often amplified by poor weather and the lack of sunlight. The short days also mean that it may be harder to get up in the mornings, making your staff feel rushed and disoriented when they get to work.
Winter fatigue shouldn’t be overlooked because it can cause a decrease in hazard perception, productivity, and adherence to safety measures. It can also affect workers’ mental health.
That’s why winter fatigue toolbox talks go hand in hand with mental health toolbox talks. Poor mental health can be caused in winter due to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). But there are also additional rules to consider when you’re aware that a staff member is suffering, and it’s vital that you support them at work when this is the case. Even though mental health doesn’t fall under the OSHA recordable criteria, it’s still a key hazard and, so, a key toolbox talk topic for a safe working environment.
February is one of the wettest months of the year and, as such, rainwater needs to be taken into consideration. Although it might sound like a dull topic, wet surfaces can cause hazards for all employees. Wet floors can contribute to workplace safety accidents such as slips, trips, and falls. Not only that, but OSHA also notes that heavy rain can increase the danger of using cranes and hoists particularly for those working in construction.
The combination of rainwater and cold air can also create snow, ice, and slippery surfaces. While there aren’t any specific guidelines around working in the rain, OSHA recommends:
- Moving cautiously, particularly on ladders or at heights
- Using the correct equipment and tools that can be used in the rain with non-slip handles
- Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) including proper footwear and trousers that don’t drag on the floor
- Suitable hand protection with grip
- Wearing high-visibility clothing to make sure all workers can be seen by each other
Gritting and icy roads
On a similar note, rainwater and cold weather can cause icy roads. OSHA’s PPP (prepare, protect, prevent) is the ideal safety slogan for winter driving, and, why not, a great short safety message that sticks.
Download, print, and share OSHA’s guidelines on winter driving to make sure you’re giving your employees and contractors the information they need to stay safe.
Bonus: Safety Topics Inspired By The Latest Safety Events
As we’ve said before, (a few times!) there is nothing that’s better for retention than creating a topical safety theme. In February, there are several topics that you should cover. Consider creating posters, sharing funny safety slogans, following some interesting YouTube safety channels, or researching other resources for some video inspiration!
National Heart Month
Global employee health is important at all times. However, with the CDC reporting that heart conditions are responsible for one death every 36 seconds in the US, National Heart Month (or American Heart Month) is an event not to be missed.
There are several risk factors when it comes to heart health. These include:
- Being overweight or obses
- An unhealthy diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
Helpfully, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has put together some downloadable content, videos, and GIFs to share with your team around heart disease. Even if you cram the topic into just one of your toolbox talks, make sure that your employees are aware of the risk factors. You can remind them throughout the month of the importance of taking care of their hearts.
National Burn Awareness Week
Another important and interesting topic with in-work and at-home implications is National Burn Awareness Week. In February 2021, it runs from February 7-13, and is the perfect opportunity for safety leaders to talk about burn prevention and awareness.
Organized by Americburn, Burn Awareness Week this year is on the theme of “Electrical Safety from Amps to Zap (A to Z!”.. As a result, they’ve created some handy burn graphics which give practical tips that you can share and put up in relevant places at work. They also make for great safety content to share on social media or for internal communications.
To make this even more relevant, consider sharing information about burns that applies to your day-to-day workplace. For example, this may include refreshing your employees on the lockout and tagout steps. OSHA data has shown that proper lockout and tagout standards can prevent as many as 120 fatalities and 50,000 injuries every year, meaning it’s a topic not to be ignored. For a quick guide, read and review this OSHA Factsheet.
Finally, another effective way of reducing burns and workplace accidents is by adhering to the correct fire extinguisher standards. This doesn’t just mean storing in the right place. This means training your staff on how to use them, making sure they’re in a working condition and are fully maintained. If you think your team is unsure, start by checking OSHA’s fire extinguisher placement requirements. Ensure that your equipment is up-to-date with the right protocols in case of a fire.
Tinnitus Awareness Week (UK)
Finally, Tinnitus Awareness Week is held in the UK in February 2021. From February 1-7, the aim is to support the research that needs supporting to fund more support for people who suffer from Tinnitus. Tinnitus is caused by ear problems in either your outer, middle or inner ear. It is characterized by a loud ringing, humming, or high-pitched noise that you can hear even when there is nothing to cause the sound.
In the US, studies show that Tinnitus affects up to 32% of the population, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. One of the biggest risk factors for Tinnitus is exposure to loud noise, making it particularly prevalent in those who work in construction, manufacturing, or with heavy machinery and equipment. OSHA has some guidelines on the health effects of noise, where they explain that Tinnitus can lead to higher workplace accidents, communication issues, and also psychological stress. So, it’s important that you’re able to share and recognize the risk factors with your employees.
While it’s still a dull and dreary month, your February safety topics can be truly interesting and helpful when you consider the February safety calendar. It raises a lot of really important and interesting topics. By rotating through monthly safety topics year-round, you can ensure that your staff is always up-to-date with the latest safety regulations and rules. But don’t forget to keep it engaging and fun! Personally, we think these safety slogans that rhyme are a great place to start.