8 May Safety Topics And Tips For Busy Safety Managers

Following on from March safety topics and April safety topics, our May safety topics piece is here to round off our spring safety topics and tips. As we’ve progressed through the months, we’re talking less and less about rain and floods and more about heat, warmth and sun.
In this article, you’ll find our safety calendar for May which covers all the big safety events and acknowledgements throughout the month. You’ll also find 8 safety topics that are perfect for your toolbox talks. We understand the importance of keeping your content relevant to help your staff retain the information better and we hope you will be able to use this article as a guide for your daily safety meetings.

May safety events

Following on from April, May is another very busy month for safety events. We’ve added a table below to serve as your guide because you may consider coming up with safety topics in conjunction with the current safety events. This month, many of the events are month-long, giving you a great opportunity to cover these topics in full.

EventSponsorDate(s)
Motorcycle Safety MonthNational Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationMay 1-31
National Electrical Safety MonthElectrical Safety Foundation InternationalMay 1-31
Clean Air MonthAmerican Lung AssociationMay 1-31
Trauma Awareness MonthAmerican Trauma SocietyMay 1-31
Healthy Vision MonthNational Eye InstituteMay 1-31
Mental Health MonthMental Health AmericaMay 1-31
Global Employee Health & Fitness MonthNational Association for Health and FitnessMay 1-31
National Heatstroke Prevention DayNational Highway Transportation Safety Administration May 1
National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Workplace Falls National Highway Transportation Safety AdministrationMay 3-7
EMS WeekNational Safety Council (NSC)May 16-22

May safety topics 

While we recommend covering as many of these topics as possible throughout May, it’s important that you’re comfortable in delivering this training to your staff. We’ve added resources from official sources such as OSHA as well as safety talks for each topic. We also encourage you to find exciting ways to bring these topics to life. For example, you can try finding funny videos from TikTok safety accounts or using safety leadership quotes to make your talks memorable. 

Workplace air quality standards 

The first topic is around workplace air quality standards. This ties in nicely with the Clean Air Month by the American Lung Association which is observed in May.

The aim of the month of observation is to educate people on the impact that clean air has on our lives, as well as encouraging people to take steps to improve air quality. This is especially important at work, as regular poor air quality can lead to day-to-day symptoms such as headaches or fatigue. In more serious cases, it may also mean:

  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Cancer

Make sure your colleagues are up-to-date with the potential hazards and consequences of low Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and the steps they need to take to prevent this. 

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Injury prevention

Injury prevention is always a big topic, but there are lots of micro-topics to cover it in full. This month, a good topic to cover is hand safety. As a common source of injuries (with over 120,000 incidents reported in 2019), our hands are the most important tool we work with. Therefore, hand safety as a topic is a must. 

During a hand safety talk, you could remind everyone of the importance of:

  • Wearing the right hand protection for the job to avoid cuts and lacerations
  • Dressing appropriately: including loose sleeves, jewellery or checking long nails
  • Strengthening the hand muscles to guard against Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and sprains
  • Being mindful of where their hands go on any workstation
  • Not removing any guards on machinery

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Lockout/tagout

An enormous 10% of industry safety incidents could be prevented by effective lockout/tagout procedures, so ensuring that your staff are up-to-date with their requirements is key. According to OSHA, good LOTO programs prevent “unexpected energization or startup of machinery and equipment or the release of hazardous energy during service or maintenance activities”.

Often, the most serious workplace injuries involve heavy machinery. And, all machinery has a risk of injury. So, your LOTO program is critical to staff safety. Some questions to ask your coworkers include:

  • What are the LOTO procedures for this piece of machinery?
  • What are the common mistakes we make?
  • What are the consequences of not following LOTO procedures?
  • Is there anything we can do to improve?

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Electrical safety during weather disasters

Something we’ve also spoken about in our spring safety topics piece is around unpredictable weather conditions when working outdoors. This is the perfect time to bring this topic up, as it coincides with National Electrical Safety Month. 

As we know, spring can bring weather extremes from tornadoes and hurricanes to rain, hail and flooding. Therefore, it’s important that all your colleagues are aware of the potential hazards, relevant personal protective gear and the steps they need to take to remain safe.

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Overhead power line safety

It’s important when we think about workplace safety that we don’t just focus on interior work zones. Many of us work outdoors, and power lines are sometimes a part of our work. Because of the changes in temperature and weather, power lines are more unpredictable at this time of year. 

Helpfully, OSHA has some 5-minute videos around ladder safety and crane safety using real-life case studies.

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Fire prevention

Fire prevention is an ongoing topic, and one that becomes even more relevant as the temperature rises. A good subtopic to cover is fire extinguishers. While we see them everywhere, we’re not always 100% familiar with OSHA’s fire extinguisher requirements. It can also be difficult for employees to decide which fire extinguisher is best for each situation if there are a few to choose from in an emergency.

To prevent a fire from spreading, employees need to remember the “PASS” system with their fire extinguisher technique. This involves:

  • P: Pull the pin on the extinguisher
  • A: Aim at the base of the fire
  • S: Squeeze the handle
  • S: Sweep at the fire, moving side to side. 

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Mental health

In line with Mental Health Month, May is a great time to broach the topic with your team. Mental health issues can be faced by anyone, and many businesses now choose a ‘Mental health first aider’ who can support colleagues if they’re facing issues.

Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety can cause symptoms like:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Difficulties with sleep

All of these could be contributing factors to a workplace injury, incident or fatality. So it’s important to make sure your colleagues are able to speak up and seek help. 

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Heatstroke prevention

With June bringing the start of the summer months, we are getting closer to hot temperatures both inside and outdoors. One of the biggest consequences of working in heat includes heat stress and one of the biggest risks is heatstrokes. National Heatstroke Prevention Day is on May 1st, giving safety leaders the perfect opportunity to refresh everyone’s minds on the signs, symptoms and risk factors of heatstroke.

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FAQ

Besides the safety topics, we’ve put together a few FAQs to share with your coworkers. These will help ensure that they’re ready to stay safe working in the sun.

What are the three stages of heat illness?

1. Heat Illness

Symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Irritability

2. Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Severe dehydration: thirst, nausea, vomiting

3. Heat Stroke

Symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Stopping sweating
  • Passing out: fainting, seizures or fits

What can you do to prevent heat exhaustion?

There are multiple things that you can do, and things for safety leaders to implement, too. To prevent heat exhaustion, you can:

  • Modify work schedules to avoid the times where the sun is the hottest
  • Add frequent breaks
  • Provide a shaded break area
  • Arrange protective clothing such as hats and lightweight clothes

Colleagues can: 

  • Look out for the signs and symptoms of exhaustion in themselves and others
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Try to avoid caffeine or alcohol, which can enhance dehydration
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes where reasonable.

What if someone is displaying symptoms of heat stress?

If a coworker is showing signs of heat stress, the first step is to call for help from a supervisor or 911. Once you’re waiting for help, it’s important to:

  • Move them to an area out of the sun (wherever possible)
  • Cool them with fanning
  • Provide a cold drink of water
  • Remove any heavy or hot clothing

Conclusion

May is a busy month in the safety calendar. Luckily, this gives you plenty of inspiration for your safety program! By observing safety events and keeping your toolbox talks topical, you can make sure that your coworkers are on top of their safety training — even if you use short safety topics and only have a few minutes a day to chat. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next month’s article: June safety topics.

References and further reading