Safety urged for Fourth of July weekend activities
Note: In recognition of National Safety Month, the Transporter will publish a series of articles to promote safety. The ITD Safety Team encourages employees to put an extra focus this month into weekly safety meetings at work and to use the information at home as applicable.
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Most preventable injuries happen where you'd think you're safest – at home. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that 17 million people were injured at home and 62,000 died from their injuries. The leading cause of injuries and deaths came from: Poisonings, falls, choking, drowning and fires/flames. The focus this week is Fourth of July safety.
Six ways to keep your July celebration injury-free
Americans will enjoy their traditional patriotic celebrations next weekend. And that can mean only one thing: It's officially summer.
It's time for the backyard barbecues, fireworks and fun in the sun with family and friends. Less visible to celebrants, safety professionals are thinking about E. coli, fires and heat illness. (This kind of thinking is an occupational hazard for ITD’s Safety Team!) So to help workers host safe celebrations, let's take a look at some common summertime hazards and how to address them.
1. Prepare for sun and heat
Here's hoping the sun shines on your festivities. But if it does get hot, be prepared.
- Demonstrate and encourage sun safety. Remind guests to cover up to prevent sunburn and to bring sunscreen. Have extra sunscreen on hand to share with your guests.
- Make an abundance of water available to help prevent dehydration, which can lead to heat illness.
- Watch guests for signs of heat illness, including cramps, exhaustion, nausea, dizziness, pale and clammy skin, quick pulse and low blood pressure.
Mild cases of heat illness can be treated by moving the person to a cool area and supplying water to drink. However, heat stroke - when perspiration stops and the body temperature rises - is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical help.
2. Plan for biters and stingers
Mosquitoes, wasps and hornets are regular party crashers. The best way to prevent a sting or a bite is to avoid the insects. For example:
- Wear insect repellent and re-apply frequently when sweating.
- Avoid bright, flowery print clothing. Instead, wear light-colored fabrics.
- Don't use scented toiletries- they attract bugs.
- Keep food covered, especially fruit and soft drinks.
- Don't swat at stinging insects or wave your arms in panic. Let the insects fly away on their own.
If someone is stung, try to remove a visible stinger, scrape it off sideways with a credit card or fingernail. Never try to pinch it out; this can inject more venom.
For mild reactions, apply ice or baking soda to the sting and take an antihistamine. If hives spread quickly or if there's difficulty breathing, get the affected person to an emergency room immediately. Most deaths from severe reactions occur within 30 minutes.
3. Designate safe drivers
When you organize a party, you need to consider how everyone will get home safely. Here are some ideas:
- Arrange designated drivers before the party starts.
- Serve other beverages besides alcohol.
- Serve high-protein food such as cheese snacks.
- Plan party activities that do not center on alcohol consumption.
- Close the bar an hour before the party ends and serve non-alcoholic beverages and snacks.
- Prevent intoxicated guests from driving.
4. Keep food borne illnesses off the menu
Food safety is serious business. To prevent food-borne illness:
- Food, utensils and surfaces must be kept clean and protected from contact with disease-carrying insects such as flies.
- Serve hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Keep meat hot on the barbecue until it is served, and cold items such as salads refrigerated. Use convenient freezer packs to transport perishable foods in coolers to picnic spots.
- Cook meat thoroughly and use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. (Hamburger can look brown inside before it's been safely cooked.) It's unsafe to serve chicken pieces that haven't reached at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit (74 degrees Celsius). Burgers and pork must be heated to at least 160 degrees F (71 C) and steaks, roasts and chops should reach a minimum of 145 degrees F (63 C). Partially pre-cooking meat in a microwave is fine, as long as you don't let it sit around before it's barbecued.
5. Be water wise
Children, summer and water are a trio made to be together. But this trio also can be a deadly combination. If there's a body of water (pool, lake, ocean, river, etc.) near your celebrations that children will be playing in, then you must:
- Establish and enforce water safety rules.
- Make sure a responsible adult is present when children are in or near the water.
- Have reaching and throwing water safety aids handy.
- Have a first aid kit accessible.
6. Handle fireworks safely
Fireworks are safer than they used to be, but every year serious injuries still occur. If fireworks are part of your celebration plans, follow these guidelines:
- Read and follow directions carefully.
- Only ignite fireworks outdoors in a well-cleared area.
- Have a responsible adult supervising all fireworks activity.
- Light fireworks one item at a time.
- Have a bucket of water available to douse used fireworks.
Hot tips for the barbecue
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every year barbecue grills cause approximately 6,500 fires. The peak month for grill fires? July.
The top ignition factor, accounting for 43 percent of grill fires is mechanical failure or malfunction, such as part failure, leak, break or lack of maintenance. Other ignition factors include:
- Misuse of heat of ignition - such as lack of control of open fire and abandoned materials
- Misuse of material ignited - such as combustible material being too close to heat
- Operating deficiency - primarily leaving the grill unattended
With proper maintenance, inspection and vigilance, however, many outdoor grill fires can be prevented. Here are some top barbecue safety tips:
- Operate barbecue outdoors only, 10 feet from house, garage, combustible fences and trees;
- Maintain your barbecue by replacing rusted or worn hoses and fittings;
- Test for leaks and check tubes for blockage;
- Keep lid open when lighting gas grill, to prevent flash from gas build-up;
- Turn the barbecue off if you smell gas and don't attempt to relight until the leak is fixed;
- Keep alcohol away from grills;
- Use baking soda on grease fires - not water - and keep the proper fire extinguisher handy;
- Cap lighter fluid immediately and place it a safe distance from the grill.
- Leave an operating barbecue unattended;
- Move an operating barbecue;
- Wear loose or flowing clothing while tending to the barbecue;
- Use gasoline or kerosene as a starter;
- Store LP cylinders indoors;
- Store spare cylinders near the grill or appliances.
In case of fire:
- For propane grills - turn off the burner
- For charcoal grills - close the lid
- For electric grills - turn off power
- If the fire involves a propane tank:
- Leave it,
- Evacuate the area, and
- Call the fire department immediately (9-1-1).
Have a wonderful – and safe – Fourth of July celebration.