Archive for July, 2011

I was looking through Safety Lit the other day and came across an article titled “Working for Mom and Dad” Are Teens More Likely to Get Injured Working in Family-Owned Businesses?” and it sparked my attention. Earlier that morning, I had been watching the news, and there was a report of a study that indicated that toddlers are safer when they are in their grandparent’s car compared to their parent’s car…and then I saw this article. Its occured to me that- your not always as safe as you think and there is such a thing as ‘too comfortable!”

Family-owned business is commonly treated like the corporate businesses but when it comes to general workplace safety- tighter restrictions need to be applied. For example, working in a family restaurant is more “laid back” because, after all, it’s the parents you are working for- not a third party “boss”. Therefore, the things that teens can get away with at home are often carried over to the workplace- with no regards to obeying “by the book”.

This study distributed a questionnaire to over 8,000 teens in Wisconsin. Of those, 42% worked- and of those, 34% were employed in a family business. It was discovered that the teens in the family businesses had more severe injuries compared to the other working teens. The most common injury in the family businesses working teens was broken bones (17%); only 5% of other working teens had broken bones. Also, the teens working in family businesses filed for workers compensation more than the other working teens. Also, which seems like a given to me, the teens working at their family business engaged in more horseplay and dangerous tasks, some of which were illegal.

How do we deal with this? A family business is meant to stay in the family- which means, teens need to be taught the skills and given the opportunities to succeed. However, altering the “mind” of a teenager to say “even though you’re working for your parents, you need to pretend your ‘boss’ is an actual ‘boss’” is very difficult. Either- more strict regulations need to be developed which tighten down on small, family businesses or the family businesses need to hire a “non-family” supervisor that really “cracks down” on the teens working for him/her.

Zierold KM, Appana S, Anderson HA. “Working for Mom and Dad” Are Teens More Likely to Get Injured Working in Family-Owned Businesses?”  J.Community Health 2011; ePub. http://www.safetylit.org/citations/index.php?fuseaction=citations.viewdetails&citationIds%5B%5D=citjournalarticle_303458_8

-Megan H


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Power Saw Safety

Okay, I admit that I watch way too much TV. When we first got cable TV a few years ago, I could not get enough of HGTV with all their home improvement and decorating shows.  As a young health and safety professional, however, I was appalled to see that all these professional carpenters on TV had removed the guards from the table saws.  Surely, they know how dangerous that could be! As I fantasized about the possibility of becoming the safety manager for HGTV, I wondered why the guards on table saws are so flimsy and ineffective at preventing injuries. 

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago when I heard an interesting story on NPR (National Public Radio) about a new technology that has been developed to prevent lacerations and amputations from power saws.  My interest was piqued.   I wondered how many occupational injuries could be prevented by this new technology. Unfortunately, in my searches, I could only find a study conducted on non-occupational injuries based on emergency room statistics.  Nevertheless, I think this information has applicability in the work environment.  This study was conducted by the Consumer Products Safety Commission based on information in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System which collects data from U.S. hospital emergency rooms (Adler, 2003).

Based on the investigations of 225 incidents occurring between October 1, 2001 and December 31, 200, the Consumer Products Safety Commission Directorate for Epidemiology estimated that there were about 52,000 injuries (CV = 0.12, n = 225) treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms associated with stationary saws for the calendar year 2001.  Of these injuries, the majority occurred from contact with the saw blade while the saw was in operation.   The study also found that in only 22% of the cases was the blade guard attached at the time of the incident (Adler, 2003). 

The new technology is pretty amazing (watch it in action:  www.sawstop.com ), and would virtually eliminate all injuries associated with blade contact.  In the NPR story the reporter interviewed some of the leading manufacturers of power tools (Arnold, 2011).  Their argument against installing better protection is that it would add $100 to $300 to the price of a power saw, and consumers would be unwilling to spend that kind of money. (Personally, I think fingers are worth at least $300 each.) Nevertheless, it appears that the Consumer Product Safety Commission is going to push for legislation mandating improved safeguards on power saws (Arnold, 2011).  I hope that they are successful, for the sake of anyone who has ever been injured by power saws either on or off the job. 


Adler, P. (2003). Injuries Associated with Stationary Power Saws. Washington, DC: US Consumer Products Safet Commission. (www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia03/os/powersaw.pdf)

Arnold, C. (2011, May 25). Advocates Urge Lawmakers to Make Table Saws Safer. Morning Edition.  National Public Radio. (www.npr.org/2011/05/25/136617222/advocates-urge-lawmakers-to-make-table-saws-safer)

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The concept of booster breaks has been put forward by our very own Dr. Wendell Taylor at the University of Texas School of Public Health. Booster Breaks are defined as: “organized, routine work breaks intended to improve physical and psychological health, enhance job satisfaction, and sustain or increase work productivity.” The intent of Booster Breaks is to encourage health-enhancing breaks during the work day as a corrective to job stress and sedentary behavior. Examples of Booster Breaks are physical activity (e.g., a brief sequence of physical movements, tai chi, or yoga), meditation, or breathing. Even for brief sessions (i.e., 10- to 15- minutes), a routine practice can produce physical, psychological, and/or mental benefits.

One objective of Booster Breaks is to transform work place culture so that management supports and encourages Booster Breaks during the work day and that groups of co-workers regularly participate in Booster Break sessions to provide social support and promote enjoyment. In many work places, the usual 10- to 15-minute work breaks in the morning and afternoon can be organized as Booster Breaks to enable a regular practice of a health-promoting behavior at the work place in work clothes during the work day. Ideally, each company would have Booster Break facilitators (i.e., company employees trained to lead the activity) who guide each session.

 The concept of booster breaks was put forward in an article by Dr. Taylor in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2009.  Sedentary behavior is responsible for a variety of health problems including obesity and coronary heart disease. Physical activity and meditation can improve not only the physical but mental health as well. The most common reason for lack of physical activity cited by people is “no time from work”. With this ingenious idea by Dr. Taylor, people can actually use their “work” time to engage in physical activity. Additionally, the booster breaks will improve the psychologic well being of the workers as well and could potentially improve the work efficiency, as healthy workers are better workers. Hence the companies shall also have an incentive to arrange for an organized booster break session. It is also purported to improve the social well being of the workplace environment, as the workers shall bond with each other during these breaks. Moreover, it would replace the unhealthy “coffee breaks”.

One of the biggest criticizations has been that how much improvement in the health would a 10-15 min schedule bring? However, there have been scientific records that regular physical activity of even a short duration as this can improve health in the long term. With its manifold advantages, other then the primary motive of improving health, I see no reason why booster breaks should not be implemented more widely.

Neeraj Shah

MPH student (Epidemiology)

PH2760 Occupational Epidemiology

University of Texas School of Public Health

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Truck drivers, whose jobs impose high levels of psychological demands, have been experiencing significant work stress. Based on a recent multisite ethno-epidemiological study of trucker networks, truck drivers reported many stressors including constant time pressures, loneliness, fatigue and lack of sleep, disrespectful treatment from others, driving hazards (e.g. bad weather, traffic accidents , highway construction), and violence or fear of violence (e.g. getting mugged/robbed, being a victim of assault). Tight delivery schedules, interrupted sleep and anxiety also had a detrimental impact on their sleep. Some long-haul truck drivers even experienced difficulties sleeping in traditional settings after being accustomed to sleeping in their trucks. (1)

Additionally, being away from family, friends, and usual family traditions and routines makes truck drivers feel apart from the family unit. An interview on their family/friend relationships indicated that 23.7% of the truck drivers considered their relationships as either “not good”, “strained”, or “stressful”. (1)

Another cross-sectional study of 300 male truck drivers also reported that truck drivers were at increased risk for depression when compared to the general population. (2) Long-haul truck drivers are also highly vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and drug use. (3)

Further studies among train drivers and bus drivers need to be conducted in order to know whether this only happened among truck drivers or has already been a general problem throughout the transport industry.


1, Mona Shattell et al. “Occupational Stressors and the mental health of truckers.”  Issues in Mental Health Nursing 2010(31): 561 – 568, DOI: 10.3109/016128.2010.488783

2, Francisco Pereira da Silva-Júnior et al. “Risk factors for depression in truck drivers.” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 2009(44): 125-128, DOI: 10.1007/s00127-008-0412-3

3, Donna Hubbard McCree et al. “Sexual and drug use behaviors of long-haul truck drivers and their commercial sex contacts in New Mexico.” Public Health Reports January – February 2010(125): 52-60

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Heinrich Unleashed

Herbert William Heinrich is one of the founding fathers of industrial safety and accident prevention.  In order to honor his legacy and update his contributions in the 21st century, I wrote two (2) articles that have now been published.  The first, Heinrich and Beyond, was published in Process Safety Progress in March.  The second, Heinrich’s Fourth Dimension, was just published in the Open Journal of Safety Science and Technology.  I hope you honor his contributions and read my meager offerings.

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