4 winning online tools and apps that keep workers safe

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced the winners of its Worker Safety and Health App Challenge. The contest awarded prizes to online tools that demonstrate the importance of recognizing workplace safety, preventing health hazards and educating young workers on their rights, according to a statement released last week by the DOL.

“The winning entries place new technologies in the hands of young workers and their employers, making safety and health resources even more accessible,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Every app submitted was designed for internet browsers, smartphones and social media platforms, or as applications for Windows or Macintosh. A panel of judges selected winners in three categories:

Safety in the Workplace Innovator Award
The University of Tennessee’s Construction Industry Research and Policy Center and the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering won a $15,000 grand prize for their “Working Safely Is No Accident” website. The site is designed to teach workers ages 13 to 24 about occupational hazards. It provides safety tips on a variety of topics, an educational game and information about workers’ rights.

Safety and Health Data Award
The $6,000 prize was awarded to the United Steelworkers union for its USW Chemical Safety app that allows users to research a material safety data sheets database for information on workplace exposure limits, health hazards, workplace controls, personal protective equipment (PPE), handling and storage, and emergency procedures related to hazardous substances.

Workers’ Rights Award
The Montana State Fund won $6,000 for its No Jack -Young Workers’ Safety Campaign website, which targets workers between the ages of 16 and 24 and their employers. The site features insight on fostering a culture of workplace safety, co-worker respect, compensation rights and measuring safety and prevention efforts.

People’s Choice Award
The DOL opened up a portion of the contest to the public by letting people vote on a site or app on the challenge website. The $3,000 prize went to app designer Sidharth Garg for his Ergonomics iOS app for mobile devices. The tool provides users with information on ergonomic safety, workplace-specific stretching exercises and programmable reminders to take breaks to prevent musculoskeletal injuries.

These tools are great resources for business owners, who may consider reviewing them and sharing them with managers and employees to educate and promote workplace safety.

Weight loss and stress management top employees’ New Year’s resolution list

Nearly 40 percent of workers say losing weight is their top health concern going into 2013, and 26 percent want to tackle stress issues this year, according to a recent poll by employee assistance program provider ComPsych.

“Weight loss is, not surprisingly, the No. 1 health concern this year,” said Dr. Richard Chaifetz , chairman and CEO of ComPsych. “What is significant is that many more employees are aware of stress as a major contributor to health problems.”

Other health goals employees have this year include exercise, diet improvement and smoking cessation.

Employers may consider helping workers reach their health goals by creating or strengthening organization wellness programs. Obesity, mental illness and other conditions can severely impact worker productivity and health and compensation costs. Investing in wellness initiatives, however, improves employees’ capabilities and lowers healthcare expenses. For every dollar spent on health promotions, business owners can save between $3 and $5 in health and safety costs, such as medical expenses, absenteeism and workers’ compensation, according to the Small Business Wellness Initiative (SBWI).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is a great resource for education materials on health topics for employers and workers. In addition, the SBWI provides extensive information about wellness programs and ways to improve employee’s health habits.

PPE equipment sales were up in 2012

As 2013 is off to a positive start, total sales numbers for personal protective equipment (PPE) likely surpassed $12 billion in 2012, according to a recent report by Reportlinker.com. As the economy picks up its pace, the industry is expected to sell more than $14.1 billion worth of equipment in 2013.

The sales engine is not expected to cool anytime soon. The report forecasts a strengthening economy in which PPE sales are expected to increase in the U.S. to hit $16.7 billion by 2015.

These sales numbers suggest many businesses will emerge and/or expand, requiring the purchase of new equipment and replacements for outdated gear. It’s good to keep in mind the factors that come into play when selecting and purchasing PPE for workers.

There are many kinds of PPE, including respirators, protective clothing, eye protection and hearing protection. A variety of industries have standards that mandate the use of these materials. To ensure businesses are meeting federal and state requirements by keeping workers safe, employers should check the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for updated laws and safety information. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is another great resource for employers and workers.