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garbage cansWhat’s in your trash can? The answer to that question can affect not only your business’s profitability but also its reputation.

Today, most communities have some type of residential recycling program. Many towns and cities also work with businesses to recycle production waste, used packaging materials, and other environmentally friendly post-production materials.

In the US, an estimated 1.51 lbs of materials are recycled per person per day, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center. In addition, people and businesses are doing a better job of producing less trash in the first place. The same study found that per capita waste generation fell from 4.7 lbs per day per person to 4.4 pounds per day, resulting in a total annual reduction in municipal solid waste (the stuff that goes to the dump) by about 3 million tons.

Recycling and Business

Consumers create a lot of trash. But so do businesses. Things like byproducts, leftover packaging materials, and other post-production materials can quickly add up.

But an increasing number of businesses are discovering that participating with local recycling programs or launching their own recycling initiatives can not only reduce the amount of waste the enterprise generates, but also improve employee morale, enhance the company’s reputation in the community, and even help boost their brand.

Something as simple as providing separate containers for garbage and recyclables in employee break rooms and other areas throughout your facility can help minimize your business’s carbon footprint. And every effort you make to make the community (and the world) a cleaner, safer place is an opportunity publicize your business’s environmentally friendly approach toward recycling.

Recycling Containers

Many towns and cities that have recycling programs will provide containers for residents. But businesses are often left on their own to collect and separate their cans, bottles, paper, and other recyclables.

Purchasing separate receptacles for waste and recyclable materials is a fast and easy way to show your employees, and your community, that you care about your business’s impact on the community in which you live and work. In just a single afternoon, you can take a huge step toward enhancing your business’s reputation and standing within the community.

People are getting more conscious about the effect they have on the world at large. By thinking globally and acting locally, your business can help reduce pollution while at the same time being a better neighbor and a more environmentally conscious member of your local community.

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Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Nickki Gowing receives an intranasal mist of the flu vaccine. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain)

Every year between in the fall and winter, millions of people become sick in the US due to the flu.

This year, the flu is particularly bad. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control recently announced every part of the continental US had “widespread” flu activity.

Colds and the flu not only take their toll physically, but they also can affect businesses financially. Absenteeism, loss of productivity, and medical treatment of employees can be significant in years when the flu is bad, like this year. In fact, the CDC estimates the direct cost of the flu on US businesses to be approximately $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults.

Preparing for the Flu’s Arrival

It’s not a matter of if the flu will arrive in your area, but when.

When the flu starts to appear in a city, a town, or even a single business it can start to spread exponentially. In a period of just a few weeks or even a couple of days, it can jump from person to person, taking its toll on people of every age.

The flu can even be fatal, especially for the elderly, young children, and people with compromised immune systems.

For businesses, taking steps to prepare for the flu and to prevent its spread once it arrives is of critical importance. The CDC recommends that businesses encourage its workers to get vaccinated against the flu, or even sponsor on-site vaccinations.

Prevention and Control

The flu virus is spread a number of ways: It can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, it can become airborne when a person infected with the flu sneezes or coughs, and it can even sit dormant on surfaces like counters or light switches.

Once somebody who is not infected comes into contact with the virus, they can introduce it into their system by touching their face, eyes, nose, or mouth. Within just a couple of hours, they can begin to feel the devastating symptoms of the flu, including diarrhea, vomiting, muscle aches, headaches, fever, and sore throat.

Prevention begins with creating a culture within the organization.

In addition to encouraging people to get vaccinated, businesses also should ask workers to stay home if they feel sick, avoid unnecessary contact with people who may be infected, and prevent exposure risks by cleaning desks, counters, light switches, and other surfaces frequently with anti-bacterial wipes.

Dealing with the flu is something businesses have to contend with every fall and winter. The good news is every year flu season also comes to an end in the spring.

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Andreas Tille courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean outdoor operations stop. In fact, many operations are busier during the year’s coldest months than they are in the spring and summer.

There are still orders to fill, supplies to be stored, inventory to be counted, and all the other responsibilities that are necessary for a successful business — including occasionally climbing up on a ladder.

Yet using a ladder in winter weather is much more hazardous than climbing one in warm, sunny weather. Rungs can be covered in ice and snow. Freezing temperatures mean workers are likely to be bundled in more clothing. And fast-moving winter winds can easily push a ladder over or cause a climber to tumble.

Employer Responsibilities

During the winter, ladder use should be limited to only those tasks that are absolutely essential. If there are other alternatives — such as using a cherry picker, scissor lift, or forklift equipped with a work platform attachment — these may be both safer and more efficient.

If you do require workers to climb up on a ladder outdoors in wintry weather, you may be held responsible if something goes wrong. According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration,  employers are required to protect workers from falls at any height higher than 4 feet for normal work, and higher than 6 feet for construction work.

Removing Snow Safely

One of the most common outdoor tasks requiring ladders in the winter is removing snow from products, supplies, shelving, roofs, and other areas. Snow can cause damage to property, especially if it is wet and heavy. Getting snow off materials provides more access. But it also lets customers and clients see products, supplies, and materials, which can help boost sales.

Before ordering any worker to climb up a ladder during winter, it’s important that they know what they are doing and are aware of the dangers. If necessary, you should supply the proper fall protection equipment. Depending on the height, this may include safety harnesses, guard rails, slip-resistant boots and ladder steps, or other gear.

Getting Up and Down Safely

Workers should be assigned to teams of at least two people so that one person is never climbing a ladder alone and unsupervised. If a fall should occur and the worker is caught by his or her fall protection system, the other worker can alert others for help and assist in getting their partner down safely.

Using ladders in the winter poses multiple hazards. Following best safety practices can help reduce accidents and injuries, as well as employer liability.

 

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Snow-Laden Roofs Offer Numerous Hazards

26 Dec 2017

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Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Heavy snow can put buildings at risk (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

So far, most places in the US have been spared from the heaviest snowfalls. But it’s just a matter of time before a whopper of a storm dumps many inches, or even feet, of snow on roads, sidewalks, and buildings.

Heavy buildups of snow add additional weight to roofs and support beams. Too much can cause a collapse. But removing snow from buildings’ roofs also has its risks.

Significant Hazards

Workers climbing onto icy, snow-covered roofs put their health at risk in more ways than just falling. For one thing, it’s bound to be cold up there. Frost and hypothermia from cold temperatures and high winds can cause injury very quickly.

Roofs that laden with snow already have a higher risk of collapse. Adding the weight of workers only increases it.

Working in extreme conditions lifting heavy snow can easily cause overexertion. After every winter snow, hospital emergency rooms are jammed with older, overweight adults suffering from heart attacks and other maladies related to trying to shovel too much snow too quickly.

Then there’s the risk of shock or electrocution from buried wires, hanging power lines, or damaged extension cords.

Removing Roof Snow Safely

Whenever possible, the best plan is often to do nothing at all. Don’t put workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto snowy, icy roofs in severe weather conditions — especially if it’s not necessary.

Rather than getting on the roof, use ladders to apply de-icing materials or use rakes or draglines that can be operated from ground level.

Get an engineering assessment about how much weight your roof can actually hold. Most communities have building codes that require structures to withstand the weight of even the heaviest snow.

When There’s No Other Choice

If your roof is at risk of imminent collapse, the best approach is to hire professionals to clear the snow for you. Provide workers with the proper safety equipment to minimize the risk of injury or death, such as fall protection equipment, ladders, or aerial lifts.

Workers climbing onto roofs should be alert of unexpected sounds or movement, which could indicate an imminent collapse or snowslide.

Use rakes or brooms to remove snow uniformly across the roof. Unbalanced loading can increase the risk of roof collapse or snowslides. Don’t push snow into piles on the roof. Instead, push or throw it off the roof as you go.

Provide intense supervision whenever putting workers at risk by requiring them to climb onto a snowy roof. Have a plan for rescuing workers in case something goes wrong.

Most importantly, if there’s no real risk of damage to your building, don’t put workers at risk. Eventually, the snow will melt on its own.

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holiday rewards and recogitionMost warehouses, docks, and distribution centers are in the midst of their busiest time of the year right now.

How successfully they deal with the challenges of the holiday rush often depends on how organized, clean, and efficient their operations are throughout the rest of the year.

Neatness Counts

During the holidays, most operations are stuffed to the ceiling with inventory. Regardless of whether you are handling food and beverage, Christmas toys, chemical products, or industrial equipment, storage is likely to be filled to be capacity this time of year.

When your workspaces are more crowded than usual, it’s critical that you follow best practices in terms of keeping your operation neat, clean, and efficient. Keep aisles clear of debris like empty boxes or trash from packing materials.

Keeping floor space clear will give your employees more room to work and possibly even give you more valuable storage space. At this time of year, every square foot counts.

Organize and Label Your Storage Space

During the holidays, many businesses will expand their staff or onboard temporary employees to help deal with the rush. Because these workers haven’t worked in your business before, they probably aren’t going to be familiar with where everything goes.

Delays in storing and retrieving items due to ignorance and confusion on the part of new employees can be overcome by carefully organizing and labeling shelves, racking, and other storage spaces before the busy season begins.

But if you haven’t already organized your storage space already, doing it now may be challenging. But at least you can get some benefit from it, at least in the short run.

Streamlining Operations

Your operation will be more efficient if it runs like a well-oiled machine. In order for this to happen, all the moving parts must work together. And there needs to be adequate and capable supervision to spot and correct problems before they occur.

Make it your goal to move items only once, rather than handling the same item multiple times. Fewer trips increase efficiency and help keep the operation running smoother and faster.

Recognize Great Work

This time a year when demand and high there can be a tendency to skip niceties and be more direct with line level employees. But they are probably as stressed out as you are when your operation is in full swing.

Take the time to recognize and reward workers who are doing a great job. Make an effort to show your appreciation to all of your employees, even temporary and seasonal workers. And don’t forget to say “thank you”.

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The Hidden Costs of Workplace Accidents

28 Nov 2017

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Police Line Do Not CrossIf there is an accident in your workplace, it can result in damaged products, hospitalization costs, and perhaps some lost productivity while the aftermath is cleaned up. But once everybody is back to work, that’s the end of it, right?

Wrong! The truth is that even a single workplace accident can cost businesses an astronomical amount of money. And the costs can keep on piling up for months or even years after the actual accident has been forgotten.

Productivity Costs

When an accident occurs, business as usual typically stops — at least temporarily. But this momentary pause in productivity can cause timeframes to be thrown off schedule, deadlines to be missed, and customers left without the products or services they are expecting.

If there is an injury that requires recovery time, the business can be left shorthanded, affecting productivity even further. Completion of projects may be delayed.

Maintenance and Equipment Costs

A direct result of a workplace accident is damage to equipment or the physical property of the business. The cost of repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed property can be high.

There can even be long-term bookkeeping consequences. If a particular piece of equipment such as a forklift, conveyor system, or other big ticket item has to be replaced, the accrual of that property has to start all over from scratch. That not only will affect the business’s annual operating budget for the current year but for many years to come, not to mention the potential tax implications of lost depreciation of the damaged equipment.

Legal Costs 

In many instances, a person injured in an accident may sue the business, which can result in high legal expenses. Attorneys fees, court costs, and settlements can cost huge amounts of money. And even if the business successfully defends itself against the lawsuit, the company’s legal expenses will likely go up, along with its insurance premiums.

At the very least, the company may have to pay an injured employee’s salary during their recuperation. And because the worker is not adding anything to productivity, that expense comes right out of the bottom line.

Reducing Costs by Reducing Accidents

All of these costs can be avoided altogether if the workplace accident never occurs. Implementing workplace safety programs, employee training, and careful supervision can eliminate dangers and reduce accidents.

While these measures may require a little upfront investment on the part of ownership, it can be a drop in the bucket compared to the long-term costs of a single workplace accident.

 

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package deliveryOne of the unintended side effects of today’s booming economic conditions is that business theft is on the rise. Because so many businesses are so busy filling orders and keeping up with customer requests, it’s easier for thieves to slip in, take a product, and slip out without being noticed.

Even if your business is setting record sales figures, it’s never a good idea to have your losses too high. Not only do these losses come right off the bottom line, but they also reflect poorly on your business’s reputation. And if thieves in your town realize your company is an easy mark, it’s only going to get worse.

Protecting your property and products is essential to the success of your business. Here are five fast and easy ways you can get started right now.

1. Nurture a Culture of Security

If you and your upper management don’t seem to care about security, it’s going to be impossible for your line levels works to do so, either. Leadership needs to prioritize security, including mandatory training, pre-employment screening, and encouraging all employees to watch for and report suspicious incidents.

2. Expand the Use of Technology

Tracking technology today is cheap and widely used. There’s no excuse not to use GPS or other tracking devices that allow your shipments to be monitored in real time. Most systems will give you instant warning alerts whenever anything goes off track.

3. Secure Your Property

Security equipment like surveillance cameras, fences, motion detectors, and other technology not only helps make your property more secure but also acts as a deterrent to potential thieves. If criminals see that you have invested in security equipment and your competitors haven’t, they are more likely to move on to another victim.

4. Have Drivers Pay Close Attention

The most likely time for a theft to occur from a truck is when it is unattended. Have drivers lock trucks whenever they leave their vehicle. Or better yet, use two drivers to ensure the truck is never left unguarded.

5. The 200-Mile Rule

Another common tactic for thieves is to follow a truck as it leaves a business, then steal from it the first time the driver stops and leaves it unattended. If practical, require your drivers to travel at least 200 miles before stopping their truck unless it is an emergency. Few thieves are willing to put in that kind of mileage and will likely look for another victim.

Protecting your business in boom times is just as important as it is when business is slow. Use these quick and easy techniques to improve your security and reduce your losses due to theft.

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winterLike it or not, the snowy season is right around the corner. Heavy snows and winter storms can affect the productivity of any business, possibly even halting it altogether.

Clearing snow from parking lots, entry roads, docks, and other work areas can keep your business running even in during the harshest winter weather. Before the heaviest snow hits, it’s always a good idea to review some basic snow plowing essentials that can improve both the speed and effectiveness of your snow removal operations.

Prioritize Work Zones

Like anything else, the best way to deal with heavy winter weather is to have a plan in place before it hits. Identify the areas of your business that are critical to your operations. These can include driveways, docks, and other essential operational areas.

These are the places you need to clear first. Secondary areas like parking lots, sidewalks, and less essential spaces can often wait until later.

It’s also a good idea to mark items like speed bumps, shrubbery, water drains, pipes, fire hydrants, and sidewalk edges so that you can avoid plow damage. Place a tall flexible pole topped with a plastic flag on objects that will be hard to see after a heavy snowfall.

Forward Thinking

Plan the routes your snowplows should take, keeping in mind that plowing patterns should allow drivers to drive forward as much as possible.

If drivers need to put their vehicles in reverse, they should bring the plow truck to a complete stop before shifting. When in reverse, it’s a bad idea to rely solely on the vehicle’s mirrors, especially if snow is still falling. Instead, turn around and look in the direction the vehicle is moving.

Slow and Steady

While you want to remove snow as quickly as possible, driver’s shouldn’t drive fast. Vehicles fitted with snow plows should never exceed 40 mph when moving with their plow in the up position, or 14 mph when the plow is at ground level.

When plowing on dirt or gravel roadbeds, the plow should be fitted with plow shoes so that it doesn’t scrape the surface away altogether. Plow shows should be removed when plowing asphalt or concrete so that the plow can scrape as close to the surface as possible.

When the plowing job is finished, the plow blade should be lowered to the ground. This helps take stress off its hydraulics.

Winter is coming. Being prepared by having a plowing plan in place can help minimize its disruption on your business.

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floor striping tape“Grab the tape, will you?”

“Okay, which kind?”

The answer to that question will depend on the kind of job you are working on. There are literally dozens of different types of tape that can be used in the industrial or commercial setting, including tapes of different widths, thicknesses, and even materials.

The type of tape you choose to use matters. Today’s diverse tapes are specialized for their specific application. Here is a look at some of the types of tape you are likely to see in the workplace.

Polypropylene Tape

Polypropylene tape is most commonly used for sealing boxes and other containers. It has high tensile strength, is waterproof, and also abrasion resistant. It is great for packaging because it conforms well to smooth and uneven surfaces alike. It generally doesn’t stretch very well, however.

This type of packing tape usually is clear so the user can see through it to the box’s seams. But it also can come with either opaque or even printed surfaces.

Polythene Tape

The benefit of polythene tape is that it will peel cleanly from most surfaces, it has some electrical insulation, and it conforms easily to most uneven or unusual surfaces. It also is water resistant and halogen-free.

Polythene tape is used in the automotive, boating, and building industries, among others. It mostly comes in black, but can also be found in other colors, but not clear.

Foil Tape

Foil tape has acrylic adhesives which improve their bond with age. It is completely water resistant and creates a total vapor barrier, which is why it is widely used in plumbing and ductwork.

While foil tape can create a strong bond, it will peel cleanly if left for only a short period of time. It usually comes with a metallic finish.

Double-Sided Tape

As the name implies, double-sided tape has adhesive on both sides, which makes it ideal for holding carpeting, tarps, and other sheeted materials in place securely. It also can be used to hang photos, labels, and other items.

Double-sided tape usually has a release liner that protects the adhesive on one side of the tape until you need to use it. These liners are made from siliconized paper and can be easily peeled off from the tape.

Cloth Tape

Cloth tape has a fibrous backing that gives it the strength to meet the demands of many varied applications. Duct tape is an example of cloth tape.

There are nearly as many types of tape as there are jobs to use them.

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Photo courtesy of NVIDIA

Photo courtesy of NVIDIA

One of the problems with self-driving cars has been that the brain power required to run a single vehicle required a roomful of computers. But now a Silicon Valley tech company says it has created an artificial intelligence system that is as small as a car’s license plate.

The new system, code-named “Pegasus”, could finally enable Level 5 driverless cars, vehicles that can be operated entirely on their own using just sensors and computers.

No Steering Wheel, Gas or Brake Pedals

Pegasus-powered driverless cars would have no steering wheel, no gas or brake pedal, and no mirrors, according to Jensen Huang, founder and CEO of NVIDIA, the company that has developed the program.

“Creating a fully self-driving car is one of society’s most important endeavors, and one of the most challenging to deliver,” Huang said in a news release announcing Pegasus. “The breakthrough A.I. computing performance and efficiency of Pegasus is crucial for the industry to realize this vision.”

Powered by the Pegasus artificial intelligence program, new driverless cars will be able to “see” their surroundings through high-resolution, 360-degree surround cameras and light detection and ranging (LIDAR) sensors that uses light in the form of pulsed lasers to measure ranges within centimeters.

Plus, the vehicle’s processing power will have to have multiple levels of redundancy to ensure the highest level of safety as they track vehicles and people in their vicinity and plan a safe and comfortable path to the rider’s destination.

All the Comforts of Home

Self-driving cars aren’t high-tech, science fiction fantasy. They are already in development and could arrive in car dealers’ showrooms within just the next couple of years. Car companies like Ford and Mercedes-Benz and even companies like Google and Amazon have invested millions in developing the technology to enable driverless cars.

Anticipating customer wariness to turning over the driving to robots, car manufacturers are reportedly trying to ease in the technologies by introducing elements one at a time, such as cars currently on the market that can parallel park themselves or that automatically brake in the event of an impending collision.

Eventually, nearly all passenger cars will be self-driving. And when they are, riding in cars will be a completely different experience, according to Huang.

“Driverless cars will enable new ride- and car-sharing services,” Huang said. “New types of cars will be invented, resembling offices, living rooms or hotel rooms on wheels. Travelers will simply order up the type of vehicle they want based on their destination and activities planned along the way. The future of society will be reshaped.”

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