January 13, 2004
The beginning of a new year is a good time to think about what's important in life and what changes you can make to benefit yourself and those around you. Safety practices and good health should be on everyone's priority lists. Adopting certain behaviors will help optimize your health, ensure your safety in the workplace and elsewhere, and make your corner of the world better for everyone.
Achieving and maintaining good health is a lifelong endeavor. You've been taught the basics of good health throughout your life:
Germs spread where people gather. That's a fact, and unless you want to spend your life in a bubble, you'll be exposed to and expose others to illness. In the workplace, illness run rampant results in excessive sick days and loss of productivity. Also, workers who are ill and possibly on medication are at a greater risk of on-the-job injury.
What can you do to minimize the risk of catching or spreading an illness? First of all, if you are ill with something contagious, stay home until you are no longer contagious to keep from spreading the illness to others. If you are unable to take the required sick leave, isolate yourself from others as much as possible.
If your symptoms include excessive coughing and sneezing, take nondrowsy medication to alleviate the noise and spare your coworkers from the unpleasant distraction. Refrain from operating machinery while on medication. Always cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing, and dispose of the tissue in your own wastebasket.
To help prevent spreading and catching an illness, clean your hands thoroughly throughout the day. Don't wash so frequently that your hands become chapped and cracked. Keep antibacterial hand lotion at your workstation, and use it often. It's also a good idea to use disinfectant wipes to clean the surfaces in your office, including your phone.
Many accidents can be avoided if you simply tune out distractions and really pay attention to the task at hand. Repetitive tasks sometimes become so reflexive that you pay very little attention to them. Assuming that you're in good health, mentally and physically, not paying attention is the most likely cause of accidents and injury.
A good way to start becoming more aware is to practice during your drive to work. What could be more repetitive than the daily commute? Instead of thinking about home or work problems, focus on your driving and the traffic. You'll be more alert to potential accidents. If you have a stressful commute, remind yourself that the most important thing is to arrive safely, and take required steps to make that happen by being fully engaged in your driving at all times.
A prerequisite for paying attention is adequate sleep. Many adults do not get enough sleep. Without the proper rest, you simply are not sharp enough mentally to be behind the wheel of a car or operating other machines.
If your job requires you to operate machinery, do you pay attention to the condition of the machine? Do you regularly check to see that all safeguards are in place and operating properly? Are you aware of safe practices and follow them? Do you make sure that you are free of external and internal distractions when performing your job? Do you ever think, "I could do this job blindfolded?" If you said yes to the last question, you're not fully engaged when doing your job. An accident is waiting to happen.
Stress is a huge contributor to poor health and accidents. I often refer to my own stressful feelings as my mind being wrapped around a spinning axle. When this state occurs, I'm incapable of being fully engaged in anything until I either confront and relieve the stress or table it—set it aside completely until completing the task at hand and then bring the matter back into the light and deal with it. Setting stressful thoughts aside until a later time can be difficult. It takes the ability to clear your mind and redirect its focus. People who have perfected the art of meditation have an easier time doing this.
Stress management can be accomplished through exercise, journaling, meditation, therapy, and resolving stressful issues. Much of your stress comes from your own reactions to events. When you grasp this idea, you become capable of changing your perspective and reactions to reduce the stress.
Following good health practices, managing your stress, and paying attention to the task at hand at all times can help ensure a safe, healthy environment—a priority in anybody's book.