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5 Tips for Staying Safe and Healthy at Work

By: Kevin Gardner

When it comes to staying safe and healthy in the workplace, keeping your body and mind alert, nourished, and fit are essential.

1. Stay Hydrated and Nourished
Drink plenty of water to perform your best throughout the workday. When you are dehydrated, your mood is often affected and you may become irritable and unfocused, which can increase your risk for accidents. Be sure to keep your body well-nourished too. Mental alertness can be drastically affected by your diet. If you are eating lots of heavy carbohydrates and sugars, this tends to leave you feeling fuzzy-headed and tired. Stick with lighter foods and foods that pack fiber such as a whole food peanut butter snack bar and sugar-free drinks fortified with vitamins and minerals that promote alertness. If you reach for energy drinks with loads of sugar and caffeine, chances are these will lead to a crash in energy long before your workday ends.

2. Be Well Rested
Lack of sleep increases your risk of accidents dramatically. Adequate sleep promotes alertness and keeps your reflexes ready to respond to whatever your workday throws at you. If you know you have missed a lot of sleep, consider taking a half-day off and allow yourself to sleep in and go to work after lunchtime. If you have trouble sleeping in general, be sure to discuss this with your employer so that he or she is able to better understand why you may be having difficulty with tasks. Work with your physician and maybe also a psychologist to figure out strategies for alleviating your insomnia. Allowing insomnia to continue unchecked is never a good idea and it puts you at much greater risk of injury and accident.

3. Maintain Your Healthy Immune System
If you are exposed to a lot of people during your workday, it’s a good idea to make an extra effort to support your immune system. Taking extra vitamins, especially vitamin D, and minerals helps to ensure your body has everything it needs to function optimally. Get enough sleep. Studies show that lack of sleep diminishes your body’s immune system function. Stress also lowers immune function, so be sure to allow yourself adequate time to relax and engage in activities you enjoy every day. If you are facing a lot of stress at work or at home, it may make you more susceptible to becoming sick. Take time off, see a counselor, talk with a friend or your doctor and find ways to alleviate the stress before it turns into a bigger problem for you. Daily exercise is a great way to both relieve stress and build your body’s natural immune function.

4. Use Your Sick Days
Coming to work sick was perhaps more common in the past, but should definitely be avoided. When you are sick, it is often a sign that your body needs to rest and recuperate. Going to work will only set you back in recovering from whatever bug you have and it may even put other employees at risk if your germs are the catching sort. So, be kind to yourself, your co-workers, and any clients you might normally interact with and stay home to rest. If you’re out of sick leave, talk to your boss about doing some work from home or consider taking some unpaid time off, if possible.

5. Ask for Training
If you are expected to use equipment at work that you are not comfortable operating, always ask your employer for some additional training so that you know exactly how to safely use that equipment. A good employer will appreciate your honesty and be thankful that you prioritize workplace safety. If training isn’t available through your employer, he or she may be able to cover all or part of the expense for you to receive necessary training off-site.

Make proper self-care a priority in your daily life in order to maintain the level of awareness and awakeness needed to safely complete your work.

Jacqueline "Jackie" Annis is an industrial hygienist with the Office of Partnerships and Recognition, Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs in OSHA’s National Office.  Jackie’s primary responsibilities include developing and overseeing internal policies and procedures for the VPP, reviewing VPP on-site evaluation reports for process safety management information, serving as the National Office liaison for two of OSHA’s ten Regions, and facilitating the management of OSHA’s National Strategic Partnership Program.  She is an integral part of OSHA’s National Office team. 

She has served with the Agency for 36 years, including five years as a senior industrial hygienist in OSHA’s Office of Health Enforcement, Directorate of Enforcement Programs in the National Office and 17 years as a compliance safety and health officer in the Denver, CO Area Office.  Prior to her tenure at OSHA, Jackie worked as an industrial hygienist for the Department of the Navy in Alameda, California.  Jackie obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA in 1983.

Wayne Howard earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from UC Davis and has spent 12 years with Shell (at Martinez) refinery, 3 years with the consulting firm Process Safety, 15 years with Valero (at Benicia), and the last 10 years in the Corporate Process Safety Department. He is the Valero representative to AFPM's Advancing Process Safety Initiative.

Nathan Obaugh, PE is a senior engineer in the Safety and Operational Excellence Group at NuStar Energy. Nathan has over 10 years of PSM and process design experience in the petrochemical, refining and midstream industries. At NuStar, Nathan oversees all elements of the corporate PSM program and works directly on hazard analysis, process safety studies, PSM/RMP audits and provides process engineering support to the operations and capital projects groups.

Jared Teter, PhD is a senior staff scientist with a background in physics and hazards analysis. He has extensive experience in subscale testing of energetic materials and has served as program manager for several large testing and risk management projects. He has applied engineering and risk management protocols while evaluating the risk associated with propellant and explosives manufacturing, combustible dust, and other hazardous material related processes.

Tim Belitz has a degree in Environmental Health/Industrial Hygiene from Old Dominion University and a Master’s from Duke University. He has over 25 years of Industrial Health Safety and Environmental Experience and is a Certified Safety Professional. He has many years focused on Contractor Management and Process Safety programs.

Rob Walker graduated from Virginia Tech in Microbiology and Chemical Engineering. Rob has almost 35 years of experience working in the chemical plant and refining industry. His passion for Process Safety and Mechanical Integrity began very early in his career. Rob began with his current company, Honeywell, back in 2011.

Prasad Joshi has B.S. and M.S. Degrees in Chemical Engineering from two universities in India. Prasad has over 30 years’ experience in the business. He began with Honeywell in May 2022 as Principal Maintenance Engineer. He has worked internationally in Asia and Europe.