Limited office safety topics, unlimited office safety meetings
April 27, 2011 12:40 PM   Subscribe

Unconventional safety topics?

My office has a weekly safety huddle, where everyone in my little area has to gather at 10 am Wednesday mornings, and we have to discuss a safety topic for about 15 minutes. This is relatively new, only going on for about 4 months now, but as the weeks go by they're already running out of safety topics, and it's killing me.

One guy was talking about pigeon feces today. His neighborhood has a large pigeon population, and so he discussed the disease hazard aspect of it for maybe 1 minute... and then for another 14 minutes he complained about how it's hard to clean, how his neighbor doesn't see it as a problem, and how the city refuses to help, etc. It was the low point of my day. These meetings are fast becoming my pet peeve of working here, and they are non-optional. Time to do something about it.

So I am looking for interesting, unconventional safety topics, both for my own amusement to think about while i'm sitting through bad ones, and useful ones I can put forth too. I am asking for whatever unconventional safety tips, facts and advice the mefites have to offer. Whatever you have, it can be from the Zombie Survival Guide, zipper-related safety, extreme survival, hazards posed by animals (bears, rabid dogs, insects, etc.)... anything goes. Anectdotes and links most welcome.

*unconventional meaning getting away from the bike/motorcycle helmet safety, ladders, general home chemicals safety, taking care while driving in bad weather, etc... the ones that always seem to be brought up

To kick it off, here's one:

Microwave Safety
It is not recommended to boil water in the microwave because there is a risk of superheating the water (it gets hotter than its boiling temperature, but does not boil). A sudden movement can trigger boiling, causing the liquid to unexpectedly erupt from its container, which can cause severe burns if it spills on someone. This superheating has a greater likelihood with distilled water and new ceramic containers - no impurities or rough surfaces to create a nucleation point, where bubbles can form.

Oh yeah, and this lab safety askme is one I already know about that had a few good suggestions.
posted by lizbunny to Grab Bag (55 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
If there is an active shooter in your building and you are running away from him/her run in a zigzag so you will be harder to target.
Also if there is an active shooter and you have locked yourself in a room, don't open the door for anyone, not even someone you know because they could be the shooter!

Yup, all learned at work. That was a bad day.
posted by Duffington at 12:45 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Shark encounters.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:47 PM on April 27, 2011

A lot of the Mythbusters episodes deal with safety-related questions. Off the top of my head, there were ones about using bug bombs in sealed up homes (kaboom!) and accidentally lopping off the regulators on compressed gas cylinders (goes through a cinder block wall!).

How about situations that are genuinely dangerous but unlikely to show up in an office environment? Like, how to work on live high voltage lines, how to safely enter a nuclear reactor, things like that.

On a more boring and serious note, you could exhort your coworkers to look out for bicycles while they're driving (please, I'm sick of drivers on cell phones looking so startled when they try to plow into me).
posted by backseatpilot at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fortunately they banned cell phone use while driving in my province. Already covered, too.
posted by lizbunny at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2011

Workplace violence, including items that made violence more likely at the workplace, which includes working evenings and nights or having to supervise others. PDF here.

How changing to daylight savings time increases the chance of workplace injuries. Notably, this only applies to when you lose sleep - Not safe! PDF here

If you do this well, you may be able to advocate for lots of changes at your workplace. No need to work outside regular hours, allow you to sleep in,etc etc.
posted by Wolfster at 12:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Tie your shoes!

More seriously, CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, basic first aid responses for seizure, diabetic coma. etc.

Quick exercises you can do to overcome fatigue at your desk.

Stressbusters - stress is a killer. So you need to sing silly songs now and then at work, right?
posted by Corvid at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2011

Power tool safety, and the slow adoption of the Saw Stop? Bonus multimedia of a table saw stopping before cutting a hot dog
posted by true at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2011

Since we do a fair amount of work in the field, I've found the ones on animals, insects, snakes & the like relevant. A guy from one of our partners was bit by a black widow a few months ago and had a couple very eventful trips to the hospital. Also a few years back we had someone who came down with lyme disease likely the result of a tick bite during work. I've even got a couple dead ticks in a jar on my bookcase that I pulled off last fall as we're supposed to save 'em for potential id later (after we make notes on the 'tick-log' of course).
posted by pappy at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2011

There's a wicked storm brewing up outside my window (in Toronto) and I should probably review my tornado alert and lightning safety knowledge.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You should get all the team members safety whistles to blow when they see a safety violation.
posted by ian1977 at 1:18 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I used my turn at our department's "safety minute" to address how to safely turn left after at a break in an esplanade. (Pull forward, then turn...) One of my traffic annoyances and a cause of many a minivan accident in the suburbs.
posted by cross_impact at 1:19 PM on April 27, 2011

And everyone should watch Bert the Turtle do his thing
posted by ian1977 at 1:19 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could also get all risk-management-geeky with probability tress and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA)
posted by cross_impact at 1:20 PM on April 27, 2011

When I lived overseas we got the (American) Armed Forces TV. Instead of commercials they would show public service announcements, including safety announcements. The one I remember was "don't walk with your hands in your pockets, because you might have to salute someone and then you could fall over" complete with a hilarious reenactment.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

Dadburnit, ian1977, ya stole muh thunder...

But here is a UK site called - oh yes -
Window cleaning, safe chemical manufacture and storage, farming and bird flu... it's all there.
posted by likeso at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2011

How about a walk-through of the building to actually locate and perhaps practice with various safety-related things?

For instance, it doesn't matter if your business has an AED if no one except Billy the safety coordinator knows where it is or how to use it, and is out sick the day Sally has a cardiac event. Same for first aid kits, etc.

Also, how about plans for disasters? One thing my DC office building has done since 9/11 is encourage people to have a pair of comfortable shoes available at the office at all times. A lot of people, especially women, had to walk long distances in heels and ended up being barefoot, tearing up their feet, and so on.

Personal safety kits?

Also, if your office doesn't already offer it-- CPR! Maybe if you can get everyone to take a class you could get out of safety huddles for a few weeks.
posted by charmcityblues at 1:27 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just moved to Montana and realized yesterday that I know next to nothing about avalanches. So I may be taking an avalanche class sometime soon and I think avalanche safety would make for an awesome and exciting safety presentation. As a bonus, you could show the avalanche scene from Aspen Extreme (and perhaps a little footage on either side?). For double bonus, dress up in vintage ski gear!
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Fire extringuishing training, though it will take langer than 15 minutes. It's fun getting to dicharge a fire extinguisher. Our contractors get us to put out a 1 metre square pan of burning diesel.

Not just CPR, but how to use a defibrillator (AED). This does only take 15 minutes to learn and could actually save someone someday.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2011

If you call your local fire station and police station, they probably have someone on staff who does short presentations in the community. They could come in and give a short presentation to your workgroup once a month or so, taking it out of your hands for a while.

Also, can you ask HR (or your boss, or whoever initiated these) what the purpose is? I can't imagine they want your workgroup talking about pigeon droppings during work time. They must have had an idea that lacked follow-through or proper direction. What were they hoping to get out of this exercise? You can't be expected to read their minds.
posted by juniperesque at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Staplerfarhrer Klaus, a brilliant forklift safety training video.
posted by leapfrog at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Zombie Central

Tractor Safety

Safety Topics from the Washington State Dept. of L&I

Disposal of household/office chemical waste

Injury prevention/ergonomics in the workplace
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:10 PM on April 27, 2011

You could teach them river safety signals, which are based on the assumption that it is often hard to hear anyone else on the river.

To whit: only point positive (where you want someone to go) and never negative (where you don't want someone to go). Holding out your arms (or paddle above your head) parallel to the ground means "Stop." Holding your arms or paddle straight up means "Go." Making a lasso motion with one hand and then pointing with that hand in one direction means "Eddy out here" (basically: "time to pull over"). "River right" and "river left" are like "stage right" and "stage left" only they are oriented as if you were looking downstream. Three short whistle-blows or shouts means "Emergency." One whistle-blow means "Pay attention."

If you fall out of a boat and someone pats their head at you, they are asking you a question: "Are you okay?" If you can, you answer back by patting your head at them: "I'm okay." If you're struggling too much or are too freaked out to pat your head back at them, then you just swim while your friends try not to freak the fuck out and try to figure out how to help you. The head-patting one is particularly insidious. After long river trips, I've automatically patted my head at people in the front-country who were merely asking me, "Hey, how are you?" while we were standing on perfectly dry land.
posted by colfax at 2:12 PM on April 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

Have you covered ergonomics for office workers (fitting desk/chair properly, taking breaks, stretching)? That seems like a natural - affects most/all staff, injuries can be costly to the company...
posted by momus_window at 2:12 PM on April 27, 2011

I have written elsewhere about safety for fire performers. The organization that coordinates this kind of thing is the North American Fire Artists Association; their safety guidelines.
posted by adamrice at 2:16 PM on April 27, 2011

See if you can turn these things into something useful! See if one of your coworkers is certified to teach Red Cross courses (this is not as rare an ability as you might think), and then have them lead actual Red Cross training sessions in 15 minute spurts. That way you'll all be learning something useful, you'll fulfill the safety topic requirement, and you'll all have certifications at the end of the year.

It doesn't end at regular old CPR and First Aid, either, if a lot of people are already certified. You could do infant and child CPR, pet CPR (I shit you not, you stick your mouth over the whole snout to do rescue breathing), preventing disease transmission, Disaster Response/Mass Care, Kid Safety training, etc, etc, etc.
posted by phunniemee at 2:49 PM on April 27, 2011

wear a mask when handling moldy books and avoid bleach and other caustic fumigants.

That was mine! I have a workplace wellness thing that we do and I think a lot of health stuff can also be safety stuff, like knowing when [and when not] to call 911, knowing the signs of a stroke and how to check for it (not as hard as you would think), same thing for heatstroke. Then there are more driving related things like safe distances and speeds for things [passing, school buses, horses, school zone] how to check all your fluids and what to do if you run low or out of them.

I live in a place with Real Winter so I think about hypothermia and how to treat, frostbite and how to treat. I'd suggest one on the poison control line, one of them has a twitter feed [and is a mefite] and it's good to know what they're for. Similarly what to do with pest infestations [you might call them plagues] like cluster flies, ants, red ants, the truth about "africanized" bees, termites and then larger animals like Things that Get Rabies or other wild animals that might get caught in your house.

Then there are things like thresher accidents and "Help I'm caught in a machine" things which don't happen often in the workplace, but it's worth going over how to detach yourself from something that has you caught even if it's just an elevator. Elevator safety could also include social tips and from there you could move to personal safety like how to get home at night [if you've been drinking, how to get a ride, call a cab, do things that could keep you alive] and how to safely hook up with people [if you tend that way, at least it wouldn't be boring] and then you could mix it up by talking about safe words in BDSM sorts of situations and other sexual health things at which point they will probably decide to scrap the entire program because you talked about penises. Have fun!
posted by jessamyn at 2:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Never, ever, ever pee in (or into) the Amazon River. Unless you want a spiny fish (the candiru) lodged in your urethra. I'm not kidding.
posted by binocularfight at 2:56 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Internet safety! Good password strength, spotting phishing emails etc.
posted by Joh at 3:15 PM on April 27, 2011

Cecil on the candiru. I have to agree with the 19th century expert quoted on the wikipedia page who dismissed the claim as "absolutely preposterous," that a local fisherman said that it's dangerous to urinate in the river as the fish "springs out of the water and penetrates into the urethra by ascending the length of the liquid column."

My suggestions for safety topics would be financial: how to invest wisely, how to avoid being ripped off, how to recognize scams, etc.
posted by Rash at 3:18 PM on April 27, 2011

I had to do a similar thing once, and I based it on some somewhat shaky internet research that said being happy at work meant people were safer and more productive. So I spent the rest of the time telling terrible jokes (What does a bird get if it sleeps around? CHIRPIES! What should he do? Get some TWEETMENT!) until people couldn't stand it any longer.
posted by twirlypen at 3:31 PM on April 27, 2011

When I lived overseas we got the (American) Armed Forces TV. Instead of commercials they would show public service announcements

OMG YES! Those were the best! Besides getting lectured about going to get your anthrax vaccination or else the anthrax ninja might drop out of a tree to give that shot for you. A lot of these were made by local AF(K)N (dating myself the hell out right there) affiliates for army personnel, so you sometimes got a weird "kids in the a/v club trying to make really bad inside jokes" vibe that was usually more miss than hit, and ended up being funny for being so bad. Pretty much almost always low-budget unless it was something filmed by the DOD for consumption around the globe. So yea, track down some of these AFN interstitial stuff. They got PSAs about the weirdest damned things you can imagine.

I was well-versed in the importance of OPSEC, or operations security. Things like vary your routine, so you're not easily tailed...but don't get TOO smart about doing things out of the ordinary.

Be wary of who you talk to and about what and where. Also, OPSEC is very important on the job (I see nowadays they're tackling social media). Just search for OPSEC, there's plenty on Youtube it seems. You could probably make it work for your safety meetings.

Other random things I learned:

- Don't shoplift to at the PX/BX (set to the theme song for Baretta) because they got cameras all up in that piece, so you don't want the MPs coming after your ass in the parking lot.
- A rough working knowledge of how the UCMJ worked if I ever were to be court martialed.
- According to article five of the United States Military Code of Conduct, if I were to ever become a prisoner of war, I had to give only my name, rank, date of birth and service number to any questions asked and to not make any oral or written statements that would be disloyal or harmful to my country and allies. All of this illustrated with a scary commercial illustrated with pictures of emaciated prisoners of war all Ken Burns style =(

I was a cagey fucking little kid thanks to AFKN.

posted by kkokkodalk at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

There's also the classic "Worst Case Scenario" survival guide books you could pick or choose topics from.
posted by kkokkodalk at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mold, keep an eye out for mold.
posted by Slackermagee at 3:47 PM on April 27, 2011

Disc golf frisbees have sharp, heavy edges. They will bust your shin wide open.
posted by cmoj at 3:52 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Some suggestions for discussion topics:

- Is reheating rice really a bad thing? Why? How do you make fried rice then?

- What foods can you ignore the use by date on? By how much? (Communal fridge)

- Office culture / policy on people coming into work when they're sick - work ethic vs infecting everyone else

- Mental health perspective on hotdesking / excessive office noise / co-workers' annoying habits / co-workers' annoying ringtones / annoying co-workers generally...
posted by finding.perdita at 4:10 PM on April 27, 2011

Our safety guys have done topics on heat exhaustion, dehydration, walking properly on icy surfaces, explaining how to read MSDS sheets, how to tell if your PPE is still "good" (when to replace gloves, helmets, eye protection, etc.,) hearing loss from industrial and casual noise exposure (i.e., jackhammers and rock music,) bed bugs, why you shouldn't jump out of your truck, terrible things to NOT do indoors in winter (mostly to do with heating and cooking,) and other preparation kinds of things (like what you should have in your work emergency kit - yes to tuna packets, no to salty things.)

If I had to spend fifteen minutes listening to boring safety topics, I would probably spend that time fantasizing about tips for science fiction scenarios. For example, what exactly would the crew of Serenity cover in their weekly safety briefing? I'm thinking "tips for evading Reavers," here.
posted by SMPA at 4:12 PM on April 27, 2011

In order to be completely without risk, we must all stay in little bubbles. Your company must close its doors. Companies take on some risk, in exchange for profits. You take on some risk, in exchange for pay. Both you and companies hope that the costs of the risks you take are less than the profits/pay.

In light of that, companies talk about reducing risks to "as low as reasonably practicable" (ALARP). They are willing to take some risks. They look at risks qualitatively and quantitatively. Part of that means, there is a dollar amount that they are willing to spend to prevent incidents.

For discussion: What is that dollar amount, per person, per year?
posted by Houstonian at 5:24 PM on April 27, 2011

kkokkodalk - I loved the anthrax ninja!

Concertina Wire - it's really difficult to see at night, so watch where you jog.
posted by panmunjom at 5:41 PM on April 27, 2011

How about one of these Agricultural Safety Topics from the Texas Cooperative Extension Service. I'm kinda joking, but there's good stuff on Bee safety, pesticides, working in hot environments, lawn mower safety and more!

How about a mini-history lesson on The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, an important milestone in the history of workplace safety.

There are some interesting topics to be found at OHSA. They have fact sheets and brochures which could be useful to you.
posted by vespabelle at 6:00 PM on April 27, 2011

Why is it that no shirt, no shoes = no service? There must be a good reason, right? Discuss for 15 minutes.
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:16 PM on April 27, 2011

Jim Macdonald's medical posts in Making Light are full of all kinds of fascinating, horrible details that would make for effective presentations (really, it's the kind of stuff that will stick with you--I know what to do with a sucking chest wound and I last read that post when it was written, in 2008.)
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:38 PM on April 27, 2011

Know the signs of a stroke - this is something that can definitely happen in your workplace, and where colleagues could make the difference in getting you to the hospital in time. factsheets

carbon monoxide poisoning (get a detector for your house and be sure the batteries are fresh)

drowning doesn't look like drowning

Navy's Safety Center - which used to have a funny "photo of the week" of unsafe conditions, but I can't find an easy link to the archive. They also have lots of interesting miscellaneous safety training materials.

Making Light's index to medical posts - they have had a bunch of posts by an EMT emergency responder, on major first-aid topics and mentioning good prevention strategies - good reading and might give you some ideas.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:05 PM on April 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Post-Apocalyptic survival gear, tsunami and earthquake preparedness, tornadoes, and don't forget the most important thing of all-how to control panic situations when you run out of coffee.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:18 PM on April 27, 2011

I haven't read the whole thread, so I apologize if this has been brought up already - but microwaving an egg is way way worse than a cup of water (although perhaps better for science, since a case like this was what helped to prove which cell were the stem cells for the cells that cover the surface of your eye).

Also, this reminds me of those stroke commercials with the arrow through the guy's sweater.
posted by lab.beetle at 8:22 PM on April 27, 2011

I'd be into disaster planning. E.g., evacuation routes. What if the stairs were blocked? (Climb down the elevator shaft? Rappel out the window?) What if a chemical attack happened? (Shelter in place? Where is the plastic sheeting?) Then what? Where do you go under various scenarios? What are the civic authorities' plans and how can civilians help? What about an earthquake? A fast-spreading epidemic? Could [Kaiser? NHS?] explain their plans? I'd try to get as many authorities (the building owner, the police chief, the National Forest Service wildfire chief) to come in and share their disaster plans for your region in as much detail as possible.
posted by salvia at 10:43 PM on April 27, 2011

These sound banal, but proper handwashing technique. You can do groovy little demonstrations with blacklight to show what areas people routinely miss when the handwash. ( I have not used this product, but I do work with ex theatre nurses)

Think about ways to minimise manual handling, or have a physio or similarly trained person discuss the idea with you.

Lameish, but food for thought.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:50 AM on April 28, 2011

If you're working in an office, you'll be doing a lot of typing so it's obviously important to keep your fingers safe from potentially damaging impacts and injury. What to do then if you have to hit someone in the face, perhaps an assailant at a lunch time cash point or the kind of supervisor who suggests stupid time wasting meetings when you could be more productively drinking tea and eating a kit kat. If you punch them on the point of the chin in classic western style you risk breaking your own fingers, which is obviously a big no no, so it's best to break their nose with a sharp upward thrust of the palm then follow through into their teeth with your elbow. Twist your hips and shoulder to get the whole weight of your body into it and remember to follow through completely. No matter how big they are, they'll be disoriented for a few moments so shove them over and smash your elbow down into their face again as you drop to sit on their chest. This can pretty much kill someone though, so use it sparingly in all but the most competitive office environments. Also, if you need to stab someone, say an intruder late at night or a supervisor who still hasn't got the message, use scissors as you'll have some handy in your desk, they're stronger than a knife and you can keep a better grip in a melee. People tend to slash ineffectively with a knife whereas you're forced to stab properly with scissors, giving you a much better stopping ratio. In real life, almost every fight degenerates almost immediately into you and your opponent rolling around on the ground and if you're the one with the scissors you're going to be the only one getting up again. Hope this helps.
posted by joannemullen at 5:12 AM on April 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have to do an annual inservice every year, and this year I was pleasantly surprised at a video on safe driving called Driven to Distraction. It was rather funny and I felt engaged.
posted by radioamy at 7:15 AM on April 28, 2011

Desert survival.

I have to say, this would fast become my favorite part of the workweek. Random safety topics!
posted by kestrel251 at 9:30 AM on April 28, 2011

Very unlikely to ever be useful, but: how to survive (for a short time) in a vacuum. (Previously.)

How long can a human live unprotected in space?

If you don't try to hold your breath, exposure to space for half a minute or so is unlikely to produce permanent injury. Holding your breath is likely to damage your lungs, something scuba divers have to watch out for when ascending, and you'll have eardrum trouble if your Eustachian tubes are badly plugged up, but theory predicts -- and animal experiments confirm -- that otherwise, exposure to vacuum causes no immediate injury. You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness.

(Nasa link)
posted by lioness at 1:51 PM on April 28, 2011

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