Author Archives: Stefanie Valentic

American Heart Association Recognizes Companies for Health Culture

The American Heart Association (AHA) released the results of its annual Workplace Health Achievement Index, highlighting 540 companies that met the organization's criteria for a positive workplace health culture.More than 800 companies submitted their workplace health initiatives in order to become recognized for taking significant steps, according to the organization.“The Index asks companies to be proactive about employee health, benefits, programs and incentives,” said Terry Lundgren,  and co-chairman AHA’s CEO roundtable and Macy’s Inc. executive chairman. “By challenging participating companies to actively prioritize employees’ health and well-being – we can effectively build a culture of health and wellness across America.”The Workplace Health Achievement Index allows companies to measure the effectiveness of their workplace health programs, as well as the overall heart health of their employees, according to the also scores companies on the heart health of their employees. The key factors contributing to optimal heart health include smoking cessation, maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, managing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and keeping blood sugar at a healthy level, according to the AHA.The association created the Index with its CEO Roundtable members, a leadership collaborative of more than 30 CEOs from some of America’s largest companies who are committed to applying evidence-based approaches to improve their employees’ overall health.“Our CEO members have collectively pledged to improve the health of our nation’s companies, their employees, and communities,” said Henry Kravis, co-CEO and co-chairman of KKR and co-chairman of AHA’s CEO Roundtable. “We’re pleased to see more companies join us on this important mission and help share our collective best practices on workplace health initiatives with all America’s employers.”Let's block ads! (Why?)

NIOSH Adds Nine Chemicals to Skin Notation Profiles

Skin disease and exposure in the workplace exceeds the instance of respiratory illness at a rate of 3.4 injuries per 10,000 employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Because of the significant risk to chemicals in the workplace, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published new skin notation profiles to “alert workers and employers to the health risks of skin exposures to chemicals in the workplace.”The profiles are meant to “inform the audience – mostly occupational health practitioners, researchers, policy- and decision-makers, employers, and workers in potentially hazardous workplaces – so that improved risk-management practices may be developed to better protect workers from the risks of skin contact with the chemicals of interest,” NIOSH Director John Howard said.Originally published in the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, the profiles provide supplemental information to the skin notation – in particular, specific hazards to skin from a certain chemical – including a summary of the relevant data used to help determine these hazards.The new chemicals include:Arsenic and inorganic arsenic containing compoundsDisulfotonHeptachlor1-Bromopropane2-Hydroxypropyl acrylateDimethyl sulfateTetraethyl leadTetramethyl leadTrichloroethyleneNIOSH’s hazard identification ensures that the assigned skin notations reflect the contemporary state of scientific knowledge. It also provide transparency behind the assignment process, communicates the hazards of chemical exposures of the skin and attempts to meet the needs of health professionals, employers, and other interested parties in protecting workers from chemical contact with the skin.A complete list of skin profiles can be found on NIOSH’s website.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Meal Planning for Dummies

I’m terrible at meal planning. I eat out for lunch almost every day. I rationalize spending money on fast food with the fact that food is a necessity. However, it’s definitely not the healthiest, and it’s something on which I can improve.The hardest part about meal planning is not deciding what to eat during the day, but grocery shopping for other meals and snacks that actually are healthy and could help me avoid daydreaming about food at 10 a.m. or early afternoon after I’ve already had sufficient calories.With our busy lives, it’s hard to keep a regimented shopping list and to always choose the best, healthiest options. People invite you to eat at their house – leaving the cooking to them. You go to a function that has endless tables of pizza and chips. You get invited out with some friends for drinks and dinner.It’s common to not make food at home. According to, the average American gets takeout or goes to a restaurant an average of four to five times per week, or around $232 per month on commercially-prepared food rather than making a meal at home. In addition, the average restaurant or takeout meal costs more then $12, which easily can add up.So, what lifestyle changes can a busy worker make to make sure he/she is not starving all day, thinking about the next meal rather than being productive as well as being healthy?A May 2015 article written by John Rampton provides 12 tips to juggling a busy lifestyle.1. Don’t skip breakfast.Missing breakfast can be detrimental to your health. Rampton cites a link between skipping breakfast with obesity and diabetes. My personal favorite choices for early mornings are oatmeal, pita with peanut butter and bananas or some fruit.2. Prepare snacks.Prepare healthy choices such as nuts and other snackables to munch on throughout the day.3. Don’t wait until last minute.The article suggests taking the weekend to prepare meals which can be frozen and thawed or last all week. This way, there is less temptation to eat out.4. Purchase grab-and-go snacks.Just as with number two, healthy options are essential, but they always are not available in vending machines. Rampton suggests granola bars or raisins.5. Don’t eat and work.Multitasking doesn’t always produce the best quality of work, and eating mindlessly on the job can prove detrimental to your waistline, according to the article.6. Eat with coworkers.Going along with No. five, all attention should be on food portions. Eating with others can help recharge your brain for the rest of the work day as well as make better meal choices.7. Drink water.Your body can mistake thirst for hunger. So, staying hydrated and drinking water could save you from making the wrong menu choices.8. Choose healthy options at restaurants.Substitute a steamed vegetable as a side or a small salad instead of French fries. This alone can save you a few hundred calories.9. Make family dinners a priority.A healthy work-life balance can be achieved while spending time with family after work or eating out with friends, Rampton says.10. Grocery shop wisely.This might be the most difficult thing with which I’ve struggled. Look at what you already have available in the fridge and pantry, make a list of exactly what you need and stick to it. It also will save you the hassle of wandering aimlessly up and down grocery store aisles.11. Choose quality.A reoccurring theme throughout this list – sugar and empty calories will leave you daydreaming about your next meal, according to Hampton. Choosing healthier, nutrient-rich options could keep you full for longer.12. Limit alcohol.Happy hours are fun, but being cognizant of the calories in those couple drinks could save you from some weight gain.Lifestyle changes are hard, but once you are in the habit, it will be easier to keep making the right choices when it comes to eating right. For me, it’s easier said than done, but I’m up to the challenge. Are you?Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sincerely Stefanie: Managing Stress

Jobs. Bills. Relationships. Stressors appear everywhere, and juggling day-to-day activities can become overwhelming for some.In order to call attention to the most stress-affected cities, researchers at WalletHub recently compared 150 of the most populated cities across 30 metrics including unemployment rate, divorce rate and suicide.Researchers found common ground between populations regarding what individual things cause stress, such as family stress, job-related stress, financial stress and health and safety stress. For example, Detroit, Mich. ranked No. 1 for highest poverty rate, lowest credit score and lowest average weekly work hours. Cleveland, Ohio placed No. 1 for highest divorce rate and just behind Detroit for poverty rate.These studies or lists are a great resource to see how populations across the country differ, but it all comes down to the well-being of Americans and our inability to cope with stress, as well as the lack of resources to be able to manage it. In fact, Gallup’s global index of personal well-being shows a continued downward trend in the United States when it comes to the population’s ability to thrive.The American Psychological Association (APA) lists a number  of factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress, among them: low salaries, excessive workloads, few opportunities for growth or advancement, work that isn’t engaging or challenging, lack of social support, not having enough control over job-related decisions and conflicting demands or unclear performance expectations.Work-related stress in particular can be managed in a number of ways, whether it’s company management making a conscious decision to improve the company’s culture or a worker’s own prerogative to take steps to reduce stress. Whatever it is, stress management might mean lifestyle changes, new routines or something as simple as taking a mental health day to regroup.On a personal level, the APA says a person can use the following techniques to manage stress:• Track your stressors. Keep a journal for a week or two to identify which situations create the most stress and how you respond to them.• Develop healthy responses. Instead of attempting to fight stress with fast food or alcohol, do your best to make healthy choices when you feel the tension rise. Exercise is a great stress-buster.• Establish boundaries. In today’s digital world, it’s easy to feel pressure to be available 24 hours a day. Establish some work-life boundaries for yourself. That might mean making a rule not to check email from home in the evening, or not answering the phone during dinner.• Take time to recharge. To avoid the negative effects of chronic stress and burnout, we need time to replenish and return to our pre-stress level of functioning. This recovery process requires “switching off” from work by having periods of time when you are neither engaging in work-related activities, nor thinking about work.• Learn how to relax. Techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises and mindfulness (a state in which you actively observe present experiences and thoughts without judging them) can help melt away stress.• Talk to your supervisor. Healthy employees typically are more productive, so your boss has an incentive to create a work environment that promotes employee well-being. Start by having an open conversation with your supervisor. The purpose of this isn’t to lay out a list of complaints, but rather to come up with an effective plan for managing the stressors you’ve identified, so you can perform at your best on the job.• Get some support. Accepting help from trusted friends and family members can improve your ability to manage stress. Your employer also may have stress management resources available through an employee assistance program (EAP), including online information, available counseling and referral to mental health professionals, if needed.For me, managing stress means taking walk breaks during the work day, running or physical activity after work, communicating any issues I might have and making sure I find time to sit down and prioritize what I need to do. For others, it might not be as easy as that sounds.For an EHS manager at a company level, if it’s not being done already, it might be time to take the personal well-being of employees and make efforts to reduce stress levels. If an employee is stressed, it could lead to a drop in productivity, shortcuts that contribute to injuries and high turnover. Sometimes, finding the root cause might mean getting down to the psychological level and personal well-being of workers to know how they tick and cope with things in order to improve overall company morale and performance. It could, in turn, make it less stressful for everyone in the long run.Let's block ads! (Why?)

National Safety Survey

Safety leadership from the top down is one of the keys to employee engagement and positive safety culture, and 2017 National Safety Survey respondents indicate that executives are taking an active role in keeping workers safe.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Proposed Bill to Help Prevent Child Car Deaths

A new bill has been introduced that would require cars to alert drivers to check the back seat once it is turned off.The Helping Overcome Trauma for Children Alone in Rear Seat Act (HOT CARS Act), a bill backed by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Al Franken (D-MN) is aimed to help prevent heatstroke deaths of children trapped in hot cars.“A simple sensor could save the lives of dozens of children killed tragically in overheated cars each year, and my bill would ensure such technology is available in every car sold in the United States,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “It can take mere minutes on a hot day for a car to turn into a deathtrap for a small child. This basic technology, combined with public awareness and vigilance, can help prevent these catastrophes and safe lives.”According to National Safety Council’s State of Safety report, 29 children already have died after being left or trapped in hot cars. Thirty states support some type of legislation to combat the issue.The technology required to alert drivers already is available in some vehicles, but it is not commonplace yet. The bill, if passed, specifically would direct the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require cars to have alert systems installed. The NHTSA also would contract with an independent third-party to study retrofitting existing vehicles.“This weekend two more children tragically died due to heatstroke because they were unknowingly left in a car.  A total of 30 children have already died this year and we expect the number of deaths to rise as temperatures climb over the next few months,” said Jackie Gillan, president, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in a statement. “These deaths are agonizing, they are completely avoidable and there is technology that should be in every car to save lives. Today’s announcement of Senate introduction of S. 1666, the HOT CARS Act of 2017, brings us another step closer to solving this deadly problem once and for all.”Babies and young children are unable to regulate their body temperatures, allowing their core body temperatures to rise up to five times faster than adults. Temperatures as low as 60 degrees can be dangerous for children left in cars.“We lose an average of 37 children each year because too many adults do not look before they lock,” said Amy Artuso, senior program manager for child passenger safety at the National Safety Council in a statement. “While we need to help parents understand what they can do, legislation is an important layer of protection to help prevent these deaths. We applaud Senators Blumenthal and Franken for introducing this bill and going the extra step to protect our most precious cargo.”Let's block ads! (Why?)

A Full Year of Sincerely Stefanie

Safety just isn’t about the numbers, the programs and methods. When you dig into it, it’s also about the physical and mental well-being of workers, and those subjects are what I enjoy touching on every time I write my column.I enjoy crafting articles for EHS Today readers based on my interactions with friends and family as well as my journey to staying fit. Whether I’m covering health and wellness, mental health or safety, I try to convey my message to EHS Today’s audience.In the past year, I covered the burgeoning popularity of augmented reality games such as Pokemon Go, explained how mental health can affect the workplace and reiterated why hindsight shouldn’t be a word in your safety vocabulary. I received numerous responses from readers who connected my columns to their own experiences, and, if I haven’t heard from you, I hope that you found some common ground with one of the topics I covered.Download this special 10 column collection.Let's block ads! (Why?)