You don't need to be a deckhand on a king crab boat, an armored car driver in a Jerry Bruckheimer movie or even a member of the paparazzi to risk on-the-job injuries. You can still bruise your tailbone in seemingly safe hourly jobs. All it takes is a painful sunburn, a slick floor or even a lack of sleep to put you - and your paycheck - out of commission for a few days or longer.
Many tips for staying safe and sound at the workplace fall under the blanket of common sense. But workers still aren't always following them, so we're here to repeat them. Other bits of advice aren't so obvious. Below you'll find both:
1. Get plenty of Zzzzz's. The amount of sleep you need to lead a productive day varies depending on the individual, but most experts recommend getting at least seven hours a night. Odds are you won't be getting any nap breaks at your job.
2. Start healthy. Breakfast should consist of more than a 64 oz. coffee and a stale Pop-Tart. In fact, according to the health experts at MayoClinic.com, eating a balanced breakfast leads to better concentration and greater productivity throughout the morning. These experts recommend one item from three of the following four food groups to ensure a healthy breakfast: fruits and veggies (e.g., juice), grains (e.g., a bagel or cereal), dairy (e.g., yogurt or cottage cheese) and protein (e.g., peanut butter or hard-boiled eggs).
3. Kick the habit. Here's a fun fact: Did you know that by cutting one regular soda a day from your snack routine, can help you lose up to 15 lbs in a year. Try substituting with diet soda or water.
4. Remember: healthy body, healthy mind. We wouldn't be saying anything profound if we suggested that one's mental and physical health are tied to each other. Consequently, your overall nutrition, fitness and well-being contribute to your on-the-job focus and performance. Eating balanced meals, getting adequate exercise and keeping your mental edge will all pay off at the workplace.
5. Know the lay of the land. Do you know the fire drill route and protocol for your workplace? Do you know where they keep the fire extinguisher? The first aid kit? And if you don't know CPR, do you know someone who does? That should keep you busy for the rest of the day.
6. Beat the heat. Some consider it a luxury to get paid for basking in the sun each day, but for others it's a hassle. Or even a nightmare. Regardless, you need to take the elements into account when earning your paycheck outside. If you're working in the heat, be aware that the most dangerous time to brave the sun's rays is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Be sure to use a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF; your doctor can recommend a good one if you're unsure. Remember that you can get burnt even when the sun is hiding above cloud cover. In intense heat and humidity, be on the lookout for the onset of hyperthermia in yourself and others. Also referred to as heat stroke or sunstroke in its most extreme states, hyperthermia occurs when the body produces more heat than it can handle. Symptoms include cramps, confusion, nausea and the inability to sweat. Immediate medical attention is required in such cases, and those suffering from these symptoms should be taken to a cool place and administered fluids as well as cold compresses until help arrives.
7. Get your training wheels. If you're a teen worker, especially if you're under 16 years old, you should be aware of state and federal laws limiting when and how long you can work. Driving restrictions may also come into play if you're commuting back and forth from the workplace. More info. on child labor laws can be found at the U.S. Department of Labor.
8. Bend at the knees... Manual labor jobs include everything from light industrial positions to farm work. There are few hard and fast rules that cover the entire spectrum of this often intense area, but here are a few pointers: Always practice ergonomic lifting and carrying (e.g., lift with your legs, keep your back straight, etc.), wear safe and appropriate clothing, know your workplace's protocol for reporting accidents and drink plenty of fluids.
9. Practice cube-consciousness. Many offices have experts to make sure your body can easily bear cubicle wear and tear. If you don't have an onsite ergonomic expert, here are a few basic guidelines to make sure that you won't get carpal tunnel syndrome your first week on the job. Be sure to keep your eyes at least 20 inches from your computer screen, adjust the monitor to your eye level and keep your feet positioned firm on the ground. And don't slouch. Working at a desk or cube all day can make you feel cramped and restless. So why not mix in a little exercise in between faxing and collating? For a little cardio work, bring in a jump rope or rattle off a few dozen push-ups and sit-ups. For some light strength training, try doing seated sets of bicep curls with the help of a full water bottle. Stretching always helps, too, and can usually be done comfortably in your office attire without creating a disturbance to your coworkers - just leave the boom box and "Footloose" soundtrack at home.
Workplace accidents can happen anywhere, anytime. That's why it's important to always be prepared. And one more thing - before you laugh at your co-workers for tripping up the stairs, ask and make sure they're OK first. And if they are, well, that's your decision as to what to do next.