The Workplace Is Dynamic, Don't Be Left Sitting Still

BrownPosted by Allan M Brown, LPT, MEMIC Chief Ergonomist

Over the past 50 years there has been a shift from active to more sedentary job tasks with a steady decline in energy expenditure at work as sedentary occupations have increased from 50% to 80% of all work. The negative impact of this change is slowly making its way into our daily lives. Instead of aches and pains from heavy lifting and manual work, our morbidity is increasing because of inactivity.

Unfortunately, from a research perspective this is old news. A landmark study completed in 1953 compared coronary heart disease of conductors and drivers of double-decker buses. The drivers spent almost the whole day seated and driving while the conductors were consistently on their feet moving up and down the bus steps. The most sedentary of the bus drivers had double the risk of coronary heart disease compared to the most active conductors. As far back as the 1600’s aches and pains from clerks and cobblers constantly sitting were documented by the Italian physician Bernardo Ramazzini, in his book De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Disease of Workers).

The role of getting up and moving around plays a huge role in our overall wellness. This non‐exercise activity of moving around at work and home is being greatly reduced in our daily routines because of technology and sedentary jobs. Research shows our bodies are changing because of a decrease in movement throughout the day - our risk of obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and cardiovascular disease appear to be on the rise because of our sedentary work habits and life styles.

As this perfect storm brews, employers are scrambling to find solutions to reduce their exposure to declining health in the work place. A plethora of products and information has hit the market. Sit/stand work stations, ball chairs, treadmill desks, personal activity trackers, standing apps, and “sitting is the new smoking” are the things we hear and see in the news. As an employer it is hard to figure out what is credible and actually has a benefit.

This new awareness of sit/stand workstations is promising but there needs to be a larger strategy to reduce sedentary behavior in the workplace. Standing is just as static as sitting. But it is the ability to change position that creates the opportunity for wellness at the desk. Dr. Jack Dennerlein, PhD. Professor, Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says we need to look beyond the office physical plan to a much broader approach addressing policies, programs, and practices to combat the sedentary workplace.

Our challenge as employers is to educate our employees and make them aware of these trends and separate the marketing chaff from the substantive solutions. In the long run, transitioning a sedentary office to an active, dynamic work environment should be the goal. Current research is helping change the attitude of sitting and sedentary work. For an employer the commitment to change is an investment with the goal of a positive return. For the employee the change will improve their health and quality (and quantity) of life.

For more information related to ergonomics in the workplace, check out previous Safety Net posts by searching “ergonomics” or “sit stand”. OSHA provides a Computer Workstations eTool with helpful guidelines for office setup, and MEMIC policyholders can also access a wealth of information including professional workstation evaluations within the MEMIC Safety Director.

(Thanks to all our readers who nominated MEMIC Safety Net as one of the best blogs in the field of workers' comp, we are now ranked as one of the top two safety/prevention blogs!)

Your Lawn Mower Is More Dangerous Than You Think

JonesPosted by Anthony Jones

 Lawn Machine Safety- Summer’s Coming!

Now that warmer weather is approaching, many businesses and private individuals are moving powered lawn equipment out of hibernation.  Mowers, leaf blowers, and lawn trimmers start making their appearance at businesses and households everywhere.  Reported injury statistics involving lawn mowers is roughly 180,000 per year from people of all ages according to Technology Associates.  This injury statistic startlingly includes about 17,000 children.

The most common injuries involving walk behind and riding mowers:

  • Eye/face injuries
  • Amputations
  • Burns
  • Strike-by trauma

The most common injuries result from:

  • Contact with the rotating cutting blades
  • Objects ejected from the chute
  • Run overs
  • Roll overs
  • Fires
  • Hearing loss from the noise

It is important that people are knowledgeable in:

  • Safe operation of potentially very hazardous equipment
  • Safe start up and shutdown
  • Safe fuel handling
  • Preventing roll overs/run overs
  • Proper preparation of a work area
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Proper clothing and footwear
  • Working around roadways and pedestrians

Training and accountability is key to operating these labor saving machines safely. There are vast amounts of materials available to help educate employees on safely operating mowers and other lawn equipment. Start with the operating manuals provided when the equipment was purchased. Include lawn mower safety in your regular safety training schedule.

Consider taking a look at who is running the lawn equipment at your business.  Are they landscaping professionals, maintenance or facilities staff, or summer seasonal labor? Ask yourself, “Do they really know what they’re doing?”  Observe them while keeping care and maintenance, safe handling and operating procedures, and protective equipment in mind.   Do you, in fact, know if they are using the equipment properly at any given time?

MEMIC will be hosting a live webinar at 10:00am EDT on Thursday, May 12, 2016 entitled Mower, Blower, and Trimmer Safety.  This one-hour presentation is free for all MEMIC policy holders; click here to register.

For additional information regarding the safe operation of lawn equipment check out the resources available from Kansas State University and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.    

Tick Tock, it's Time for a Tick Check

Koch-LaRochelle Posted by Peter Koch and Greg LaRochelle

Spring is here and with that folks are getting outside cleaning up from the winter, hiking, camping, and, yes, working.  With the unusually mild winter in the East this year, ticks will be out in force. Ticks thrive in warm wet or humid weather and are moving around already in early April according to a recent Portland Press Herald article outlining a project where ticks were already being gathered for research in Southern sections of Maine.  


Ticks present a problem because they are small (under 3mm, about the size of sesame seed), can be difficult to detect before they attach, and are carriers of human diseases like Lyme disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the agency each year, but that’s not the only malady to be concerned with.  Roughly 60 cases of Powassan virus disease were reported in the United States over the past 10 years.  Powassan virus is transmitted to humans by the blacklegged tick and groundhog tick.  The virus gets its name from Powassan, Ontario where the disease was first discovered.  In North America, the majority of cases have been identified in the Midwest and Northeast regions during peak tick season from April to September.

The symptoms of Powassan infection include fever, severe headache, malaise, vomiting, memory loss, difficulty speaking, and loss of coordination.  The virus can infect the central nervous system causing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and membrane linings (meningitis).  Currently, there is no vaccine available to treat the infection with severe illness requiring hospital treatment including respiratory support, intravenous fluid therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.  With the time frame of transmission of tickborne infection from onset of host attachment generally taking longer than 24 hours, careful and prompt removal is critical, hence the time bomb reference in the blog title.  For guidance on proper tick removal click on this Tick Removal link to access the CDC’s instruction page.

These diseases can be life altering if not diagnosed and treated in time.  Understanding more about ticks and how to protect yourself is crucial.  The CDC has put out some good literature about tick borne illness in the United States. 

Here are some tips to help keep your Spring and Summer ticking:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking or working in wooded/grassy areas
  • Tuck your pants into your socks when hiking
  • Treat your clothing (not your skin) with insect repellant that works for ticks (pre-treating and hanging to dry may extend effectiveness)
  • Shower or bathe soon after working or playing outdoors
  • Frequently check for ticks when working or playing outside
  • Check your body thoroughly for ticks
    1. Under arms,
    2. In and around hair/neck line, ears, and belly buttons
    3. Behind knees
    4. Between legs and around waist band
  • Check over your gear and pets
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high to kill any remaining ticks

For more information on tick and tick borne illness, check out the following links: