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November 2008

What Not to Serve This Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving upon us, it's a good time to bring attention to the focal point of most meals, the scrumptious turkey and stuffing. This is not only a safety reminder for those employers whose business it is to serve Thanksgiving turkey to customers or clients, but also for the average household. In either setting, getting food poisoning makes it tough to be in a celebratory mood and results in less than popular stories told for years to come!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that annually in the U.S. 76 million people get food poisoning and the illness accounts for $1 billion in medical costs and lost work time.

So, skip dishing up food poisoning this holiday by following some basic rules of thumb that include temperature, bacteria control and cooking times.

Cooking Tips

  • Thawing. Avoid food borne bacteria by thawing turkey in refrigerator, cold water or microwave.
  • Preparation. Bacteria from raw turkey can be spread from hands to anything touched afterwards—utensils, work areas, other food. Wash hands after working with raw turkey.
  • Stuffing. Cook stuffing separately from the bird. If you choose to stuff the bird, stuff before cooking and cook stuffing until it reaches 165 degrees. 
  • Cooking. Put completely thawed turkey breast side up in an oven at no less than 325 degrees. Cooking times will vary. Cook until food thermometer reads 165 degrees when placed in breast, thigh or wing joint.

Learn more about cooking turkey: Center for Disease Control: It’s Turkey Time!

In closing, we at MEMIC hope you have a most enjoyable holiday with a savory meal done to perfection. 

Safety Programs with Obvious Blind Spots

The following scenario always makes me scratch my head and wonder: "Why can't they see it?"  I walk onto a job site and do my “self-preservation survey,” which means identifying hazards. The vast majority of the time it's safe to proceed. But if I see in plain view employees exposed to eye injures and I ask the company representative if the company has a written safety plan, more often than not they’ll answer “Yes.”

Again, more often than not, when I ask if they have a policy regarding eye protection, they’ll answer, “Well, yeah, in certain situations.” This is what some safety professionals call the “the dance.”

Thousands of workers suffer eye injuries every year while working. In the 2006, over 36,000 employees required time away from work due to an eye injury. In most of these incidences, simple safety glasses would have been the right measure to prevent the pain and costs at this fundamental level of employee safety.

Getting back to the title of this blog—you should be asking yourself if your safety efforts have obvious blind spots. In other words, if you are not protecting your employees with basic personal protective equipment, can you expect them to do the right thing when more advanced protection is needed? Will they give thought to fall protection or a lockout tag out or a repetitive motion situation? It’s quite often up to the individual. And quite often the company’s safety culture can make the difference. Which company would you perceive as having a stronger safety culture—one that does the basics or one that takes the "Well, yeah, in certain situations" position?

Getting your employees to work safely is no more difficult than getting them to turn out quality work in a productive fashion:

  • Set the expectation, 
  • hold them accountable, 
  • remove the barriers and 
  • communicate frequently. 

The trick is putting their safety at the same level as productivity and quality.

“When should I train them?”

That's a question that's been asked many times on job sites and in training sessions. Owners, managers and supervisors that genuinely are involved with their employees’ health and safety are sensitive to this training need. They've come to realize that a little bit of time upfront can save a lot of time—and possibly some pain and costs—down the road. But unfortunately, some organizations don’t make the initial training investment because "we don't have time" or "they're adults, they should know." Not only is this against federal law, it's the root cause of many injuries and fatalities.

If you’re reading this and wondering if you meet the minimum training requirements, start by asking yourself these questions: If you had a worker who consistently did poor quality work, would you talk to them? If so-and-so was late for work three days out of five, as a rule, would it be something you'd discuss? If the answers were yes, you along with most supervisors probably wouldn't hesitate to find out what's wrong or how you could help make an improvement. It's your job, it's what's expected. But I’ve seen supervisors put workers in trenches "to get the job done" without one iota of information on what to watch out for. In other words, quality and productivity are usually addressed without reservation, but the safety stuff often gets pushed to the back seat.

This failure goes back to safety culture, which has been mentioned many times before in this blog. A culture of safety means management is engaged in continually improving its safety operation. Some outfits get it and some don't. Now’s the time to start right by reviewing what OSHA expects of your industry.

Smoke Detectors – Basic Facts

The standard advice we all get about smoke detectors is to change the batteries when we “fall back” to standard time each autumn. With that important milestone now in our rearview mirror, here’s some other important facts about these lifesaving devices.

Smoke Detectors – Basic Facts
Smoke alarms are the residential fire safety success story of the past quarter century. Smoke alarm technology has been around since the 1960s. But the single -station, battery-powered smoke alarm we know today became available to consumers in the 1970s, and since then, the home fire death rate has been reduced by half. NFPA estimates that 94% of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm today, and most states have laws requiring them in residential dwellings.

Important: Working smoke alarms are essential in every household. It is necessary to practice home fire drills to be certain everyone is familiar with the smoke alarm signal, and to determine if there are any obstacles to a quick and safe evacuation (including the inability for some to awaken to the smoke alarm signal).

Keep your smoke alarms working properly

  • Test your smoke alarms at least once a month, following the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm once a year, or as soon as the alarm "chirps," warning that the battery is low. HINT: schedule battery replacements for the same day you change your clock from daylight to standard time in the fall.
  • Never "borrow" a battery from a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms can't warn you of fire if their batteries are missing or have been disconnected. 
  • Don't disable smoke alarms even temporarily – you may forget to replace the battery. If your smoke alarm is sounding "nuisance alarms," it may need dusting or vacuuming. If that doesn't work, try relocating it further away from kitchens and bathrooms, where cooking fumes and steam can cause the alarm to sound. 
  • Regularly vacuuming or dusting your smoke alarms following manufacturer's instructions can help keep it working properly. 
  • Smoke alarms don't last forever. Replace your smoke alarms once every 10 years. 
  • Make sure that everyone in your home can identify and awaken to the sound of the alarm.

Some “alarming” facts

  •  In three of every 10 reported fires in homes equipped with smoke alarms, the devices did not work. Households with non-working smoke alarms now outnumber those with no smoke alarms. 
  • One-half of home fire deaths occur in the 6% of homes with no smoke alarms. 
  • Why do smoke alarms fail? Most often because of missing, dead or disconnected batteries.
  •  In 2004, fire, flame, or smoke inhalation caused 2,790 injuries and 90 deaths in the workplace. (United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics)

If you haven’t done so in a while, check your detectors today!  If it’s been so long that you can’t remember when you purchased your existing detectors, it may be time to go out and purchase some brand new ones.  Smoke detectors are probably the cheapest life insurance policy you will every buy.