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December 2008

The ABCD’s of Fire Extinguishers

Click here to check out our recent post: Do you have the right fire extinguisher for your workplace?

We have all seen fire extinguishers around our facilities as well as in the home. Have you ever taken the time to actually look at the extinguisher to see what type it is?  Do you know if you have the right extinguisher for the potential threats that may be present?  Do you know what the letters and symbols on the extinguisher mean?  Let’s take a minute to review.

The ABCD's of Fire Extinguishers Picture Table

Using the wrong type of fire extinguisher can be more hazardous than not using a fire extinguisher at all.  Take a few minutes to inspect your extinguishers every month. There is a tag hanging on the fire extinguisher for you to initial and date when these inspections occur.  Have a professional inspect you fire extinguishers annually.

If you are not trained in the proper use of fire extinguishers and their capabilities, DO NOT attempt to fight a fire.  Alert any persons in the area of the fire, sound a fire alarm system, evacuate the area and call 911.

Some great websites I have found as resources for fire extinguishers are the Hanford Fire Department out of Washington State,, and All three sites are interactive and provide great explanations for the different types of fire extinguishers to have on hand depending on your needs, as well as answering questions such as where fire extinguishers should be located. If you have any suggestions for fire extinguisher resources, please feel free to share them with us.

Winter Slip/Fall Injuries - Are Your Employees Protected?

The winter months are more than just creeping up on us- as of this weekend, they’re here. Old Man Winter will once again blow his arctic breath creating beauty beyond words and hazards unseen.  We’ve all heard stories, some more horrifying than others, of folks doing the dance on black or snow covered ice. Results of a slip and fall on ice can vary from minor bumps and bruises to more serious injuries including brain trauma. 


I once had a friend who had a slip and fall on ice injury that began as a hairline fracture in the upper arm. Unfortunately, her symptoms worsened into a pain so excruciating that she wanted to amputate the arm.


Slip and fall on ice injuries are more common with older people (that would be many of us!) and often have devastating consequences. A study was completed by the American Geriatrics Society in which slip and fall incidents of two groups of older people were tracked. One group wore their usual winter footwear while the other group wore ice grippers. The results, released in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, found that the number of slips and falls outdoors was significantly reduced in the group wearing the device.  Further, none of the falls of those wearing the grippers were serious.


One slip and fall on ice injury can cost an organization thousands of dollars in workers’ compensation costs not to mention the human suffering element. Many organizations are addressing the risk by implementing Ice Gripper Programs and offering gait stabilizing devices (ice grippers/cleats) to employees with the greatest slip/fall risks during work hours, such as those that work in the community or run errands for the organization.


Many local businesses, as well as on-line vendors, sell a wide range of types and styles of gait stabilizing devices. The average cost of a good pair of ice grippers is about $20, a very small investment to protect the health and well being of your employees.     


If my friend had been wearing ice grippers would she have fallen? Maybe, but it would have been less likely. The bottom line is she wasn’t wearing grippers - she did fall, and the results have tragically impacted her work and family life.   


Are you prepared to protect your employees from slip and fall on ice injuries?

The Big Chill Approaches

The temperature atop Mt. Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire hit 25 degrees below zero last Monday. And, with wind gusts over 100 miles per hour, the wind chill stood at minus-65 to minus 70 degrees. The scary part, pointed out by the weather observers stationed there, is this – it’s not even winter yet!

Yes, it’s been getting colder for the last few weeks but one thing is for sure -- it's going to get colder. Maybe not Mt. Washington cold, but definitely colder. It's a fact of life that many workers have to deal with.  For some workers it may be a minor nuisance because they're not out all day. For others, it could cost them a finger or toe from frostbite.  In extreme cases, some workers lives will be threatened.

The amount of protection a worker requires depends on the amount of exposure to the cold. With any employee safety concern, you should evaluate the workplace conditions to accurately assess the situation. From there, proper training should be done for all employees, including monitoring their actions and taking corrective actions when needed. This is your best means of incident prevention.

It’s also useful to contact an expert on the topic. Here at MEMIC, we are fortunate to have a cold weather expert on staff.

Peter Koch, a MEMIC Safety Specialist, has been working with ski areas who are insured with MEMIC for years. Before that, he worked in the ski industry. An obvious exposure these employers are faced with is working in some extreme cold conditions.  Much of the information Peter uses to train ski industry employees can be applied to numerous other jobs that require employees to be outdoors.  Here's a newsletter that Pete put together (Download The Cold Challenge newsletter ). Not only is it useful for supervisors to evaluate their workplaces, but it is also a great safety meeting topic.  And, of course, it is important to note that knowledge of cold weather exposure is equally important for anyone participating in outdoor recreation during wintertime.

There's Nothing Nice About Black Ice

Of all the driving hazards associated with winter, there is one condition that even professional truck drivers’ fear- black ice.  Black ice shows up on pavement when it is least expected.  Dry pavement becomes a shiny, slippery surface in a matter of a few feet, making other vehicles, ditches, guard rails and even buildings an unavoidable target.  Many who walk away from such an accident will say, "It happened just like that."

Has this ever happened to you?  I can personally attest to an increased heart rate due to black ice as I was traveling down the road.  I have also witnessed several accidents that involved personal injury to other drivers due to black ice.  Strange as it may be, for some reason going off the road due to deep snow does not instill the degree of fear that black ice and icy roadways does.  Maybe it is because snow is obvious, but that thin layer of frozen water is not as obvious, and can affect you in a split second.

The way to keep yourself and others safe during this most hazardous of conditions goes right back to driving basics: 
• Maintain an appropriate speed
• Keep a proper distance between you and the car in front of you
• Simple braking and steering techniques
These are just some of the things you can do to keep your airbag where it belongs – inside the dashboard!  Click here for more tips to driving safe on the icy roads.

In addition, there is one more valuable resource when it comes to driving on icy roadways -- the news.  Most of the population has to commute for work or school and the local news, whether it is television or radio, may give you some information you did not know the night before.  While we all feel the weatherman is never right, he or she may be just the person to pass on some valuable roadway information.  Happy motoring!

Time to Set a SMART Goal

As we approach the end of yet another year, it's time to get prepared for the next one.  One thing most safety-conscious companies do is set employee health and safety goals.  By doing so, companies are forced to review their current situation and increase awareness. Just doing this can greatly improve the possibility of reducing the frequency and severity of injuries. 

How you set your goals can vary by the number of people involved in the process.  While it can be cumbersome to include everyone, the truth is you have a better chance of succeeding if everyone is pulling on the rope.  The more owners, managers and especially front-line supervisors participating in any goal-setting process, the better the buy-in and the better chance you’ll succeed as an organization.  Let's face it, if owners, managers and front-line supervisors aren’t buying in, you are not going to meet the goal.

Some companies are small enough so that the decision-makers can knock out a set of goals in about an hour.  Larger businesses may need to get more creative and/or invest more time.  In either case, there are some basic things you should consider about setting a goal. We call them SMART goals.  Here is what comprises such a goal:

    Agreed Upon

This approach is not new. MEMIC has been using SMART Goals for many years in our Leadership Training classes.  By touching on all five of these items you will be improving on the accuracy and overall ability to hit your target.  Incidentally, this same process can be used in the areas of productivity and quality as well. And with 2009 fast approaching, now is the time to set your goals.

Make sure you communicate the goals to everyone in the organization- not just at the beginning of the year, but repeatedly throughout the year.