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August 2009
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October 2009

September 2009

Friction Reducing Devices – A Better Solution

Caulfield Lauren   Posted by Lauren Caulfield

Within the healthcare industry, repositioning patients is always a serious concern. The science of lifting a human and gravity are important aspects to a safe move.

Repositioning, turning, and boosting patients up in bed are common sources of injury. These are high risk tasks that are performed several times during the course of a shift. Studies have shown that friction reducing sliding aids, most commonly referred to as slider sheets or repositioning devices, are a better solution over the traditional draw sheet. 

To appreciate the value of friction reducing devices, we must understand the concepts of friction and force. Merriam-Webster defines friction as “the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact” and force as “strength or energy exerted or brought to bear.”

When sliding a patient up in bed, friction results between the patient and the bed.  There is more friction generated with a traditional draw sheet as it slides over the bed than with a slippery slider sheet.  Because sliding is more difficult with a draw sheet, the tendency is to lift up which causes more force.

As friction increases, momentum is reduced during the transfer, requiring more force on the part of the caregiver to perform the task.

Friction reducing slider sheets are becoming more widely used in the healthcare setting.  When using these sheets, the patient’s weight actually feels lighter and moves with less friction and drag. These sheets also reduce the shearing forces on the patient’s skin.

Tips for using slider sheets:

  • Where possible, patients should be encouraged to move themselves or partially assist to the best of their ability.
  • Tilt the bed to a head down position to allow gravity to assist
  • Be sure to lock the wheels on the bed.
  • Close attention should be paid to proper body mechanics, body positioning during the lunge, and wrist positioning when using these sheets. It is important to slide the sheet and resist the tendency to lift up. Dragging your knuckles along the bed can help you to maintain the slide.

These same sheets can also be used to turn a patient, making it much easier for the caregiver.  By using the sheets, it minimizes over reaching and the force necessary to turn a patient.

It is important to note the following:

  1. Never leave the device under the patient unless the manufacturer specifically recommends it. This may put the patient at risk for falling out of bed.
  2. Heavier patients may still require excessive force to move. Use of a mechanical lift to reposition a patient may be more appropriate.

Introducing repositioning slider sheets into your facility is not only safer for your employees, but for the patient too.

Connecting Workplace Safety with Home Safety

Eric Grant      Posted by Eric Grant

Millions of workers attend some sort of safety related meeting on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  The effectiveness of these trainings in changing workplace behaviors and attitudes is questionable—reading the same tool box talk for the tenth time isn’t the most engaging way to connect with your employees. 

An effective way to reach employees with any safety communication is to connect work with home.  If employees can learn something in the workplace that relates to their personal life, they may be more receptive to the message. 

Here are some examples for you to consider:

  • Life Safety- Home Evacuation Plans: Develop and review a home plan that contains many of the same elements as your workplace program (routes, meeting area, role call, emergency action plans).
  • Fire Safety- Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors: Train employees how to use a fire extinguisher and develop a program to provide batteries, encouraging the changing of home smoke detectors.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Discuss proper selection and use of PPE while working with chain saws, landscaping tools and equipment. Consider providing gloves and safety glasses as part of a recognition program.

Many companies are beginning to connect employee wellness and safety programs.  Understanding the benefits healthy employees bring to the workplace, companies are beginning to offer programs that include family members or provide information that is sent directly to the home, encouraging participation. Examples include:

  • Monthly wellness and safety newsletters.

  • Wellness programs that offer family participation rewards, like exercise or weight loss incentives.
  • Classes offered in the workplace, open to family members. For example smoking cessation, Weight Watchers, or an exercise class.
  • Discounts at gyms or company sponsored events that include family members.

Be creative and connect workplace safety with home safety.  If the message impacts one employee in a positive way, it was worth the effort!

A Changing of the Guard at OSHA

Dan Cote      Posted by Dan Cote, Sr. Vice President of Safety

On the 5th of August, President Obama selected Dr. David Michaels, a research scientist and professor from George Washington University, as the new head of OSHA.  How will this affect you and your business?

OSHA has had a relatively quiet existence over the last presidential administration, placing a high value on the development of OSHA Cooperative programs through partnerships such as the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).  Monies and authority were relatively limited, which will not be the case with Dr. Michaels at the helm.

According to the New York Times editorial on August 6, 2009, Dr. Michaels has been advocating for years that OSHA “badly needs a change in direction and philosophy and that the primary goal should not be better enforcement but rather a bold campaign to change the workplace culture of safety.”

Business & National Affairs (BNA) reported in their May 21, 2009 Occupational Safety & Health Reporter that Michaels has given hints of what he might do as OSHA Administrator.  In the Winter 2009 issue of the New York Committee of Occupational Safety and Health’s SafetyRep newsletter, Michaels defined four objectives the agency should undertake:

  • Issue a workplace injury and illness prevention program rule
  • Increase training grants
  • Develop a new electronic recordkeeping and reporting system
  • Launch a campaign to change the way the nation thinks about workplace safety.

The first objective on Michaels’ list will require each business owner to develop a written safety and health program. Accomplishing an effective and comprehensive written program is easier said than done. Nonetheless, it is a foundational element in creating the workplace culture of safety Michaels talks about. 

For more information on how to develop your own written safety and health program, check out this article by Pierce Atwood. You can also find more information at MEMIC’s Safety Director. If you are not already registered at Safety Director, go ahead and register to have access to beneficial information, such as “Safety Director for Small Business” and “7 Steps to a Safer Workplace” to assist you with your own written safety and health program. You can even survey your organization against 4 key drivers:

  • Workplace Conditions
  • Human Resource
  • Medical Management
  • Company Culture

Other sites to help you with your written safety and health program are the National Safety Council and OSHA.


Distracted Driving

Klatt Randy  Postedby Randy Klatt

Lately, it seems every time you read, watch, or listen to a news outlet, texting and cell phone usage while driving are the major topic of discussion.  States are quickly trying to nip this issue in the bud. New York, for example, will enact a statute outlawing texting while driving beginning November 1.

Maine is taking a different route, which could gain some national momentum, by enacting a distracted driver law.  This legislation, Senate Bill 15, was signed by Maine’s Governor Baldacci in June 2009 and will take effect on September 12, 2009, and is entitled, “An Act to Establish a Distracted Driver Law.”

According to the new Maine law, a driver fails to maintain control of a vehicle if he/she is engaging in activities that are not necessary to the operation of the vehicle, or activities that impair the ability of the person to safely operate the vehicle.

The new law defines "failure to maintain control of a motor vehicle" as committing a traffic violation or being involved in a reportable accident while engaged in the operation of a motor vehicle while distracted.

Although the law does not specify cell phone use, it is clearly intended to prevent distractions caused by these devices as well as other sources such as eating or drinking, applying makeup, reading a newspaper, texting, etc.

The bottom line is that when a person is behind the wheel of a vehicle, he or she must focus on the duties at hand.  Driving takes a level of concentration and there is little room for complacency.  Employers must take this role seriously as transportation is the most common cause of death in the workplace.  If you operate a fleet of vehicles, have employees on the road for sales calls or deliveries, or even if you ask your employees to drive their personal vehicles for business, developing a fleet plan that will discourage distracting activities while driving is essential.  After all, it’s now the law!

Click here to learn more information about Maine’s new law, as well as other driving laws around the country. The National Safety Council also has extensive information regarding distracted driving.


The Industrial Athlete

Allan Brown       Posted by Allan Brown

In professional baseball, a pitcher is removed from a game after pitching approximately 100 pitches.  He is sent to the locker room, shoulder iced down, and allowed to rest for the next 2 or 3 games before pitching again. This is done to prevent an overuse injury from occurring.  In our work environments, we don’t have the luxury to rest for 2 or 3 days after a hard days work. 

In the manual material handling (MMH) world, we are placed in situations that require us to lift, carry, move and repeat forceful activities throughout the day.  In fact, many of us depend on the days work to maintain our fitness level.  Our body adapts to the rigors of the work environment and hopefully we cope with the physical stress.  Rarely do we prepare the body for work like the athlete prepares his or her body for a sporting event.

If on any day we go over and above our routine we feel the aches and pains a day or two later.  That’s normal physiology.  Your body will either adapt if the activity is repeated or repair in 3 or 4 days if the activity is avoided. As an aging workforce, our physiology becomes less adaptable to physical stress. With age and overuse, the body can sustain an injury because the work exceeds the physical capacity of the worker.

In MMH jobs, you should prepare your body for the start of the workday. Your core needs to be warmed with a brisk walk or light jog in place. Once warmed up, you are prepared to stretch the muscles, tendons and joints that will be required to perform the physical tasks of the day.  When the body is warmed up and stretched it is ready for the workday.

Like a game, half time comes at lunch. The industrial athlete rests and nourishes the body for the second half. However, it is important to remember to warm up and stretch again. At the end of the day it is important to spend some recovery time stretching muscles that have been worked hard throughout the day.  This will assure the next day you are refreshed and ready to work.

MEMIC is an advocate of the Industrial Athlete and provides training, posters of stretches and brochures of movements to prepare the body for the rigors of the day. 

Boating Safety Statistics

Sanatamaria Donna  Posted by Donna Santamaria

As the unofficial end of summer approaches, Labor Day weekend will mean that our waterways will be congested with boaters for what may be the last time this summer.  While it’s not related to many workplaces, we thought it was important to remind us all about the risks related to boating. 

Boating remains a safe, enjoyable way for people to recreate.  However the United States Coast Guard (USCG)  has announced while the number of deaths decreased in 2007, data shows a significant rise in the number of boating accidents, related injury incidents, and property damage.  Any death or accident is too many, especially considering that the vast majority could have been prevented through simple, responsible behavior on the part of owners and operators.

Operator inattention, careless and reckless operation, passenger or skier behavior, excess speed, and alcohol use remain the top five classes of contributing factors related to recreational boating accidents. Alcohol use leads as the primary contributing factor in 21% of the fatal boating accidents. Other disturbing statistics are that three quarters of all boat operators involved in a fatal accident have received no formal boating safety education and with drowning shown as the leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents, 90 percent of these victims were not wearing life jackets.

As the summer is winding down and the wind is getting cooler, boaters, especially sailors, continue boating on the water until the early frost.  If you are on the water, here are some things to remember to ensure your safety: 

  • Wear your life jacket – Personal flotation devices (PFD’s, or life jackets) should be worn and zipped when on a dock, in a boat, or near the water.

  • Keep an eye on the weather – check the weather with a portable marine radio to keep track of the ever changing weather and seas, wind speed (or gusts), wave height and air temperature. 

  • Conduct a periodic check of all equipment to ensure everything is in working order.

  • Make sure you know your swimming ability prior to going out on the water.

  • Exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer and eye damage.  Protection from the sun is as important as a proper PFD.  Sun block (at least an SPF 15), hat and properly filtered sunglasses with a lanyard are all ways to decrease the risk.  It is also necessary to drink adequate water to prevent dehydration no matter the temperature when being exposed to the sun.