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October 2009

Under-Inflated Tires Costly in More Ways than One

John DeRoia Posted by John DeRoia


According to a recent report, more than a quarter of automobiles and about a third of light trucks on U.S. roadways have one or more tires under-inflated by at least 8 pounds per square inch (psi) below the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.


Vehicles with under-inflated tires can exhibit handling problems that cause crashes resulting in fatalities and serious injuries. Under-inflated tires impact a driver’s ability to control a vehicle against skidding, blowouts, and other tire failures. While not a leading cause of highway accidents and fatalities, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study shows that, in 1999, under-inflated tires contributed to 247 fatalities and 23,100 injuries. In addition, NHTSA estimates that 41 vehicular-related deaths occur annually because of tire blowouts from under-inflated tires.


What’s more is, the fuel economy of vehicles driving on under-inflated tires is lower. The Department of Energy estimated that passenger cars and light trucks in 2005 wasted about 1.2 billion gallons of fuel as a result of driving on under-inflated tires. At $2.50 per gallon, that’s some real money!


A decrease in tire pressure can be caused by poor maintenance, driving habits, punctures, road conditions, and the quality of material used in tire construction. According to tire experts, under normal driving conditions, air-filled tires can lose from 1 to 2 psi per month as air permeates the tires.


So, make sure your employees are driving on fully-inflated tires. Have them get into the habit of checking tire pressure monthly, whether on company or personal vehicles.  Many gas stations have air fill stations available for your use.  The car owner’s manual should tell you the proper tire pressure for your vehicle.  Having the proper air pressure will not only help save you a few dollars at the pump, it could save a life.


Who is the Authorized Employee for Lockout/Tagout?

Henry Reynolds  Posted by Henry Reynolds


Do you know who your authorized employees are?  Do you have employees performing service and maintenance on machinery without adequate authorized training and exposure controls?

Safety consultants often see employees performing servicing and maintenance activities on machinery and equipment without proper lockout compliance because the employer does not see some workers as authorized employees under OSHA's standard for controlling hazardous energy.   Examples are equipment operators, employees helping maintenance personnel, cleaners, lubricators, employees working with contractors, or supervisors evaluating work being performed on machinery. 

Here's OSHA's definition of Authorized Employee: A person who locks out or tags out a machine or equipment to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment. An affected employee becomes an authorized employee when that employee's duties include performing servicing or maintenance covered under 1910.147.

OSHA's 1910.147 lockout standard requires lockout compliance under the following conditions:  "1910.147 (a)(2)(ii) An employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed (point of operation) or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle."

When evaluating your employees to determine who the authorized employees are, you must consider the terms “servicing and maintenance".

Lockout activities are mandatory during "servicing and/or maintenance". These include activities such as constructing, installing, setting up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, and maintaining and/or servicing machines or equipment. These activities also include lubrication, cleaning or removal of a jam in a machine or equipment, and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment or a release of hazardous energy.

 Are your workers performing tasks that require lockout? Are they putting their bodies in harm's way if an unexpected energization of the machine occurs? Are they removing guards? If so, then we must reconsider who the authorized employees are. Failure to do so could lead to serious injury and even death.

MEMIC policyholders who need further assistance with your Lockout/Tagout program should feel free to contact your Safety Management Specialist at MEMIC or contact MEMIC Loss Control Department to ask for assistance.

Chalkboard with lockout

Operator's Manuals - Instructions Worth Reading

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted By Greg LaRochelle


These days, due to the global market and cultural diversity, manufacturers produce operator's manuals in several languages that are often confusing. You either find a folded sheet at the bottom of the box that opens into a poster-size layout of seemingly disjointed instructions, or a virtual tome of information that ends up being cast aside as you begin to assemble the product.


Of course, just jumping in knee-deep, in a manner of speaking, can lead to confusion, frustration, spare parts, and sometimes, bodily injury.  I recall a number of years ago, finding a product shipped in a container with a VHS tape that offered instructions on properly opening the container.  Think about that one for a moment.


That said, though we may have to skip a few pages to continue with the instructions in our native language, it's always prudent to take the time to read the information, especially any safety precautions that are included.  Usually, this section is highlighted and appears at the front of the manual. 


I visited a jobsite for one of my abatement contractors recently and was pleased to see the operation and maintenance manual for the newly purchased infrared floor tile lifter in plain sight.  It was obvious the manual had been "flexed" and reviewed prior to the crew using the machine.  Electrical needs and other safety precautions were clearly defined in the manual. 


It turns out that temperature and dwell time over a square of tiles was really important for this machine. Otherwise, the vinyl asbestos flooring could overheat to the point of thermal decomposition, rendering noxious airborne by-products.  Not to mention the potential destruction of material. It paid to read these instructions.


So, frustrating though they may be, take the time to read the manual – even if you already know how to open the box.

Splish, Splash

Klatt Randy Posted By Randy Klatt


It was one of those moments when I kept thinking, “How stupid can you be?  You’re a safety consultant!”  Fortunately, such thoughts don’t occur very often, but there I was in my driveway…

I was filling my lawnmower using a full 5 gallon gasoline container.  Since the plastic can was full it weighed about 35 lbs and the gasoline poured out of the plastic spout very quickly.  As I was trying to keep the gas flowing without spilling it the lawnmower tank filled quickly.  I was crouching over the lawnmower as I pulled the spout out of the tank.  The spout had been bent over in order to keep the pour going into the tank and when I pulled it out it flipped upward, splashing gas back towards my face.  The “how stupid…” thought that I mentioned earlier now came flooding over me as my right eye began to burn. 

I ran inside and flushed my eye with water for the next several minutes.  The burn subsided somewhat, but the eye was uncomfortable for the next several hours.  Now the question is “what did I learn from this and what can the readers take away from this story?”  

  • Keep your face away from any pouring operation.
  • Wear safety glasses when handling gasoline or any other hazardous chemical.

Additional safety tips for handling gasoline:

  • Never fill gas cans while in the bed of a truck or in a trunk; always fill cans on the ground.
  • Don’t get in and out of your car when pumping gas; the static buildup can discharge igniting the gas vapors. Remember, the flash point of gasoline is -40 degrees F; it is always extremely flammable!
  • Always wash your hands after handling gasoline, especially before eating or drinking.
  • Store gasoline in proper containers.

Nearly everyone handles gasoline; just remember it is a toxic substance that is extremely flammable.  Give it the respect it deserves.  I always wear safety glasses when mowing the lawn, but will now ensure I have them on before I ever start the engine.  I recommend you do the same.  For some sobering reading on what is in gasoline and its potential hazards, download a gasoline Material Safety Data Sheet using the BLR MSDS Search feature available through the Safety Director at

Lifting: You Can Measure the Risk

Bill OConnor  Posted by Bill O’Connor

If you have manual handling tasks at your place of work, don’t keep your workers safe by accident.  All manual handling tasks should be evaluated for risk of injury by considering the force of exertion, frequency, body mechanics, type of load and hand grip, as well as the duration that workers are lifting. 


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has devised a simple tool for making just that assessment.  By taking a few simple measurements of a lifting task, you can identify if the task is within recommended limits or not.


A lift analysis tool (in an Excel spreadsheet) can be downloaded from a website posted by Dr. Tom Bernard of the University of South Florida.  To use the tool, you follow these simple steps:


  • Identify the horizontal distance of an object from the body at the origin and destination of the lift (Distance of hands from the ankle bones)
  • Identify the distance of the hands from the floor at the origin and destination of the lift
  • Identify the weight of the object lifted
  • Identify the asymmetry of the torso (how much the shoulders are turned from the straight ahead position)
  • Identify how many times the object is lifted per minute
  • Identify how good the hand grip is
  • Identify how much time per day is occupied with this task


To complete your analysis, enter your assessment results into the spreadsheet.  The macros in the tool will identify the recommended weight limit (RWL) and lifting index (LI – how much the task is above or below the RWL).  “What if?” scenarios can be evaluated for possible modifications to the task, in order to identify the best method of keeping the task at the RWL.