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February 2010

Riding Out the Storm

Eric Grant  Posted by Eric Grant

As I lay in bed last night, listening to 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts shake and rattle my home as though it was nestled in close proximity to Grand Cental Station, I wondered if my family was truly prepared to deal with the potential of sleeping on top of an oak tree, or having a portion of our roof available for sledding.  Seriously, here it is late February and, having lived in New England a major portion of my life, you would think a winter ritual of emergency preparedness would be in place by now. Yet there I was, 12:30 a.m., no power, punishing winds, two feet of snow, walking around my house in a dark daze looking for a flashlight, that once located, was barely bright enough to illuminate the inside of a shoebox.

So, this fresh experience made me think, What a great topic for a safety blog!  What steps could people take to get ready the next time your local forecaster states:  "Big storm on horizon, tune in at 11:00."?

  • Have home evacuation plan in place. Review the plan and conduct a drill on an annual basis.
  • Determine how you will escape from the second story of your home. There are several emergency ladders for sale today that are meant for one-time usage.
  • Gather Emergency supplies at home (radio, flashlights, batteries, blankets, warm clothing, first-aid kit)
  • Consider temporary heating sources (fire places, wood stoves, portable heaters) and the fire dangers associated with their usage (fire extinguishers, chimney fires, carbon monoxide exposure)
  • Provisions are an important consideration. Have plenty of high calorie, nonperishable food and water on hand.
  • Toilet usage can be continued by filling your washing machine or bath-tub and using the water to flush toilets.
  • Ensure communication with the outside world by having one phone that does not require power for operation.

For more information on tips and checklists on "riding out a storm", simply conduct an internet search using the keywords "storm preparedness" or go to At that website, you can also find good information about how to make sure your business is ready in the event of an emergency.

Federal Law Requires Employers to Protect Employees from Fall Hazards

Stanley Rod 2 Posted by Rod Stanley

The Federal law passed by Congress in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act contains a passage known as the General Duty Clause, which requires employers to provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm…” 

Falls are a “recognized hazard” in the US workplace, accounting for 680, or 13% of the total fatalities reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2008.  Accordingly a number of industry-specific regulations are established by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) to prevent worker injury – and are summarized on the Safety and Health Topics Fall Protection web page. 

Construction, an industry with inherent fall hazards, attributed 332 of the 969 deaths in 2008 to falls, and has a chapter, Subpart M, devoted to fall protection.  This Subpart is divided into four distinct sections:

1926.500 – Scope, application and definitions

1926.501 – Duty to have fall protection

1926.502 – Fall protection systems, criteria and practices

1926.503 – Training requirements

The training requirements in Subpart M state that the employer must assure that each employee understands the following: 

  • Nature of the fall hazards in their work area
  • Correct procedures to protect workers from these fall hazards

The last section of Subpart M is “Certification of Training.”  These standards require the employer to “verify compliance” by preparing a “written certification record” that contains the following:

  • Name or other identity of the employee trained
  • Date(s) of the training
  • Signature of the person who conducted the training or the signature of the employer

The most current training certification must be maintained by the employer, and retraining is required in the following situations:

  • Changes in the workplace render previous training obsolete
  • Changes in the types of fall protection systems or equipment to be used render previous training obsolete
  • Inadequacies in an affected employee's knowledge or use of fall protection systems or equipment indicate that the employee has not retained the requisite understanding or skill.

The OSHA regulations do not require separate documentation, so many employers use job-related, daily paperwork to “certify the training” such as:
  • Job Hazard Analyses, Toolbox Talks, Site-Specific Accident Prevention Plans, Daily Job Logs and Time, Materials and Consumables Records

In summary, the written certification record must detail what was reviewed, who was there, the date, and must include the signature of the employer, or trainer.  In meeting this requirement the “written record” can take a variety of forms, from yellow-lined notebook paper, to computer printed policies, procedures with attendance rosters, to Certificates of Training provided by safety suppliers or training providers. 

What’s most important is that the “nature of the fall hazards” – specific to the job, project or task – are reviewed and methods to protect the worker are detailed.

More workplace safety resources on Fall Protection are available at the MEMIC Safety Director – the online tool for MEMIC policyholders.


Choices, choices

Koch Peter 2  Submitted by Peter Koch


“The history of men is never really written by chance but by choice.”  ~Dwight D. Eisenhower


That second it takes to make a choice, right or wrong, can be the difference between success and a loss.  That choice is yours and your employee’s to make.  Whether you like it or not, as a supervisor, once clocked in, the choices they make are your responsibility. 

In the event of an injury, consider what drove the choice(s) that caused the event.  What changed to cause the injury?  Could it have been production volume, environmental or working conditions, fatigue?  Or, just staff becoming more comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with their job and working conditions? Though these reasons may be uncovered in the accident analysis, they are all normal evolutions of our work climate, which can be anticipated and controlled.  How can you influence the choices that caused the event?  Here are some questions to assess:  

  • What did you do early on in their employment to affect the choices made by your staff?
  • Have you continued repeating the message(s)? Are they still listening?
  • How ingrained is the safety message/culture you want to have?
  • Have you observed the behavior of the staff in the field compared to the expectations?
  • Have you thoroughly discussed and analyzed the targeted losses from your company with your staff?
  • Have you been able to focus the discussion on the choice that caused the event, or the conditions that drove the choice?

Influencing choices and changing behavior starts with developing policies and procedures that address expected job performance while prohibiting behaviors that are not essential for the job, or are excessively hazardous.  This is a necessary – and critical – part of managing work-related risk.  

Take a minute to review what you do to affect the daily choices of your staff.  Start with the policies and procedures, then move on to how you communicate the expectations of the job.  Can you be more effective at influencing the choices your staff members make once they punch the clock?

Is Your Eyewash Station Ready for Use?

Clendenning Donna Posted by:  Donna Clendenning


Proper maintenance of your eyewash station may save your employee’s eyesight following an accident. Today, I want to talk about assuring that your eyewash station is ready for use at any given moment.

During a recent review of a facility, I noted that an eyewash station was covered in silt. It was obvious that it had not been cleaned in quite some time and clearly was not ready for use if an immediate need were to arise.

OSHA 1910.151(c) requires “suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body...,” where the eyes or body “may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials.” The OSHA standard does not speak to the maintenance and upkeep of eyewash stations. However, OSHA requires that employers provide to each employee, “employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

While not having the force of regulation under OSHA, the American National Standards Institute addresses requirements of effective emergency eyewash and shower equipment. ANSI Z358.1 requires annual inspection of each piece of emergency equipment and, the following best practices: 

  • Activation of the unit (running the water) shall take place weekly for at least 3 minutes to assure the water runs clean. Activation, performance, and cleaning must be documented on a log sheet.
  • The water temperature shall be “tepid”
  • Employees shall be trained to use the emergency equipment 

The facility I visited quickly complied with the standard. When inspecting and cleaning their eyewash station, they learned that there were parts that needed replacement. Now, weekly inspections, cleanings, and a documentation log are completed.  This company can rest assured that if needed, their eyewash station is ready for use.