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November 2010

Click it or Ticket Revisited

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Twenty-five years ago I was a paramedic working for an ambulance service.  Seat belt usage was somewhere around 25 percent.  In other words, only one of four drivers used the belts.  Being young and impressionable I was left with one lasting impression--seat belts save lives.  I never took a body out of a seat belt, but I sure took a lot of bodies out of cars. 

Today we have made great strides in this area.  It is illegal to drive a vehicle without buckling up in nearly all states in the nation.  Seat belt use is now at about 85 percent nationwide.  We are seeing traffic increase and fatalities decrease each year.  Safety equipment, most importantly the belt, deserves the credit. 

Still unconvinced?  Are you one of the 15 percent who don’t use the seat belt?  Perhaps you are falling victim to one of the “seat belt myths”.  Here are three of the most common: 

MYTH: Drivers in air bag-equipped vehicles don't need to wear safety belts.

FACT: Air bags provide supplemental protection in frontal crashes, but motorists can slide under them if they are not wearing a seat belt. In addition, air bags will not help in a side or rear impact or rollover crash. The air bag deploys at over 200 MPH; the belt could keep the bag from killing you!  Motorists should wear a seat belt for protection in all types of crashes.

MYTH: I don't want to be trapped in a fire or underwater.

FACT: Crashes involving fire or water happen in only 1/2 of one percent of all crashes. So it doesn't happen often. However, when they do occur the best chance of survival rests in remaining conscious, uninjured, and in full possession of your faculties. The greatest danger is with the impact that precedes the fire or submersion in water. If you're not using a safety belt, it's very likely that you will be knocked unconscious or severely injured. If you're belted, it's very likely you will be able to unbuckle yourself and get out of a potential fire or submerged car situation.

MYTH: I'd rather be thrown clear in a crash.

FACT: Being thrown safely clear in a crash is almost impossible. When you're thrown, you may be thrown through the windshield, scraped along the pavement, or even crushed by your own vehicle or another one. The idea of being thrown from a car and gently landing in a grassy area beside the road is pure fantasy. Your best bet in a crash is to stay inside the vehicle, securely held by your safety belt.

For more ideas check out the following references.  The bottom line is clear; keep yourself, your employees, and everyone else on the road safer by wearing your seat belt EVERYTIME you get into a vehicle.


Planning and Perseverance: Budgeting for 2011

Eric Grant 
Posted by Eric Grant

My wife approached me the other day with a list in hand, I always get nervous when she does that.  She had been working on the 2010 Christmas list and had questions (opportunities!) for me to assist with the task.  It seems early in the season but the event reminded me of the days when I worked in construction when no one would approach me asking what I wanted for the safety program in the following year.  When I moved on to general industry, I was asked this question in September and was caught off guard the first time. My reply must have been, "You want to know what I need for the safety program now?  Thanks for asking but I have no clue!"

As the years passed, I became better at planning for safety, something I preach to my customers on a weekly basis today. Recognizing that budgets are tighter than ever, the need to plan ahead for your injury prevention program is crucial. Consider the following as you begin to plan for the upcoming year:

Capital Expenditures - Generally large ticket items that may require engineering support and long term planning.  This may include automation, material handling equipment (Example:  forklift), ergonomic equipment (ex. lift tables, anti-fatigue mats, manual material handling carts, totes).

Tools & Equipment - Power and hand tools, personal protective equipment,  safety equipment (Example: Lock-out/tag-out equipment)

Training - new hire orientation, annual OSHA compliance, specialty training

Program Development/Implementation - Injury prevention programs, stretch break, accident investigation, behavioral based safety, first aid/CPR, hazard communication

Obviously, this is a short list of the many possibilities an organization may need to plan for as part of the annual budget process.  If you have the benefit of working with an engineering department or facilities manager, they may be able to assist you with justifications and cost/benefit analysis.

What is the definition of a no-brainer?  When you can reduce injuries and increase productivity! With the right amount of planning and perseverance, you may be able to accomplish this at your organization in 2011!


Does my company need a written safety and health program?

Dodge John 
Posted by John Dodge

This week a business owner asked me if he needed a formal safety program. His business employed 10 people and has been successful in preventing workplace injuries for several years. However, he felt some level of uncertainty about his informal safety and health efforts.

Following a brief discussion and a work site tour, it was evident that his organization had elements of a formal safety and health program: An organized workplace, well maintained tools and equipment, elimination of hazardous tasks, and availability of personal protective equipment.

I suspect that many business owners find themselves in a similar situation. They feel that they are doing enough to provide a safe workplace and if they have few injuries, why have a formal program?

I also suspect that some businesses owners feel as if their luck has changed- the informal safety efforts that have worked in the past are no longer working.

If you wonder why you need a formal safety and health program, start by asking these questions:

  1. How do my employees know that I expect them to work safely?
  2. How do I address unsafe work conditions before an accident or near miss?
  3. Does management understand that they are accountable for safe work conditions?
  4. How are employees trained to perform their job?
  5. Do my employees participate in the safety and health process?
  6. Am I compliant with regulatory safety and health requirements?

If you don’t have answers to these questions, a written safety and health policy will provide a definite course of action and a schedule of activities. There are various guidance documents available, but most will have these basic program elements:

  1. Management commitment and employee involvement
  2. Worksite analysis
  3. Hazard identification and control
  4. Employee training

To get started, I recommend MEMIC’s Seven Steps to a Safer Workplace guide. This document and other safety support materials are available on MEMIC’s Safety Director website.  You will quickly build a formal safety and health program and will eliminate any uncertainty about the effectiveness and consistency of your future safety efforts.   


Part II - What do I really need for a Respiratory Protection Program?

Posted by Donna Clendenning and Greg LaRochelle

The last time we blogged, we discussed the requirements of OSHA’s respiratory protection standard 29 CFR 1910.134, when companies exceed OSHA’s permissible exposure limits and when engineering controls are not feasible. We covered written plans, medical evaluations, respirator selection and workplace hazard identification.  Next comes fit testing.

Fit Testing – In order to provide protection, the respirator must fit properly to the employee’s face.  Contaminated air will be inhaled by the employee if a tight face piece seal is not maintained.   Fit testing must be a core component of your respirator program when workplace conditions require respirator use.  Your occupational medical provider should be able to assist you with this requirement. Review the standard for further information regarding when fit testing needs to be performed.

Training and Information – You could have the greatest written program but it is useless if your employees neglect to wear their respirators, or wear them improperly.  Training has two primary components: 1) Awareness of respiratory hazards to which employees are potentially exposed during regular and emergency situations and; 2) Appropriate respirator use including putting them on (donning) and taking them off (doffing), as well as inspection, maintenance, and storage of the respirators along with limitations of use. This training is required annually, or when changes in the workplace occur that affect safe respirator use.

Evaluation and Recordkeeping – OSHA 29 CFR 1910.134(m) requires the employer to “…establish and retain written information regarding medical evaluations, fit testing, and the respirator program” along with an annually documented evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.  Among other criteria, recordkeeping will provide a record for compliance determination by OSHA. 

When respirators are used by employees on a voluntary basis, the employer must still have a written plan.  This plan must include the medical evaluation component and information on employee responsibility for proper care of the respirator.  Even if an employee voluntarily uses a paper dust mask or filtering face piece, a copy of Appendix D to the standard needs to be issued to the employee or contents of this form conveyed and documented.  Appendix D can be found here. You can access MEMIC’s Safety Director Resource Library at via memic.com for respirator program resources