Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

February 2011

Hiring Practices That Make Smart “Cents” for Safety

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

As the sluggish economy begins to heat up rendering a more favorable business climate, cost conscious employers looking to grow their workforce need to be even more vigilant to their hiring practices.  The search for a suitable fit can be an exhaustive exercise for a small business owner as well as for an HR professional in a large corporation.  Finding and hiring the right person demands that safety be at the forefront of the decision-making process.  Here’s why:

According to the Business & Legal Reports safety website, workplace injury statistics reveal that new employees are 5 times more likely to experience a lost-time injury in the first month of employment compared to the experienced worker.  Additionally, studies show that 40 percent of all workers injured on the job have been at it less than a year.  

 Given these facts, ensuring the safety of the “newbie” is of utmost importance, particularly where a business’s greatest asset is its people.  Equally, smart hiring practices and new employee safety orientation translate to preservation of the bottom line.

Proactive loss control measures in hiring should include:

  • Post-offer, pre-placement physical exams, especially for physically demanding job positions.
  • Written job descriptions that detail the physical aspect of the work tasks. 
  • New employee orientation and training on the equipment and tools associated with the job, emergency evacuation routes, location of first-aid kits, MSDSs, and items such as fire extinguishers. 

Most occupational health providers offer pre-placement physicals for a nominal fee. These are designed to determine the functional capacity of the individual.  The written job description stipulating physical demands can also be used in determining light duty activities for an injured employee with temporary work restrictions. 

Use of an orientation checklist while showing the new hire the safety features of the workplace can serve as documentation of the facility safety tour. 

As a timesaver, MEMIC has assembled a number of training checklists including an employee safety orientation form in the on-line MEMIC Safety Director resource library.  (Note: MEMIC Safety Director requires user registration and is exclusively for MEMIC customers.) For additional resources on hiring practices, click on the Human Resources link under the bold heading Action Plans on the Safety Director’s home page. 

Stay SAFE from the Winter Slip & Fall

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

It lurks around many a corner, on stairs, down drives, and walkways.  It does not discriminate, taking down men and women of all ages and occupations.  And it doesn’t care about an individual’s physical ability.  Feeding on snow and ice, its tendrils spread to entangle the unwary, putting them flat on their back.  What is this terrible scourge?  The Winter Slip and Fall.

According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, slip and falls are the third leading cause of workplace injuries and our recent winter weather has only served to increase the tally.   Even though slip and falls are frequent, they don’t have to be an inevitable result of winter weather. 

Generally, a lack of awareness (of slippery or icy conditions) and behavior, are the leading contributors to slips and falls, and the best prevention fits into four areas that can be recalled with the acronym SAFE:

  • Surface – Maintain the surface for the weather and anticipated foot traffic.  Be sure the area is lit properly and that snow removal equipment and sand or salt are readily available.
  • Awareness – Slow down, don’t be in a hurry.  Practice walking safely: shorten your stride and keep a larger portion of your footwear sole in contact with the surface during each step.
  • Footwear – Wear proper footwear for the anticipated conditions.  Wear boots to work and change at the office.  Get traction enhancers like Stabil-Icers or YakTrax to slip over shoes.
  • Environment - When the weather is inclement and temperatures are dropping below freezing, slow the pace of work to allow for better situational and hazard awareness.  Look for low spots or high-traffic areas – where ice can build up – especially when the ground is covered with that initial, light “dusting” of snow.

Keep SAFE-ty in mind, to stay on your feet this winter, and avoid the Winter Slip and Fall.

Don’t Hit the Roof for Snow Removal

Stanley Rod 2 Posted by Rod Stanley

Near-record snow fall this year – coupled with sustained temperatures below freezing – have resulted in significant snow accumulations in much of the US.  A relentless chore, and annoyance, for everyone responsible for keeping driveways, roads and walkways clear, this snow buildup on roofs has the potential for significant property loss.  And, this latter potential has many of us eyeing our rooftops – whether at home or work – deciding whether we need to clear some of this snow before we get more snow or rain, or both. 

Once you’ve decided the “something has to be done” about that snow buildup on the roof – don’t just “Hit the Roof” – take the time to evaluate the following:

Risk Transfer

Can you afford to have a properly insured contractor perform the work?  Roofing and maintenance contractors not only have the people and equipment to do this work, but they should carry insurance for property and personal damage while on your premises.  Although expensive, the cost for paying a professional to take care of the problem is always less than major property damage from a roof leak or the pain, suffering and cost that can go along with a serious fall injury.

Risk Control

Is a roof rake able to remove enough snow, while working at ground level, so that you don’t have to physically get on the roof?  Even if you can’t get, all of the snow with a roof rake, in many cases removing as much snow as possible – before getting on the roof – will limit the possibility of falling, especially near eaves, rake edges and overhangs.

Do you have the ability to safely access the roof?  Roof hatches are the best way to access a roof, but where these aren’t available, properly secured ladders that project at least 3 feet above the eaves are a must.  When getting off, and onto, the ladder, have a specific plan to prevent the ladder from sliding at its top support and pay special attention to ensure the bottom can’t kick out, or slide.  

Once on the roof, how do you ensure that you, or another worker, do not fall off the edge?  On low-slope roofs, tethers, safety monitors and warning lines can prevent workers from accidentally getting too close.  However, on sloped roofs, an aerial lift, lifeline or other traditional fall arrest equipment may be the only way to be protected from sliding and falling off the roof.  Be creative.  A lifeline thrown over the ridge of a building – and tied to a fixed object on the other side – can provide an adequate anchor to prevent a slide down the roof and subsequent fall.

Establish a Policy

Lastly, make sure your workers understand the policy for snow and ice removal from a roof.  If you have transferred the risk – make sure the contact information is readily available and that the contractor has the necessary insurances to cover any damages.  Also, train workers to ensure that they know they are not allowed to work on the roof.

If you decide to have your workers remove snow and ice, conduct basic safety training on roof raking, establishing safe access, and measures to ensure falls from the roof don’t occur.


More Shoveling? Say It Ain’t Snow!

Allan Brown Posted by  Allan Brown

Before you start, consider:

  •  Snow shoveling puts a high physical demand on your heart and back.
  • Avoid snow shoveling after a big meal.  Give yourself 1-2 hours after a meal before you start shoveling.  It takes a lot of blood flow to digest a meal.
  • Avoid caffeine or smoking before and when you’re shoveling.  Both substances will increase your heart rate.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are 40 years or older, suffer a heart condition, or have hypertension.
  • Avoid shoveling if you suffer from low back pain.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are physically inactive.

Dress appropriately:

It’s winter, so layer your clothing.  Not only will this keep you warm, but it will be easier to shed clothing as you warm up. Make sure your clothing doesn’t restrict your ability to move.  Wear appropriate shoes/boots.  Make sure the boots have good traction to reduce slipping.  If it’s icy wear “ice grippers” over boots or shoes to prevent slipping.  Protect your face with sunscreen.

The right shovel:

All shovels are not alike.  Consider a shovel with a bent handle.  This will reduce the amount of bending you’ll have to do when shoveling.  Plastic is lighter than metal, so go light; the snow will provide plenty of weight.

Warm up and stretch your muscles before you shovel:

Prepare your body to do work.  Increase your core temperature by marching in place or with a brisk walk.  Once your core is warm, stretch your shoulders, back, and legs.  These areas of the body will be doing the majority of the work.  Take micro breaks every 10 minutes when shoveling and stretch any tight muscle.

Stop shovelling immediately if:

  • You experience shortness of breath
  • You feel tightness in your chest
  • You begin to experience back pain

Moving snow:

Do it sooner rather than later.  Fresh snow is lighter. Packed snow is tougher to move.  Push snow whenever possible and avoid lifting.  If you have to lift the snow, keep these points in mind:

  • Try to maintain your back as upright as possible.
  • Bend at the hips and knees to load the shovel.
  • Take less snow on the shovel if it is wet and dense.  A shovel full of wet snow can weigh up to 25 pounds.
  • Lift with your legs and hips while keeping your core muscles tight.
  • Avoid twisting, and always pivot the whole body when moving snow.
  • Train yourself to shovel left-handed and right-handed.  This will take a little effort on your part to practice.  It takes about a week to coordinate your body.  Alternate sides every 10 minutes.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks for the shoulders and back.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during, and after shoveling.

When You’re Done:

  • Drink water and eat a healthy snack.
  • Stretch your muscles.


Read a past MEMIC SafetyNet blog titled "The Science of Shoveling".



Shingles that Don’t Protect Your Roof

Stowell Beth Posted by Beth Stowell

We often think of the cold virus as being “on the loose” during the winter months. Maine, having the oldest population in the country, has another virus, known as Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), that warrants attention at all times of the year. VZV is the virus that causes chickenpox in children but can cause a painful viral infection, known as shingles, usually in adults. After a person recovers from chickenpox, this virus remains within the body and  for unknown reasons, some people experience the reactivation of the virus years later.

The shingles rash typically starts on one side of the face or body and presents as blisters that scab after 3-5 days. The rash usually clears within 2 to 4 weeks. The rash is preceded by painful itching and/or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, and an upset stomach.

Shingles is contagious: a person with a rash can spread chickenpox to anyone who has not had the chickenpox! A healthcare or residential facility infection control policy will provide direction for people who have been diagnosed with shingles. Typically, this policy should address the need to keep the rash covered, avoid skin-to-skin contact with the rash, and diligent hand-washing to prevent the spread of VZV.

These infection control measures are important because VZV can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox through direct contact with the rash. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. Additionally, a person is not infectious before blisters appear or with post-herpetic neuralgia (pain after the rash is gone).

Shingles is most common in adults over 50 years of age. Adults who have medical conditions that keep the immune system from working properly, such as cancer, leukemia, and immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or people who receive immunosuppressive drugs, such as steroids are at greater risk for shingles. The shingles vaccine is recommended for anyone 60 years of age and older to keep the virus from re-activating and causing shingles.

For more information visit the CDC website.