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May 2012

Are Your Tires As Safe As You Think?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

When was the last time you took a close look at your tires?  The tires are the only contact the vehicle has with the road.  Clearly the performance of the car or truck is dependent upon quality tires in good condition.  Before you hop in your car and drive off the next time, take a closer look at the rubber that meets the road; your life could depend upon it.

Look in the grooves between the tire treads for raised patches of rubber called wear bars. These 2/32” tall patches will help you identify a worn out tire. When the wear bars are flush with the tread it indicates that tread depth has reached the legal minimum of 2/32”. 

If tires do not have wear bars, traditionally it was recommended to place a US penny in the groove with Lincoln’s head down.   If the tread is at or beyond the top of Lincoln's head you have at least 3/32” of tread left.  However, the performance of the tire will be far less than when the tire was new, especially in wet road conditions.  Check out the resource from to learn more about performance and tread depth.    

Tread depth is important, but even wear is also vital to safe performance.  Improper inflation can lead to rounded edges on the tire inside, outside, or center.  Uneven wear between front and rear tires indicates the need for more frequent tire rotation.  A chop or stair-step wear pattern could indicate worn shocks and excessive wear on the inside or outside of the tread could indicate the need for alignment. 

Carefully check each tire for punctures, nails, scuffs, and weather cracking. Repair or replace as necessary.  If you are driving a commercial vehicle the standards for tire wear are more conservative.  For example, front tires on trucks and busses must have at least 4/32” of tread depth.  Check out the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration standards for more information.

The Little Things Can Cause Back Pain

Allan Brown Posted by Allan Brown

Back pain is something that most of us will experience sometime in our lives.  Often the cause of back pain is misunderstood.  We do not have to be lifting something heavy to cause an injury.  Often it is the little things we do on a daily basis that initiate the injury process and it may be the lift or twist that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

Consider this:

  • Sitting places up to 50% more force on the back compared to standing erect.
  • Prolonged sitting or standing with a forward head or slightly bent forward posture increases the pressure on the lumbar disc and changes the pressure to the disk back wall next to spinal nerve roots.
  • Our body sags in response to gravity; this adds stress to our back.  Poor posture, tight muscles, and weak core strength increase the risk of back injuries. 
  • We sit at work more than ever in the past. 
  • Pain, tingling, and numbness can go from the back to your foot and anywhere in between.  Often the cause of this pain is in your back.  The discomfort anywhere else is considered referred pain.  
  • Heavy and awkward lifting are back pain contributors.

What you can do:

  • Take stock of your daily behaviors and posture.  Do you walk, sit, and stand in good posture?
  • Adjust your chair to fit your posture.  Ensure the back support fills the inward curve of your low back. Sit back in the chair and up on your pelvis.
  • After prolonged sitting or driving, stand up and gently perform a back bend to neutralize the disc pressure.
  • Eliminate all lifts from the floor.
  • Set up your work bench to reduce any extended reaches and awkward bending.
  • As you age your body changes.  Gravity’s pull seems greater and your muscles weaken and shorten.   Stretching and strengthening can help slow this change.  Maintaining good posture, core strength, and flexibility are keys to slowing these changes. 
  • Good sleep and good food are essential to a healthy body.

More resources can be found within the Safety Director at; check out the Resource Library by searching “back injury” or click the Ergonomics tab. 

Female Spine back pain

Time for a Tick Check

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Do you recognize these symptoms?   Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint aches, and a red bulls-eye like rash.  These can be symptomatic of tick borne illness such as Lyme disease. 

If you work outdoors either for your job or just around the yard at home chances are good that you have already pulled a tick from yourself or a pet this year. While they are not as annoying as the mosquitoes or black flies, their bite can be more threatening to your health by transmitting bacteria which cause illnesses such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease.

The instances of Lyme disease are on the rise in the New England states.  Don’t believe it’s a problem?  Just look at these numbers:  221% . . .270% . . .497%.  They represent the increase in Lyme disease incidence rates between 2005 and 2009 for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont respectively.  You can check out the incident rates for all states here:  Lyme Disease Incident Rates.

Ticks don’t fly or jump, but grab hold of their hosts from blades of grass, leaves, or abundant leaf liter then climb to find suitable place to feed. The State of CT, in their publication Tick Bite Prevention, provides the following recommendations for preventing tick borne illness.

1)  Wear lighter colored clothing
2) Wear long pants and tuck your pants into your socks
3) Wash and dry clothing – ticks can’t survive an hour in a hot dryer
4) Carefully inspect the body and remove any attached ticks
5) Carefully inspect your pets and remove ticks
6) Use repellants (see the State of CT publication on Tick Bite Prevention for a list of effective repellants)

A key step in prevention of tick borne illness, especially if you work in the woods or areas with high tick populations, is self inspection and early removal.  According to the CDC, early removal of a tick, within 24 hours of attachment, can dramatically reduce the chance of Lyme disease. 

For more tips on prevention check out the CDC and the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

So take a MEMIC Minute this summer and check for ticks.



Does Your Business Have An Effective Injury Management System?

Webb Hartley Posted by Hartley Webb

Operating a business is never easy, but is especially challenging in a difficult economy.  This should lead management to identify cost control methods.  Workplace injuries are extremely expensive when both the direct and indirect costs are considered.  An injury management system can help limit these costs while assisting injured employees return to the workforce.   I’ve worked as a MEMIC safety management consultant since 1993, and I still see businesses that do not have effective injury management systems. 

An effective Injury Management System consists of the following:

  1. Knowledge of loss experience (injury cause, injury type, body part).
  2. Identify and meet with a local preferred medical provider who can treat occupational injuries and illnesses; establish a working relationship with a shared return-to-work philosophy.
  3. Detailed job descriptions (that include physical tasks required) that can be used to communicate job requirements to the medical provider.
  4. A written plan that identifies the employer and employee responsibilities regarding injury reporting, claim filing, preferred medical provider use, return-to-work guidelines, and communication with injured employees during treatment and restricted duty. 
  5. Identify alternate duty job activities available in the event an injury occurs.
  6. Documented injury management system training to include specific employee responsibilities.

OSHA has developed a “$afety Pays Program” that includes an injury cost estimator.  This tool can provide convincing evidence of the importance of an effective Injury Management System.