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August 2012

Nail Gun Safety

Posted by Bruce Small

The majority of workers involved with wood construction use one of the many air powered nailers available on the market.  Since their introduction in the 1950’s, “nail guns” have improved the speed and productivity of anyone who drives nails for a living. They have also exposed carpenters and builders to risks that the old hammer and nail never did. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports an estimated 37,000 emergency room visits per year due to nail gun injuries; 68% are occupational-related, while the remaining 32% involve consumers.  Most injuries involve puncture wounds to fingers, hands, and feet.  However, many well documented cases have resulted in eye injuries, damage to internal organs, and puncture wounds to the brain.

Every nail gun purchased comes with an owner’s manual from the manufacturer.  There is also a safety warning sticker prominently displayed on the tool; both of these list safe – and unsafe – work procedures.

Some of these safety tips include the following:

  • Read the owner’s manual and use it for training.
  • Wear safety glasses and be sure anyone in the work area is wearing them as well.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment as needed.
  • Keep the tool pointed away from yourself and others.
  • Keep hands, feet and other body parts away from the muzzle of the tool.
  • Disconnect the air hose when clearing jams, doing maintenance or when handing the tool to another worker.
  • Keep your finger off the trigger except when nailing. A sequential trigger (requiring the gun nose to be depressed before the trigger will fire a nail) is safer than a contact trigger.
  • Hold the tool firmly onto the work surface to avoid a recoil kick-back and double firing.
  • Avoid nailing into knots or other fasteners.

As a reminder, pneumatic tools and compressors are regulated under OSHA’s Construction standard at 29 CFR 1926.302(b).

Further information can be found here:  OSHA Nail Gun Safety Publication and Nail Gun Safety: The Facts.

Nail gun injuries are painful, can cause serious injury or death, and can be prevented.

Laptop Ergonomics

Allan Brown Posted by Allan Brown

Today almost everyone is connected to the electronic world.  School children, young and middle aged workers, and older workers are all using portable electronic devices for school, work, and social media interaction.  These activities are very common and sometimes necessary, but are also exposing our bodies to different strains.  The lack of movement with prolonged poor posture can contribute to a lifetime of discomfort. 

Laptop computers pose a difficult ergonomic challenge.  The portable design, although convenient, can create early unconscious patterns of poor posture.  When a child or young worker is using a laptop, even if they are sitting at a desk or table, the screen is too low and the keyboard and mouse devices are often too high.  If you curl up on the sofa, easy chair, or in a bed for hours while using a laptop the posture issues become more severe. 

Students or young workers are more tolerant of this forward head posture and flat or extended back because of their youth.  As their youth wanes the process of aging settles in.  Those practiced postures of their youth, good or bad, are difficult to change.  They sit in a “C” shaped posture with a forward head reaching for the keyboard and mouse.  Often they are not comfortable and can’t figure out why.  Use of a laptop or any small input device has had them in awkward posture for extended periods of time.  This becomes unconscious behavior and a habit.  This, in turn, increases the strain to the neck and back. 

We fight the forces of gravity everyday and the only way to reduce this strain is stand up tall, stay physically active, and improve posture.  Start by:

  1. Using a separate keyboard and mouse.
  2. Utilize a standing area or desk with an adjustable chair.  Yes, standing and working on a computer can be a good thing.  This puts less strain on the low back.  A stool can be added to allow the option of sitting or standing. 
  3. Discuss the importance of good sitting posture and encourage workers to get up frequently and take stretch breaks.  Walking during lunch breaks or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be helpful as well. 

Balancing our bodies is a lot like riding a bicycle; it’s easier when it’s moving.   We are not built to sit still for extended periods of time.  For more information, policyholders can use the MEMIC Safety Director,  or anyone can reference the OSHA Ergonomic Solutions E-Tool.  

Laptop type ergo

Back to School Safety 2012

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Although it seems we just posted a blog concerning July Fourth holiday safety, the end of summer and the beginning of the school year will soon be upon us.  The roads, already congested by construction, will soon be filled with school busses, students, and parents on the way to school.  With this in mind, consider the following:

  • Each year, approximately 800 school-age children are killed in motor vehicle crashes during the normal school travel hours (weekday mornings and afternoons during school months). 
  • Roughly 2% of the 800 children killed are school bus related while 74% occur in private passenger vehicles and 22% are the result of pedestrian or bicycle accidents.  

What can we do to protect our families?  Start with a good plan:

  1. Know your route – Be aware of any planned or current construction along your way.  Using web resources such as Trafficinfo, or a local city website can help identify areas where delays are likely.
  2. Leave early – Be sure to leave enough time to account for any known construction delays or school bus stops along the way.  Usually 30 minutes is enough, but more may be necessary depending on where you live. 
  3. Stay visible – Stop far enough back for the bus drivers to see you in their mirrors and use your hazards when stopped for a bus, giving notice to any drivers behind you.
  4. Avoid distraction – It’s not the phone, it’s the conversation.  Refrain from using cell phones while driving.  The same goes for other activities that distract the driver, such as changing CDs, looking at notes and reading maps.

The following sites provide additional tips and strategies for avoiding tragedy on you morning commute this fall:

• Jiffy Lube Safety Tips
• Back to School Safety Tips from Safe Kids

Transportation Leads the Way

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

In 2010, 4690 U.S. workers died while on the job.  Although this represents a 3% increase from 2009, both years continue an overall downward trend in workplace deaths.  For example, in 1994 there were 6632 workers killed.  This trend is good news for all of us, yet over 13 people still die each day at work.   

Take a look at the pie chart below to see the manner in which fatal work injuries occurred.  With this knowledge you may be able to address specific issues at your workplace in order to mitigate the hazards.  It’s pretty easy to see what is killing most people:  40% of fatalities were transportation incidents.      
Transportation Graph
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012

Ask yourself if your employees drive either company cars, vans, trucks, heavy machinery, or their own personal vehicles during the course of their jobs.  If the answer is “yes” then a fleet plan should be developed to ensure the safe operation and condition of all vehicles.  There are many elements to a comprehensive fleet plan and each organization’s would differ slightly.  However, they should all include policies regarding driver’s license checks, vehicle inspections, maintenance programs, traffic law responsibilities, and driver safety training and education. 

Check out the Safety Director Resource Library at for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       


What Makes Safety Glasses Safe?

John DeRoia Posted by John DeRoia

Employees are often required to wear safety eyewear in the course of their duties.  In the past safety glasses were uncomfortable and bulky.  Newer safety glasses are more comfortable to wear and can even be quite stylish.   

OSHA requires workers to use appropriate PPE for any job which may pose a threat to a person’s health.  Eye or face protection shall be worn when workers could be exposed to flying debris, particles, or hazardous liquids.  Any lenses or frames stamped with “ANSI Z87” will meet or exceed OSHA standards.  The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standard sets forth requirements for the design, construction, testing, and use of eye protection devices, including standards for impact and penetration resistance. 

The standard designates that lenses will be divided into two protection levels, Basic Impact and High Impact as dictated by test criteria.  Basic Impact lenses must pass the “drop ball” test; a one inch diameter steel ball is dropped on the lens from 50 inches. High Impact lenses must pass “high velocity” testing.  Here 1/4" steel balls are “shot” at velocities from 150 ft/sec for spectacles to 300 ft/sec for face shields.  All eyewear frames, face shields, or crowns must comply with the High Impact requirement.

The impact protection level must be indicated on the device. Basic Impact spectacle lenses will have the manufacturer’s mark and the Z87.  High Impact spectacle lenses will also have a plus + sign following the Z87.  (Note: Lenses/windows may have additional markings. Shaded lenses may have markings denoting a shade number such as 3.0, 5.0 etc… Special purpose lenses may be marked with “S”. A variable tint lens may have a “V” marking.)

Side shield coverage, as part of the lens or as an individual component, has been increased rearward by 10-millimeters via a revised impact test procedure. While side protection in the form of wraparound lens, integral or attached component side shield devices is not mandated in this standard, it is highly recommended.  Further, OSHA does require lateral protection on eye protection devices when a flying particle hazard may exist, and flying particle hazards are virtually always present in any occupational environment. All current non-prescription safety spectacles meet the requirements of OSHA and Z87.1 for side protection.

As you can see (yes, pun intended) the testing process is rigorous and not all glasses are safety glasses. Employers must conduct a PPE assessment and then provide employees the appropriate protection, including eyewear.  For more information concerning a PPE assessment check out OSHA’s Training and Reference Materials Library.