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December 2012

November 2012

A Safe Holiday Season

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Now that we have outlasted Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday it’s time to face the rest of the holiday season.  Our goal at MEMIC is to help you do so safely, so please consider the following.

An estimated 240 home fires involving Christmas trees and another 150 home fires involving holiday lights and other decorative lighting occur each year. Together, these fires result in 21 deaths and $25.2 million in direct property damage.  Check out fire safety tips from the U.S. Fire Administration.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes holiday health and safety tips that you can share with your employees and family members. 

Naturally a lot of folks will be travelling for the holidays.  Whether you are hitting the highways or the skyways it is important to arrive safely.  Plan all trips with plenty of time allowed for delays and adverse weather conditions.  OSHA publishes a one-page guideline for safe winter driving, and offers tips on travelling safely in the winter season.  In addition, a plethora of information on safe driving, distracted driving, and vehicle safety is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.      

 We have already done away with approximately 47 million turkeys for Thanksgiving, but many more will be heading to the dinner table in the coming month.  Although it makes for a great meal, did you know that Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) will not certify any turkey fryers due to safety concerns?  If you have decided that a fried turkey is the only way to go then first check out these fryer safety tips from UL.  UL also publishes additional Holiday Safety Tips regarding electrical and fire safety. 

Please take a moment to read and share these tips with your family, friends, and employees. MEMIC wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday season.  

Tire Safety and Winter Driving

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

As the winter weather grows closer on the horizon it’s time to consider the condition and selection of the tires on our vehicles.  Snow, ice, and slush on the roadways greatly affect the handling and performance of cars and trucks.  The tire is the only part of the vehicle that touches the road; take the time to ensure your tires are ready for these winter driving conditions.

First consider the tire rating.  The U.S. has an established rating system for tire tread wear, traction performance, and temperature resistance.  The federal government requires each tire to be rated with the information placed on the tire sidewall.  An explanation of the rating system, along with a searchable data base of tire manufactures/models can be found at  A higher rated tire is going to last longer and perform better than a lower rated tire.

Secondly, determine if snow tires are required.  An all-season radial tire will likely have the M+S rating; this denotes a tread design intended to perform well in mud and snow.  However, a snow rated tire, denoted by the mountain snowflake symbol, is a better indicator of increased traction in snow.  Not only does a snow tire have a deeper tread design and more siping (engineered slits in the tire's tread pattern that come open as the tire rolls over the snow, creating more biting edges) it is made of a softer rubber compound designed to remain supple in colder environments.  To qualify for this rating, the tread design and depth must provide 10% more snow traction than the standard or all-season tire. Snow tires perform much better in snowy conditions, but the softer compounds will not wear well on dry pavement so seasonal changing of the tires is required.  Check out this link to for a complete explanation of winter tire selection.  A little research will be helpful in making a good decision.

Regardless of the tire selection, proper maintenance is vital.  Frequent inspection of the tread and sidewall condition, rotation on a regular basis (such as with each oil change), and checking for proper inflation pressure are all vital.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has produced a comprehensive brochure regarding tire safety.  You can also access prior Safety Net postings.  Search “tires” for additional useful information regarding transportation safety, or register for the January 2013 MEMIC Winter Driving webinar.  Take care of your tires so they can take care of you!

Safety Accountability - A Recipe for Injury Prevention

EricGrant Posted by Eric Grant

The majority of the injuries that occur are not related to unsafe workplace conditions, but connected to behavioral issues in the workplace.  Real success calls for a recipe with a dash of OSHA compliance, a touch of behavioral sciences, and all placed in a Safety Accountability pie crust.  Clear accountability for safety is the magic ingredient that is often left out of the entrée.  Many people do not understand why workplace injuries continue despite their attempts at implementing compliance based programs.  Compliance may keep the OSHA Compliance Officer out of your kitchen, but compliance alone often won’t  reduce or eliminate injuries over the long run.

So, hopefully you are asking yourself, “What does safety accountability look like?” Consider the following for your organization: 

  • Management commitment- a significant factor in successful safety programs. Make it a very public commitment.  See the MEMIC Safety Director for Safety Policy Statement examples and other safety program resources. 
  • Define basic expectations- clearly define safety expectations for all personnel.  What does your company expect from employees in regard to injury prevention?
  • Specific safety management responsibilities- Once the rules are defined, the leadership should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them.  In order to hold people accountable for safety performance they must clearly understand their own responsibilities.
  • Measurement- Organizations routinely measure productivity or quality, but safety is often omitted from the annual review process.  Safety is a key component to business success, so goals must be set and progress tracked.
  • Recognition and corrective action- Recognize positive and negative safety performance as you would any other responsibility.  Do not confuse recognition with incentives and remember that accountability may mean consequences, both positive and negative.

For more information related to safety accountability check out the OSHA ETool Module 2, and this online article from OSHAcademy

Recognize and Reduce Manual Pushing and Pulling Hazards

Scott Valorose 2012 Posted by Scott Valorose

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, injury and illness cases requiring days away from work remained largely unchanged from the prior year, although overexertion rates increased.  Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) rates also increased compared to 2009.  Among others, these losses were experienced by laborers and material movers.

Are your personnel involved in manually moving, pushing, pulling, or transporting materials?  Have you identified these terms in the descriptions of any experienced losses?  If your answer is “yes” to either question, consider the following guidelines to recognize and reduce your hazards:

1. Look to, or better yet, at your employees.  In addition to any difficulties or problems your employees are telling you about, look for the following visual cues as they work:

  • Strained facial expressions – it’s possible that their facial expressions may be telling you that their efforts are high or demanding much of their physical capacity.
  • Leaning in to it – employees tend to stay more upright when force demands are low, but use their own body weight to get things moving when higher forces are required.
  • Somewhat erratic or jerky efforts – quick motions or efforts may be used to generate or halt movement when loads are high or conditions are adverse, as opposed to smooth, fluid, or appearing effortless when forces are low.

2. Look at your workplace conditions.  Pushing or moving materials on carts, dollies, or pallet jacks can become more demanding due to multiple turns or changes in direction, narrow aisles, doorways and thresholds, ramps, damaged flooring or expansion joints, or poor housekeeping.  Minimize changes of direction and elevation with good planning, layouts, and work methods.  Regularly inspect housekeeping and floor conditions.

3. Understand the forces involved.  Look at the loads or weights being handled as a general estimate; recommendations for maximum loads have included 500 pounds for four wheel carts and 1,500 pounds for manual pallet jacks.  That said, push or pull forces are typically not the same as the weight of the load being moved.  Under the most favorable of conditions (i.e., smooth level surface, well maintained carts, wheels aligned in direction of travel) forces may be as low as 2% of the load weight.  Forces quickly rise when these conditions are not met.  Consider measuring the actual forces using a tension pull gauge possibly found in your maintenance shop.  Recommended force levels have included:

  • 50 pounds or less to start the cart, dolly, or other device in motion.
  • 40 pounds or less to keep a device moving.
  • 25 pounds or less when the force has to be sustained for more than a minute or the device has to be pushed more than 10 feet.

Maximum recommended forces can change depending on handle heights, distances, frequency, gender, age, and percent of population you are trying to accommodate.  Commonly, at least 75% of females should be able to perform the manual material handling work without undue strain or fatigue.

4. Train employees to push as often as possible.  Pushing allows employees to better utilize their body weight when higher forces are required.  Pushing with both hands also helps to minimize twisting and reaching.  Acceptable forces can be to be up to 20% higher when pushing as opposed to pulling, and pulling, more so the pushing has been found to increase compressive loading of the spinal discs.  Train employees to identify the swivel wheels or casters on some carts and push from that end; forces required to turn the carts should be lower.  Consider labeling the associated handle, “Push From This End,” or remove the opposite handle to eliminate any possible confusion.

5. Perform preventative maintenance on equipment.  Regular preventative maintenance is critical for bearings and other components to operate as efficiently as designed and intended.  Consider going beyond any recommendation provided by the manufacturer or supplier, as instruction is limited depending on the device.

6. Consider powered equipment.  If loads are heavy, forces and frequencies are high, distances are long, or injuries continue to occur, consider providing powered equipment.  When looking for possible equipment, know your exposures and facility conditions; consider any limitations in space, aisle width, floor capacities, etc; consider associated requirements of inspection, storage, charging, eyewash stations, etc; and your budget.

If further assistance is needed, contact your loss control consultant and check out the following resources: