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March 2013

What's the Hurry?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

It seems that these days everyone is in a hurry.  Traffic on the roads is heavy, people are often rushing around, and we all have to be somewhere now.  The problem this creates is the decrease in our “safety cushions”.  Cars are travelling the highways at 65 or 75 mph… or faster, and they are only a few feet behind the car in front of them.  If we speed and tailgate we seem to think we will arrive at our destination sooner.  But is this really true?  What are the risks?

Speeding often does not decrease driving time substantially, but it does increase risk.  For example, travelling at 75mph verses 55mph on a ten mile trip will only save four minutes.  However, when one considers traffic, school zones, toll booths, stop lights, etc… the time saved is likely much less than four minutes.  We burn more gas, become frustrated, increase the risk of rear end collisions and speeding violations, and really don’t save any time.  Wouldn’t it just be better to leave earlier and drive defensively? 

Following distance is critical.  People require time to perceive traffic problems ahead, more time to react to the situation, and more time to actually stop the vehicle.  Standard perception and reaction times range from .5 seconds to .75 seconds for each.  Although that doesn’t sound like a long time, a vehicle travelling at 65mph will travel between 100 and 150 feet during that time. 

Next consider the impact speeding has on the performance of your car or truck.  Specifically, how does a speed increase effect stopping distance?  The answer might surprise you.  A doubling of your speed doesn’t just increase your stopping distance by twofold.  It actually increases it by four times.  Pretty clear that the faster you go, the longer the stopping distance… by a lot.  No wonder we have rear end collisions involving multiple vehicles. 

The right answer is clear.  Slow down, drive defensively, and increase following distances.  Leave yourself enough time and space to stop or steer around any surprises in front of you. 

Transportation is the leading cause of death in the workplace; don’t become a statistic.  Driving is a serious business we should not take for granted.  For training ideas and more information check out the resources from the National Safety Council, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Transitioning to Sit/Stand Workstation (Part 2)

Clendenning Donna Posted by Donna Clendenning

In the last blog, we mentioned NIOSH has just begun a 12 month sit/stand workstation pilot program.  While we await the program results, consider the following:

To be successful at any endeavor you must practice, practice, practice.  Training yourself to work at a sit/stand station can be as important as training for a race.  Your body has adapted to sitting for the majority of the day, five days a week.  The large muscles in the lower extremities are quiet; the chair is doing all the work.   It could take up to three weeks to transition to a sit/stand workstation.  During that period you will have to listen to your body as it adjusts to a new posture.   

It’s likely that success at your sit/stand station will depend on your patience and awareness of what is going on inside you physiologically. You will need to relearn what posture you are comfortable in while standing. Your body will also tell you when to switch positions, when to stretch, and when to sit down.  You will burn twice the calories standing as compared to sitting.  Two to three days into the transition you may feel tired with a loss of energy.  You’re using more fuel and your body is trying to catch up.

Start by standing for a couple of hours each day for a few days and then gradually increase your standing time.  If your back or your feet begin to hurt, decrease your standing time for a while and then increase it again in a few days.  Remember, your body is changing and needs time to adapt.

Most likely you will experience some foot discomfort until your feet adapt to the standing posture and pressures.  Consider good quality shoes with firm heel counter and arch support.  Fashionable shoes that sacrifice comfort will not be your friend at the sit/stand work station.  Be consistent with your footwear.  Heel height and arch support should be similar each day.  Laced shoes should be moderately snug but not too tight.  An anti-fatigue mat can also be helpful.  

Using a short stool or box as a foot rest will help with foot fatigue.  The stool will allow you to move your weight from one foot to the other for short periods of time.

Additionally, for MEMIC policyholders, consider registering for our March 28 webinar “The Benefits of Sit and Stand Workstations”.  Finally, the following sites may be helpful as you search for the best solution for your sit/stand workstation needs:

To Sit or to Stand, that is the Question... Part 1

Clendenning Donna Posted by Donna Clendenning

NIOSH (National Institute of Safety and Health) recently posted a blog regarding a sit/stand workstation pilot program they are undertaking “as part of a workplace health and wellbeing initiative to reduce sedentary work in our workplace.” In the May 13, 2010 MEMIC Safety Blog, MEMIC Chief Ergonomist Al Brown wrote guidelines addressing sit/stand workstations. These guidelines remain as pertinent today as they were in 2010.

The NIOSH pilot program is looking at employee satisfaction of the sit/stand workstation as well as the overall health benefits of sitting/standing throughout the day.  NIOSH is aware that sit/stand stations are relatively new to the workplace and that there may be drawbacks as well as benefits.  Some drawbacks may include too much standing or ergonomic issues that could arise as with any new workstation equipment.

There are a wide variety of sit/stand workstations on the market today.  Some raise and lower at the touch of a button, some adjust with support brackets mounted in partition tracks, and others are desktop sit/stand units. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars for a sit/stand workstation.  Several online sites including ErgoPrise and Superwarehouse sell units that attach to a regular workstation surface and provide adjustable height for the monitor(s), keyboard and mouse.    It’s an economical way to determine if a sit/stand workstation will work for you.

Also consider the need for an appropriate stool or chair for a sit/stand workstation.  A drafting stool/chair will provide periodic support for the buttocks and back, and relieve the feet when standing for longer periods of time.  A regular office chair cannot be adjusted high enough for the standing position.  A tall chair is required; one that has enough adjustment to maintain the users’ elbow in the same 90° angle whether sitting or standing. Websites for chairs include OfficeMax and Jaymil.

As far as NIOSH is concerned, the jury is still out until they complete their 12 month pilot program;  so far there have been rave reviews from those involved.  

Watch for Part II of this blog, “Transitioning to a Sit/Stand Workstation”.  Additionally, for MEMIC policyholders, consider registering for our March 28 webinar “The Benefits of Sit and Stand Workstations” or our Office Ergonomic Workshops in Auburn and Bangor.

Ol’ Man Winter can be Hazardous to your Health!

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Winter is hanging on for a lot of the country despite the advancing calendar.  Consider the following so that you make it to Spring safely! 

This time of year the number of slips and falls suffered throughout the Northeast increases dramatically.  The vast majority of these incidents are avoidable.  We are always in a hurry, not watching the surface, carrying too much, not wearing the proper footwear, or a combination of all of the above.  Take a few minutes to consider how you can best avoid these injuries this winter season.  Spring isn’t far off, but the footing can be treacherous between now and then!  Last winter MEMIC posted a blog entitled “What’s on your Feet this Winter?”  It is good reading and worth checking out this year.  Footwear is often overlooked as an important preventive measure when it comes to slips and falls.  Friction enhancers (Stabilicers, Yaktrax or similar devices) are not always practical, but sure can be a life saver when the conditions are extremely snowy or icy.  MEMIC has posted several other blogs regarding slips and falls.  Access the Safety Net and search “slips and falls” for additional resources.

Naturally the cold, along with gusty winds and reduced visibility can make the shortest of commutes hazardous.  Proper vehicle maintenance, stocking an emergency kit, and planning all trips to allow extra time are all keys to safe journeys.  As the saying goes, “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow.”  Check out the resources from OSHA regarding winter storm preparation and survival.

It’s nice to get out and enjoy the winter weather, but do so with caution.  This is especially true for those excursions on the frozen ponds, lakes, and rivers.  Check out the Safe Riders! Safety Awareness Program for tips about riding snowmobiles on the ice. 

We’ll soon be talking about hot weather, barbeque, and swimming safety, but for now keep an eye on the ice and snow to avoid injury.