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January 2014

Safety Leadership: Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk

Make Havel 2013 Posted by Mike Havel

Take a moment to think about the people who have influenced you: Your parents, friends, or the sports teams that you follow. These are the people that you have looked to for leadership at one point or another in your life and as a result, their actions and opinions have influenced the way you think and act.

As a supervisor or a member of your company’s safety committee, you are in a leadership position; you are a safety leader.  What you do has a tremendous influence on those around you with regards to their attitudes toward safety.  It is those actions that can set the tone for how safely your organization operates, in essence, its safety culture.

Safety culture boils down to “what your fellow employees do when no one is watching”. Your company has a safety culture…it may be positive or it may be negative. What you say and the actions you take can have an influence on that safety culture, either positive or negative.

Think about the last time you had a discussion with an associate with regards to safety. Would you rate your attitudes and behavior as positive? How do you think the associate was influenced?

A positive attitude is critical when we interact with our co-workers.  Motivating employees to make the right decisions will reduce the likelihood of an injury and make it clear that you care about them.    For example:  An employee is standing on a chair with wheels.  Which do you think would have a more positive influence?   

(1) ‘Hey, don’t stand on that chair… go get a ladder’

(2) ‘Hey, Joe, standing on that chair could get you hurt.  Let’s go find a proper stool or ladder.”

Safety leadership is also the positive reinforcement that you provide when you see an employee performing a task safely. Positive reinforcement plays an important part in influencing employees to work safely when you aren’t there.  A simple “good job” or even “thanks for working safely” when you witness safe behavior goes a long way to creating a positive safety culture. Employees will remember those positive interactions when faced with situations where they could make a good or bad choice. New hire employees are particularly susceptible.  Think about  a first impression when you joined your company. Do you still have that impression? Those first impressions tend to stick with you, so communicating positively about safety and the importance of working safely will have a lasting impression on those new hire employees.

The phrase “Actions speak louder than words” holds true for how you, as a safety leader, perform your job and those tasks within your job. As a safety leader, you must be conscious that your actions, day in, day out, are watched by your co-workers, and those actions must reflect how to perform work safely.  In the previous example of Joe on the chair… was Joe up there because the day before he saw you standing the very same chair? Be confident you understand your organization’s safety policies.  If you are unsure, simply ask your safety representative.  Making assumptions or ignoring policies can lead to injury and sets a poor example to others.  A positive safety culture encourages questions and open communication.

Safety isn’t always the easiest or fastest path, but it allows you to perform your job and move on to the next task with a minimum risk of injury.  All businesses must balance productivity, quality, and safety.  A positive culture does just that, and your words and actions are critical to success.

Check out the MEMIC Safety Director for more information regarding the development of your safety culture. 


A New OSHA Resource: Worker Safety in Hospitals

 Greg LaRochelle 2014 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

OSHA has recently launched a new educational resource on their website which has extensive materials to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs, and implement safety and health management systems. The materials include fact books, self-assessments and best practice guides.  Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, said of the educational resource, “At the heart of these materials are the lessons from high-performing hospitals that have implemented best practices to reduce workplace injuries while also improving patient safety.”  

As stated in a January 15th U.S. Department of Labor news release, “Hospital workers face serious hazards, including: lifting and moving patients, workplace violence, slips and falls, exposure to chemicals and hazardous drugs, exposures to infectious diseases and needlesticks.  In 2012, U.S. hospitals recorded 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses, almost 60,000 of which caused employees to miss work.  Nationwide, workers' compensation losses result in a total annual expense of $2 billion for hospitals.”

To download an informative overview, click on the title How Safe is Your Hospital for Workers.

Click on the Worker Safety in Hospitals link to go directly to OSHA’s educational resources.

OSHA's Top 10 List

Webb Posted by Hartley Webb

OSHA’s latest top 10 list of violations was announced at the National Safety Council’s 2013 Congress and Expo in Chicago.  OSHA’s fiscal year is from Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013.  The following table details the top 10 standards violated, along with the preliminary number of citations: 

  OSHA Photo
Fall Protection, Scaffolding and Ladder violations are from the construction industry while the remainder are related to the general industry standards.

The top violations continue to be the same year after year with only minor deviations in the order.   Businesses should have employees familiar with the common standards most frequently cited under each of the above standard categories.   The following lists identify the most common standards violated under each of the OSHA top 10:

1. Fall Protection (1926.501):

a) 1926.501(b)(13) 6 feet or more above lower levels shall be protected from falls.

b) 1926.501(b)(1) Employees exposed to unprotected sides and edges >6 feet.

c) 1926.501(b)(10) Employees exposed to falls while working on low-slope roofs.

d) 1926.501(b)(11) Employees exposed to falls while working on steep-slope roofs.

e) 1926.501(b)(4)(i) Employees not protected from falling through holes to lower levels.

2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200)

a) 1910.1200(e)(1) Develop, implement, and maintain a written hazard communication program.

b) (1910.1200(h)(1) Provide effective training.

c) 1910.1200(f)(5) Chemical containers not labeled to identify contents.

d) 1910.1200(g)(1) Missing SDS forms for chemicals used in the workplace.

e) 1910.1200(g)(8) SDS’s not readily accessible during each work to all employees.

3. Scaffolding (1926.451):

a) 1926.451(g)(1) Scaffold more than 10 feet above a lower level shall requires fall protection.  (MEMIC expects fall protection at a minimum height of 6 feet for construction)

b) 1926.451(b)(1) Platform on all working levels fully planked between front uprights and guardrail supports.

c) 1926.451(e)(1) Two or more feet above or below point of access requires ladder, stair, ramp, or similar surface.  Crossbraces shall not be used as a means of access.

d) 1926.451(c)(2) Poles, legs, posts, frames, and uprights shall bear on base plates and mud sills.

e) 1926.451(g)(4) Any guardrail systems shall comply with 1926.451 Appendix B.

4. Respiratory protection (1910.134)

a) 1910.134(c)(1)  Respirators when required need written respirator program.

b) 1910.134(e)(1)  Medical evaluation required before employee is fit tested and issued respirator.

c) 1910.134(c)(2) “Voluntary Respirator Use”  Verify it won’t create a hazard.  Requires training using 1910.134 Appendix D.

d) 1910.134(f)(2) Tight-fitting respirators  require fit testing at least annually

e) 1910.134(d)(1) Employer shall select and provide an appropriate respirator.

5. Electrical, wiring methods (1910.305)

a) 1910.305(g)(1) Flexible cords and cables not used as a substitute for fixed wiring; not run through holes in walls, ceilings, or floors; run through doorways, windows, or similar openings; attached to building surfaces; concealed behind building walls, ceilings, or floors. 

b) 1910.305(b)(1) Wiring not protected from abrasion. Openings in electrical effectively closed.

c) 1910.305(b)(2) All electrical boxes and fittings provided with covers. Lamps <8’ protected from accidental contact or breakage by a suitable fixture/guard.

d) 1910.305(g)(2) Flexible cords used only in continuous lengths.  No repairs unless cord is 14 gage (12 gage construction).  Flexible cords shall have strain relief provided.

e) 1910.305(a)(2) Flexible cords protected from accidental damage.

6. Powered industrial trucks (1910.178)

a) 1910.178(l)(1) Operator shall be competent and successfully completed training.

b) 1910.178(I)(4) Refresher training conducted every 3 years or after incident or changes

c) 1910.178(I)(6) Training certification required for operators

d) 1910.178(p)(1) Trucks with defects shall be taken out of service.

e) 1910.178(q)(7) Industrial trucks shall be examined each shift before being placed in service. 

7. Ladders (1926.1053)

a) 1926.1053(b)(1) Portable ladders shall extend at least 3 feet above any landing.

b) 1926.1053(b)(4) Ladders used only for the purpose for which they were designed.  

c) 1926.1053(b)(13) The top step of a stepladder shall not be used as a step.

d) 1926.1053(b)(16) Ladders with structural defects immediately tagged  "Do Not Use" 1926.1053(b)(22) Do not carry any object or load that could cause loss of balance.

8. Lockout/tagout (1910.147)

a) 1910.147(c)(4)(i)  Procedures developed, documented and utilized to control hazardous energy.

b) 1910.147(c)(6)  Conduct a periodic inspection of the energy control procedure at least annually.

c) 1910.147(c)(7) Provide training to “authorized”, “affected” and “other” employees.

d) 1910.147(c)(1) Establish “energy control program”.

e) 1910.147(d)(1) Lockout or tagout devices properly affixed to each energy isolating device.

9. Electrical, general requirements (1910.303)

a) 1910.303(b)(2) Electrical equipment not used according to its listing and labeling.

b) 1910.303(g)(1) Sufficient working space provided about all electric equipment.

c) 1910.303(g)(2) Electrical equipment at 50 volts or more shall be guarded against contact

d) 1910.303(b)(1) Electric equipment free from recognized hazards

e) 1910.303(f)(2) Disconnecting means shall be legibly marked to indicate its purpose, unless located and arranged so the purpose is evident

10. Machine guarding (1910.212)

a) 1910.212(a)(1) One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks.

b) 1910.212(a)(3) Point of operation safeguarding.

c) 1910.212(b)  Fixed location machinery shall be securely anchored to prevent moving.

d) 1910.212(a)(5) Fan blades less than 7’ require guards with  openings no larger than (1/2) inch.

e) 1910.212(a)(2) Guards shall be affixed to the machine where possible and secured elsewhere. The guard shall not offer an accident hazard in itself.

Dress for Winter Success

  Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Working during the winter months can provide many opportunities to be outdoors when it is very cold. While outdoor winter work is necessary, not being prepared for the cold challenge can increase your risk for injury.

The CDC provides some good information and statistics on Cold Stress and Cold Related injuries here.

One important measure that can reduce the cold challenge is dressing properly.   Following are a few tips to Dress for Success when working outside in the cold:

  • Staying dry is as important as staying warm.  Choose clothing that will wick sweat away from your body and keep moisture out.
  • Dress in light layers.   Layering can help prevent overheating and unnecessary sweating by removing or adding clothing according to your level of activity.  One method for layering is as follows:
    • Under layer:
      • Long underwear made of polypropylene wicks moisture away from the body.
    • Inner layer:  
      • Inner layers of wool or hollow core synthetic yarns provide insulation.   Multiple layers can be used here.
    • Outer Layer:  
      • The outer layer should be made of wind and moisture resistant fabrics.
  • Fingers and toes:
    • Wearing an extra pair of thin socks under a heavier warm pair can help wick moisture away from your feet and keep them warmer longer.
    • Bring a change of socks to change into when the first pair gets damp.
    • Mittens use your body heat to help keep your hands warmer. 
    • Using a pair of gloves with an removable inner liner will also help. 
  • Top it off:.
    • The following quote from an article in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, gives insight on hats and head coverings: Article “Cover your head if you want to stay warm. In truth, wearing a hat will keep you warm, but the percentage of heat you lose through your head depends on how well you bundle up the rest of your body. And losing even a small amount of heat through your face, as well as your hands and feet, affects your body's internal temperature.” 


Throwing Snow Safely

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

According to a seventeen-year study appearing in the January 2011 issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, injuries and medical emergencies from shoveling snow average 11,500 per year. 

The study reveals soft tissue injuries were the most common at 54.7% and  low back injuries accounted for 34.3% of the cases. The most common mechanism of injury was acute musculoskeletal exertion (53.9%) followed by slips and falls at 20.0%.

It can happen to anyone.  Last year there was a news report where a former Minnesota Twins pitcher suffered a lacerated spleen from landing on the handle of his shovel after slipping while shoveling at his home.

Shoveling can be great exercise as well as a winter necessity, serving to get us outside and into some physical exertion during the winter months.  However, simply walking outside in the freezing weather unprepared for the exertion of shoveling can be hazardous.  Proper preparation before shoveling and precautions during shoveling can help avoid injury.  Try these tips:

  • Use the proper footwear.  Wear a boot that has a good heavy tread or a traction enhancing device like Stabilicers or MicroSpikes.
  • Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible and to alleviate overheating and excess sweating.
  • Warm-up and stretch before you grab the shovel.  Shoveling can stress muscles in your arms, upper back, lower back, buttocks, and legs. 
  • Choose a shovel that you can easily handle.  Snow weighs from 7 pounds per cubic foot to an astounding 30 pounds per cubic foot, so one shovelful can weigh between 7 to 45 pounds.  Pick a shovel that will allow you to lift a reasonable amount and that has a long enough handle to limit your bending at the waist. • Walk or push the snow to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
  • Bend your knees and try to keep your back straight not hunched when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
  • Take frequent rest breaks to allow your muscles and cardiovascular system to recover.  Fatigue can lead to injury.
  • Stop and get help immediately if you feel pain in your chest, or have shortness of breath.

So Take a MEMIC Minute and Shovel Safely this winter.