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July 2014

Machine Guards Save Limbs And Livelihoods

Greg LaRochelle 2014 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

Our hands are a marvel of the human body, affording us the ability to grasp objects and design tools to construct a modern society.  Think of all you do in the course of a day with your hands and now imagine what it would be like to lose a hand or finger(s) in a machine.

As stated on OSHA’s Machine Guarding eTool webpage, “workers who operate and maintain machinery suffer approximately 18,000 amputations, lacerations, crushing injuries, abrasions, and over 800 deaths per year.”  Here are just a few of the case histories posted on OSHA’s Safeguarding Equipment and Protecting Workers from Amputations publication. 

  • An employee was cutting material with a 50-inch guillotine shear equipped with two-hand trip buttons to prevent employees from reaching into the blade area. He had taped up one of the buttons and used his knee to trip the other button. With both hands under the blade, he inadvertently hit the free button with his knee. This activated a stroke of the blade which amputated both of his hands just below the wrists.
  • An operator amputated his arm below the elbow while hand-feeding potatoes into a 5-horsepower meat grinder through a feed throat with a 4-inch-by-6-inch opening and no point of operation guard. This untrained employee had been working on the machine for only 15 minutes.
  • An operator was bending metal parts using a 36-ton part-revolution power press brake that was foot-activated and equipped with a light curtain. About 3-4 inches of the light curtain had been “blanked out” during a previous part run. While adjusting a part at the point of operation, the employee accidentally activated the foot pedal and amputated three fingertips.

Clearly, from these three injury accounts, the importance of proper machine guarding can’t be overstated.  Click on the publication link above for more information on specific machine hazards and safeguarding methods with handy tables and figures included. 

image from www.osha.govimage from www.osha.govimage from

Watch Your Step On That Ladder

Scott Valorose 2014 Posted by Scott Valorose

Stepladders are used by many workers and companies due to their convenience and relatively low cost.  They quickly help create different work heights and are easily moved and setup.  However, misuse and neglect can result in hazards and risk of serious injury. LADDER BLOG

Stepladder - a portable, self-supporting A-frame ladder, nonadjustable in length, with flat steps (usually between the front side rails) and a hinged back.

Stepstool – 32 inches or less, designed so that the ladder top cap as well as all steps can be climbed on.

Chose the right ladder for the job:

  • Chose a ladder that is designed for how you intend to use it.  Do not use stepladders in a folded and leaned position in place of a straight ladder.
  • Do not use aluminum ladders when working around electricity.
  • Chose a ladder that is capable of supporting your weight and the weight of any tools, materials, and equipment you will be using.
  • Make sure that the ladder is the proper length to do the job safely.  The highest permitted standing level = second step from top.  Maximum safe reach = about 4’ higher than ladder.
  • Consider if the job requires one worker or two.

Inspect them carefully:

Inspect for defects or damage periodically and after any incident that could affect their safe use.  Users must inspect ladders before each use.  Mark or tag “Do Not Use,” remove from service, repair, or destroy if found defective or damaged.  Look for:

  • Rungs – Broken, split, cracked, corroded, bent, missing, or slippery.
  • Side Rails - Broken, split, cracked, corroded, bent, slippery, or coated. 
  • Hardware – Loose, corroded, weakened, bent or missing.
  • Feet - Missing or damaged; non-skid pads for use on hard surfaces.

Slip hazards - Oil, grease, dirt, moisture, etc.  Clean as necessary. Coatings or paint - Hide or make defects difficult to identify.

Use them safely:

Workers must be able to recognize hazards and take action to control them.


  • Read and follow manfacturer's instructions and labels
  • Maintain 3-points of contact when climbing or descending
  • Stay near the middle of the ladder
  • Face the ladder when climbing up and down
  • Use a barricade to keep traffic away from ladder
  • Keep ladder free of any slippery materials
  • Secure ladder if not on stable surface
  • Wear proper footwear with good treads


  • Use for a purpose other than it was designed for
  • Use while spreaders are unlocked
  • Stand on the top step or top cap
  • Move or shift ladder while person or equipment is on the ladder
  • Climb bracing between the rear rails
  • Paint with opaque coating
  • Leave tools or materials on it

Consider some alternatives (e.g., rolling ladder, platform stepladder, scissor lift, staging) to stepladders if:

  • Working with heavy tools or materials
  • Working at a height for a long or extended time
  • Working at height that can be unstable
  • Working or standing sideways to get the job done


OSHA Fact Sheet Use of Step Ladders, OSHA 3662

Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safety, OSHA 3625-02R 2014

Ladder Safety Toolbox Talks, Alliance Program Construction Roundtable, 2007

29 CFR Part 1910 Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Protective Equipment (Fall Protection Systems); Proposed Rule, 2010

Werener Ladder Safety Manual

Sun Safety: Got You Covered! (Part 3)

Peter Koch 2014 Posted by Peter Koch

True or False:  Water reflects more UV than snow.

The answer is False.  Snow is a better reflector of light in all wavelengths (visible and UV) than water.  Fresh snow can reflect as much as 80-90%, while water reflects less than 25% on average. - Albedo

Many times we will find ourselves outside in an environment where the area around us conspires to increase our risk of skin damage.  The last Sun Safety blog, Fan of the Tan, reviewed risk factors that put you at greater risk for sun damage.  This installment will cover what you can do to protect yourself. 

While you can’t change who you are and many times you can’t change where you live, you have control over what you do.   What can you do to protect yourself?  Initially, limit the number and duration of high risk activities such as sunbathing or using tanning booths.  Also, limit exposure.  Try to schedule activities or work before 10am and after 2pm when the sun’s rays are least intense.  If you are working during that time, take breaks in the shade or bring shade with you on the job.

Factoid:  If you're unsure about the sun's intensity, take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are the day's strongest. – OSHA Protecting Yourself in the Sun

When you are outside, the American Cancer Society advises to Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!

  • Slip on a shirt:  Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you're out in the sun.
    • A thin white t-shirt has a SPF of about 4.  Darker colors absorb more UV.
    • Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you can't see through when held up to a light.
    • Test your fabric: Place your hand between a single layer of the clothing and a light source.  If you can see your hand through the fabric, the garment offers little protection.


  •  Slop on sunscreen:  Use sunscreen and lip balm with UVA & UVB protection and a SPF of 30 or higher.
    • SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV and SPF 30 blocks 97% - SPF doesn't determine the length of protection, just the amount of UV that is blocked.
    • Two types of Sunscreen
      • Chemical UV Absorbers
        • Chemicals that work like a sponge on your skin to absorb UV for a set amount of time
        • Needs time to bond with skin; does not work right away
        • Harder to rub off
      • Physical Reflectors
        • Tiny metals that work like aluminum foil to reflect UV away from your skin
        • Doesn't need time to bond with skin; works right away
        • Easier to rub off
    • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to unprotected skin at least 30 minutes before outdoor activities.
    • Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating.


  • Slap on a hat:  Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck.
    • If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.


  • Wrap on sunglasses:  Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes.
    • UV can cause cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness and melanoma of the eye.
    • Wear large sunglasses that block 99-100% of UV rays.
    • Lenses don't have to be dark or expensive - Look for lenses labeled UV 400 or ANSI Z80.3.

There are exposures, both at and outside of work, so regardless of the exposure; take steps to understand your skin cancer risk factors, reducew your risk, and Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!

Want to know more about Sun Safety, register for MEMIC's Sun Safety webinar here.


Sun Safety: Fan of the Tan? (Part 2)

Peter Koch 2014 Posted by Peter Koch

When did tans become fashionable?

Centuries ago, tans were looked down upon by the upper classes, and fair, pale skin was considered the most beautiful. Tans were the mark of the working class laborer, while the wealthy stayed indoors, keeping their skin covered and protected.   In the 1920s, style-maker Coco Chanel returned from a vacation to the French Riviera with a deep tan, and suddenly, tans were in vogue.  – Tale of Tanning

Recall from the last Sun Safety blog – Just the Facts, that a tan, rather than being an indication of health, is actually a response to injury, because skin cells signal that they have been hurt by UV rays by producing more pigment.  Not everyone reacts to UV radiation equally.  Some of us are at greater risk.

Your personal risk factor for being harmed by UV overexposure is determined by who you are, what you do, and where you live.


Who you are:

There are certain risk factors that you naturally carry, and while you cannot change them, knowing that you bring them to the tanning table can help you make better decisions about exposure.  General risk factors include:

  • Skin type
  • Eye and hair color
  • Family or personal history of skin cancer

There are 6 types of skin based on how likely it is to tan or burn. - Sun Safety Alliance

  1. Always burns, never tans, sensitive to UV exposure.
  2. Burns easily, tans minimally.
  3. Burns moderately, tans gradually to light brown.
  4. Burns minimally, always tans well to brown.
  5. Rarely burns, tans profusely to dark.
  6. Never burns, deeply pigmented, least sensitive.

Although everyone's skin can be damaged by UV exposure, people with skin types I and II are at the highest risk.

We can be genetically predisposed toward skin damage.  People with red or blond hair, or blue or green eyes have been statistically shown to be a greater risk of skin damage from UV radiation.  They tend to burn more easily and tan less, producing less protective pigment (melanin). - CDC

Family history can be a predictor of skin damage.  If there is a history of skin cancer in your family (parents or grandparents), you may have a greater risk of developing skin cancer than someone who does not have that history.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t work in reverse.  Just because you don’t have a family history doesn’t mean you aren’t vulnerable.  Everyone is at risk, some more so than others.

Where you live:

Where you live, work, or play can play a part in your UV exposure.  People that live at higher altitudes are exposed to greater levels of UV radiation, because there is less air mass to absorb it.  On average your UV exposure will increase 5% for every 1000 ft above sea level you are.  Also, there are some latitudes that have more sunny days than others. 

What you do:

What you do can also put you at greater risk for skin damage.  This, of all of the previous risk factors, is the area we have most control over.  Consider some of these lifestyle questions:  Do you live an outdoor oriented lifestyle or work outside most of the year?  Do you sunbathe or go to a tanning booth regularly?  Are you typically outside without sun protection?  Some subtle changes here can have significant reductions in your overall exposure to UV.

There are exposures both at and outside of work, so regardless of the exposure; take steps to understand your skin cancer risk factors, reduce your risk, and Don’t Be a Fan of the Tan!

Want to know more about Sun Safety, register for MEMIC’s Sun Safety webinar here.

Sun Safety: Just the Facts (Part 1)

    Peter Koch 2014 Posted by Peter Koch

Fact or Fiction - How would you answer these questions?

  1. A sun tan totally protects me from sun burn.
  2. Only UVB rays cause skin cancer.
  3. Tanning beds are better for you than the sun because they emit more UVA than UVB rays.
  4. SPF 30 provides twice the protection as a product with SPF 15.
  5. Clouds protect me from the sun’s rays.
  6. Only parts of your body that are exposed to the sun can develop skin cancer.
  7. A sun tan indicates healthy skin.
  8. Light colored clothing is better protection from the sun because it reflects more of the sun’s rays.
  9. The darker the lens the more UV the sunglasses block out.
  10. I am only at risk of skin cancer if there is a history of it in my family.

If you answered True to any of the above questions, it’s time to expand your knowledge about Sun Safety.  Part 1 of this Sun Safety blog will review facts about the harmful radiation from the sun and the damage it can cause to us.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin damage in the world.  Though it can have many sources, the majority of the UV radiation we are exposed to come from the sun.  Ultraviolet radiation can be broken up into different wave lengths – UVA, UVB, and UVC.  Solar UV radiation that reaches earth is 95% UVA and 5% UVB.  In terms of skin damage, UVA causes tanning, skin aging, and skin cancer.  UVB causes burning and skin cancer.

The World Health Organization considers UV radiation (whether solar or artificially generated) to be a carcinogen.  Report on Carcinogens.  UV radiation can be attributed to 90% of all of the skin cancer. 

Factoid:  Tanning beds can emit up to 12 times more UVA than the sun. – Spending time in a tanning bed can put you at a greater risk for skin damage, including cancer, than an equivalent of amount of time spent in the sun.

A sun tan is your body’s attempt at protecting itself from UV radiation.  It’s not an indication of healthy skin, but of sun damage.  This damage can lead to pre-mature aging of the skin and even cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, “skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2014.”, Skin Cancer Facts

Most basal and squamous cell cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands.   They rarely spread to other parts of the body and can be cured if found and treated early.  Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell.

The more dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer but is far more aggressive and causes most of the skin cancer related deaths.  However, like the basal and squamous cell cancers, melanoma is almost always curable when it’s found in its very early stages.  Unlike the others, melanoma can start in those areas of your body least exposed to UV radiation. Melanoma Skin Cancer 

Factoid:  Bob Marley, the reggae legend, died from melanoma that was discovered on his foot, but not before it had spread to other parts of his body and become incurable.

There are exposures both at and outside of work, so regardless of the exposure; take steps to understand your skin cancer risk factors and reduce your risk.  Prevention starts with you:  Examine often, identify early, treat immediately.

Click here to read part 2 of Sun Safety: Fan of the Tan?

Want to know more about Sun Safety, MEMIC policyholders can watch the Sun Safety webinar on our Safety Director


The Little Things Can Make The Difference

Allan Brown 2014 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.  The perception is we have to be lifting something heavy to cause an injury.  Often it is the little things we do on a daily basis that initiates the injury process, and it may be the lift or twist that is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back. 


Here are some thoughts and facts: 

  • Sitting places up to 50% more force on the back as compared to standing erect.
  • Prolonged sitting or standing with a forward head or slightly bent forward position increases the pressure on the lumbar disc and temporarily changes the location disc pressure to the back wall of the disc next to spinal nerve roots.
  • We live in a world of gravity that continually acts on our body.  In space where there is reduced or no gravity the average height gain of an astronaut is 3 inches.
  • Poor posture, tight muscles, and weak core strength contribute to the risk of back injuries.  Our body sags in response to gravity adding stress to our back.
  • 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. 
  • Heavy and awkward lifting can be contributors to back pain.
  • A cough, sneeze or forced exertion can increase back pain. 

What can you do?

  • Take stock of your daily behaviors and posture.  Do you walk, sit and stand in good posture?
  • Adjust your seat to fit your posture.  Does the back support fill the inward curve of your low back?  Do you sit back in the seat and up on your pelvis?
  • Eliminate all lifts from the floor.
  • Set your work bench up to reduce any extended reaches and awkward bending.
  • After a prolonged drive the first thing you should do is get out of the car and perform a couple gentle back bends before doing any lifting.
  • As you age your body changes.  Muscles weaken and shorten.   Stretching and strengthening can help slow this change.  Maintaining good posture, core strength and flexibility will slow these changes. 
  • Good sleep and good food are essential to healthy body.