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April 2015

What Constitutes An "Amputation"?

  John DeRoia 2013 Posted by John DeRoia, OHST

As most of you have heard OSHA has adopted new regulations in regards to reporting fatalities and severe injuries. I have received several questions regarding OSHA’s definition of an amputation in regards to when must an amputation be reported. OSHA’s definition of an amputation is as follows:

“An amputation is defined as the traumatic loss of a limb or other external body part. Amputations include a part, such as a limb or appendage, that has been severed, cut off, amputated (either completely or partially); fingertip amputations with or without bone loss; medical amputations resulting from irreparable damage; and amputations of body parts that have since been reattached.”

For those of you not familiar with the new reporting guidelines here is a brief synopsis.  

As of January 1, 2015, employers are required to report the following to OSHA:

  • All work-related fatalities- must be reported within 8 hours of the event. This requirement has not changed.
  • All work-related inpatient hospitalizations of one or more employees- must be reported within 24 hours of the event. Previously OSHA required the reporting of the hospitalization of three or more employees.  
  • All work-related amputations- must be reported within 24 hours.  
  • All work-related losses of an eye- must be reported within 24 hours.

Employers can report these incidents to OSHA via 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), by calling the closest Area Office during normal business hours, or by using an online form that will be available soon.

Only fatalities that occur within 30 days of the work-related incident must be reported. Additionally, the in-patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye must be reported only if they occur within 24 hours of the incident.

For additional information on these changes and other reporting issues head to the OSHA website and view the OSHA Fact Sheet

"Hanging in There" after the Fall

Dan Clark 2014 Posted by Dan Clark, CECD

Falls continue to be one of the most common causes of workplace injury, and lack of proper fall protection is one of the most frequent OSHA violations. Preventing falls is only part of the plan to keep workers safe. A commonly overlooked component of a fall protection program is promptly rescuing workers in order to prevent additional injuries.

Workers are at high risk of injury, even death, from fall arrest, even if there is no immediate evidence of trauma. Prolonged suspension can cause orthostatic intolerance (circulatory and/or neurologic stress) and suspension trauma as the legs are immobilized at a point below the heart.

OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.502(d) requires that employers provide for “prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.” Your rescue procedures should address how the suspended worker will be handled to avoid any post-rescue injuries.

Research indicates that suspension in a fall arrest device can result in unconsciousness, followed by death, in less than 30 minutes. Danger begins when someone is unable to move for as little as 5 minutes.  The tolerance can vary from person to person, but the negative effects can set in quickly. Without training and an effective procedure, it may take coworkers an hour or more from the time of the fall to even begin the rescue procedures themselves.

Items to include in your rescue plan:

  • Emergency contact information of professional rescue services, and instructions for requesting immediate assistance. Immediate assistance can vary significantly depending on job site locations. Rescue plans should be job site specific.
  • Notify third-party rescue services in advance of the type of work being performed and the potential fall hazards.
  • Ensure equipment for rescue service is available at the job site (i.e., ladders, elevating work platforms, additional harnesses, winches, pulleys, etc.).
  • What obstructions may be in the way of accessing the suspended worker?
  • How will rescue be provided within 15 minutes of the fall to minimize the risk of further injury or death due to suspension trauma?
  • How will the safety of the people performing the rescue be assured?
  • Identify how communication between the suspended worker and rescuers will be handled.

Fall rescue is necessary for a complete and effective fall arrest program to ensure your employees are not only protected from falls, but protected beyond the fall.

For more information on fall protection, head to the Safety Net and search “fall protection.”

Reference; Seddon, Paul. Harness Suspension: Review and evaluation of existing information. Health and Safety Executive. Research Report 451/2002. 104 pp.

How Much Is Too Much To Lift?

Scott Valorose 2014 Posted by Scott Valorose, CPE, CSP

What a great question. It is often answered by professional ergonomists, safety consultants, physical and occupational therapists, and the like with – it depends. Helpful right? The fact is, it depends on several factors such as the size of the load, the load’s center, its stability, or whether it has handles or not. How close one gets to the load and the beginning and final heights of a lift are important factors. What if a load is rarely lifted versus frequently lifted? Who’s performing the lift: a male or female; someone who’s 25 or 55 years old; an experienced trained employee or a new hire with little experience and a basic orientation; a larger and therefore [typically] stronger person or someone just hired to do the job?

In terms of a specific number, many workplaces have established a 50-pound manual lifting limit. Heavier loads are either, substituted, eliminated, or lifted by mechanical means. More and more healthcare facilities acknowledge 35 pounds as their maximum load to manually lift or transfer a patient or resident. These limits should be considered the maximum loads if manual lifting is performed under optimal conditions. If a load is too far away, near the floor, or can suddenly shift, then lower limits need to be considered. These adopted limits have been established from decades of research and can be enforceable by OSHA:

NIOSH - Revised Lifting Equation
OSHA - Heavy Lifting
OSHA - General Duty Clause & Lifting Limit
Thomas R. Waters, PhD – When Is It Safe to Manually Lift a Patient?
OSHA - Safe Patient Handling
Fragala Commentary - 35 Pounds & Better Understanding of Limits

To some, these numbers may seem low but it’s important to recognize that the question is not simply about strength. As one leading researcher in the industry stated back in the late 1960’s, the question is about “capacity” or what we’re physically capable of over time without undue fatigue or injury.

If you’re struggling to answer this question, reach out to your loss control consultant or contact Christine Collomy, Loss Control Service Coordinator, at


Ask The Doctor - Cholesterol & Heart Disease

Dr. C Posted by Larry Catlett, MD, Occupational Medical Consulting

Q: I just received a Tweet saying that we no longer have to worry about cholesterol in our diet. So does that mean cholesterol is no longer important in heart disease?

A: First, cholesterol in our diet. Another major long standing medical dictum seems to have bitten the dust recently. Harvard’s Physicians First Watch just reported that cholesterol in the diet is not a major factor in determining blood cholesterol levels. The new dietary guidelines from the US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services removed the limitations on dietary cholesterol but retain warnings regarding added sugars, sodium and dietary fats. Remember alcohol being touted for years for its heart benefits? Now thought by some to be suspect. When Hormone Replacement Therapy for women was nearly added to our water? Those two medical truths have been or may be set aside as well.

The American Heart Association has been telling us for years (since 1960) that we needed to watch our dietary cholesterol intake. I doubt you could find many people who are not aware of this! Recently, however, enough evidence to the contrary has surfaced to cause this reversal. Interestingly, I have always wondered about the impact of dietary cholesterol. My biochemistry professor in medical school way back when told us that it really did not matter what we ate in terms of cholesterol in the diet as the liver could reassemble whatever you ate that contained carbon to cholesterol and then add it to your bloodstream. Blood or serum cholesterol is manufactured “in house” from any number of cholesterol and non-cholesterol containing foods. It’s your liver, not what you eat, that determines your blood cholesterol levels. My professor was way ahead of his time.

This DOES NOT mean that cholesterol in your blood is not important. It is still very much an important risk factor for heart and blood vessel disease. Changes in diet may not be important now regarding their influence on blood cholesterol levels, but all the other controllable factors like weight, smoking and physical activity levels are still very much important as these still affect your blood cholesterol levels. Don’t forget that cholesterol in foods is often associated with high fat content in general and too many calories in those same foods, so we are not getting off Scot-free. We still have to watch what we eat. Everything in moderation –and remember it’s your life and your health, your choice. Stay well.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month... Hang Up and Drive!

Tonya-Hawker Posted by Tonya Hawker

Today our lives are more demanding than ever before, and smart-phones have made us available 24/7. Our culture’s compulsion for increased productivity has forced Americans to squeeze more time out of a 24 hour day. On the surface, we think driving is easy- a “mindless activity”. So, we deceive ourselves into thinking we can accomplish other tasks while we’re driving, like talking on the phone, texting, or even sending emails. The fact is, this “multi-tasking” is creating an epidemic in our country—an epidemic of death from distracted driving.

Research statistics prove that distracted driving is a real problem. The “cold hard facts” are listed below:

  • Distracted driving contributed to 421,000 motor vehicle related injuries from distracted driving in 2012. (
  • Driver distractions are a factor in 80% of vehicle crashes. (
  • Using a cell phone while driving quadruples your risk of being involved in an accident. (, NHTSA)
  • Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash. (, NHTSA)
  • Using a cell phone while driving, whether its hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a Blood Alcohol Concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah, NHTSA,

Driving Takes A Lot of Brain Power

Did you know that “Multi-tasking” is a myth? Research has proven that it is impossible for the brain to perform more than one task at a time. The brain switches quickly from one task to another, which leads people to believe they are multi-tasking. But the fact is, reaction times are slower when the brain is attempting to perform more than one function at a time. As a result, the brain cannot give 100% of its focus to either of the tasks at hand. Distractions cause information overload on our brains, resulting in mental errors, slower reaction times, inattention blindness, and poor judgment calls.

Recent studies from the University of Utah showed how distracted driving impacts overall traffic flow and creates dangerous vehicle clusters resulting in serious accidents. The study revealed the following driving behaviors directly related to distracted driving:

  • Distracted drivers are 20% less likely to change lanes, creating traffic congestion.
  • People talking on cell phones tend to look straight ahead, paying less attention to what’s going on in their peripheral vision, creating dangerous lane changing, or swerving into other lanes.
  • Distracted drivers have, on average, a 30% slower reaction time when texting, and 9% slower reaction time when talking on the phone.

How Can Americans Stop the Epidemic?

What can be done to stop the epidemic of distracted driving? For starters, establish a company policy and enforce your company rules. The National Safety Council offers Distracted Driving Kits to get you started. Other sources of assistance may include: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. Other steps that are crucial to protect your organization from loss are listed below:

  • Review defensive driving techniques with company vehicle operators. Be sure to review “all” types of driving distractions.
  • Don’t use “any” electronic devices while driving (no hands-free or hand-held devices).
  • Don’t eat or smoke inside the vehicles.
  • Don’t apply make-up or conduct other grooming activities.
  • Don’t fixate on an object or event outside the vehicle that will take away your attention.
  • Don’t read books, maps, texts, email, etc… while driving. 
  • Do stay focused.
  • Do expect the unexpected.
  • Do keep a good following distance.
  • If you must talk or text, pull safely off the road before beginning any communication. 
  • Do allow sufficient time to reach your destination.

Driving is a skill that requires your full attention. Your actions on the road will impact others. Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your mind on driving. Keep your hands on the wheel.


New PPE Provides Maximum Protection

MEMIC’s relentless dedication to safety has led to a 30% decrease in workplace injuries in Maine since its inception. MEMIC is now announcing an ambitious project to get the last 70%.

“Any workplace injury is one too many. Hard hats, steel toed boots, goggles and ear plugs are all well and good but MEMIC’s goal has always been zero workplace injuries. Ambitious, yes. Crazy? Take one look at our new advance full body PPE and you decide,” says Fred Dahead, MEMIC’s safety management assistant.

MEMIC is encouraging its own employees and the employees of all it’s policyholders to wear the Auto-Protective Reinforced Injury-Limiting Full Occupational Orthopedic Lumbar Shell, or A.P.R.I.L.F.O.O.L.S. As a super-regional workers’ compensation specialty insurer with eight offices across the Eastern Seaboard, MEMIC’s support of this new Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) technology is bound to have a big impact.

“It doesn’t matter if you are an office worker or a construction worker, we’ve got you covered. You want flame retardant? These babies are dragon-proof,” says Dahead as he makes a fist with his engraved gauntlet.


But seriously, handing out any article of PPE and expecting a safe workplace is magical thinking at its worst. Using a proper hierarchy of controls is a far more effective method of injury prevention than just relying on PPE when there is a hazard, or dragon, present. 

“Hazard Elimination is always the first choice. If we don’t conduct a job hazard analysis, we might miss opportunities to eliminate hazards,” says Randy Klatt, a real loss control manager at MEMIC and authorized instructor in the OSHA Construction and General Industry Outreach Training Programs. Even far removed from castle walls, a common hazard in construction is working at height. If work can be done on the ground level, such as bracing a group of trusses together, then you can eliminate a lot of work that would have taken place at height. The trusses will still have to be set in place, but at least a good portion of the work is done on the ground, thereby eliminating some of the fall hazard.

Next is Engineering Controls, it is often impossible to eliminate all hazards, however, it may be possible to control specific hazards related to each job. For example, if a worker is cutting concrete or brick, or trimming dragon claws, there will be a lot of dust created. This is a respiratory hazard that must be controlled.  Using wet saw methods will eliminate the airborne particulate. The hazard has been controlled with an engineering control. Another example would be the creation of guard rail systems for working at height, like on a siege tower. The workers are still working above the ground, but are protected by an Engineering Control.

Then comes Administrative Controls, occasionally there is no Engineering Control that will be effective in completely eliminating a hazard. Administrative Controls are written policies, procedures, and proper training. Often used in conjunction with Engineering Controls these methods are complimentary, but not as effective as Engineered Controls. For example, in order to operate a forklift, or ride a dragon, a worker must have proper training and there are best practices that must be followed.

With PPE unfortunately, the last choice is often used as the first choice. If the hierarchy is followed as it should, PPE becomes a last effort to protect people. Remember, if the PPE fails, doesn’t fit right, or isn’t worn correctly, the worker will be injured if there are no other controls in place. With this in mind, please have a safe and happy April Fools.