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August 2015

Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You

  Greg LaRochelle 2014  Posted by Greg LaRochelle

In today’s digital world, the opening lines to a 1967 hit single by Frankie Valli “You’re just too good to be true.  Can’t take my eyes off of you.” aptly describes both the fascination and addiction we have with electronic devices.  With an abundance of information available to us through the click of a mouse, touch of a screen, or tap of a token, our eyes become transfixed on a constant stream of text and images. This overload of visual stimuli can lead to a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) with symptoms including headaches, eyestrain, blurred vision, dry eyes, dizziness, and even neck pain.

According to the American Optometric Association, persons spending two or more continuous hours staring at a computer monitor or using a digital screen device (tablet, e-reader, or cell phone) every day are at the greatest risk of developing symptoms of CVS or Digital Eye Strain.  The contributing factors include screen glare, inadequate lighting, poor seated posture, viewing distance, and uncorrected vision problems.  Along with correcting these conditions, the following can help to reduce the risk of eyestrain.

  • Practice the 20/20/20 rule of looking at an object 20 feet away for the duration of 20 seconds for every 20 minutes of fixed gaze on the screen.  This helps to relax the ciliary muscle that changes the shape of the lens within the eye for visual accommodation.
  • While looking at a display screen, make a conscious effort to blink frequently to bath the eyes with tear fluid.
  • Enlarge text size and other items by changing the display setting within the control panel of the computer.  The default setting is 100% with the medium option at 125% and larger option at 150%.
  • When creating an email stationary, choose a high contrast, dark-on-light combination with black text on a white background working best.
  • For the aged eye or low vision person, consider using a LCD computer monitor screen magnifier & filter.

Check out the MEMIC Safety Director for more information on computer ergonomics and creating the right balance of light in the workplace.  A review of these resources may have you saying “I can see clearly now…”

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The Five Ws of Workplace Wellness

Answer these five questions for success in your workplace wellness program:

Who? Who are you? Each company and workplace has a personality, a way that things are done. Understanding your workplace culture is the first step to making change and identifying who your best advocates are. Click here for more info on workplace culture.

What? Now that you know what your workplace culture is, it's easy to jump to asking, "What specifically do I want to accomplish?" This requires understanding of a more basic question, "What is wellness?" A workplace that cares about wellness should address mental health and emotional well-being as well as physical health. Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical." Yogi could easily have been talking about wellness. Stresses beyond the workplace sphere, be they family or financial, effect our workplace productivity. A good wellness initiative is holistic, addresses the whole person and provides tools which are helpful beyond the workplace. Click here for more info on managing employee stress.

Where? You've looked at where stress comes from outside of work, now let's focus on where you work. Each industry has its own health and safety concerns, as does each workstation. MEMIC policyholders can quickly and easily email a few photos of their workstations for an ergonomic evaluation from one of MEMIC's safety experts. Click here for ergonomic clues any desk jocky can use to improve their workstation.

When? The big question everyone wants answered is, "When will I see results?" Even the best programs can't deliver an overnight fix. It takes long-term commitment to change workplace culture and individual behavior. An easier question to answer is, "When is the right time to start?" With healthcare costs continuing to rise, workplaces becoming more sedentary, an aging workforce and adult obesity rates that have doubled in the past 20 years, the time is now.

Why? The first four Ws should answer this question, but if that's not enough, consider this: according to a Harvard wellness program study, medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73. A healthy bottom line for businesses means healthy employees. Click here for more workplace wellness program resources.

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Chemical Occupational Exposure Limits: Regulatory vs. Guidelines

Luis Pieretti 2014 Posted by Luis Pieretti, PhD, CIH, CSP

Evaluation of employee’s exposure to airborne contaminants is one of the disciplines within the occupational safety and health field. Most safety and health professionals usually use the recommended exposure limits or RELs from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and/or the threshold limit values or TLVs from the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as a reference. For regulatory purposes, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published its permissible exposure limits or PELs.

So, what is the difference? The RELs and TLVs are updated based on sound industrial hygiene practice and data available from epidemiological and toxicological studies. These guidelines are updated as the information is available but are not enforceable by law. Only OSHA’s PELs are enforceable by law; however, most of OSHA’s PELs in 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1 are the adopted TLVs from 1968. These are based in toxicological and epidemiological studies published prior to that date. The permissible exposure limits in 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-2 were mostly adopted from ANSI standards dating from 1966-1971. And yet, some employers think that being “in compliance with OSHA” is good enough. Imagine if in 2015, your company relied on data from the 1960s and 1970s. It would definitely be behind its competitors. So, why rely on old data when it comes to employee’s safety and health?

Understanding this challenge, OSHA tried to update all of the PELs in 1989.  During that process, OSHA lowered the permissible exposure limits for 212 chemicals and added new limits for 164 additional chemicals. In 1992, this effort was vacated by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals because it found that OSHA had not made sufficiently detailed findings that each new PEL would eliminate significant risk and would be feasible in each industry in which the chemical was used. The process for OSHA to update or create a regulatory standard can take some time. For example, OSHA has been working to create an occupational standard for silica since December 2003 and as of June 2015 they are still working on it. Before adopting an occupational safety and health standard, OSHA needs to show that a significant risk exists. Once this information is available, OSHA needs to show how the new standard will significantly lower the significant risk and the technological and economic feasibility of the proposed standard. As you can see, this is a resource-intensive process. Since 1971, OSHA has been able to establish or update permissible exposure limits for only 30 chemicals.

Permissible exposure limits are available for less than 500 chemicals. Non-regulatory guidelines can be used as a supplement to regulatory limits since there are thousands of chemicals used in manufacturing processes today. For more information about permissible exposure limits, visit OSHA’s chemical management webpage. 


National Stop On Red Week

Tony Soares 2014 Posted by Tony Soares, CSP, CHMM, CSHE

This year the first week in August has been designated the National Stop on Red Week by The National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR). This designation is intended to remind every driver to obey the traffic safety rules, especially to be extra cautious when approaching intersections during this week and beyond.

Here are some safety tips to remember:

  • When making a right turn on red lights (when allowed) make a full stop and ensure it is safe to continue before completing the turn.
  • When stopped at a red light that has just turned green give it a second or two before proceeding to ensure there are no hazards such as other drivers attempting to beat the red light.
  • When approaching a crosswalk, give the pedestrians the right of way. Don’t pass stopped traffic at a crosswalk; there may be a pedestrian crossing that you cannot see.
  • Pay close attention to the traffic signal in your lane. Remember that other lanes, to your left or right, may have different signals such as turn arrows.
  • Remember to keep the car’s wheels straight when stopped and preparing to make a left turn. If your car is rear ended you don’t want your car pushed into oncoming traffic.
  • If the traffic light is not working properly due to a malfunction, treat this intersection as a 4-way stop sign.
  • Remember, U-turns are often illegal. Even when legal to perform, U-turns pose challenges due to limited visibility, the speed of oncoming traffic, other turning vehicles, and often other drivers are not expecting a vehicle to make a U-turn. So do this carefully and with plenty of space and visibility. The safer alternative would be to perform a legal turn into a side street or parking lot, and then reverse direction from there.

Over 30,000 people are killed and millions injured each year in traffic accidents in this country. Take your time, respect all drivers, passengers, pedestrians, motorcycle riders, and cyclists on the road.  Let’s make the first week of August the safest week of the year so far.

For other driving safety information, check out the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the website Top Five Defensive Driving Tips.