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September 2015

56,000 Pounds of Force on Your Back. It’s Not Torture, It’s Housekeeping.

In honor of International Housekeeping Week, we would like to take a moment to recognize the professional housekeepers across the country working in hotels, hospitals, schools and many other facilities who maintain a cleaner, safer and healthier environment for us all. These professionals deserve the best safety and training services to maintain their health and productivity at work.

Few would say housekeeping is an easy job, but even those in the industry probably wouldn’t come close to guessing the heavy lifting it entails - try 56,000 pounds. Using a lumbar motion monitor, that’s how much force we found a housekeeper’s back is subjected to in the process of changing beds in just 18 rooms. We used this study, partnering with the Maine-based Olympia Hotel Management and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, to develop safety training for housekeepers that can help anyone avoid common injuries.

Take the guesswork out of your home or workplace housekeeping tasks by first asking yourself a few simple questions:

How heavy is this? Avoid lifting objects above shoulder height, especially heavy objects of more than 25 pounds. That means full heavy duty trash bags and even laundry bags, clothes get a lot heavier when they are wet. Keep weight in mind when purchasing appliances like vacuum cleaners and never move furniture alone, you’ll risk damage to both yourself and the furnishings.

Is there a better way to do this? “In general, the greater the force, higher the frequency, and more awkward the posture is while performing a task - the greater the risk of injury,” says our Safety Management Consultant Peter Koch. You should try to minimize twisting and reaching up or over, elbows going above your shoulders, bending your wrists, squatting or kneeling. Use proper tools like long- or short-handled scrubbers, dusters or sweepers as the job necessitates. Stand on a short stool to increase your height and decrease your overhead reach. Use towels or pads to soften the points of contact with hard surfaces when cleaning on your hands and knees.  

Where are the hazards? Be aware of power cords and wet floors as slipping and tripping hazards. Even in your own home, proper footwear is important to mitigate falling and objects falling on you. Always shut off and unplug appliances before unclogging or cleaning them. Make sure all plugs are three wire with an intact ground and do not smoke around cleaning supplies or in trash and recycling areas. Wash knives separately in a designated bin or bucket and use puncture resistant rubber gloves when washing glassware.

Where is my fire extinguisher and first aid kit? Make sure they are easily accessible, in working order and you know how to use them.

Click here for more ergonomic housekeeping tips or visit the MEMIC Safety Director if you are a policyholder.

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Crossing Over Conveyors

  Jones Posted by Anthony Jones, RN, COHN

In the 21st century many companies have gone to great lengths to improve efficiency, product flow, and reduce ergonomic stress on the employees by installing conveyor systems. These newly installed conveyor systems may work as intended, but workers may now be bending down to pass underneath the moving conveyors, or even using unsecured plastic steps, step ladders, or boxed product to actually step over the moving conveyor. As occasionally happens, people resolve one set of problems, but have created others.

Conveyor systems have essentially revolutionized industry. Conveyors are now common pieces of equipment. Occupational health and safety professionals cheer the instillation of conveyors to reduce musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive lifting and handling materials. They are effective and truly work.

Yet, they are hazardous. Amanda Loudin in her DC Velocity 2009 article “Have You No Standards?” stated “Between 9,000 and 10,000 accidents—and 30 to 40 deaths—are attributed to conveyors each year.” They are effective yet present a clear hazard to employees who are working on or around them. Often the equipment is well guarded, has emergency stop features, and lockout programs are in place. What might not be considered is that now the usual worker aisle ways are blocked and no provision has been made for worker movement necessary to do their jobs, or to egress the area.

Now what to do? First, to the basic safety law of the land… the OSHA standards. The above article by Amanda Loudin makes the argument there isn’t a truly effective standard concerning conveyors from OSHA. Some application might be found in the following:

1910.23(c)(1) Every open-sided floor or platform 4 feet or more above adjacent floor or ground level shall be guarded by a standard railing (or the equivalent as specified in paragraph (e)(3) of this section) on all open sides except where there is entrance to a ramp, stairway, or fixed ladder. The railing shall be provided with a toeboard wherever, beneath the open sides. ,1910.23(c)(1)(i) Persons can pass, 1910.23(c)(1)(ii) There is moving machinery, or 1910.23(c)(1)(iii) There is equipment with which falling materials could create a hazard.

1917.48(a)(2) An elevated walkway with guardrail or equivalent means of protection shall be provided where employees cross over moving conveyors, and suitable guarding shall be provided when employees pass under moving conveyors. (a Marine Terminals standard)

What we are left with is the broad application of language from the OSH Act of 1970, commonly known as the General Duty Clause:

(a) Each employer --

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; 

So although it is clear that employers have the obligation to protect employees from the hazards of conveyor systems, methods, limitations, and implementation is largely left to the employers.

There are wonderful cross over stair systems available as a solid solution to the problem of access, and the crossing of the conveyor without putting oneself at risk. They can be added at key access points allowing workers to safely climb up and down standard stairs with appropriate standard railings and toe boards. The types and materials used to construct conveyor cross over systems is huge. A simple internet search for “crossover stair system” will yield a multitude of choices. There is a solution out there. By using conveyor crossover stairways people can comfortably and safely walk over conveyors, machinery, duct work, or other obstacles, with minimal risk of injury.

OSHA Safe Patient Handling Inspections

Rob Sylvester 2013 Posted by Rob Sylvester, CEHT

OSHA has previously issued guidance directed to the health care industry for safe patient handling procedures and now intends to enforce this guidance. With its recent announcement OSHA is indicating they will now inspect the facility’s patient and/or resident handling programs. They will be reviewing program management, program implementation, and employee training. Are you prepared?

The healthcare industry is growing rapidly and so are the risks associated with it. MEMIC can help you focus on the areas where injuries happen all too often. In most cases, patient/resident handling injuries are the leader. We partner with our clients to concentrate on sustainable policies and procedures to help reduce injuries. We offer (free of charge) and strongly encourage that our healthcare clients partner with us to conduct our Safe Patient/Resident Handling and Mobility workshop. This six hour didactic workshop includes patient handling challenges, ergonomic basics in the healthcare environment, and high risk tasks, developing solutions including discussion of patient handling equipment and providing assistance with establishing a safe patient handling task force and committee. Additional healthcare information can be found on our Popular Safety Topics page.

In addition, the Safety Director includes a safe patient handling policy template, program implementation timeline, bloodborne pathogens information, PowerPoint presentations, and videos (including quizzes to ensure comprehension), along with other resources such as recorded Workplace Violence webinars. Sign up here to ensure you don’t miss any of our workshops and webinars!

Did you know that a hospital is one of the most hazardous places to work? According to OSHA, in 2011 U.S. hospitals recorded 253,700 work-related injuries and illnesses, a rate of 6.8 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees. This is almost twice the rate for private industry as a whole. More information can be found in this OSHA resource Worker Safety in Hospitals.

In 2010, nursing homes and personal care facilities had one of the highest rates of injury and illness among industries for which lost workday injury and illness (LWDII) rates are calculated. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing and personal care facilities experienced an average LWDII rate of 4.9 compared with 1.8 for private industry as a whole, despite the fact that feasible controls are available to address hazards within this industry. (Source:

OSHA offers additional resources with an e-tool for Hospitals and an e-Tool Experts section that outlines applicable standards.