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March 2016

Breathe Easy By Resolving Indoor Air Quality Issues

Posted by Maine Indoor Air Quality Council

Air quality affects everyone who spends time inside buildings.  Trying to solve problems with indoor air can lead to headaches for facility managers, building owners, and occupants alike.  There are, in most cases, several simple things that can be done to improve the quality of indoor air.  The following list contains the fundamentals for both preventing and solving air quality problems (thank you to Terry Brennan of Camroden Associates for first articulating this list):

  • Understand and educate people
  • Keep the building dry and clean
  • Provide thermal comfort
  • Reduce potential contaminant sources
  • Exhaust nasty stuff
  • Ventilate
  • Reduce unplanned airflows

We start with people since they can change buildings from the way the design intended.  People may block diffusers to avoid drafts, store chemicals where it is convenient rather than where designated and not know that it causes a problem.  That is where the education piece comes in.  Letting the building occupants know that there is a storage space for those smelly art supplies and it is exhausted to the outdoors to prevent people breathing in the smells may help to gain acceptance of policies.

Dry, clean buildings do not have mold and dust problems.  Mold and dust can be allergens and asthma triggers so they lead to air quality complaints.  Moisture control is mold control and effective cleaning is dust control.

Thermal comfort in this context means providing control of both temperature and humidity.  People tend to perceive better air quality in buildings with good temperature control.  Humidity is another word for moisture in air (water vapor).  Part of keeping a building dry is maintaining the humidity below about 60%, so that cold surfaces will not condense water.

Contaminants in buildings can be things like cleaning chemicals, science room supplies, and even gases that are emitted from new furniture and carpet.  When purchasing these types of materials it is best to choose the least toxic type that can still get the job done.  When more smelly things need to be used, they should be stored in a way that gets the odors out of the building.

Many places in a typical building require exhaust to control the odors and contaminants listed above.  These include bathrooms, janitor’s closets, any chemical storage spaces, and may even include the place where wet coats are stored.  Since we are trying to keep our buildings dry, even water is a contaminant that we want to exhaust to the outside.

In general, we ventilate building for the occupants.  By bringing in outdoor air and balancing that delivery with some exhaust, the concentrations of contaminants that can’t be isolated and exhausted individually can be controlled.  Things like perfume and even the cat dander that is on your clothes can have its concentration in the air reduced by providing proper ventilation.

The last fundamental can often be the hardest to solve and may require expert help.  Unplanned airflows in buildings occur whenever there are pressure differences.  This includes air from a basement or crawlspace (along with its moisture and odors) getting into the occupied areas of the building.  Unplanned air flow could also explain why the smell from the boiler room ends up three classrooms away.

Keeping these seven fundamentals in mind when thinking about air quality problems can go a long way towards solving or preventing the issue in the first place.  For more information about air quality problems and resolutions check the Environmental Protection Agency website.  For those in New England, coming up on April 11th and 12th, the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council  has its annual conference where building experts will get together to delve deeper into the areas of indoor air quality and energy efficiency.  Click here for more information or to register for the conference.

Final Render 1080 HD_2

Examining the Minor Servicing Exemption to OSHA’s LOTO Standard

LarochellePosted by Greg Larochelle

The scope of OSHA’s The Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) standard covers “the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or start up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees. This standard establishes minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy.”  The standard does not apply to normal production operations which by definition is the utilization of a machine or equipment to perform its intended production function. 

However, within the application section of the standard, servicing and maintenance which takes place during normal production operations is covered if the following conditions exist.

  • An employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or
  • An employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed (point of operation) or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle.

In essence, this implies the employee would be exposed to a hazard from energized equipment once the safeguarding barrier is removed or circumvented.

The standard’s succeeding note immediately following these two conditions cites the minor servicing exemption:  Exception to paragraph (a)(2)(ii): Minor tool changes and adjustments, and other minor servicing activities, which take place during normal production operations, are not covered by this standard if they are routine, repetitive, and integral to the use of the equipment for production, provided that the work is performed using alternative measures which provide effective protection (See Subpart O of this Part).

Subpart O of this Part refers to OSHA’s Machinery and Machine Guarding standard which describes the general requirements for machine guards, including a provision for use of special hand tools for placing and removing material, along with detailed machine specific guarding requirements.

In meeting the minor servicing exemption, the conditions of routine, repetitive, and integral  must all exist including and most importantly alternative measures which provide effective protection

OSHA’s Lockout/Tagout eTool contains a case study which examines the minor servicing exemption.  For additional LOTO resources, check out the MEMIC Safety Director resource library.

The ABCs of Dementia - A Caregiver's Guide

MEMIC recently invited Dementia Care Specialist Heather McKay to lead a policyholder webinar series and the response has been overwhelming. This is no surprise as Heather is an incredibly knowledgeable and dynamic presenter and millions of families struggle to support a loved one with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

As presented in this series, dementia is an umbrella term that describes many diseases that are extremely challenging, both for the patient and the caregiver. Symptoms can vary greatly day to day, even hour to hour. “Sundowning” is an increase in behavioral problems beginning at dusk. Sometimes early morning is most difficult with the combination of dementia, fatigue, and low blood sugar levels. Physical exhaustion due to lack of sleep can greatly increase the frustration of both the patient and caregiver.

In this video excerpt, Heather shares a story of how a simple change to the morning routine, giving her husband a glass of juice first thing before making breakfast, created an entirely different morning experience. These videos also cover how memory changes take place, how caregivers can approach and communicate effectively, methods of dealing with distress and recognizing changes, and providing end-of-life care. This eight-part Dementia Care Training Video Series is available to assist not only professional caregivers, but anyone who has someone in their life suffering from dementia.

MEMIC policyholders can view the video training series any time by logging on to the MEMIC Safety Director. Here is what some of our policyholders have to say about the series:

“It is the best presentation on dementia that I have ever watched. I think anyone working with people suffering from dementia should see this series.”

“I really enjoyed Heather’s stories and how they relate to dementia and treatment. She was very lively and engaging!”

”The presenter was excellent in her teaching methodology and the information she presented was invaluable!"

“The sessions were both engaging and informative – I had many positive comments regarding the training from all of the nursing staff who attended. I witnessed many of them have ‘aha’ moments during the training and it was a beautiful thing to then watch them return to their units and actually apply the techniques that were taught.”

Supplement Your Vitamins With Facts

   Dr. C Posted by Larry Catlett, MD, OMC WellnessWorks

The percentage of Americans using dietary supplements jumped from 42% to 53% from 1994 to 2006, and it is probably even higher now. It is unfortunate that we cannot condense the positive effects of exercise into pill form as it would undoubtedly be a huge seller. Multivitamins are the most commonly used supplement followed by calcium supplements. Prescription medications are closely monitored by the FDA while a much more lax oversight is provided for dietary supplements. Some specifics recorded on the FDA website regarding supplement oversight are:

  • Federal law does not require dietary supplements to be proven safe to FDA's satisfaction before they are marketed.
  • For most claims made in the labeling of dietary supplements, the law does not require the manufacturer or seller to prove to the FDA's satisfaction that the claim is accurate or truthful before it appears on the product.
  • In general, the FDA's role with a dietary supplement product begins after the product enters the marketplace. That is usually the agency's first opportunity to take action against a product that presents a significant or unreasonable risk of illness or injury, or that is otherwise adulterated or misbranded.
  • It is not legal to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a specific disease, or to alleviate the symptoms of a disease.
  • There are limitations to FDA oversight of claims in dietary supplement labeling. For example, FDA reviews substantiation for claims as resources permit.

Are these dietary supplements safe? The FDA website says this about supplement safety:

Many dietary supplements have clean safety histories. For example, millions of Americans responsibly consume multi-vitamins and experience no ill effects.

Some dietary supplements have been shown to be beneficial for certain health conditions. For example, the use of folic acid supplements by women of childbearing age that may become pregnant reduces the risk of some birth defects.

Another example is the crystalline form of vitamin B12, which is beneficial in people over age 50 that often have a reduced ability to absorb naturally occurring vitamin B12. But further studies are needed for some other dietary supplements.

Some supplements have had to be recalled because of proven or potential harmful effects. Reasons for these recalls include:

  • microbiological, pesticide, and heavy metal contamination
  • absence of a dietary ingredient claimed to be in the product
  • the presence of more or less than the amount of the dietary ingredient claimed on the label

In addition, unscrupulous manufacturers have tried to sell bogus products that should not be on the market at all.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (known as “CLA”) is a mixture of fatty acids that occurs naturally in meat and dairy products. It is marketed as a supplement to prevent cancer, hardening of the arteries, obesity and for weight loss among many other things. It has been shown to reduce a small amount of stored body fat when taken regularly but that action is not associated with body mass index change or weight loss.

Furthermore, CLA was reported to be “possibly ineffective” for the common cold, diabetes and high cholesterol. “Insufficient evidence” is all that is available for its use in allergies, asthma, breast cancer, colon cancer, strength and rheumatoid arthritis. It is not safe for use in bleeding disorders, diabetes (it may worsen the disease), surgery (increased bleeding risk), and may increase your risk of diabetes if you have metabolic syndrome (waist circumference > 40 inches for men and >35 inches for women, elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure).

As with many supplements, you can see that it might be very prudent to talk to your health care provider before embarking on use. Stay Well!


Eye Protection Is More Than Having Safety Glasses

SoaresPosted by Tony Soares, CSP, CHMM, CSHE

The National Safety Council has designated March as Workplace Eye Wellness Month and Save Your Vision Month.  Your eyes are one of the most important parts of your body and are often taken for granted.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 there were over 40,000 occupational injuries or illnesses involving the eyes that resulted in days away from work.

If you are reading this blog, congratulations, you still have your eyesight.  Protecting the eyes is not difficult to do, but it is also easy to forget to take the proper steps to safeguard your vision. 

Wearing ANSI approved safety glasses (marked with “Z87”) will help protect them when grinding, chipping, sawing, and using other power tools; these activities can send particles into your eyes at high velocity.  Wearing tight-fitting goggles will protect eyes when exposed to chemical hazards such as splashes or sprays.   

Don't forget that there are specific lenses for your welding helmet designed for various welding methods.  Welding, brazing, and torch cutting present serious eye hazards. Welder’s flash occurs when your eyes are overexposed to the ultraviolet radiation created by welding.  It often occurs when you strike the arc a split second before dropping your face shield or hood. 

Eye protection is not just about safety glasses, however.  When grinding, make sure the grinder’s tool rest, tongue guard, and shields are properly adjusted as well as always wearing eye protection.  In addition, you should wear a safety shield since many injuries occur from particles that are deflected underneath the safety glasses. The face shield will protect your eyes and face against flying particles, especially in case of a wheel failure.  Completing a pre-use inspection of the grinding wheel to include a ring test will also help minimize the chances of this occurring.  The General Industry OSHA standards provide guidance for when and how a ring test should be completed. Lastly, face shields are not designed to be worn on their own, but in combination with safety glasses.

Remember, eye protection will only protect your eyes if it is the correct type for the hazard you are exposed to, it is in good condition, fits properly, and if it is worn when needed.  It only takes a split second to damage your eyes and change your life forever.   

It's No Lie: Integrity Testing Can Improve Your Hiring Practices

   Alexis Westin 1

Posted by Alexis Westin, MS, OHST

An organization’s safety program begins with the hiring process. In an effort to hire the “right person” for the job, hiring managers often use online resources in addition to telephone and personal interviews.  These include criminal background checks and motor vehicle records histories.  These are useful tools, but have some significant limitations.  Past behavior may or may not be an indication of current or future behavior.  However, an evaluation of current attitudes, tendencies, and behavior is a more relevant exercise, especially regarding workplace safety. 

Behavioral and integrity based testing has been utilized for more than 50 years and has been proven to be an effective tool for selecting low risk employees. It requires sustained commitment from the organization, but if adhered to, the results can be very beneficial, particularly in high risk/ high turnover industries. In addition to gauging a candidate’s risk taking behavior, integrity testing can also indicate a candidate’s propensity towards quality customer service, high productivity, optimism, and resiliency.

The costs associated with making a “bad hire” are significant. Integrity testing is designed to identify those individuals prone to absenteeism, drug/alcohol abuse, theft, habitual lying, and those with entitlement personalities.  These qualities all present challenges to a safe workplace, but will also negatively impact the bottom line with high turnover rates and low morale.  If your organization struggles with hiring, then integrity testing inserted into the hiring process may provide a cost effective solution. 

There are many online vendors and a variety of testing products available. One such product comes from Merchants Information Solutions.  The Merchants Integrity Test™(MIT) has shown that significant decreases in Workers’ Compensation losses can be obtained when following through with the testing. The test takes an average of 10 minutes to complete and a Pass/Fail result is immediately available.

MEMIC will present a free webinar on this subject on March 24, 2016. If you’re a MEMIC insured, click this link to register today. 

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