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May 2016

April 2016

Your Lawn Mower Is More Dangerous Than You Think

JonesPosted by Anthony Jones

 Lawn Machine Safety- Summer’s Coming!

Now that warmer weather is approaching, many businesses and private individuals are moving powered lawn equipment out of hibernation.  Mowers, leaf blowers, and lawn trimmers start making their appearance at businesses and households everywhere.  Reported injury statistics involving lawn mowers is roughly 180,000 per year from people of all ages according to Technology Associates.  This injury statistic startlingly includes about 17,000 children.

The most common injuries involving walk behind and riding mowers:

  • Eye/face injuries
  • Amputations
  • Burns
  • Strike-by trauma

The most common injuries result from:

  • Contact with the rotating cutting blades
  • Objects ejected from the chute
  • Run overs
  • Roll overs
  • Fires
  • Hearing loss from the noise

It is important that people are knowledgeable in:

  • Safe operation of potentially very hazardous equipment
  • Safe start up and shutdown
  • Safe fuel handling
  • Preventing roll overs/run overs
  • Proper preparation of a work area
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Proper clothing and footwear
  • Working around roadways and pedestrians

Training and accountability is key to operating these labor saving machines safely. There are vast amounts of materials available to help educate employees on safely operating mowers and other lawn equipment. Start with the operating manuals provided when the equipment was purchased. Include lawn mower safety in your regular safety training schedule.

Consider taking a look at who is running the lawn equipment at your business.  Are they landscaping professionals, maintenance or facilities staff, or summer seasonal labor? Ask yourself, “Do they really know what they’re doing?”  Observe them while keeping care and maintenance, safe handling and operating procedures, and protective equipment in mind.   Do you, in fact, know if they are using the equipment properly at any given time?

MEMIC will be hosting a live webinar at 10:00am EDT on Thursday, May 12, 2016 entitled Mower, Blower, and Trimmer Safety.  This one-hour presentation is free for all MEMIC policy holders; click here to register.

For additional information regarding the safe operation of lawn equipment check out the resources available from Kansas State University and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.    

Tick Tock, it's Time for a Tick Check

Koch-LaRochelle Posted by Peter Koch and Greg LaRochelle

Spring is here and with that folks are getting outside cleaning up from the winter, hiking, camping, and, yes, working.  With the unusually mild winter in the East this year, ticks will be out in force. Ticks thrive in warm wet or humid weather and are moving around already in early April according to a recent Portland Press Herald article outlining a project where ticks were already being gathered for research in Southern sections of Maine.  


Ticks present a problem because they are small (under 3mm, about the size of sesame seed), can be difficult to detect before they attach, and are carriers of human diseases like Lyme disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the agency each year, but that’s not the only malady to be concerned with.  Roughly 60 cases of Powassan virus disease were reported in the United States over the past 10 years.  Powassan virus is transmitted to humans by the blacklegged tick and groundhog tick.  The virus gets its name from Powassan, Ontario where the disease was first discovered.  In North America, the majority of cases have been identified in the Midwest and Northeast regions during peak tick season from April to September.

The symptoms of Powassan infection include fever, severe headache, malaise, vomiting, memory loss, difficulty speaking, and loss of coordination.  The virus can infect the central nervous system causing inflammation of the brain (encephalitis) and membrane linings (meningitis).  Currently, there is no vaccine available to treat the infection with severe illness requiring hospital treatment including respiratory support, intravenous fluid therapy, and anti-inflammatory medication.  With the time frame of transmission of tickborne infection from onset of host attachment generally taking longer than 24 hours, careful and prompt removal is critical, hence the time bomb reference in the blog title.  For guidance on proper tick removal click on this Tick Removal link to access the CDC’s instruction page.

These diseases can be life altering if not diagnosed and treated in time.  Understanding more about ticks and how to protect yourself is crucial.  The CDC has put out some good literature about tick borne illness in the United States. 

Here are some tips to help keep your Spring and Summer ticking:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when hiking or working in wooded/grassy areas
  • Tuck your pants into your socks when hiking
  • Treat your clothing (not your skin) with insect repellant that works for ticks (pre-treating and hanging to dry may extend effectiveness)
  • Shower or bathe soon after working or playing outdoors
  • Frequently check for ticks when working or playing outside
  • Check your body thoroughly for ticks
    1. Under arms,
    2. In and around hair/neck line, ears, and belly buttons
    3. Behind knees
    4. Between legs and around waist band
  • Check over your gear and pets
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high to kill any remaining ticks

For more information on tick and tick borne illness, check out the following links:

Distracted Driving & Work Zone Awareness

Driven to distraction, why do we need another stupid reminder?

Sometimes we all do stupid things, especially when we try to do too many things at once. If one of those things involves 4,000 pounds of metal and glass moving at high velocity, a small lapse in judgment can be catastrophic. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and this is Work Zone Awareness Week because when there is road construction and traffic gets worse and time is running out and frustration begins to grow - that is when you need to be extra vigilant.

Here are a few things worth remembering every time you get in a vehicle, because forgetting really can hurt:

  • Get the big picture, stay focused and be on the lookout for signs and flaggers
  • Be courteous and follow at a safe distance
  • Watch your speed
  • Allow for sufficient time, don't rush
  • Expect the unexpected
  • Pull safely off the road if you must talk or text
  • Don't read maps, papers, texts, emails, etc. while driving
  • Don't use any electronic devices while driving, even "handsfree" devices
  • Don’t multitask such as eat, smoke, apply make-up or other grooming activities

Pretty obvious stuff, right? So why do we take on so much unnecessary risk with such foolish behavior?

One answer is complacency. When we do something every day, it is easy to forget the risks involved and start pushing the limits. We don't slow down, we start to rush things, we become distracted, we try to do two or more things at once. Everything seems fine until there is one small change too many. The environment changes and we don't notice, someone else who we assumed was paying attention wasn't, someone sees something we don't and slams on the brakes. Maybe there is plenty of blame to share, but you know you weren't being vigilante. You weren't looking out for yourself and those around you. You had become complacent and distracted. Most of the time, it doesn't matter much when we have such momentary lapses in judgment. But sometimes it really does matter. When we are driving we need to constantly remind ourselves that this is a high risk activity.

Click these links to find out more about Distracted Driving Awareness Month and National Work Zone Awareness Week. Policyholders can find more safe driving resources on the MEMIC online Safety Director.

Final Render 1080 HD_2

OSHA Takes Severe Injury Reporting Seriously, You Should Too

Greg LaRochelle 2014Posted by Greg LaRochelle

The first year of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program is a success but smaller employers need more outreach and education on the new requirements, according to a new report from OSHA. The report warns now that the program is in its second year, OSHA is more likely to issue citations for non-reporting and the penalty has increased. Some employers may fear that reporting severe injuries will lead to inspections and citations, but in response to 69% of hospitalization reports OSHA simply asked employers to conduct their own incident investigations and propose remedies to prevent future injuries. OSHA instituted the severe injury reporting requirements to:

  1. Enable the agency to better target compliance assistance and enforcement efforts to places where workers are at greatest risk, and to;
  2. Engage more high-hazard employers in identifying and eliminating serious hazards.

In a previous post, MEMIC’s John DeRoia described the severe injury reporting requirements which include employers informing OSHA of any work-related amputation, in-patient hospitalization, or loss of an eye within 24 hours of the incident and emphasizes reporting a fatality within 8 hours.

In the first full year of the reporting program, employers notified OSHA of 10,388 incidents involving severe work-related injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations, which amounts to 30 work-related severe injuries per day. (These figures were collated from federal OSHA state reports and do not include injury statistics from states that administer their own safety and health programs.)

The Year One of OSHA’s Severe Injury Reporting Program: An Impact Evaluation report written by Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Health and Safety, cites several interesting cases where employers working with OSHA made safety improvements to prevent future injuries through engineering controls, enhanced training, and design changes.

Dr. Michaels wrote in the report, “OSHA will continue to evaluate the program and make changes to improve its effectiveness.  We are also seeking new ways to make sure that small employers know about their reporting obligations and the resources available to them.”

Online safety resources available to MEMIC policyholders include access to the Safety Director with all of its features, workshops and webinars, and a newly updated video lending library.