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November 2016

For Metal Fume Fever – More LEV!

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

If the iconic actor Christopher Walken was welding galvanized steel, his classic phrase from the Saturday Night Live sketch"More Cowbell" might instead be “I got a fever and the only prescription is more LEV!”  LEV, or local exhaust ventilation, is a recognized industrial hygiene solution for reducing particulate pollution through dilution.

Exposure to certain fumes such as zinc oxide and magnesium oxide during the heating and welding of galvanized metal can lead to the illness known as metal fume fever.  Symptoms of this condition include headache, fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and lethargy.  Elevated exposure to zinc oxide fumes can also cause a sweet or metallic taste in the mouth along with a dry, irritating cough.

Metal fume fever is also known as Monday morning fever where symptom bouts typically appear most severe at the beginning of the work week.  Exposed workers tend to rapidly develop some degree of adaptive tolerance, albeit transient, with repeated exposure after the weekend or vacation eliciting the telltale symptoms.  Where most of the symptoms are similar to influenza and other common illnesses, the key to diagnosis is a thorough occupational history.

The American Welding Society (AWS) safety and health fact sheet no. 25 on metal fume fever lists the following tips on how to avoid the hazard.

  • Keep your head out of the fumes.
  • Do not breathe fumes.
  • Use enough ventilation, exhaust at the arc, or both, to keep fumes and gases from your breathing zone and the general area.
  • If adequacy of the ventilation or exhaust is uncertain, have your exposure measured and compared to the Threshold Limit Values (TLV) in the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the galvanized material.
  • Never take chances with welding fumes. If none of this is adequate or practical, wear an approved respirator, air-supplied or otherwise, that adequately removes the fumes from your breathing zone.

The AWS fact sheet describes the current OSHA permissible exposure limit for zinc oxide fume at 5 milligrams per cubic meter of air averaged over an 8 hour work shift.  OSHA also has a fact sheet on controlling hazardous fumes and gases during welding that cites OSHA standards applicable to welding.  

So for the welder who’s sick and tired of being tired and sick - more LEV!  Check out some of our previous industrial hygiene related posts for information on hexavalent chromium, combustible dust, crystalline silica, and respiratory protection.      



Wishing you a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP


As the nation prepares to celebrate our day of Thanksgiving, we at MEMIC extend our best wishes for a wonderful and safe holiday. 

Unfortunately, this year the U.S. has seen a significant increase in highway fatalities.  As you wrap up your last day of work before the Thanksgiving weekend and begin travels to see family and friends please keep safety a priority.  Get plenty of sleep, allow extra time, follow the traffic rules, and don’t try to drive too far in one day.  Make sure the family car has plenty of gas, tires in good shape and properly inflated, and that you have an emergency kit aboard just in case.  Having the first aid kit, an extra blanket, a fire extinguisher, or a flashlight could really pay off should the unexpected occur.

Sadly, nearly 5,000 people will die on the job this year.  As you enjoy the holiday weekend, please take time to thank those who work so hard every day of the year to keep the public safe.  Those serving in our military, police officers, firefighters, hospital workers, and EMS personnel will be on the job regardless of the holiday schedule most of us enjoy.  We hope we never need them, but we know if the worst should occur they will be there to help. 

Enjoy the holiday and do your part to return to work healthy and productive.  Thank you to all of our readers for making safety a part of everything you do.  Start the holiday season with friends and family, enjoy the time away from the routine, and return to work safely.  Continue working to keep everyone at your business healthy; it’s good for the culture and morale of the organization.  But it’s also critical for each individual worker.  As Mr. Spock was fond of saying, “Live long and prosper.” 



Automatic Post-Accident Drug Testing? OSHA Says No.

HebertPosted by Jayson Hebert, WCP

According to OSHA,although drug testing of employees may be a reasonable workplace policy in some situations, it is often perceived as an invasion of privacy, so if an injury or illness is very unlikely to have been caused by employee drug use… requiring the employee to be drug tested may inappropriately deter reporting”.

To address, OSHA recently updated their standards to define employer rights regarding post incident drug and alcohol testing. 

OSHA provides further clarification on their updated stance regarding post accident drug testing on page 193 of the 273 page final ruling.  This ruling amends the requirements set forth in 29CFR 1904.35.  The intent of the new rule is to prohibit “retaliatory adverse action taken against an employee simply because he or she reported a work-related injury or illness”.   

The final rule also requires employers to specifically inform employees that they have the right to report injuries and illness, and that employers are not to discourage or retaliate against an employee who reports an injury or illness”.  Employers can meet this requirement by posting the new OSHA poster.

The new rule makes automatic post accident drug testing illegal, because it has been shown to discourage employees from properly reporting injuries.  As noted in the OSHA ruling, a “blanket” or “automatic” post-accident or post-injury drug testing policy will, in effect, be presumed to be retaliatory and intended to deter or discourage reporting.

The rule does not prohibit all post incident drug testing of employees, however. It only prohibits employers from using drug testing, or the threat of drug testing, as a form of retaliation against employees who report injuries or illnesses. The new regulation, therefore, has no effect on random drug testing.

For example, if there is good reason to believe that “employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use”, then requiring an employee to be tested would be warranted and permitted, under §1904.35(b)(1)(iv).

Also, if an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer's motive would not be retaliatory and this rule would not prohibit such testing. 

The question has been raised regarding drug testing as required by workers' comp, and whether this would violate OSHA’s rule.  OSHA’s response to this question was “If an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation, the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory and the final rule would not prohibit such testing.” This is further supported as Section 4(b)(4) of the Act prohibits OSHA from superseding or affecting workers’ compensation laws. 29 U.S.C. 653(b)(4).

It is important to note that the final rule prohibits employers only from “taking adverse action against an employee because the employee reported an injury or illness”, not against employers from enforcing safety and health policies.

The final rule was originally scheduled to go into effect August 10, 2016; however, OSHA extended the go-live date to November 1, 2016 to provide employers more time to bring their practices and policies into conformance with the new rule.

If you currently have a mandatory post-accident drug testing policy in place, it might be time to review and revise to ensure compliance with OSHA’s new rule, as well as any applicable state laws. If you do not currently have a policy in place, MEMIC customers can find further resources within the MEMIC Safety Director, to assist you in developing a policy.

Safe Patient/Resident Handling and Mobility Program Pulse Check

Sylvester Posted by Rob Sylvester, CEHT

With the recent concentration of OSHA on healthcare facilities, along with state initiatives and the increasing risks in healthcare, have you asked your team lately if your program up to speed? Programs are shown to reduce patient injury, reduce staff injury along with associated costs and absenteeism. In addition, they improve recruitment, retention and morale of staff!

The Healthcare industry is growing rapidly and so are the risks associated with it. We 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 didactic workshop includes discussion on patient handling challenges, ergonomic basics in the healthcare environment and high risk tasks, developing solutions including discussion of various patient handling equipment and provides assistance with establishing a safe patient handling committee. See our healthcare safety topics here.

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.

Has your team:

  • Developed a written policy?
  • Conducted a patient handling hazard assessment?
  • Provided initial training to all current employees and built into new hire orientation?
  • Developed an annual training program?
  • Developed a process to utilize for incident investigation and post-accident review?
  • Developed a process to conduct an annual performance evaluation of your program to determine its effectiveness?
  • Developed a process to review and incorporate architectural plans as they relate to SPH?
  • Developed a process by which employees may refuse to perform or be involved in patient handling if they feel it exposes the patient of employee to an unacceptable risk of injury?

For more information on this topic, MEMIC policyholders can access our recorded webinar entitled “Safe Patient Resident Handling and Mobility Program” via MEMIC’s Safety Director.


Let’s Cut Out the Cuts

DeroiaPosted by John DeRoia, OHST, WCP

Lacerations from tools, knives or any sharp object can occur in any industry.  Lacerations may not result in a severe injury, however, if tendons or nerves are severed the trauma is far greater and the healing process becomes a lot more difficult.  Lacerations occur quite frequently in some industries and although the cost of a doctor’s visit may not break the bank, consider some of the hidden indirect costs.  Lost time, production delays, clean up, insurance costs, potential personnel changes, etc… these costs do add up.

The elimination of lacerations starts with employee training and best practices.  Train all new staff on proper knife use, storage, and cleaning procedures.  For instance, don’t leave sharp knives in a drawer, cut away from yourself when using a knife, and never try to catch a dropped knife.  Sharper knives are easier and safer to use, so make sure you have a program in place to keep well maintained tools in the kitchen or other workspace.  Lastly, monitor the workplace for consistent use of these best practices and take corrective action immediately. 

There are a multitude of options for personal protection and innovative tools that can help reduce injury frequency.  First, let’s take a look at cut resistant gloves.  These gloves come in different styles and are rated for their cut resistance.  There are two testing methodologies for rating cut resistance and both have recently updated their testing protocols and better defined the ratings.  This will give employers a better understanding of what glove is the best choice for their workplace.  Check out this white paper covering the new testing standards from the folks at HexArmor.  But keep in mind that increased cut resistance often comes some loss of dexterity and comfort.

Let’s switch gears and look at razor knives.  Everyone is probably familiar with the old school box cutter or razor knife.  These are inexpensive but effective tools.  However, there are safer alternatives.  Here are just a few examples of safety knives with automatic retracting blades:

 Blade 2  Blade 1

Knives and box cutters can certainly inflict serious injuries, but when the tool is electrically powered the injury potential goes way up.  Consider the kitchen meat/cheese slicer with the razor sharp rotating blade.  Best practices and employee training are absolutely critical to prevent injury when using one of these tools.  Check out our previous post from Pete Koch on the Seven Key Slicer Errors

Lacerations occur with other power tools as well.  Serious injuries can occur while using a circular saw, planer, joiner, or table saw.  Best practices are the key here as well, including the use of the blade guards or even a blade stopping technology as profiled in a previous Safety Net post. 

Selecting the proper PPE for the task at hand and using the proper equipment will help you reduce the likelihood of a workplace injury.  OSHA has information regarding a PPE assessment that includes hand protection and MEMIC policyholders can watch our webinar on the Safety Director.  The bottom line is that cuts are avoidable injuries when proactive steps are taken by all involved.  Let’s all do our best to cut out the cuts! 


Job Safety Analysis Made Easy

 LaCross Jeremiah Posted by Jeremiah LaCross

 A job safety analysis (JSA) is a process that allows us to effectively break down a job into specific steps to identify potential hazards and to recommend the safest way to complete the job, this is done by observing a worker actually perform the job and having a group of experienced workers and supervisors complete the analysis through discussion.

What are the JSA steps?

  1. Identify a single job to be analyzed.
  2. Breakdown the task into individual steps.
  3. Identify the hazard(s) associated with each task.
  4. Identify methods to eliminate and/or control the hazard(s).
  5. Sign and date the JSA.

How can I ensure that the JSA process is a success?

  • Keep the process simple and try not to overthink it.
  • ALWAYS include your workers and supervisors in the process. They will appreciate being part of the process and it will give everyone a sense of ownership.
  • Follow up if/when controls are implemented to ensure that they have effectively eliminated/reduced the identified hazard(s).
  • Reach out to your MEMIC loss control representative for assistance in getting the process started.

What are the benefits of a JSA program?

  • Identifying potential hazards and controls for specific jobs greatly reduces the likelihood of injury!
  • The process of conducting a JSA gets people thinking a little bit differently about the jobs they perform and all of the potential hazards that may have been overlooked.
  • Completed JSAs are a great resource for new employee safety training (orientation) as well as frequent refresher training.
  • JSAs can help improve efficiency by identifying and eliminating non-value added steps.

What does a completed JSA look like?

  • For this example, we will only list one hazard for each task.  Please note that it is common for each task to have more than one potential hazard.

JSA Safety Blog

For more information regarding JSAs check out the resources available in the OSHA publication entitled Job Hazard Analysis.  MEMIC customers can find more resources within the MEMIC Safety Director