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December 2016

Safety Committee 101

BadgerPosted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OHST

If establishing a safety committee at your place of business sounds appealing, there are few questions that you must ask yourself before embarking on this adventure.

  • What would be the purpose of a safety committee? A clear mission must be identified.  An organization must decide if the mandate will be to lower injury numbers or will it be proactive in identifying workplace hazards?  Perhaps the purpose would be to prevent injuries to fellow employees and improve morale throughout the entire company.  Another option may be to have the members be involved with hazard correction.  A successful committee can do all of these things, but it must be effectively directed.  It’s critical that meetings do not simply become “complaint” sessions that only bring down morale.
  • Who should be a part of the safety committee? An organization must decide if management should be a part of the committee or will employees feel too intimidated by management to offer any suggestions that might cost money?  Many organizations chose to have a person from each business unit be a part of the committee to be sure that everyone’s interests are represented. The most important concern is that the individuals on the team be volunteers who have energy to bring to the committee. 
  • How often would the committee meet? The answer to this will vary greatly from company to company depending upon industry, size, safety program, and injury history.  While some organizations should have monthly meetings others may have to meet more frequently and others might require only quarterly dates.  Ensure the meetings are convenient for all participants, even for those that work other shifts or at secondary locations. No matter what the interval of the meetings, it should have an agenda and be started promptly. Waiting for people to show up just encourages “late comers”.
  • Where should the committee meet? Meetings should be held away from noisy areas and production floors to prevent distractions. The meeting room should be of an adequate size to contain all the participants comfortably and have audio/visual capabilities. Telephones should be silenced to prevent unwanted interruptions. Computers should only be allowed if integral to the meeting and minutes from each meeting should be kept and disseminated organization wide. 
  • How are we going to measure the success of the safety committee? It is important to set goals for the committee and compare reality to those goals. Using the SMART Goal formula will improve the odds of success.  A safety committee should be able to measure its successes and failures to ensure that the committee doesn’t lose focus and purpose. Being able to show that the group has made a difference will go a long way in keeping the support of upper management.

For more information regarding safety committees, check out the OSHA website.  You’ll find a wealth of information related to safety committee formation, expectations, training guides, PowerPoint presentations, and other resources. 

For more on the benefits and pitfalls of safety committees MEMIC customers can also access the MEMIC Safety Director resources and attend the upcoming Safety Committee webinar on January 26, 2017.

Through a Stormy Night


LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

Wild was the wind that howled in the fury of a blinding snowstorm.  The tempest kicked up suddenly, as he headed into the night with the red glow of light at the front of his team guiding him onward.  There was work to be done of grand importance and proportion - another season’s mission of spreading goodwill and delight.  Each child in their angelic sleep would awaken the next morning to behold a gift that would set their spirit leaping.  As was his habit afore the eve, he sought guidance and instruction from the MEMIC Safety Net to ensure a safe return to his waiting family upon the last delivery.  This year’s crop of blog posts would prove fruitful in the planning and preparation of this wondrous endeavor.

 Months earlier, he adopted the use of a face shield along with safety glasses when sharpening woodworking tools on a bench grinder after reading Tony’s post titled Eye Protection is More Than Having Safety Glasses.  From Luis’s three part article on OSHA’s New Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard, he abandoned the use of sand and switched to a salt free, pet friendly ice melt for treating his outdoor walkways.  New sit/stand workbenches were installed over the summer for his crew of toymakers, with encouragement to change posture regularly after reading Allan’s blog The Workplace is Dynamic, Don’t Be Left Standing Still.  When pouring over his long list of names in his favorite stuffed chair, he limited his sitting time to 20 minute intervals; a tip he picked up from reading Maureen’s Ergonomics by the Seat of Your Pants post.  On the matter of knowing who was naughty or nice, he learned about Behavioral and Integrity Testing from Alexis’s blog on improving hiring practices.  For his rooftop landings, a fall hazard assessment would be made from reading Jayson’s blog titled Fall Protection and Prevention; What You Need to Know.  And in case he’d encounter some simmering embers in a cozy fireplace, he’d put his fire extinguisher knowledge to good use from Debra’s post Do you have the right fire extinguisher for your workplace?  

Driven by the night’s excitement, he knew to pull in the reins on his eager team, having learned about the tragic consequences of hurried flight from reading Randy’s “I Feel the Need for Speed” blog.  The old saying “Ice and Snow, Take it Slow!” came to mind from Dave’s post Still Plenty of Winter Driving to Go!  His labor of love, through a stormy night, would be one of flawless execution thanks to MEMIC’s dedicated team of safety professionals.

MEMIC’s loss control staff wishes everyone a safe and joyous holiday season.  

Santa Safety Net


Steel Toe Footwear - Are They Really Safer?

Levesque Posted by Adam Levesque, MBA, CSP

Personal protective equipment should always be the final step in reducing exposure to workplace hazards.  That is also true when implementing a safety shoe program.  Foot related injuries are a common workplace injury, causing significant morbidity, disability, and lost wages.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that greater than 60% of all injuries are musculoskeletal related, 10% of which are specifically foot and ankle injuries.

OSHA’s federal regulation 1910.136 regarding foot protection provides limited guidance to employers stating that “employee’s shall use protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, or when the use of protective footwear will protect the affected employee from an electrical hazard…”  In short, employers are tasked with completing a hazard assessment to determine whether foot protection is required and if so, the footwear must meet stringent standards (i.e., American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F2412 and F2413).

Steel and composite toed shoes are the commonly accepted method of foot protection; however there is little published information regarding the actual level of protection afforded.  A common belief is that safety shoes are actually more dangerous than regular footwear because the safety toe, when/if crushed by a significant amount of weight, will amputate the section of foot underneath.  The belief is so pervasive that an orthopedic surgeon at the Massachusetts General Hospital and the popular TV show Myth Busters completed studies to quantify the benefit of safety shoes.  The weights used in each study exceeded ASTM testing requirements.

What do you think the results were?

The Massachusetts General study dropped 150 pounds from a height of 3 feet onto 5 pairs of each; safety toed and non-safety toed shoes.  Cadaver lower extremities were used to simulate the injuries incurred during each event.  The results showed that feet in the regular boots sustained on average 8.2 fractures per foot while feet in safety shoes sustained 3.2 fractures per foot, a reduction in severity of 67%. 

X-ray of a cadaveric forefoot after crush impact in a regular work boot (left) and in a steel toe capped work boot (right).

The Myth Busters study dropped 75 and 400 pound weights from three and six feet respectively onto safety toed shoes containing a clay foot to measure compressive force and damage.  This test method was identical to ASTM requirements.  No compressive forces registered and only minor deformation to the steel plate resulted from the 3-foot drop of 75 pounds.  When dropping 400 pounds from 6 feet,   the compressive forces deformed the steel plate and resulted in significant foot fractures.  The Myth Busters test did not generate any amputations. 

The Myth Busters also tested regular shoes and the safety toed option to total failure using an arbor press.  Failure of the toe box was reached at 1,200 pounds for the non-safety toed shoe whereas safety shoe withstood up to 6,000 pounds of compression before failing.

These results demonstrate that an employee is indeed safer while wearing a pair of safety toed shoes.  While safety shoes will not completely prevent injury, they will reduce the potential for injury when exposed to minor compressive forces (weights less than 75 pounds) and greatly reduce the severity of the injury when exposed to significant amounts of compressive force.   

Will you be wearing your safety toed shoes to work tomorrow?  I know I will!

Myth Busted!

Small Events, Large Consequences

HawkerPosted by Tonya Hawker

We all take risks throughout our day - at work, at home, in the car.  Everywhere we turn we face a risk for injury.  That’s life, right?  Well, yes... and no.  While there are risks in life, there are many things we can do to limit our exposure to injury.  The key to injury prevention is to “Think Before You Act.” 

Often American society pushes us to work faster and harder, be we also need to be encouraged to “Work Smarter.”  When we take time to think about our actions before we take them, we tend to make smarter decisions.  So here’s a tip: 

6a00e553697a6a883401b7c8bbdaf8970b-320wiTry implementing the “10 Second Rule.”  What is this you ask?  Well, start a new habit today by pausing for 10 seconds to think about the decision you’re facing, BEFORE YOU TAKE ACTION.

Often times, workplace injuries are preventable if proper safety precautions are made before we “TAKE ACTION.”   However, sometimes we take shortcuts because we’re pressed for time and we don’t realize that the ‘shortcut’ bypasses an important safety control designed to protect us from injury. 

It is important to recognize that even small risks can produce serious, long-term consequences.  This is true not only for the worker, but the consequences can affect the worker’s family and cost the employer in the form of huge losses for years to come.

Listed below are some common shortcuts that are taken and often result in large consequences:


Small Event:  Walking on an ice covered sidewalk.

Large Consequence:  Slip/Fall resulting in injury and lost work time. 

Solution:  Promptly treat walkways to remove ice/snow. For problem areas involving black ice or re-freezing, clearly mark the affected area and redirect staff to alternative entrances/exits until ice hazard is eliminated.

Caught in Machinery:

Small Event: Removing fixed guard to speed up production process.

Large Consequence:  Bypassing guard causes machine to pull body part into machinery resulting in permanent loss of affected body part.  Loss of bodily function, impact on personal and family life.  Significant long-term impact on worker’s quality of life.

Solution:  Never remove guards.  If jam occurs, follow Lockout/Tagout procedures.

Muscle Strain:

Small Event:  Lifting furniture during hotel renovations.

Large Consequence:  Debilitating back injury that significantly impacts employee’s future quality of life.  Long-term medical expenses.

Solution:  Use mechanical devices, gliders, or straps to transfer the load from the worker to the device.

Far more injuries occur each year due to unsafe acts as opposed to unsafe conditions.  Taking a few seconds to consider what action to take before you do so could be the difference between a safe evolution and a serious injury.  For more information related to safety accountability and behavior based safety take a look at Mike Havel’s post, or Peter Koch’s post on affecting employee choices.  

Holiday Shutdown Means Open for Cleaning

PaiPosted by Christopher Pai

The Holiday Season is a great opportunity to give your employees a well-deserved break.  It is also an opportune time to perform preventative maintenance and cleaning that is not possible during normal operating hours. Your holiday maintenance crew could be exposed to hazards they don’t routinely deal with. Before the work begins, take the time to review potential hazards and how to protect workers.


Is it time to break out the ladders, scaffolds, scissor lifts, or boom lifts to change light bulbs, paint walls, or dust rafters? To protect workers against falls:

  • Provide the correct equipment, such as ladders that are long enough and the appropriate type for the task.
  • Forbid the use of unsafe options such as an unsecured or unguarded platform raised by a forklift.
  • Train employees how to use personal fall protection. equipment if required by the job.
  • Issue tools and equipment that will enable them to maintain three-point contact with ladders, such as hooks to hold paint buckets.

Falling object hazards

Will your workers be releasing equipment or objects that are normally stationary and secured? Do they need to move supplies and equipment, such as roofing shingles or replacement parts, to elevated areas? Will they work in crews, with some workers above others?  To protect workers from falling objects:

  • Identify potential falling object or overhead hazards for each job. 
  • Remind workers above to secure their tools and materials.  Use toe boards or debris nets as needed.    
  • Remind workers below to wear their hard hats.
  • Secure items whose supports may be compromised.
  • Provide refresher training for workers who will use slings or other lifting accessories.


The Flu and Safety – The Sniffly Connection

Willard WebbPosted by Debra Willard Webb, RN, COHN-S

Lean organizations are the norm - every person and every job matters to the mission. When all hands are ready for duty, safe work practices align with the mission.  However, when a couple of absences enter the workflow, safety mindfulness can be diverted to thinking about shortcuts.  Outcomes can include injuries instead of efficiencies.

Millions of workdays are lost due to the annual flu season in the US - almost 17 million in one NIH study. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that billions of dollars are spent in sick days and lost productivity in our country.1  Some of those lost days are hospitalized workers with complications from the flu.  The flu can even be life threatening.  Influenza is contagious before symptoms are severe enough to keep you home.  So the virus spreads - the more folks incubating the flu illness at work before they feel badly enough to miss work, then the MORE ill folks we’ll have incubating and out of work the next week.

The CDC recommends annual flu vaccination as the first and best way to prevent flu. Take a look at the infographic on CDC’s BusinessPulse: How CDC protects the health of your business” for ways CDC is assisting businesses in promoting flu vaccination for employees.

From Florida to Maine, seasonal flu cases have been reported already. Get your own flu shot and promote employee vaccinations. As CDC says, “Make it your Business to Fight the Flu”.  It is a win-win when workers are protected.  The CDC offers information, free podcasts, mobile apps, widgets, eCards, and more to make the vaccination campaign effective. Click here for more info on containing the contagion from MEMIC’s Greg LaRochelle.


"Take 3" Actions to Fight the Flu says CDC

  • Vaccinate
  • Stop germs
  • Antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them  Molinari NA, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Messonnier ML, Thompson WW, Wortley PM, Weintraub E, Bridges CB. The annual impact of seasonal influenza in the US: measuring disease burden and costs. Vaccine 2007;25(27):5086–5096.

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month

SoaresPosted by Tony Soares, CSP, CHMM, CSHE

The gift giving season is upon us, so in a departure from the regular workplace safety topics posted here, we at MEMIC would like to take a minute to remind you to keep safety a personal priority as you chose gifts for the young ones in your life.

Parents have always been worried about the toys their children play with.  Are they too violent, too noisy, too expensive, or confirm stereotypes?  But do you make sure your kid’s toys are safe to play with?  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2007, Fisher-Price recalled 967,000 toys due to a lead poisoning hazard. Small children can absorb lead or other toxins into their small bodies when chewing on toys. Some toys contain magnets which can affect the child’s digestive system if swallowed.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that in 2007 there were 232,900 children treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries and 18 children died due to toy injuries.

In August 2008, Congress passed a law to improve toy safety measures, including new testing procedures and harsher penalties for safety violators. This legislation also included a new ban on lead and other dangerous substances from toys, and the creation of a public database containing information on specific toys and how to file complaints about a toy.

This new legislation now makes it easier to enforce better safety practices, but won’t ensure them. In a matter of months after the bill passed, over 20 new toy recalls were issued. Many of these toys were still on store shelves. 

Do your part to be certain there are no unsafe toys in your home. Here are some toy safety tips for parents, grandparents, uncles,  aunts, and friends. 

  • Always match the age on the toy to the child’s age. The age grading system is based on safety. Choking hazards are prevalent with younger children.
  • Stuffed toys are always a classical gift for young children. For children under 3 years old look for sewed-on eyes or well-secured eyes and seams (little pellets are a major concern when spilled) that can stand up to the vigorous activities of your child’s play.
  • Never leave the toys inside cribs with infants.  
  • Remember to include a helmet with the bicycle, skateboard, or snowboard.
  • Batteries, especially those small coin-shaped ones, can pose a safety concern. Make sure children don’t have access to batteries or toy battery compartments.   Remember there are other products in your home not subject to toy safety standards. You will find batteries in your TV remote control, in clocks, and other products. It’s important that you keep those batteries out of your child’s reach and always discard them properly.
  • Be extra careful when buying toys from a flea market or from a garage sale. Some of those toys may have been made before safety standards were in place or they may be defective or broken.
  • Inspect all the toys in your home periodically for wear and tear, broken parts, or sharp edges. This is a good idea for all equipment in your house. If a toy is broken and cannot be properly repaired, discard it.
  • Watch out for toys with electrical wiring. Electrical shock can occur when the toy breaks and the live wiring is exposed, or it unexpectedly contacts water.

We now have stricter toy safety standards in our country. Any toy sold here, regardless of its country of origin, has to comply with these regulations.  However, recalls are an important step in the safety net should a problem be discovered. Be vigilant, check the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, Safe Kids Worldwide, BabyCenter, or ToySafety.Org to stay up to date on the latest recalls or other safety information. 

Safety kids