Previous month:
September 2017
Next month:
November 2017

October 2017

Be sure the “calm after the storm” is safe!

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®  

As we mark the five year anniversary of Super Storm Sandy, the northeast now has an estimated 1,000,000 homes and businesses without power. The passing of the latest storm is a big relief for the northeast U.S., but now the cleanup begins and that can present some of the most hazardous conditions encountered during the entire storm. The excerpt below is taken from an earlier Safety Net post written by Peter Koch, MEMIC Safety Management Consultant entitled The Cleanup: Don't let Irene do more damage. Take this advice seriously as you attempt to clean up downed trees, restore services, and open businesses.

IStock-174922341

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene here in the Northeast, property cleanup is at the top of everyone's to-do list. Make sure to take the time to conduct a job hazard analysis for the cleanup tasks and determine if you have the internal resources and skills to complete the cleanup safely.

Storm cleanup is one of the most dangerous tasks that can be performed with a chainsaw, placing the operator and fellow workers in challenging and unpredictable environments. Unstable elements in the canopy (including widow makers and spring poles), not to mention uneven ground and exposed root systems are all real hazards for the chainsaw operator. Experience and highly developed skills are the last lines of defense for the chainsaw operator.

Mechanical logging reduces the exposure to many hazards that the manual logger has limited ability to control. If your chainsaw operators are occasional users with limited experience and training, or your internal resources are unable to meet the demands of extensive storm cleanup, sub-contracting with a reputable logging company or certified arborist will transfer the risk and protect your most valuable resource, your employees.

If some level of cleanup at your operation is to be done with a chainsaw, you should complete a job hazard analysis which will help your operators review hazards and controls. For a sample job hazard analysis form, go to the MEMIC Safety Director. The Safety Director also contains a three part webinar covering chainsaw operation. Additional chainsaw safety resources are available in the Safety Academy, or check out this OSHA fact sheet

As you drive on the roads this week keep an eye out for downed trees and power lines. Some secondary roads may be blocked for significant time as utility workers scramble to restore power to rural communities. Many traffic lights are inoperative, so caution is the word of the day. Stay in place if you’re able. If you must travel in areas that are heavily wooded and/or lightly trafficked take your time. Never touch any downed power lines, no matter how safe you think they are. Leave that work to the trained professionals. 

 


Exercise Your Brain!

   CatlettPosted by Larry Catlett, MD, OMC WellnessWorks

About the Safety Net Guest Contributor:

Dr. Larry Catlett is the founder of Occupational Medical Consulting, LLC, a Maine business that for over 20 years, partners with companies nationwide to create a sustainable healthy workforce culture and reduce employee health risks.

Is it really true that you can prevent memory loss? 

Dr. Catlett’s Answer: In most cases, absolutely! And guess what? The same healthy lifestyle you are working toward–plus a little brain exercise–is just what the doctor ordered! Read on for some tips to help you prevent memory loss.

Stop smoking. I know, here we go again with the stop smoking stuff, but it’s important to understand that smokers have twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Get a handle on stress. Don’t tell me your stress doesn’t affect you. It does and sometimes for the worse regarding your brain. Learn appropriate stress management techniques (consider a health coach) and begin the process of turning down the heat!

Exercise 30 minutes a day, most days each week. Not only does it keep your brain healthy, but it is the best stress reducer you can try.

Eat right. A healthy diet full of fruits and veggies contains antioxidants that not only protect your brain from injury but help prevent many cancers as well.  It is better to get your antioxidant supply from healthy foods rather than supplements.

Work your mind. Learn a new language. Do crossword puzzles. Learn to play something like the guitar. Volunteer. Read. Garden. Get up off the couch and start a new hobby.

We lose brain cells, or at least they shrink, as we age but that does not necessarily have to result in inevitable dulling of our wits as we age. Just like muscles and lung function, you must “use it or lose it”. So what’s the hold up? Take control! Think how rewarding it might be to actually read the menu at a real Italian restaurant! And think about this: just as so many other health problems we have discussed in this blog can influence your ability to work safely, memory loss and impaired cognitive function can set the stage for your own or a coworker’s preventable injury.


Evolution of the Cabicle

 WoodPosted by Andy Wood, CLP

Gone are the days of loggers toiling in the great outdoors enduring the elements and demands of strenuous physical labor. As the industry has become more mechanized, those who work in the logging sector are more likely to be driving a truck or operating heavy equipment. In fact, in 20 short years the logging profession has transformed from one of the most physically demanding jobs a body can withstand to one of the most static workplaces a body can survive. While traumatic and fatal injuries have substantially reduced, the rate of “soft tissue” or “repetitive motion” injuries is on the rise.

Like traditional office workers, skilled machine operators’ workdays are long, inactive, and highly repetitious, and are done from small cubicle-like spaces.  However, the logger’s cabicle is exposed to dangers beyond those an office worker is exposed to. Whole body vibration, constant jarring, temperature extremes, poor air quality, elevated noise levels, and a production pace being driven by other team members combine to increase the hazards of machine operation. Extended workdays (often 12 hours) exacerbate all issues by increasing exposure and decreasing recovery time. Traditional equipment cabs were not intended for these extended shifts. 

Enter the modern logging machine cabicle. These things are awesome, equipped with all the features of your favorite ManCave. The newest equipment offers amenities designed to accommodate operators of all sizes and make their workday as productive and pain free as possible: adjustable seating and controls, climate control with hepa filtration and aromatherapy (okay, we might not be quite ready for that one), heated/cooled air-ride seats, lunch box heater and cooler, XM radio and Bluetooth, and noise reducing features. With an environment like that who would want to leave? But having all of these amenities comes at an ergonomic cost. On a good day, when nothing breaks down, an operator may exit the cab only a few times in a 12-14 hour shift resulting in increased seat time further limiting physical activity.

But let’s return to reality for just a minute. Not all machines are delivered with all the high end options and the majority of our rolling stock is older equipment not equipped with the latest features and will continue to be in service for many years. So, here’s what you can do, regardless of how new or old your cabicle is, to minimize your exposure to ergonomic risk factors:

  • Use the full range of adjustment options to create a workspace that allows your body to stay as close to neutral posture as possible.
  • Exit the cab for whole-body stretching–especially for the back. A brief walk will increase circulation bringing necessary nutrients to tissue and remove harmful toxins which concentrate when circulation slows.
  • Stay hydrated. All functions of your body perform best when fully hydrated–even your brain. Dehydration has been shown to adversely affect decision making ability and cognitive performance, which may impact job productivity and safety. In the summer, air conditioners remove much needed moisture from the air. In the winter, cold dry air lacks adequate moisture for respiration and must be hydrated by the moisture in your lungs.
  • Find ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine–both at work and at home.

While the transition to a more mechanized industry has reduced the most life-threatening injuries, the impact of long term logging equipment operations on chronic adverse health conditions has yet to be fully understood. With the term “sitting is the new smoking” being echoed by researchers again and again, incorporating these recommendations will be a much needed improvement to your overall health and wellbeing.

 


Being Proactive is Key for Workplace Safety

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

“I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked, nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster.”

Captain Edward Smith in 1907

You might recognize this as a quote from the captain of the RMS Titanic. Although spoken several years prior to the 1912 sinking of the Titanic, it certainly holds a powerful safety message. Since we should probably learn from history rather than repeat it, consider how we can benefit from Captain Smith’s misfortune. Being prepared for the worst can help prevent accidents and injuries from happening.

Safety must be an active part of everyone’s job, and everyone should be engaged in activities that will reduce the likelihood of injuries taking place. Workplace safety is often overlooked or simply taken for granted. No worker wants to be injured, and no employer wants to be responsible for an employee injury. So it’s just “common sense” right? If it were only that simple. A worker who says “I’ve never been hurt” isn’t necessarily being proactive to prevent injuries, he’s simply recounting how lucky he’s been. Similar to the stock market where past performance is not an indicator of future returns, a good safety record is not a guarantee of employee safety. Complacency is the biggest threat to workplace safety.

Organizational culture will make or break any safety program. Success comes with commitment to safety from every level. It starts with solid hiring practices that ensure the right people are brought into the workplace. It includes an orientation process that covers all safety rules, proper equipment use, emergency procedures, and how to make safety related suggestions or report unsafe conditions.  Continual training and process improvement are also necessary to keep employees focused on personal safety and organizational safety success.

A strong safety culture also includes proper leadership from the front line supervisors all the way up through the executive team. All organizational levels must understand the importance of safety and integrate it into their business goals. Employees must be held accountable for safe behaviors and management cannot let production push aside safe operations. It is truly a team effort from the top down. Breakdowns in communication or shortcuts taken to save time will only result in a sporadic and unpredictable injury cycle. Safety is manageable just like every other aspect of business. 

Be ready for emergencies and expect the unexpected. Captain Smith thought he was sailing an unsinkable ship. He was steaming too fast in an area where icebergs were common, had an inexperienced and overconfident crew, and didn’t have enough lifeboats for everyone aboard. This moment in history is important to consider as we apply workplace safety to our organizations. Make sure you are doing all you can to prevent injuries, that you have a well trained staff and that safety is a priority for everyone.

By taking these proactive steps, the likelihood of injuries decreases and production will increase. Safety should not be an additional duty or seen as an expense item. Safety is a smart investment and it should be an integral part of everyone’s job! 

MEMIC policyholders can access additional information on safety culture through our resources available in the Safety Director

 

 


Employee Safety and Wellness Run Hand-in-Hand

Rob-Sylvester1 Posted by Rob Sylvester, CSPHA, CEHT, WCP®

When we think of employee safety, we generally think of occupational and industrial safety programs that control hazards and exposures. That is a critical component, but let’s take it a step further and consider a holistic approach. Employers can promote injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being, also known as Total Worker Health (TWH).

IStock-518889586

HOW DOES WORK IMPACT EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH?

Data shows that 36 percent of workers suffer from work-related stress that costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.1 Nearly half (44 percent) of working adults say that their current job impacts their overall health, but only 28 percent of those believe it is a positive impact. People with disabilities, in hazardous or low-paying jobs, and those in retail are most likely to say their jobs have a negative impact on their stress levels (43 percent), eating habits (28 percent), sleeping patterns (27 percent), and weight (22 percent). 1

Ann Reskin from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states how stress can adversely affect employees and the bottom line:
“Stress increases the risk of illness, injury, and job burn-out and unlike other occupational hazards, nearly the entire working population can be affected. The latest research tells us that job stress plays a major role in many chronic health problems, and the evidence is growing. Now more than ever, it’s time to learn what can be done to relieve a workforce under stress.”

WHAT CAN EMPLOYERS DO?

Talk to employees about the specific conditions that drive stress in a particular job. Often there is feedback about a harmful or unsafe workplace, understaffing, variable hours, overwork, or expanded responsibilities. Downsizing, inadequate or failing equipment or materials, and a lack of regular and clear supervisor feedback can also be contributors. Engage your employees at all levels so they can be part of the positive changes.

TWH maintains a focus on employee workplace safety and emphasizes the benefits of providing additional opportunities to workers to advance their health and well-being. This ranges from leadership to compensation and benefits to community support and much more. This NIOSH graphic is a great tool for your team to start planning discussions on TWH. 

GET STARTED: A FEW WORKPLACE WELLNESS SOLUTIONS

  • To prevent risk of musculoskeletal disorders, consider:

◦Reorganizing or redesigning how individuals do their work;

◦Providing ergonomic consultations; and

◦Providing arthritis management strategies.

  •  To reduce work-related stress, consider:

◦Implementing organizational and management policies that give workers more flexibility and control over their schedules;

◦Providing supervisor training on approaches to reducing stressful working conditions; and

◦Providing skill-building stress reduction interventions for all workers.

 

UPCOMING MEMIC WEBINAR THIS MONTH

Looking to learn how wellness and stress reduction can benefit your organization? MEMIC customers are invited to join us for an Employee Safety & Wellness Webinar with Rob Sylvester on Friday, October 20, 2017, at 10:00 a.m. MEMIC clients also have access to the resources contained in the Safety Director along with our video library in our Safety Academy.   

1The High Price of Workplace Stress, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2016/07/the-high-price-of-workplace-stress/