General Safety

Get Schooled on Safety

CampbellPosted by Jennifer Campbell, WCP®

Schools are arguably the most important workplaces to ensure health and safety and can be the most challenging.  Schools need to track, prevent, and mitigate a wide range of incidents from cyberbullying to bomb threats.  They need to manage and properly store a variety of chemicals used for cleaning, art, science, and more.  They need to prevent and manage accidents and injuries to employees, students, and visitors.  They also must train their staff on a number of topics as diverse as Emergency Management, Nutritional Services, Security & Cyber Security, Social & Behavioral Issues, Special Education, Transportation, and more.

School staff, teachers, and administration deserve both tremendous respect and all the support they can get.  MEMIC takes our work with schools very seriously, so we have partnered with Scenario Learning, a leading developer of award-winning school safety and compliance training programs focused on schools. Every school we insure has free access to the SafeSchools Learning Management System.  MEMIC policyholders can find out more by registering for a February 8, 2018 SafeSchools webinar.  Contact Christine Collomy (ccollomy@memic.com) with your organization name, MEMIC policy number, contact name, phone, and email address.

Policyholders can also watch a MEMIC Safety Director Webinar on Demand about the 10 most common accident exposures for school employees.  Many of these are common exposures for any workplace and you can find safety tips for them right here on the MEMIC Safety Net Blog:


Slip and Fall Prevention – The S.A.F.E. Way (Part 3)

KochPosted by Peter Koch, WCP®

Surface, AWARENESS, Footwear, Environment

“If, then, I were asked for the most important advice I could give… stop a moment, cease your work, look around you.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Essays, Letters and Miscellanies

Tolstoy’s advice from the early 1900’s is even more compelling today than it was at the beginning of the second industrial revolution.  There are many more demands for your attention both at work and at home.  These demands compete for your attention at an unprecedented rate resulting in overstimulation and lack of focus.   

The “A” in SAFE stands for Awareness.  Being aware of not just your surroundings but of your relationship to the surface conditions, the environment, and the footwear-surface interaction are critical for preventing slips and falls. 

Overall awareness is comprised of three components: 

  1. Perception: How accurate is the “picture” of the surroundings your senses created.
  2. Comprehension: Our understanding of what in that picture are threats, hazards, or assets.
  3. Decision to Action: What you are going to do with the information.

Your perception and comprehension are key to your decision.  In the examples below, the hazard remains the same, but either perception or comprehension changes to produce a different decision:

  • I can see the ice in my path; I could fall, I will choose a path that is better maintained.
    • Perception is good and comprehension of the hazard moves the decision to limit risk.
  • I can see the ice in my path; I’ve got good balance and I’ve not fallen before. I will travel over the ice but walk more slowly.
    • Perception is good, comprehension moves the decision to risk taking.
      • Successful navigation of the hazard will reinforce the comprehension and drive future decisions.
  • It’s dark, I can’t see any ice; I will keep going on my original path but walk more slowly.
    • Lack of perception causes risk taking, but comprehension leads to caution.

Adding a distraction such as a cell phone into the scenarios can change everything.  In the second or third example, distraction can cause you to forget the path has ice on it in the first place.  This can cause complacency in your gait and speed of travel.  In the first scenario, distraction might slow down reaction time enough to prevent a decision from happening until you engaged the hazard.

The list of distractions that prevent us from maintaining our awareness of our surroundings is almost limitless.  Some distractions are obvious such as cell phones, texting, heavy traffic, or crisis situations.  Some distractions can sneak up on you.  Cluttered work areas, changing work space configuration or use, dark areas, exhaustion, fatigue, or even eyesight changes are all examples.

Here are some tips to increase awareness and avoid distraction:

  1. Personal tips
    1. Email, text, and make calls when stationary.
    2. Keep work areas clear from slip/trip hazards.
    3. Focus on your travel not the destination.
    4. Change gait and speed when surfaces are known or expected to be slippery.
  2. Organization tips
    1. Provide adequate lighting for the employee walking surfaces.
    2. Use signage for temporary awareness of slippery areas. For example: Ice Alert.
    3. Require high visibility clothing for workers in traffic areas.
    4. Consider training for staff walking in areas with constant slip hazards. Check out the Slip Simulator video or website.

Look for more information on Slip and Fall Prevention in the next MEMIC Safety Blog on SAFE when we take on the “F” word - Footwear.


Slip and Fall Prevention - The S.A.F.E. Way (Part 2)

KochPosted by Peter Koch, WCP®

SURFACE, Awareness, Footwear, Environment

Getting to know the surface we walk on can help prevent slips and falls.  Evaluate an existing surface by looking at its 4 C’s:

  1. Surface Changes –
    1. Elevation: Changes in elevation under 12 inches in height can cause us to have the “one-inch heart attack” as we unexpectedly step down, or trip on the unseen lip between surfaces.
      1. Where are these changes located in your work area and how are staff made aware of their presence?
      2. If we can’t eliminate these elevation changes, increasing the lighting or marking the transitions with reflective or high visibility material can help.
    2. Transitions: When a surface transitions from one material to another, like carpet to tile or asphalt to wood, the traction on that surface can change unexpectedly. 
      1. How many material changes or transitions are there at your work place?
      2. Is it a transition from a high traction material to one with less? For example, from carpet to tile?   How are workers made aware of these transitions?
  2. Surface Condition –
    1. New flooring or surface material will interact differently with your footwear than old or worn out flooring.
    2. New flooring maintenance must be in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines to maintain its slip resistant properties.
    3. Broken or damaged flooring or surfaces must be identified and repaired in a reasonable amount of time. Those areas should be cordoned off or highlighted to make workers aware of the hazard.
      1. Where are the areas of damaged flooring in your work area? What is the process for alerting maintenance about the problem?
  3. Surface Composition –
    1. Surface material determines its slip resistance. Having the right materials in the right areas is a great start to reducing slips and falls.  Evaluating the need for highly slip resistant surfaces is a critical step when replacing flooring or designing a new facility.  Some things to consider are:
      1. Can you control the footwear in the area or can all footwear types be expected on the surface?
      2. Can you control the presence of surface contamination?   
      3. Can you use mats or other runners to reduce the slip and fall potential in higher hazard areas?
  4. Surface Contamination –
    1. What’s outside should stay outside. Also, what’s inside equipment should stay inside.  When water, oil, snow, sand, or other material gets onto our walking and working surfaces, they can become more hazardous.
    2. Where are the areas in your workplace where worksurfaces can get contaminated and become slippery? Entryways, restrooms, transitions for manufacturing, or preparation areas can become very hazardous when contaminated. 
    3. Determine what can be done in these areas to help limit the type of contamination and length of time the surface is contaminated.
    4. Does your facility have a spill clean-up plan?

Knowing your surfaces and its characteristics can help prevent slips and falls.  Use the MEMIC Safety Director resources, including a Flooring Scoring Worksheet to evaluate and prioritize the surfaces in your workplace to start making changes.

So, get out there, go for a walk, and get to know your flooring better.

 

 


Mousing with Non-Dominant Hand: Anti-Aging at Your Fingertips

Willard WebbPosted by Debra Willard Webb, MS, RN, COHN-S, WCP®

Doing the same things, the same way, every day can be harmful to our mental and physical health.  Being comfortable as creatures of habit doesn’t do much to keep our brains healthy.  Memory recall, problem solving, and even motor-memory skills can dwindle by abiding in our comfort zone.  Here’s a computer ergonomic tip that has the added benefit of challenging brain drain: Learn to use a computer mouse with your non-dominant hand.

Whether you work or play on a computer, use your non-dominant hand for mousing for a few minutes daily.  Ergonomically, the benefits include:

  • Rest for your dominant hand, this can lower strain risk
  • Slight posture changes stimulate nourishing circulation
  • Slight improvement in the workload balance between hands
  • Lastly, this provides a ‘Plan B’ should your dominant hand suddenly be unable to tolerate fulltime mousing, perhaps from an accidental sprain or other injury

Then there are the brain benefits of changing hands.  The simple exercise of learning the motor coordination for your opposite hand is brain work.  In this Wall Street Journal article, a neurobiologist explains that mental exercise can even stimulate the development of new neurons and brain pathways right on into our senior years.  This builds resilience for us as we age and improves our mental fitness. According to this Harvard Medical School article, the more challenging the brain exercise, the better for mental fitness.

The muscles, of course, know how to follow brain commands.  But your brain needs to coordinate those commands without requiring your full attention.  That is the exercise part.  This learning can be done in very small doses, so let the process be a fun one, not a frustrating one.

Trying is Believing:

Leave your mouse on the opposite side of the keyboard at the end of your workday today.

Open your computer systems with your non-dominant hand at the start of your work day tomorrow when your brain is fresh and alert.  Then stop with your non-dominant hand.  Return your mouse to your dominant hand before you get frustrated or discouraged.  (You should WANT to get back to the exercise tomorrow.)

Make a cue that helps you remember to leave your mouse on the opposite side at the end of day, so that it is already in position as a reminder to ‘exercise’ tomorrow.

After 10 days, most participants realize they are gaining coordination.  By the end of week two or three they can recognize accomplishment.  Not speed, not efficiency, but certainly progress.  Occasionally, someone moves more quickly through the steps above and becomes a 50-50 user.  But that is not required to see real benefits.  Fifteen minutes in the morning and the afternoon is 30 minutes daily that your dominant hand has a rest and your brain has a boost!

Additional reading:

Health and Safety Executive, Ergonomics of using a mouse or other non-keyboard input device

Association for Psychological Science, Learning New Skills Keeps an Aging Mind Sharp

 


Looking in the Rearview Mirror at Driver Safety

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, MS, WCP®

This year marks MEMIC’s 25th anniversary of opening its doors in 1993.  While driving down the highway in MEMIC’s inaugural year, the radio airwaves were filled with the music of Boyz II Men, Kris Kross, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Vanessa L. Williams, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Reba McEntire.  The 20th Annual American Music Awards, held on January 25, 1993, honored many of these music artists and groups for their albums and singles with titles having relevance today with regard to an increasing concern for over-the-road risk exposure.  The importance of this concern is underscored by OSHA’s recent trade release statement that “more workers lost their lives in transportation incidents than any other event in 2016, accounting for about two out of every five fatal injuries.”  Going forward in this new year, we can all learn to be a safer driver from the information and resources following these titles garnering a ’93 music award or nomination.

Favorite Pop/Rock Album: Dangerous by Michael Jackson

Driving is inherently dangerous; that’s why a license is required through education, practice, and competency demonstration.  The King of Pop’s eighth studio album contains a song titled “Gone Too Soon” which especially relates to teen driving with the CDC indicating that the leading cause of death for U.S. teens is motor vehicle crashes.  On any given day, the prevalence of motorists young and old observed with a cell phone in hand while driving is astounding and disturbing.  Texting and driving don’t mix!  MEMIC’s blog Distracted Driving Messages Abound offers tips for employers on how to protect workers operating fleet vehicles or personal vehicles for business from the dangers on the road.  

Favorite Pop/Rock Single: “End of the Road” by Boyz II Men

“End of the Road” edged out “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers which call to mind road construction/work zone safety and travel conditions during winter months.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were an estimated 96,626 crashes in work zones in 2015, an increase of 7.8% over 2014.  When driving through a work zone, stay alert, minimize distractions, heed directions on work zone warning signs, and watch out for construction workers and their equipment.  MEMIC’s blogs Distracted Driving & Work Zone Awareness, Roadway Construction Etiquette, and Traffic Work Zone Safety provide greater detail.  Be alert for signs reading “Bridge Freezes Before Road” as cold air streaming across bridges and overpasses reduces their temperature significantly faster and lower than roadways.  For safe winter driving tips, check out MEMIC’s blog Still Plenty of Winter Driving to Go!        

Favorite Adult Contemporary Album (nominee): The Comfort Zone by Vanessa L. Williams

Driving without distraction and staying within a safe comfort zone from other vehicles will help you “arrive alive”.  Maintaining a safe following distance using the “three second rule” affords the driver both time and distance to respond to problems on the road ahead.  Locate a fixed roadside object and count three seconds when the vehicle ahead passes the object.  If you reach the object before ending the count, you’re following too close.  In inclement weather, heavy traffic, or night-time driving, double your following distance to six seconds.  When driving behind a tractor trailer or snow plow, be aware of the blind spots behind and to the sides of the truck or plow and Know about the “No Zone” for safe following distance.

Favorite Country Album: For My Broken Heart by Reba McEntire

Also nominated for the award was “The Chase” by Garth Brooks with the titles raising the concern of speeding (as in a chase) along with the tragic consequences of a fatal crash impacting family and friends.  With the kinetic energy formula (Ek = ½ mv2) showing velocity (v) to be the exponential variable as compared to the mass (m), it becomes more obvious that speed (velocity) is the critical factor for an object’s energy in motion.  Interestingly, driving faster for whatever reason doesn’t save much time at all so keep it under the speed limit.  For a blog that “brakes” it down further, click on “I Feel the Need for Speed” and remember “speed kills.”

Looking in the rearview mirror as well as both side mirrors with a quick glance every 5 seconds helps you to be continually aware of your surroundings as a defensive driver.  Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel so no one is left with an “Achy Breaky Heart” which incidentally was the AMA’s favorite country single award given to Billy Ray Cyrus in 1993.

For more blog articles on driver safety, click on MEMIC’s Safety Net and use the key words transportation and travel in the search field.        

 


Make 2018 a Safe Year

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

Well, it’s happened again.  Another year is almost in the books; time sure does fly by doesn’t it?  As we review the events of 2017 and look forward to the new year, please be sure that workplace safety is part of the conversation. 

Here are a few questions to ask regarding 2017 and the effectiveness of your safety program:

  • Did your safety committee meet regularly and conduct activities that actually made the workplace safer? Or was everyone “too busy” to attend, some meetings were cancelled, and no one really took any proactive actions to prevent injuries?  If the latter is the case, then start 2018 with a different message:  Safety is as important as production and quality, so there are no excuses for not addressing safety issues.
  • Were there fewer injuries in 2017? Were all incidents investigated thoroughly to determine root causes with corrective action taken?  If you can’t answer “yes” to both questions it is time to devote more resources to hazard identification and remediation, and to improve the investigation process.  One injury is bad enough, but a second one from the same or similar cause is tragic. 
  • Is there open communication between all employees and management regarding safety issues? Are all concerns heard and answered in a timely manner?  Remember, the employees doing the work understand the hazards and the controls needed.  Listen to them and ensure the appropriate controls are in place.  At the same time, ensure all employees are following the safety policies and best practices. 
  • Does your organizational culture support safety at each level? A clear message should be delivered to every person:  All injuries are preventable!  Granted, this is a difficult task, but if your employees don’t think all injuries are preventable then how could they be expected to prevent all injuries?  Don’t let the mantra “it was an accident” lead you down the path of complacency.  Workplace injuries are not “accidents” - they are predictable outcomes that occur when people accept injuries as inevitable and don’t do all they can to take care of people.  We are all people, and we all make mistakes.  But focusing on safety with unyielding accountability and consistent best practices will eliminate the vast majority of injuries.

The costs of workplace injuries, both human and monetary, are simply too great to tolerate.  Thousands of people died at work in 2017 and millions more injured.  It’s time for a 2018 New Year’s Resolution that will take care of people and keep businesses profitable.  Make it your mission to see that everyone in your charge operates safely all year by conducting all appropriate training, providing all necessary tools and equipment, controlling all known hazards, communication regarding safety is open and effective, and all incidents are investigated completely with appropriate follow up actions taken.  That’s a lot for one sentence, but it sums up what needs to be done by all of us to keep ourselves and our fellow workers safe and healthy.  Make your 2018 a banner year for workplace safety! 


Upon a Tranquil Morn

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, MS, WCP®

Upon a tranquil morn, ice crystals form a paisley pattern frosting the frozen windowpanes in his comfortable study.  Having braved the harsh elements through a stormy night, he slumps against the cushions in his favorite armchair, delighted in the joy he just delivered to children near and far.  His magical mission completed, he ponders the idea of heading south to a warmer clime, entrusting his team to carry on with exuberance.  In this calm moment, he reflects on another year of MEMIC Safety Net Blogs that served him well over the preceding months.

Over the year, he implemented a safety shoe reimbursement program to outfit his crew of craftsmen with new elfin work boots after reading Adam’s Safety Shoes – Selecting the Right Shoe for Your Workplace blog.  He surprised them even more by providing ice cleats described in Dave’s post Winter Slip, Trip, and Fall Safety Tips.  He felt it only fair as a few of them were miffed when he “recalled” their back belts from reading Rob’s article Back Belts – Do They Prevent Back Injuries?  Rob’s Employee Safety and Wellness Run Hand-in-Hand webinar promo post had him looking at worker safety from a holistic approach.  Moreover, Allan’s blog Keep Lifts Between the Knees and Shoulders acquainted him with the NIOSH lifting equation and the “green” power zone for manual lifting.  As a material handling safety improvement, a spotlight was added to the forklift after reading John’s blog Powered Industrial Truck Pedestrian Safety Lights – What a Bright Idea! 

Always a bit nervous when watching his woodworkers operate a table saw, he invested in a new saw with a built-in safety braking system and posted safety tips for optimum operation from reading Tonya’s post Table Saw Safety.  Her Ladder Safety blog came in handy when stringing up the holiday lights and topping the tree with a shimmering crystal star.  He was moved by Laurette’s piece on taking care of the caregivers in Caregivers: First Do No Harm To Yourselves.  Beth’s blog More than Love Handles gave him pause on his own waistline and reassurance that safety support is available for caregivers to avoid a strain injury.  He was made more aware of his own posture from Maureen’s Let Posture Be Your Guide article.  Most importantly, he learned to listen to his inner voice from reading Randy Morehouse’s post Personal Safety – Listen to Your Inner Voice.

A transformation begins as a new day awakens with the first glow of sunlight.

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

 


A Science for the Art of Slipping: Take Charge of Your Traction

Willard Webb Posted by Debra Willard Webb, MS, RN, COHN-S, WCP®

Consider this all-too-common situation… coffee in hand, Sam hustles across the snow-dusted parking lot in leather sole shoes.  His phone rings.  Before he can answer “What’s up?” he’s down!  His heel slipped on black ice sending him off balance where gravity took over. 

Why?  Shouldn’t he have been able to regain his balance?  Why does one person fall on ice or a grape that fell off a lunch tray, or water in the hallway, and another just keeps on walking?

The why of a fall is partly explained by TRIBOLOGY - the science of friction, lubrication, and wear.  Tribology provides numbers that help us understand the friction between surfaces. This number is a coefficient of friction (COF), and describes the surface friction from zero (no friction) to one (high friction).  Not surprisingly, black ice has a very low COF.

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) set a minimum standard COF for walking surfaces at 0.42μ (ANSI A137.1 & 326.3).  Floors with a COF below that number contribute to fall risk. CNA Financial Corporation recently published a tribometry study of hard surface floors in commercial settings and surprisingly found that barely half of the floors met this safety standard.  Clearly, there is work to be done to reduce commercial flooring slip risk. According to the National Floor Safety Institute, over one million hospital emergency room visits result from slip and fall incidents each year.  It’s time we all work together to reduce this significant hazard and keep employees, friends, and families safer.

However, simply replacing flooring with high COF flooring would not solve all the commercial building slip risk.  It is an important step (pun intended), but COF is not the only factor in slip and fall risk.  Lots of variables can decrease the COF affecting a walker.  Oil, water, cleaners, or even dry materials like dust and gravel can increase slipperiness.  Dry snow became the lubricant in Sam’s story, reducing traction between his shoe and the ice.

Maintenance routines are a crucial factor in flooring risk management.  Cleaning products, tools, and methods can increase slip hazards.  The wrong products, too much product, soap residue, failing to strip previous product, and failing to buff according to flooring guidance are all factors that can change floor safety. CNA’s report tells us that businesses would be wise to review current floor maintenance practices and ensure that surfaces are maintained according to the flooring manufacturer’s guidance. Further, knowing how snow and ice will affect the slipperiness of floors and planning accordingly makes sense as well.  

Not in charge of flooring at your workplace?  Then manage what you DO have control of.  Reduce your personal risk for a slip and fall. When rain or winter weather are in the forecast adapt your footwear.

Choose slip-resistant footwear with these characteristics:

  • High friction material
  • Larger heel contact surface
  • Tread patterns across the width of the sole to channel water away from your step

Adjust your walking style:

  • Take shorter strides with slightly flexed knees, keeping your center of gravity more stable
  • Leave a few minutes early to allow for a slower pace
  • Be aware of the walking surface and conditions
  • Have your hands free for balance; carry items in a crossbody bag

Consider your usual footwear inside and out:

  • Does the sole have traction on the surfaces you travel?
  • Does it contribute to a stable center of gravity?
  • Is your foot properly secured with laces or straps?
  • Would traction enhancers be helpful outside?

Take action when you recognize a slip hazard:

  • Promptly clean up any spilled liquids or other contaminants
  • Use “Wet Floor” signs where applicable
  • Use plenty of salt and sand outdoors in freezing weather

For more information, check these resources from EHS Today, Occupational Health and Safety, and previous Safety Net posts from Peter Koch entitled, “Stay SAFE from the Winter Slip and Fall” and “What’s on Your Feet This Winter?” 

 


MEMIC's Safe Gift Guide

Nothing is better than having a loved one come home safe, that's why we asked some of our Safety Management Consultants to share their top gift choices for the holiday season.

"It's gotta be the shoes," says Peter Koch. Peter isn't talking Air Jordans, the premier holiday gift of 1988, he's discussing the timeless necessity of slip and fall prevention. Like car tires, your shoes keep you firmly attached to the surface and there are many different tread types designed for the specific environmental conditions you may encounter. The deeper and more widely spaced the tread pattern, the more loose material - like gravel or snow - it can accommodate and still contact the stable surface below.  Because there are fewer contact points with the surface, this tread pattern isn’t great for hard wet/oily surfaces like tile or concrete. A deeply scored, but closely spaced tread pattern can readily squeeze out liquids and provide more surface area for contact with the surface underneath. Conversely, there is little room for bulky materials in the tread, allowing clogging and limiting friction. For those of you who don't love this excuse to buy more than one pair of shoes for the different conditions you encounter, you can look into traction enhancers that can be put on and taken off.

Tony Jones agrees on the importance of footwear, "When your feet hurt, you hurt all over." Tony offers tips on how to find the right fit. Not many people know it's best to buy shoes late in the afternoon when your feet are more likely to be swollen and at their maximum size. Selecting shoes made of leather or canvas, rather than synthetic materials, can also help in avoiding athlete's foot.

Ladders are like shoes says Scott Valorose, one size does not fit all and choosing the right kind of ladder for each task is important. If you see someone using a stepladder the wrong way, like folded and leaned in place of a straight ladder or using an aluminum ladder around electricity, then a gift of the right kind of ladder could literally be a life saver. Remember to choose a ladder that is capable of supporting not just their weight but also the weight of any tools, materials, and equipment they will be using.

Scott and Peter both agree that cut resistant gloves are a must-have for anyone who spends time in the kitchen around knives. For better kitchen ergonomics, Peter also recommends adjustable or telescopic handled scrubbers, dusters and sweepers to avoid overextending your reach or needing a ladder. That way no one can make an excuse when it is time to clean up after the holiday party that they are too short, tall, big or small.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow - if you have the right snow shovel says Allan Brown. Consider a shovel with a bent handle, this will reduce the amount of bending you’ll have to do when shoveling. Plastic is lighter than metal, so go light; the snow will provide plenty of weight and if the snow is so heavy you are worried it will bend or break the shovel then you are lifting too much weight. For that special someone who refuses to hire a professional for anything, get a roof rake for snow removal says Rod Stanley and declare the roof a no-go zone. For someone who uses a snow blower in the winter or a lawn mower in the summer, hearing protection is another must-have to prevent ear damage says John DeRoia (also useful for large, noisy family gatherings). For anyone hitting the slopes, the best accessory to match your skis or snowboard is a helmet says Peter.

At MEMIC, we believe safety truly is the gift that keeps on giving, so you can always find more safety tips right here on the Safety Net Blog all year round.

Santa safety net gift guide


HO! HO! HO! Gift Wrapping and Lifting Tips for the Busy Elf

 CampaneriaPosted by: Natalie Campaneria, PT, MPH, CSPHP with contributions from Allan Brown and Maureen Anderson

Choose the best place to wrap your gifts and away from prying eyes.

BEST: Standing using a work surface that is 36-42” high (kitchen bar/island, a folding table with risers or counter) provides a good height for working while standing.  Standing allows you to move freely and avoid strains that can occur when over reaching.

GOOD: Sitting on a chair at a table is ok, but try to avoid reaching too far away to get supplies, cut the full length of paper or wrap large items standing up if you have to reach.

AVOID: Wrapping gifts on the floor; this puts excessive strain on your back and causes awkward reaching and sitting postures.

Gather all your supplies and place conveniently nearby to reduce reaching...

Pic 1 - Wrapping

…such as presents, wrapping paper, ribbon, tape and scissors so you aren’t running around looking for materials.                

The need to repetitively reach across the table for these items can put stress on the low back.

Tight on Space? Consider pulling out a kitchen drawer and covering it with a cookie sheet or pan with sides, then place all of your supplies such as scissors, tape, ribbon, tags in the pan so you aren’t searching for them while wrapping.

Cutting and taping: Avoid Sawzall and Duct Tape.

Consider investing a few dollars and get the best tools for the job like this wrapping paper cutter, spring loaded scissors and weighted tape dispenser. The cutting tools reduce the stress on the hand and fingers.  The tape dispenser allows you to retrieve a piece of tape with one hand while the other hand is holding it all together.

Paper 3

Use gift bags and avoid a lot of the fancy folding and cutting.

Gift bags decrease the time you need to wrap gifts and eliminate the need to reach for paper, scissor, tape, etc.  Oversize bags are great for large or heavy items.

Take an eggnog break to change posture and stretch… grab a cookie too!!!

Take a stretch breaks every 20-30 minutes.  Open up your shoulders and take a few back bends.  Go for a little walk.

Don’t be a messy elf and clean up as you wrap. 

Scraps of paper and ribbon on the floor create a slip and fall hazard (as well as too much mulled wine).

Gift Lift Guidelines:

  • When bending and reaching, fire up your core muscles and bend your knees. Keep your head above your buttocks when bending.
  • Anything over 35 pounds is a two elf lift.
  • Over 50 pounds get the John Deere or just put a bow on it and leave it where it lies.
  • When putting packages under the tree avoid unsupported long reaches. Pad your knees when kneeling, place one hand on the ground and position lighter gifts with the free hand.
  • When you stand up, reset your body and take a few back bends.
  • Avoid over shoulder reaches when putting the star on top of the tree. Get a ladder or step stool to keep the job below shoulder level. When the ladder has printed on the top rung “this is not a step” it means, this is not a step. Falling into the tree will only “delight” the tree, if you know what I mean.

Have a very happy and safe holiday season!