Distracted Driving Messages Abound

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

Distracted Driving Messages Abound… We Mean You!

The public service messages regarding safe driving are just about everywhere. On billboards, electronic signs, and bumper stickers we see reminders to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, and put down the cell phone. The question is this: Is the message getting through?


Each year there are approximately 1.7 million injury crashes in the U.S., and 2015 and 2016 saw significant increases in the number of traffic fatalities. It doesn’t sound like drivers are getting the message, does it? These crashes take a terrible toll on individual workers, families, and employers across the country. With an economic toll in the hundreds of billions it is also a significant business concern. 

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What should employers be doing to protect their most valuable assets… their workers? Create a fleet policy that covers all employees who drive company vehicles or their own vehicles on company business. Include:

  • annual motor vehicle record checks and set strong requirements to qualify to drive
  • electronic device policies that significantly limit or prohibit use while driving
  • regular vehicle inspections
  • ongoing maintenance requirements
  • ensure vehicles have safety equipment and adverse weather gear when needed
  • ongoing driver training

Setting a policy is the easy part. Ensuring employees follow the policy is another issue. Cell phones certainly provide instant communication, access to sales staff, customer service excellence, and other efficiencies. However, the dangers of driving while using the phone are well documented. Employers cannot demand productivity levels that are only possible if workers use phones while driving. Don’t fall into the “do as I say and not as I do” trap. In 2011, The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on electronic devices while driving.   

Safe driving is all about physics. Speed, distance, time… drivers can’t allow themselves to become the victim of the laws of physics. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination, follow all traffic laws including speed limits, and allow adequate following distance between vehicles.  A car travelling at highway speed is moving about 100 feet per second. There simply is not enough time to make decisions and react to an event on the road if your car is only a few feet away from the car in front of you. 

As we approach the Labor Day weekend and the end of summer, there will be plenty of people on the road. Some will be in a hurry, some will be distracted, many will be tired, and some will be impaired.  We owe it to ourselves, our employers, and our families to stay alert and “arrive alive."

Check out the resources available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety,  and the National Safety Council

Don’t Let Solar Events Eclipse Safety

It’s been almost 100 years since the last coast-to-coast total solar eclipse, so there is plenty of reason to be excited for the big event on Monday. But don’t let a once-in-a-lifetime solar event eclipse everyday safety.

Watch safely. Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to stare at the sun? NASA offers some great tips on how to use solar filters and viewers to enjoy the solar eclipse without damaging your eyes, including where to find reputable vendors. Thinking about vision safety and protective glasses is not just important when looking at the sun, there are plenty of things you do around the home that necessitate eye protection – tasks like spraying cleaning chemicals or pesticides; mowing the lawn, clipping bushes, cutting tree limbs; or using any power tool to cut, grind, or drill.

Drive safely. Expect a lot of traffic this weekend and Monday. Be prepared for delays by planning extra time into your trips so you’ll be less inclined to rush and make poor decisions due to stress. Drive defensively and expect more distracted driving.

Walk safely. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten used to people being distracted while looking down at their phones, people literally fell off clips during the Pokémon craze, now add to that people being distracted looking up at the sky. Yes, distracted walking can be deadly, especially when it meets distracted driving.

The most important thing is to just be mindful, don’t get caught up too much in the excitement that you ignore common sense. There is no reason a once-in-a-lifetime event should become an end-of-a-lifetime event.


Table Saw Safety

HawkerPosted by Tonya Hawker

The table saw is one of the most widely used woodworking machines in today’s manufacturing processes due to its versatility, efficiency, and ease of use. Table saws can rip wood, cross cut, dado, miter, bevel, and even cut shapes and edging to create the finest of wood products. However, if not used properly, the table saw can be one of the most dangerous tools in your “tool box.” The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) estimates there are an average of 38,000 table saw injuries annually. These injuries vary from simple lacerations to serious amputations which can cost millions of dollars in medical care and lost wages.

Table Saw

What can you do today to protect table saw users? Most importantly, you need to repair/replace any substandard equipment, offer applicable training, and enforce safety expectations. Consider the following safety tips for optimum table saw operation.


  • Avoid loose fitting clothes - keep long sleeves above elbow, DO NOT WEAR GLOVES
  • Wear ear and eye protection
  • Be sure table saws are securely fastened to the floor and do not wobble
  • Be sure blade is sufficiently affixed and tight
  • Check blade guard and anti-kickbacks for proper operation, and check alignment of the riving knife (riving knife is preferred over standard splitter)
  • Inspect wood before sawing - don’t cut wood with knots, warps, or twists


  • DO NOT start the saw with the blade engaged or touching the stock
  • Always keep blade guard, riving knife, and kickback paws in place unless impossible (dado cuts)
  • Be sure there is plenty of out-feed support at the back of the saw table
  • Keep the saw table free of any other items
  • ALWAYS use a “push stick” to guide smaller pieces toward the blade (your hands should NEVER be near the blade)
  • Never reach over a moving blade
  • Don’t saw freehand
  • Use a miter gauge or a sled for crosscutting and the rip fence for ripping
  • Never back a board out of a cut
  • Always stand to the side of the blade when cutting, not directly behind the blade
  • Unplug the saw whenever you perform a blade change or adjustment that puts your fingers in close proximity to the blade
  • Always use dust collection system to control wood dust accumulation


  • Keep the saw blade clean and sharp
  • Unplug the table saw when making adjustments/maintenance

By the way, there are several OSHA and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards that when followed will adequately protect employees from table saw injury. Unfortunately, these standards are often violated by employees and not enforced by management. OSHA’s Machine Guarding standard (29 CFR 1910.213) addresses table saw operation, and in 2005 the CPSC required that new table saws include a riving knife and modular guard to further prevent these injuries. 

On April 27, 2017 the CPSC went a step further in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) requiring table saws to include advanced safety features that will limit injury to human flesh. The CPSC didn’t specify the manner in which the saw will do this, but did set a limit of a 3.5mm cut to a finger when contacting the spinning blade at one meter per second. It is presumed that technologies similar to what is currently available from SawStop will become the industry standard should this rule be adopted. Considering recent litigation between SawStop and Bosch over patent infringement this could be a long drawn out issue with no clear resolution. Regardless, the issue of table saw safety is clearly in the national conversation which should be beneficial to all users. 


You are in charge of your own destiny!  The choices you make will define your results… so make the right choice!

Additional information is available from OSHA in the Machine Guarding e-Tool and the Guide for Protecting Workers from Woodworking Hazards publication.      

Only You Can Prevent… Skin Cancer!

Koch Posted by Peter Koch

These sunny summer days are great. The bright summer sun gives us light, energy, and increases our vitamin D production. However, the same sun that gives us so much can be a hazard for outdoor workers. What are the hazards? Beyond heat stroke and dehydration, the ultraviolet light from the sun can also be hazardous.  Even though we all react differently to sun exposure, statistics show that the stronger the source and more frequent the exposure, our risk of melanoma or skin cancer will increase.

The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be more than 87,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2017. They also forecast that around 10,000 people will die from melanoma this year.   Lastly, since 2009 there has been a 20 percent increase in new cases of melanoma.

What can you do as an employee? Remember the Smokey Bear slogan about forest fire prevention, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires”? Well, only you can prevent skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation and the Canadian Dermatology Association have published some great information on prevention. Heed the warnings and take these preventative measures: 

  • Cover up – wear loose clothing, long sleeves and pants
  • Protect your eyes – use UV protective eyewear
  • Cover your head, neck and ears – wear a wide brimmed hat or a hard hat with a brim and use a neck flap
  • Take your breaks in the shade – get out of the sun when you can, especially between 11am-3pm, when UV is the strongest
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm – use at least an SPF 30 broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen and don’t forget to reapply
  • Be skin safe – report changes in skin spots and moles to your doctor as soon as possible – early detection is important

You would think that with all of the information out there, we would take precautions and this alarming trend would begin to decline. However, according to a small scale survey from the Skin Cancer Foundation, only 51 percent of men reported using sunscreen in the last 12 months and 70 percent did NOT know the warning signs of skin cancer. With these survey results, you can imagine this terrible trend in new cases and deaths from melanoma will continue.

What can you do if you’re an employer?

  • Educate
    • Inform your staff about sun exposure hazards
    • Provide resources to get their attention
  • Provide Opportunity
    • Allow staff to take breaks in the shade
    • Provide ways to create shade where none is occurring naturally (like road construction)
    • Help staff find reasonably priced sunscreen or provide some to them
    • Help staff find reasonably priced clothing that can help block UV rays
    • Consider modifying schedules to limit work during the times when exposure is greatest

If we work together as employer and employee we can help reverse the trend. Here are a list of resources that can help you get started.

Skin Cancer Prevention for Outdoor Workers

Prevention Strategies

Sun Safety and Outdoor Workers

Resources for Outdoor Workers

CDC – Sun Safety

MEMIC Safety Net

Gravity Has A Hold On You

BerthiaumePosted by Richard Berthiaume

Fall-related construction worker fatalities are on the rise despite focused inspections and training, increasing 36% from 2011 to 2015 according to the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR). This increase outpaced an increase in construction employment and total industry fatalities.

Employment in the construction industry climbed to 10.3 million workers in 2016, a 16% increase from 2012 states CPWR. Meanwhile, the construction industry experienced a 26% increase in overall fatalities from 2011 to 2015. A total of 367 construction workers suffered fatal falls in 2015.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics includes other findings: 

  • 55% of fatal falls came from heights of 20 feet or less.
  • 33% of fatal falls involved falls from roofs; 24% involved ladders; scaffolds and staging accounted for 15%.
  • Roofers had the fourth highest fatality rate of all civilian occupations in 2015.

Richard Blog

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) states falls are the leading cause of death among construction workers, accounting for 37% of deaths in the industry.

Fall prevention and fall protection strategies are commonplace today, but clearly not every employer is compliant with federal OSHA standards or industry best practices.  Requiring employees to be protected 100% of the time should be the rule, not the exception. 

The statistics are staggering and emphasize the need to reduce falls and the importance of ongoing safety awareness training in the construction workforce.  The need for production should never outweigh the need to stay safe on the job site.

Check out these additional resources from Stopconstructionfalls.com, the OSHA Construction eTool, and The Center for Construction Research and Training



Crystalline Silica: Not Just Fun in the Sand

BadgerPosted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OHST

Although many of us like to spend our summers with our feet in the sand, we should all remember that one of the major components of sand can be a major health hazard for those that are exposed to it.

Crystalline silica is the second most common mineral in the Earth’s crust and is found all over the world. Silica actually can be in one of three forms - Quartz, Cristobalite, and Tridymite. Quartz is the most common form and is found in many of our everyday building materials.

When workers chip, grind, saw, or cut materials that contain silica, small “respirable” pieces can be made that can be easily inhaled. While larger pieces of silica are filtered out in our nose and trachea, respirable silica can continue down our respiratory tract and become lodged in our lungs. These microscopic particles are responsible for the health hazards associated with exposure to silica.

Between 1968 and 1992 approximately 20,000 employee deaths were associated with exposure to silica in the workplace. These deaths were caused by silicosis (a scarring of the lung tissue caused by silica), lung cancer, and kidney disease.

Silicosis is the most common disease associated with silica exposure. It can take 15-20 years to develop chronic silicosis with low to moderate exposures to silica, but it can take only a few months to a few years of high exposures to develop acute silicosis.

Because of the increased understanding of the health effects of silica exposure, OSHA introduced a new standard in 2017 to reduce employee exposures. Regulation 29 CFR 1926.1153, which goes into effect on September 23, 2017, contains many new requirements for the protection of employees who are exposed to silica:

  • The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) will be reduced from 100 ug/m3 to 50 ug/m3 for an eight hour Time Weighted Average (TWA).
  • Airborne silica exposures to the Action Level of 25ug/m3 will trigger closer employee monitoring to ensure that the PEL is not exceeded.
  • Table 1 in the standard addresses specific work tasks with potential exposures to silica and the engineering and work practice controls required to reduce airborne particles.
  • New medical monitoring criteria for those employees exposed above the PEL.

Do you want to know more about the new OSHA standard for silica? MEMIC customers in Maine can register to attend one of the Silica Training Workshops to be held by MEMIC Loss Control in Scarborough (August 29, 2017) or Bangor (September 26, 2017).  Additional silica information can be found in our previous three-part silica standard Safety Net Post written by Luis Pieretti, PhD, CIH, CSP.  

OSHA’s Silica webpage contains further information about the upcoming enforcement of this new standard, sampling methods, fact sheets, Table 1, and frequently asked questions. 


Keeping Teens Safe on the Job

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP

Many states have laws allowing teens as young as 14 years old to work in the hospitality industry in seasonal workplaces like movie theaters, amusement parks, bowling alleys, and some parts of hotels and bakeries.  These jobs can teach great work and life skills, but we all need to make sure safety is being adequately addressed.

As 8th and 9th graders, these teens haven’t taken a Job Safety 101 class and are likely to learn through the school of hard knocks without appropriate training, supervision, and safeguards on the job.  While child labor laws preclude minors from working with hazardous equipment, parents are usually required to sign a work permit and should have a conversation with their teenagers about safety and protection in the workplace.  Here’s a list of questions parents should ask their working teen about the workplace:

  • How was your first day/week?
  • Did they talk about safety and job hazards?
  • What do you like most about the job? What do you like least?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the work you are doing and the tools you are using? Do you feel properly trained?
  • Are you working with any chemical products and, if so, have they discussed how to work safely with them?
  • Are you lifting anything heavy (either up off the floor or from a high shelf)?
  • Are the floors in good condition and kept free of debris, grease, or water?
  • Is the workspace at a comfortable temperature?
  • Did they show you what to do in case of an emergency?
  • Did they tell you what to do if you get hurt at work?
  • Do you feel you're under pressure to work faster?
  • Do you feel comfortable asking questions?
  • Do you feel comfortable saying “no” to doing something that seems unsafe or you don’t feel properly trained for?

As nurturers of America’s future, parents have a vital responsibility to ensure their child is safe on the job for good reason.  According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each year in the U.S. an estimated 158,000 teens are injured on the job and of that number 53,000 will go to the ER for cuts, bruises, sprains, burns and even broken bones, concussions, and amputations.  In fact, teens are injured twice as often as adults due to inexperience with the job tasks assigned to them.  Causal factors include working with unsafe equipment, stressful work conditions, inadequate safety training, and lack of proper supervision. 

NIOSH has developed a Youth@Work-Talking Safety curriculum that’s customized for each state according to specific child labor rules and regulations.  They also have a video titled Teen Workers: Real Jobs, Real Risks that features a story of a teenager whose lifestyle was permanently altered from a traumatic injury while working on an unguarded ice bagging machine.  The video reveals an implicit trust between teens and adults making it difficult for a young worker to speak up and ask questions and appear that they don’t know something.

Clearly, parents need to take an active role in the job decisions of their teens by asking questions about training and supervision, any required clothing and protective gear, and also to be observant for signs of physical or mental stress.  OSHA’s Young Workers – You have rights! site offers resources for parents and educators as well as for young workers and employers.  Developing work skills as a teenager should be a safe and rewarding experience, and parents play an important role in ensuring this outcome.    


Let Posture Be Your Guide

AndersonPosted by Maureen Graves Anderson, M.Sc., CPE

I took up a new sport, speed skating.  This is the short-track version where you wear long-bladed skates to speed around a hockey rink.  Think Apollo Ono and the Winter Olympics.  I am not an elite athlete nor do I like dangerous activities, but something in the sport drew me in.  In my mind’s eye, I am crouched over and flying around the corners.  As I skate, the speed is exhilarating!  But when my coach showed me video of my skating, I was crestfallen.  Surely, I was not that pokey person cruising along in an upright position?   I tell this story to illustrate the fact that we don’t always have an accurate perception of our posture.  

During ergonomic evaluations, I take a photo of the person’s posture while he or she works.  So often, the person is surprised by the photo.  He or she may be twisted, slouched, stretched or reaching, and yet perceive himself as having picture-perfect posture. 

Awkward posture is one of the biggest risk factors for ergonomic injuries.  Awkward postures increase the forces on the body, especially in the low back.  For example, a person picking up a pencil from the floor while bending at the waist has twice the amount of low back force as someone lifting a 40-pound load with good technique.

Awkward postures are often caused by a poorly designed workstation.  Some examples are desks too high, chairs too low, overhead reaches to shelves, retrieving items from below-knee level, and constrained spaces.  Unconscious behavior is another cause of awkward postures – crossing legs while sitting, slumping shoulders forward while standing, curling wrists inward while sleeping. 

Maureen1a Maureen2bSo how do we bring reality closer to our perceptions?  Mirrors can help, but are not practical in many work environments.  Improving your posture, and then noting reference points in the work area can be a simple and easy way.  For example, when I work in good posture, I see the top of my monitor aligned with the top of my cubicle, or when I walk from the parking lot to my building, my palms are facing inwards toward my thighs and not “monkey hands”.  Note how the hands are facing towards the back when in a slouched posture, and the hands face inwards or only a quarter-turn to the back when standing or walking with better posture.

It is not always easy to change unconscious behavior associated with poor posture.  Good working posture is a worthy goal.  I encourage you to review your own posture throughout the day. 

Maureen3When sitting, “neutral posture” is also the goal.  We won’t always be perfect like the drawing here, but eliminating the awkward reaches and twisting can make a huge difference throughout a workday.  MEMIC customers can check out all of our ergonomic resources in the Safety Director including videos and checklists. 




Ladder Safety

Hawker Posted by Tonya Hawker

Falls from ladders are a leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States.  According to the Centers for Disease Control statistics published in 2014, 43% of fatal falls in the last decade involved ladders.  Additionally, ladder use contributed to 20% of non-fatal injuries among the nation’s workers.  It’s not surprising to learn that the leading occupation impacted by ladder falls is construction.  However, the industry following close behind is “Installation, Maintenance and Repair” operations. 

Nearly every business in America includes some level of “Installation, Maintenance or Repair” activity in order to ensure productive and efficient processes.  Whether your industry is Healthcare, Hospitality, Manufacturing, or Construction--- Everyone uses ladders! 

To prevent ladder use injuries, employers should consider the following safe-use practices:

Ladder Condition

Inspect the ladder before each use and include ladders in general site safety inspection routines.  Any damaged ladders should be tagged and removed from service immediately.

  • Are all rungs and steps intact and in good condition?
  • Are steps clean and free of grease/oil?
  • Are support braces, rivets, bolts, and screws in place and secured?
  • Are sharp edges or splinters removed?
  • Are ropes on extension ladders in good condition (no fraying)?
  • Are spreaders and other locking devices in good condition and adequately secured?
  • Are safety feet in place?

Ladder Selection

Ladders come in all shapes and sizes, and different work environments require certain ladder types.  Choose the right ladder for the job! 

Ladder Length

  • Use stepladders for heights up to 20 feet.
  • Use one-section ladders for heights up to 30 feet.
  • Use an extension ladder for heights up to 60 feet. (sections must have overlap)

Ladder Rating- ratings are based on weight capacity (worker + equipment)

  • Type IAA (Extra Heavy Duty) = 375 lbs
  • Type IA (Extra Heavy Duty)= 300 lbs
  • Type I (Heavy Duty)= 250 lbs
  • Type II (Medium Duty)= 225 lbs
  • Type III (Light Duty)= 200 lbs (not recommended)
  • Label must always be attached to ladder


  • Don’t use a metal ladder near live electric wires or in corrosive environments.
  • Place the ladder on firm level surface.
  • Keep area surrounding ladder clear of trash, debris, tools, equipment.

Ladder Set-up

  • Extend a straight ladder three feet above the top support.
  • Anchor the top of the ladder to prevent displacement.
  • Secure the ladder footing or have someone hold the ladder secure.
  • Don’t rest a ladder on a window or in a door way.
  • Angle straight ladders at a 4:1 slope (distance from bottom to wall= ¼ the ladder’s working length)
  • Position an extension ladder before extending it.
  • Never use a step ladder (self-supporting ladder) as a straight ladder. Always fully open a step ladder.

Ladder Usage

  • DON’T stand on boxes, chairs or anything else. If you don’t have a ladder, get one.
  • Wear clean, slip resistant shoes.
  • Only allow one person on ladder at a time.
  • Always face ladder when climbing up or down.
  • Always keep three points of contact with the ladder.
  • Carry tools up on a rope or use a tool belt (don’t carry tools in your hands).
  • Never use multiple ladders at the same time, or in conjunction with each other.
  • Keep your body centered on the ladder (keep belt buckle between side rails).
  • Don’t move a ladder while standing on it.

Ladder injuries are preventable.  Human error is the leading cause of ladder injuries.  If you plan ahead, use the right ladder for the job, and train workers to use ladders safely these injuries can be prevented.  For more information on ladder safety, check out these resources from OSHA, Washington State DOL Ladder Safety Guide, Ask This Old House, and the NIOSH Ladder Safety App

  Ladder safety

It’s Road Construction Season Once Again

KlattPosted by Randy Klatt, WCP®

While many areas of the country experience road construction year-round, summer generally means an uptick in highway projects.  Summer also brings an increase in traffic as people head out on vacations.  This is especially true this year with the lowest July gas prices since 2005.  Combined increases in both traffic and construction poses obvious challenges for both motorists and construction crews.

Kids Safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2,054 workplace fatalities in 2015 involving transportation (42% of all workplace fatalities in 2015).  Roadway incidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians struck by vehicles accounted for 1,553 of those fatalities, and 130 of those fatalities occurred at road construction sites.  Total fatalities in work zones, including pedestrians and motorists not at work, totaled 700.  Needless to say, more focus is needed in an industry where workers on foot are intentionally placed in close proximity to moving traffic.

6a00e553697a6a883401b7c90769f3970bSource:  https://www.workzonesafety.org/files/documents/crash_data/Alliance_roadway_fatalities_graphic.pdf

Each year speeding is found to be the most common cause of traffic crashes.  Since nearly half of roadway fatalities result from employees being struck by moving vehicles a reasonable recommendation is to slow down!   Highway work zones often have reduced speed limits posted, and many states double the fine amount for exceeding those limits.  Motorists must be more vigilant when approaching construction sites.  Expect workers and heavy equipment to be moving around the site frequently and adjust speed accordingly.  Driving more conservatively will get you to your destination, and avoid the frustration and increased risk of a crash that comes with driving faster.  By the way, it will also save money in fuel and car

Following flagging personnel direction is also critical for everyone’s safety.  Flaggers have an important role and distracted or impatient motorists make the job much more difficult and hazardous.  Look for these workers along the roadway and expect stop and go traffic.  Leave a safe following distance between vehicles and avoid other distractions. 

Employers should be setting up work zones in accordance with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) and any applicable state supplements, or state MUTCD publications as applicable.  Ensuring flaggers are properly trained and equipped is also vital to safe operations.  Flaggers should never assume that motorists see them.  In fact, flaggers should assume that passing motorists don’t see them.  Stay out of the traffic lane and always be alert for oncoming traffic and never turn your back to oncoming vehicles.    

More information can be found from OSHA on their Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades webpage, the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  By working together this summer we can all enjoy the great outdoors and family vacations, and keep our road workers safe as they build and maintain our roadways.  Take your time, be courteous and patient, drive sober and well rested, and we’ll all Arrive Alive.