Small Business

A Healthy Bottom Line Means Healthy Employees

Allan Posted by Allan Brown

In today's business world we are faced with escalating healthcare costs. Employees are asked to contribute more to the cost of their healthcare policy and employers are providing wellness programs and incentives to change behavior and ultimately improve employee's health and reduce costs. Smart investments can work to bring these costs down, as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This remains true in health and workers' compensation. MEMIC prides itself on partnering with employers to create safe workplaces so injuries don’t happen and helping employees recover from injury as quickly as possible. Changing workplace culture by emphasizing prevention helped bring workers’ comp costs in Maine down by more than 50% and lost-time injuries down by about 40% since MEMIC’s inception in 1993.[i]

Preventing injuries still remains a primary focus but has become more complicated as the percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The adult obesity rate in the United States has more than doubled in 20 years, from less than 12% in 1991 to more than 27% in 2011.[ii] Studies have shown what common sense knows: the range of medical treatment and time to recover are all greater for obese employees, with medical costs being three times higher in the first year and five times higher at 60 months.[iii] This is one reason why MEMIC has begun helping employers meet this challenge and in the past 3 years we have focused on expanding  the traditional emphasis of workplace safety to include ergonomics and wellness.

You don’t have to be a big company to be serious about employee wellness. In many states, like Maine, employers with 20 or fewer employees are allowed an annual tax credit for comprehensive workplace wellness programs.[iv] Putting a focus on employee wellness does not need to be expensive or time consuming. You may have heard people say “Sitting is the new smoking.” Something as simple as doing regular stand and stretch breaks can be a great place to start. See my other post about the little things that can cause back pain: http://memicsafety.typepad.com/memic_safety_blog/2012/05/the-little-things-can-cause-back-pain.html

 

Here is a list of workplace wellness program resources:

WellSteps has free webinars, presentations and tools as does the National Wellness Institute.

(Note: national groups like National Wellness Institute and WellSteps may have local partners with dual membership like Lifeline Center for Workplace Wellness or Wellness Council of Maine.)

WELCOA (The Wellness Council of America) has free resources like case studies, presentations, surveys and samples.

The American Heart Associations’ Fit-Friendly Worksites Program has a free worksite wellness toolkit and employee resources, such as an online activity tracker, walking and exercise programs, and healthy eating resources.

National Business Group for Health offers resources and represents large employers' perspective on national health policy issues.

Partnership for Workplace Mental Health works with businesses to ensure that employees and their families living with mental illness, including substance use disorders, receive effective care.

National Health Awards offers descriptions of award winning employee health promotion programs.

Scoping paper by the Australian Government: “Overweight and obesity: implications for workplace health and safety and workers’ compensation

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) offers a variety of resources including Healthier Worksite Initiative, National Healthy Worksite Program and Workplace Health Promotion.

  Stretchbreak1



A New Year's Resolution we can all benefit from... Improve your Safety Program

EricGrant Posted by Eric Grant


As we begin 2013, if you are like most people, you have probably made a New Year’s Resolution.   Consider the same for your business and more specifically, your injury prevention program.

Consider these ideas or brainstorm with your safety committee and/or leadership team:

  • Focus on company specific exposures - Work with your agent to review injury claims and loss runs.   Refer to your OSHA 300 log to determine areas of opportunity.
  • Develop a formal safety training agenda - OSHA compliance is a start but should not be the finish. Remember 15% of claims are associated with unsafe conditions, but 85% are caused by unsafe behaviors.
  • Conduct quality Event Investigations - Determine root cause and take corrective actions. Remember, look for the Facts, not Fault and operational involvement is key to an effective program. (Visit the MEMIC Safety Director for program materials)
  • Utilize your resources - Internal (supervisors/experienced workers, safety committee, leadership, HR) and external (MEMIC loss control, state consultation services, private consultants, your insurance agency). 
  • Recognize and reward positive behaviors - Consider implementing a formal program that reinforces positive actions taken by employees at all levels.
  • Pre-plan activities with a focus on safety & injury prevention - Have you considered implementing a Job Hazard Analysis Program? This may be the year to get it done!
  • Provide leadership accountability training - Integrate safety with business goals.  Management commitment is one of the foundations of a comprehensive health and safety program.
  • Explore ways to increase employee involvement - Examples include safety committees, routine self-inspections, participation in training agendas, and company sponsored activities/programs.
  • Implement a formal routine self-inspection program - What does OSHA want from businesses? Identify hazards and correct them! Get out there and inspect your workplace and implement follow up corrective actions. 

Reduce injury claim frequency and severity by implementing these nine objectives and communicating them as part of a formal SMART Goal.  To learn more about SMART goals, check out a 2008 Smart Goal posting from the Safety Net, or search online, keyword- SMART Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely).

Have a Happy, and SAFE, New Year!


Is Your Business Ready?

Darnley Dave Posted by David Darnley

Hurricanes, floods, wind damage, heat waves, shootings, and domestic terrorism – all events that have happened this year. Is your business ready?

MEMIC recently archived an August webinar entitled Is Your Business Ready?, which is designed to help our clients prepare, write, test and improve their own “all hazards” emergency response and business continuity plans.  This webinar is available to policy holders at MEMIC’s Safety Director.

The federal government provides excellent resources on the website, “Ready.gov”.  You can access templates to prepare a Risk Assessment, Business Impact Analysis Worksheet, Business Continuity Resource Requirement Worksheet, Business Continuity Plan Worksheet, Emergency Response Resource Requirements Worksheet, and Emergency Response Plan

Additional information on emergency planning and protecting people from natural and human-caused disasters can be found at other sites on the web including these:

OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response

FBI Workplace Violence Response

Federal Emergency Management Agency

 


Transportation Leads the Way

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

In 2010, 4690 U.S. workers died while on the job.  Although this represents a 3% increase from 2009, both years continue an overall downward trend in workplace deaths.  For example, in 1994 there were 6632 workers killed.  This trend is good news for all of us, yet over 13 people still die each day at work.   

Take a look at the pie chart below to see the manner in which fatal work injuries occurred.  With this knowledge you may be able to address specific issues at your workplace in order to mitigate the hazards.  It’s pretty easy to see what is killing most people:  40% of fatalities were transportation incidents.      
Transportation Graph
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012

Ask yourself if your employees drive either company cars, vans, trucks, heavy machinery, or their own personal vehicles during the course of their jobs.  If the answer is “yes” then a fleet plan should be developed to ensure the safe operation and condition of all vehicles.  There are many elements to a comprehensive fleet plan and each organization’s would differ slightly.  However, they should all include policies regarding driver’s license checks, vehicle inspections, maintenance programs, traffic law responsibilities, and driver safety training and education. 

Check out the Safety Director Resource Library at MEMIC.com for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       

 


Seven Key Slicer Errors to Avoid

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

I never realized just how dangerous a meat slicer could be; but 20 years later I can still see the scar.  According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry, between 2000 and 2004 more than 700 workers were injured while using a meat slicer.  I guess I was ahead of my time.  While working for a small family owned restaurant I committed one, well more than one, of the seven key slicer errors, and in an instant, became a statistic.

Seven Key Slicer Errors:

  1. Operating the slicer with the blade guard removed.
  2. Leaving the slice thickness set to anything but zero when not in use.
  3. Pushing the food into the blade with your hand.
  4. Slicing pieces that are too small for the food pusher.
  5. Cleaning the slicer with the blade spinning.
  6. Cleaning the slicer with the power cord plugged in.
  7. Taking your eyes off the slicer when it is in operation.

For me it was #5 and #7.  My penance was eight stitches and nerve damage to my left pinky finger.  Not a good trade off for what little time was saved.

This is by no means a complete list. However, to avoid injury when using or cleaning the meat slicer always:

  1. Read the user manual and complete required training before operating the slicer.
  2. Inspect the equipment to ensure all safety devices and parts operate smoothly and efficiently.
  3. Pressure the product being sliced with the weight handle/food pusher Use the slicer in manual mode before selecting automatic.
  4. Follow all manufacturer and company instructions for cleaning the slicer.
  5. Set the slice thickness to zero when finished slicing and before cleaning.
  6. Turn off AND unplug slicer before cleaning.
  7. Wear cut resistant gloves when operating or cleaning.

Remember, before your start; take a MEMIC Minute for slicer safety.  Check out these links on slicer safety and PPE:


Do Your Employees Work on "Live" Electrical Parts?

Eric Grant Posted by Eric Grant

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E 2009 Updates & 2012 Edition

Few topics in the safety training world generate as much confusion and emotion from trainers and trainees as the arc flash protection requirements of NFPA 70E. I personally have found myself in a room full of engaged participants as they learn the requirements of NFPA 70E, often for the first time.  I remember the "buzz" that was created from the 2009 update.  Safety Professionals were told OSHA would increase inspections/citations regarding NFPA 70E, so the requests for program development, implementation, and training began to rise dramatically. NFPA 70E has seen eight (8) updates since 1979 with the 9th update planned for 2012.

The following is a summary of the Report on Proposals for NFPA 70E.  You can download a copy of this report (244 pages) for free and/or purchase the NFPA Standards by visiting www.nfpa.org.

  • Addition of the word "inspection".  This requires protective measures for inspection duties along with installation, demolition, operations, and maintenance.
  • Arc Rated (AR) will replace the term Flame Resistant (FR).  Not all FR clothing has been tested for electrical arcs.
  • Retraining shall be provided at least every three years.
  • A new section that defines excavation work.
  • Tables that clarify AC & DC systems.
  • Revisions to the current equipment labeling requirements and specific requirements for the labels themselves.
  • Hearing protection requirements.
  • Adding an Arc Flash Boundary to an existing table.
  • Additional PPE requirements (i.e., a sock hood when working in a Hazard/Risk Category 2 area.)

While writing this blog, an internet search produced multiple articles on NFPA 70E, the 2009 update, and the proposed update for the 2012.  For more information about NFPA 70E visit the MEMIC Safety Director at www.memic.com .

Have a great 2012!


Got Occupational Safety and Health Specialists?

Dodge John Posted by John Dodge

Where is the new generation of Occupational Safety and Health Specialists? Employers may be asking this question soon.

A report from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) informs us that demand for safety, health and environmental professionals is strong.  A recent NIOSH study indicates that employers plan to hire at least 25,000 SH&E professionals over the next 5 years, and only about 12,000 new graduates are expected to be available. Clearly the rest will come from non-traditional students and people seeking a career change.

Let's find and mentor these people!  Please recommend the MEMIC Center for Workplace Safety at Central Maine Community College. CMCC's Occupational Health and Safety credit courses and workshops are waiting for aspiring safety professionals or current safety & health practitioners seeking to improve their skills. Please contact the MEMIC Center for Workplace Safety’s Bryan Wallace at 207.755.5282 or at bwallace@cmcc.edu.


Lift-Gates can help or they can hurt; choose safety

Jones Tony Posted by Tony Jones

Recently an incident involving a delivery truck lift-gate resulted in an employee suffering an amputated great toe. The employee’s foot was caught in the pinch point between the lift-gate and the body of the truck while loading for a delivery. 

It seemed lift-gate safety might be a worthy subject for a safety blog subject.  An internet search reveals numerous lawyer advertisements for lift-gate and general work related injuries, accident case studies, and safety recommendations for lift-gate use. Clearly, accidents involving lift-gates, while not necessarily frequent, can be very costly to workers, employers, and manufacturers.

I’ll break down the significant information into four parts for your review: equipment considerations, pre-operations, operations, and special considerations.

Equipment Safety Considerations

  • Self-leveling lift-gates are available that keep the load level to prevent dropped cargo.
  • Consider a lift-gate with a remote control that can be operated while standing on the gate or on the ground, whichever is better in the current circumstances.
  • Consider lift-gate cart-stops, these devices pop up from the lift-gate surface and prevent cargo from rolling off.
  • If you are purchasing a new truck with a lift-gate, tell your vendor that you want the truck body floor, crash plate, sill, and liftgate to form a uniformly flat surface so freight will roll easily in and out of the truck.
  • Know the weight of your freight and lift-gate capacity. Do not overload. Over-buy capacity when purchasing a lift gate. If your carrier requires 2,500 lbs capacity, buy 3,000 or more. It gives you some good margin.

Pre-Operations

  • Maintain the lift-gate according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Read the lift-gate operator's manual and follow the directions. Pay special attention to the safety warning decals. Make sure the decals are in place and legible.
  • Visually inspect the lift-gate daily as part of the vehicle’s trip inspection and report any deficiencies. Maintain lift-gate per manufacturer's instructions. Do not use the lift-gate if there are signs of abuse, or it fails to operate properly.
  • Before running the lift-gate loaded, run it empty through its full range as a "pre-trip" to verify that it will provide a good landing area for the freight that will be rolled off it.

Operations

  • Before freight is loaded, put the right wheels or devices under or on it for safe handling. Use the cart's wheels and handles to better control the item. Use a Johnson bar to put a pallet jack, tripod dollies, or platform dollies under the item.
  • Secure top-heavy loads with strapping preventing the item from tipping or rolling off the end.
  • Consider a ratchet strap into your E-track at the rear and on both sides of the truck. Run it outside the truck to the end of the lift-gate and use it like a seat belt around the item to keep it upright and on the gate.
  • Consider a hand winch secured to a load bar inside the truck and run a strap around the item. Push the item out of the truck onto the gate, while controlling the exit by winching out slack.
  • Personnel should not ever attempt to put a piece of freight in motion that is beyond their ability to control once it starts moving. Get extra help if you need it.   
  • If crews are in a hurry to get a lift-gate load off the truck, take that as a sign of a problem.  If rushed, workers can become distracted. Workers should be focused on the lift-gate zone, without distraction, at all times.
  • Workers should be trained to keep an escape plan in mind. Be prepared to run or jump out of the way to keep from getting hurt yourself. Never... Never... Never sacrifice yourself for the freight.
  • Set the vehicle brakes and wherever possible, operate the lift-gate on a level surface.
  • Work out communication and routines between co-workers, including a “ready” signal without which the gate is not started.
  • If you have by-standers, insist that they must keep their distance.

Special Safety Considerations

  • Never use the lift-gate for any purpose other than to lift or lower cargo from the truck (i.e., never use as a personnel lift).
  • Keep hands and feet clear of all pinch points. There is, in fact, a huge shear or pinch point exposure, during lift-gate operations. Take particular note of where the lift-gate and the truck bed meet. Feet and hands are particularly vulnerable, during raising and lowering of the liftgate.
  • If you are unloading curbside on a busy street use safety cones to block the lane and create safe space in which to work. Wear reflective safety vests. Use truck flashers and safety lights to mark off the edges of the liftgate.
  • Make sure the platform is not slippery (e.g., oil, rain, ice or snow). If raining, cover the freight, with a waterproof tarp wrapping it around the freight like you would a furniture pad or shrink wrap. Secure the covering with large rubber bands used by household goods movers. Knowing the shipment is dry allows personnel to take time for cautious use of the gate.

Lift-Gate-truck


The Cleanup: Don't let Irene do more damage

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

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 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 as 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 will transfer the risk and protect your most valuable resource, your employees.

If some level of cleanup at your operations is to be done with a chainsaw, you should complete a job hazard analysis which will help you review hazards and controls with your operators. For a sample job hazard analysis form, go to MEMIC Safety Director, or try this link to the OSHA website.


Chemical communication: Revised OSHA regs in September

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

OSHA is in the final rule stages of revising its Hazard Communication Standard -- commonly referred to as the “Right-To-Know” regulation -- to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  While the GHS itself is not a standard or regulation, it is a system that defines and classifies chemical hazards adopting a standard set of rules for communicating physical, health, and environmental hazards through a uniform format.  

The purpose of GHS is to promote efficiency between countries and government agencies in disseminating chemical hazard information to users.  For example, in the U.S. manufacturers and importers of chemicals are required to comply with multiple sets of regulations from agencies such as OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The benefits of GHS include improving worker health and safety, facilitating trade, reducing costs, and enhancing emergency response to chemical incidents.

Currently, U.S. employers using chemicals, chemical mixtures, and other hazardous substances are required under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to have a written program, ensure proper labeling of containers, acquire and maintain material safety data sheets, and inform employees through training on the hazards of the chemical products/hazardous substances used or encountered in their workplace.  The revised HCS will preserve these elements but adapt them to the GHS system.

For example, material safety data sheets will have a standard 16 section format as opposed to today’s variation (some having 9 sections or more) and the word “material” will be dropped.  Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and labels will be required to have signal words such as “Danger” or “Warning” along with hazard pictograms depending upon the class and category of hazards.

OSHA’s final rule on the revised Hazard Communication Standard is scheduled to be published in September.  A two-year transition period has been proposed for training with a three-year period for full implementation.

To meet the updated standard, employers should be prepared to:

  • Acquire a GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheet for each chemical in their inventory and re-label chemical containers;
  • Update their written hazard communication program; and
  • Train employees on changes to the standard. 

For more information on the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication go to http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/global.html and http://blog.msdsonline.com/ghs-answer-center/ .