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April 2017

More than Love Handles

Beth-Stowell-lg2 Posted by Beth Stowell, BS, MPH, COHN‐S, CHSP

Emily Post’s book of etiquette indicates that a gentleman should put his hand under a women’s elbow as she steps off the curb to prevent any risk of falling. This courtesy may have started as early as the 1800’s with ladies’ large petticoats.  At the time, who would have thought about the potential damage this support could cause to the shoulder girdle?  In the 21st century this is a concern, particularly to caregivers in the healthcare industry.

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket held in place with ligaments.  Tendons then connect muscles to the skeletal structure.  As we age, this overused joint can be damaged by helpful loved ones and/or caregivers.  We may not only need help stepping off the curb, but rising out of a chair, moving onto a toilet, and getting into the car.

The shoulder girdle is not designed for the stress incurred when the arm is used as a “handle” to raise a person out of a seated posture.  This is hazardous to both the resident/patient and the caregiver.  MEMIC has long recognized the injury exposure “lifting” places on healthcare workers.  Preventing lifting injuries to both caregivers and patients starts with eliminating the act of “lifting”.

The traditional gait belt was used by physical therapists to help guide and assist patients when re-learning to ambulate. Over the years, caregivers have mutated its use into handles for assisting patients/residents to a standing posture.  In January 2016, MEMIC committed to provide our healthcare industry policyholders a different type of gait belt.  We call this product the Safe Assist Belt (SAB).  The SAB includes vertical handles on a wide padded belt with slip resistant material on the inside.  The padding makes it much more comfortable for the patient/resident, and the handles allow a more neutral wrist posture.  However, it is not just the vertical handles and padding that is significant.  The SAB is intended to replace the traditional gait belt, but also requires a new method to assist residents/patients. Now the mechanism to elevate a seated person is a push/pull using the legs and not a “lift” which required the use of the bicep and lower back. 

The new device requires training for all caregivers.  The training not only addresses the change in technique, but an explanation as to why this change will improve the safety of the caregiver and improve quality of care for patients/residents. Training the frontline caregivers is rewarding as they learn the technique and realize this new tool makes their job safer and easier. Changing the technique comes with challenges.  A new habit must be developed.  However, taking the lift out of the maneuver is imperative.  Below you can see the” right pull” and the “incorrect lift”. 

For further assistance with training, including a demonstration video, check out the resources in the MEMIC Safety Academy or contact your MEMIC Safety Management Consultant.


Pic 1The "right pull" technique.

 Pic2The "incorrect lift." 

Bloodborne Pathogens – When is a Program Required?

SylvesterPosted by Rob Sylvester, CEHT

A Bloodborne Pathogens (BBP) program is a given for healthcare organizations, but what about other industries? Requirements may apply to more than just bloodborne pathogens.  OSHA identifies a host of “other potentially infectious materials.” Taken directly from CFR1910.1030:

Other Potentially Infectious Materials means

(1) The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; 

Many of you may be thinking, “My employees don’t come into contact with that stuff!Generally, if you work in a machine shop or a grocery store you would be correct, but there may be exceptions. For example, an employee, visitor, or customer cuts themselves. The injured person is unable to clean up their own blood as they were whisked off to the urgent care clinic. Who then is responsible for cleanup?  How about your designated first responders or those providing first aid? If so, they are covered by the standard. Injuries like these are fairly common, and the business disruption while the cleanup takes place can be significant. Safe and expeditious cleanup comes from personnel thoroughly trained in proper cleaning methods and personal protection. 

Housekeepers in the hospitality industry may also be covered by this standard. It’s likely that these workers will encounter human body fluids while cleaning hotel rooms, bathrooms, and other public spaces. OSHA’s letters of interpretation don’t dictate either way, but put the responsibility on the employer to make this determination. Providing awareness training is prudent in this case. You can find additional letters of interpretation here

In closing, ask yourself this simple question: “Is there a reasonable expectation that employees will come into contact with blood or other potentially infectious materials?” If the answer is “no” then a program is likely not required. If the answer is “yes”, or even “maybe” then a program compliant with CFR 1910.1030 is required.

MEMIC customers have access to program templates and training located in the Safety Director along with additional training in the Safety Academy. Additional information is available from your MEMIC Safety Management consultant, your broker/agent, third party consultants, or OSHA/DOL Consultation Department.


Ergonomics and Mobile Workers

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

“Increasingly, work is something people do rather than a place people go.”

This common saying probably doesn’t surprise you. Many of us are already using technologies to work away from the office.  In fact, many of us don’t even have offices anymore!  The laptop, tablet, and smartphone have revolutionized the way we work. 

But with these changes new problems have arisen.  Terms like Text Neck, Smartphone Elbow, and Blackberry Thumb have entered our vocabulary.  New ways of working have introduced new ways of injuring ourselves.

Ergonomics explores the boundary between people and their environment.  The application of ergonomic principles helps fit the workplace to the worker.  In the realm of mobile workers, ergonomics is even more important.  The most common mobile devices are laptops, tablets and smartphones.   Here are some hints for using these technologies:


Separate input from viewing by using an external keyboard and mouse.  Prop up the monitor at eye-level.  To transport a laptop, use a backpack style bag that distributes the weight over both shoulders.   


If possible, don’t hold a tablet for more than 20 minutes of continuous use.  Use a stand with an external keyboard if necessary.  Three common ways of gripping a tablet are clipboard, flat palm, and thumb grip. Alternate between the grips every few minutes.


Mobile worker

Think about head posture!  To keep your head upright hold the device at chest height or slightly higher.  This will fatigue your arms, so cross one arm over your chest to support the weight of your arm holding the smartphone.  This fatigue is also a good cue to take a break.  Keep interactions with the smartphone short but sweet – under five minute durations.  Save those longer interactions for your desktop computer.  Also, use text alternatives such as voice input to reduce the motion of the thumbs. 

For more information on this subject, join us for Ergonomics and Mobile Workers, a free webinar for MEMIC policyholders on Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 10:00 a.m.

What is a JSA and Why is it Important?

Hawker Posted by Tonya Hawker

Are you struggling with integrating safety into daily work routines?  Are you looking for ways to incorporate safety and health principles into key performance indicators?  If so, or you need a way to improve safety accountability in your work environment, then Job Safety Analysis (JSA) is your answer.  JSAs are a proven process for effectively improving workplace safety and production efficiency.

A Job Safety Analysis, also referred to as Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), is defined by OSHA as a process that examines individual job tasks by breaking the job apart into specific tasks with an eye towards hazards and controls.  The evaluation process observes the connections between the worker, task, tools, and environment.  After identifying the hazards, the user can take the appropriate steps to prevent injuries by controlling those hazards.  The JSA offers an excellent method for clearly outlining safe and efficient work processes while developing effective expectations.

Completing a JSA is simple, but it is important to “know the job.”  The more clearly a worker understands the job, the more useful the JSA will be.  Here are six steps to consider when completing a JSA:

  1. Select the job to be analyzed. It is best to prioritize the jobs based upon operational relevancy and hazard level.
  2. Break down the job into a sequence of steps. Consider recording video or taking pictures of the process.  This can be useful for training.
  3. Document each job task in the process, beginning each step with an action verb.
  4. With each step in the process, ask the 5 Ws: “Who, What, Where, When, Why.”
  5. Discuss all steps with the worker(s) performing the job task. The best way to develop the JSA is by actually observing the worker(s) performing the task as they would ordinarily be instructed.
  6. Collaborate with the worker(s) to review the job steps and confirm if the steps continue to be the safest and most effective methods. Reviewing the JSA with the worker helps to uncover useful details regarding how the task is performed, but also why it is done in a certain manner.  This process also helps to grow employee satisfaction, loyalty, and validation.

JSAs not only help prevent injuries through safe/efficient work practices, they offer many other benefits including:

  1. Better defines job descriptions and identifies physical tasks required.
  2. Improves new hire orientation, job performance and safety training priorities.
  3. Enhances safety performance and employee morale.
  4. Improves OSHA compliance.
  5. May increase productivity and efficiency.

Better processes make a safer workplaces, and that means improved production, better morale, and higher profits.  For more information, MEMIC customers can click here to enroll in our April 27, 2017 webinar entitled, “JSAs: What are they and why are they important?”