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November 2017

Excuse Me… Could You Repeat That?

Tony Jones 2014Posted by: Anthony Jones, RN, COHN

Recently, I was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in the higher frequencies. I had sought out the exam due to a family history, spending a large part of my career in high noise occupations, and a few noisy hobbies. The most obvious symptom was constantly asking people to repeat themselves. The end result was hearing aids and now I hear conversations better, music sounds great again, and I even heard the warning chirp indicating the brakes on the car needed attention. But nothing compares to our natural ability to hear the world around us. Protecting that ability is critical and not really very difficult. 

According to WebMD, “Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States. Hearing loss has a major impact on one’s quality of life, and relationships. About 48 million Americans suffer from some level of hearing loss.”

Hearing loss is not just an issue for older people. According to the Better Hearing Institute, the majority of people (65%) with hearing loss are younger than 65 years of age. Unfortunately, only about 13% of physicians screen for hearing loss during a typical physical exam. What are the effects of not dealing with hearing loss? According to studies outlined by the Better Hearing Institute the effects of untreated hearing loss can be:

  • Irritability, negativism and anger.
  • Fatigue, tension, stress and depression.
  • Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations.
  • Social rejection and loneliness.
  • Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety.
  • Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks.
  • Reduced job performance and earning power.
  • Diminished psychological and overall health.

So what is one to do? First take care of your ears and hearing. Hearing loss is often permanent, particularly the type of hearing loss caused by exposure to high noise levels. That means that hearing aids won’t be of much help. Lawn mowers, loud machinery, power tools, firearms, snowmobiles, music concerts, motorcycles, and sporting events all present a real insult to your hearing. If you can, move away from the load sounds since distance dramatically reduces the sound pressure. Use barriers or other muffling devices to further reduce noise. Lastly, always wear your properly fitted hearing protection around occupational and non-occupational noise.   

If testing determines a family member, you, or your employee has hearing loss, follow up with an Audiologist or a physician specializing in Ear Nose and Throat (ENT). This is essential and even required under the federal occupational standard. Refer to OSHA’s Hearing Conservation Publication 3074 for guidance and regulations regarding hearing protection in the workplace. In addition, check out the Better Hearing Institute website for further information. 

Studies have shown a significant relationship between hearing loss and quality of life. The job can be stressful and even hazardous, but occupational hearing loss does not have to be inevitable. We can’t fight all the effects of getting older, but if we take the right steps we can take care of what hearing we have. Wear your hearing protection when required and ensure everyone else around you is doing the same.

Hearing loss can mean missing a significant part of our awareness of the world around us. Don’t miss out on it just because you didn’t protect your hearing at work. Missing the subtleties of life can mean missing significant messages. After all, Errol Flynn once said, “It isn’t what they say about you, it’s what they whisper.” 

Crystalline Silica: Not Just Fun in the Sand Revisited

Stephen Badger 2014Posted by Stephen Badger, CSP, OHST

Although summer is now nothing but a distant memory and the beaches will be empty for months to come, we should remember that respirable crystalline silica is a major health hazard for those that are exposed to it.  November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate to review recent OSHA enforcement policies regarding crystalline silica.

As a reminder, crystalline silica is the second most common mineral in the Earth’s crust and is found all over the world even in the sand on our beaches. 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 can become 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 the silica.

Between 1968 and 1992 approximately 20,000 employee deaths were associated with exposure to silica in the workplace. These death 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) with low to moderate exposures to silica, but it can take only a few months to a couple of years of high exposures to develop acute silicosis.

Because of the increased understanding of the health effects of exposure to silica, OSHA introduced a new standard on September 23, 2017 beginning with compliance assistance in lieu of full enforcement.  On October 19, 2017 Compliance Safety and Health Officers began full enforcement of 29 CFR 1926.1153 that contains many new requirements for the protection of employees who are exposed to silica:

  • The Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) has been reduced to 50 ug/m3 for an eight hour Time Weighted Average (TWA).
  • Airborne exposures of silica to the Action Level of 25 ug/m3 triggers 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.

In June 2018, OSHA’s General Industry silica regulation, 29 CFR 1910.1053, will become law and require many of the same worker protections as in Construction. Two notable exceptions in this standard:

  • Employers have to include employees in their silica exposure control program if they exposed above the crystalline silica Action Level for 30 or more days per year
  • Employers have 15 days to notify effected employees of the results of any air monitoring

Want to know more about the new OSHA standards for silica? OSHA has numerous resources on their website including several Fact Sheets.  MEMIC customers can also access the Safety Director and its Resource Library as well as our archived webinar entitled Air Sampling Strategies. 

Vehicle Lift Safety

LaCrossPosted by Jeremiah LaCross

Vehicle lifts are widely used throughout the automotive service industry and are very effective pieces of equipment when proper safety procedures are followed. There are different types of lifts which include two-post surface mounted, four post, in-ground, mobile, etc. Each type of lift has specific safety procedures for safely lifting the vehicles.

Since 2007, OSHA has conducted several automotive lift inspections, 11 of which resulted from fatalities. Click here to read more about one of these fatalities.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a total of 15,000 workers were treated in hospitals for automotive lift, jack or jack stand injuries.

What are the employers responsibilities?

  • Ensure that annual inspections are conducted by a qualified lift service company.
  • Ensure daily inspections and proper operation of arm restraints, locking devices, shut off devices for over travel, lift controls, drive chains, wire rope, hoses, wiring, hydraulic leaks, floor cracks, and anchors.
  • Ensure that all users of the vehicle lifts are properly trained in the safe operation and maintain the training logs.
    • Many lift service companies provide training as an additional value added service.
  • Maintain all vehicle lift maintenance and/or repair logs.
  • Ensure a lockout/tagout program is in place for all vehicle lifts in the facility.

What are the operators responsibilities?

  • Immediately report any unsafe conditions identified during the daily inspection to your Supervisor.
  • Never use a vehicle lift without receiving proper safety training.
  • Always utilize all safety features per the manufacturer’s instruction.
    • Example: ALWAYS lower the lift onto the safety locks before proceeding to work under the vehicle.
  • Become familiar with vehicle lift points, which can be found in the service manuals and/or manufacturer’s instructions.
  • ALWAYS inspect the vehicle prior to lifting. Certain conditions may change the vehicles stability such as snow or ice buildup in a truck bed, a plumbing or mechanical van with excessive weight in the back.  
  • Maintain a clean work area to avoid slip or trip hazards that can cause injury.

What are some common violations that we see?

  • Failure to properly lower the vehicle onto the safety locks. This places the entire load force on the hydraulics, which creates a significant crush-by hazard should the hydraulics fail.
  • Failure to conduct vehicle lift safety training for all operators.
  • Failure to retain the proper documentation of the following:
    • Safety training.
    • Maintenance/repair logs.
    • Lift inspections.

More information regarding vehicle lift safety is available from the Automotive Lift Institute and the Automotive Equipment Technical Institute. 

Please reach out to your MEMIC Loss Control Representative with any questions or for further assistance.  

Office Ergonomics is Music to My Ears

LarochellePosted by Greg LaRochelle, WCP®

As a fan of most music genres, especially alternative and classic rock, several song titles come to mind that I believe fit nicely with the topic of office ergonomics.  Unlike the Billboard Top 100, these 12 songs are not ranked in any particular order but rather correspond to sound advice on avoiding repetitive stress or cumulative trauma injuries related to computer use.  And with a one and a two and a three…


  • Mighty Mouse by Tesla from the album Into the Now released in 2004: While the mouse is a mighty input device, it can be a source of significant stress to the wrist, forearm, elbow, and even the shoulder and lateral side of the neck. Keep the mouse in close proximity to the keyboard within short reach.  Consider using a vertically designed mouse to approximate a more neutral forearm posture.  Navigate into the mouse properties via the control panel to speed up the pointer motion speed from the default halfway setting.  You won’t have to wrestle with the mouse so much to move the cursor arrow across the monitor screen.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Not All Mice Are Created Equal posted in 2014

  • Codes and Keys by Death Cab for Cutie from the album Codes and Keys released in 2011: Use shortcut keys as a quicker and easier method of navigating and executing commands in software programs. Keep the keyboard flat on the work surface to minimize hand/wrist extension.  Consider using an ergonomic keyboard for a less constrained typing posture.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ten Tips for a Perfect Fit posted in 2008

  • The Big Screen by Travis from the album Where You Stand released in 2013: Monitor technology has come a long way from the days of the 15 inch CRT design. Large 24 inch screens help to spare the eyes from straining to see the display items.  When using two monitors, keep the primary monitor front and center or if both are shared virtually equally, mate them symmetrically with the centerline of the keyboard with roughly a 30 degree angle between the two.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Dealing with Dual Monitors posted in 2012

  • Far Away Eyes by The Rolling Stones from the album Some Girls released in 1978: To avoid a forward head posture (anterior head carriage) with torso flexion, position the monitor(s) within a range of 18 to 24 inches from your eyes. To reduce eyestrain, apply the 20/20/20 rule (for every 20 minutes of fixed gaze on the monitor screen, look at an object about 20 feet away for 20 seconds).

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You posted in 2015

  • Hold Your Head Up by Argent from the album All Together Now released in 1972: Depending on prescription eyewear, adjust the height of the monitor(s) to promote a neutral, upright head posture.  A ream of paper (2 inches thick) or two inserted under the base of the monitor is a frugal way to increase the screen height.  Use a document holder or inline adjustable angle copy stand to minimize downward head tilt.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Heads-up! “Text Neck” on the Rise posted in 2013

  • The Phone Call by The Pretenders from the album Pretenders released in 1980: The phone should be positioned on the side of the keyboard and monitor for the hand favored in grabbing the handset to prevent a crossover reach. Use a phone headset if cradling the handset between the neck and shoulder is a constant and prolonged task when conversing with the party on the other end of the line.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Sherlock Holmes, the Ergonomist posted in 2015

  • Someone Keeps Moving My Chair by They Might Be Giants from the album Flood released in 1990: Ah, the shared chair that someone adjusts to their own liking. Get to know the chair’s adjustment features such as backrest tilt and height, seat pan height, depth, and angle, lumbar support, and armrest movement to restore it back to a comfortable fit.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Ergonomics by the Seat of Your Pants posted in 2016

  • Blinded by the Light by Bruce Springsteen from the album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. released in 1973: Ambient light in the office environment is oftentimes too much, resulting in decreased contrast on the monitor screen. This can lead to the unconscious behavior of squinting and leaning forward straining the eyes, neck, and shoulders.   A small desktop task lamp can provide adequate illumination in a half-light ambience.   

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: See More with Less? Yes! posted in 2011

  • Within Your Reach by The Replacements from the album Hootenanny released in 1983: Applying the neutral zone principle to workstations establishes a boundary of 18 to 24 inches for the placement of most frequently used items such as the keyboard, mouse, phone, and pen & pencil container.  Less frequently used items such as reference books, desk organizers, and electric calculators should be situated within a secondary zone of 24 to 36 inches and slid closer when needed. 

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Enter the Neutral Zone posted in 2013

  • Get Up, Stand Up by The Wailers from the album Burnin’ released in 1973: Prolonged sitting leads to static muscle activity with reduced blood flow to the affected body area. A micro-break every 20-30 minutes in a standing position with stretching can help to reinvigorate fatigued, contracted muscles.   Consider a desk mount sit/stand unit or height adjustable workstation for a more dynamic work routine.   Remember the best posture is the next posture!

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Micro Breaks = Macro Benefit posted in 2010

  • Walk On by U2 from the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind released in 2000: Rather than bending to the side with an awkward extended reach to grab the copy off the adjacent desktop printer, connect to a more remote printer and walk on over to retrieve the document.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Walk On! posted in 2010

  • In the Lap of the Gods by Queen from the album Sheer Heart Attack released in 1974: Laptop use induces a constrained upper body posture with significant downward head tilt. For prolonged use, connect a mouse and keyboard (wireless or corded) and elevate the laptop on a stand or stack of paper reams to view the screen with a neutral head position.

            MEMIC Safety Net Blog: Laptop Ergonomics posted in 2012

For MEMIC policyholders with ergonomic dilemmas, all you need is…to click on this link to the Safety Director landing page to create a personal profile.  With a little help from MEMIC’s ergonomic resources, you’ll find solutions that make working a little better all the time.