Previous month:
December 2017
Next month:
February 2018

January 2018

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.



Slip and Fall Prevention – The S.A.F.E. Way

KochPosted by Peter Koch, WCP®

S.A.F.E. – Surface, Awareness, Footwear, Environment

This is the first post in a series devoted to slip and fall injury prevention.  A good portion of the country is faced with weather related hazards like ice and snow.  These can lead to slips and falls unless a conscious effort is made to avoid them.  Additionally, every work environment can present slip hazards, indoors or out.  Prevent slip and fall incidents by employing the S.A.F.E. approach. 

  1. Surface – Knowing your surfaces and their characteristics can help prevent slips and falls.  What is it made of, does it get wet or greasy, is it flat, is there more than one flooring type in the workplace, or are there worn or damaged areas?
    1. When the going gets slippery, go slow and walk like a duck, or penguin if you prefer.
  2. Awareness – What we do while walking can affect our awareness of surface condition and we might miss changes that have occurred. Being distracted, busy work environments, poor lighting, or carrying material that blocks our view of the floor can increase the possibility of a slip and fall. 
    1. The habits we develop at work can sometimes cause us to lose awareness. Do you often walk quickly?  Do you use your Smartphone while walking?  These activities can lead to the loss of awareness and a nasty slip and fall.
  3. Footwear – Your footwear is the link between you and the surface you walk on. Not all footwear is compatible with every surface.  Sometimes a shoe that is comfortable and great in the office is not very functional on the shop floor or vice versa.  Inspect your footwear by evaluating your duties, the surface, the footwear kind needed, what you are currently wearing, and the footwear condition.
    1. Kind – is the kind of shoe compatible with the surface? Does it provide support, cushioning, and traction on the surfaces you will work on?
    2. Condition – will the footwear condition provide the protection that it had when it was new? Check the soles, laces, upper, toe, and heel.
  4. Environment – Look around. What in your environment can cause a slip or trip? 
    1. Inclement or changing weather conditions can increase the chance of a slip and fall.
    2. Special situations such as child care areas, parking lots, and work areas with vehicular traffic can place unexpected hazards in our way.
    3. Can you designate walkways that are always kept clear?

Improving safety by eliminating slip and fall injuries starts with making workplace changes.  Where do you start?  Use the MEMIC resources found in the MEMIC Safety Director to evaluate and prioritize the surfaces in your workplace to start making changes.

Look for more Safety Net posts about the S.A.F.E. way out of slips and falls soon and get out there, go for a walk, and get familiar with the space under your feet.

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.        


Top Safety Posts of 2017

This year MEMIC is celebrating 25 years of our mission to provide the best workers’ comp insurance by focusing on workplace safety and the compassionate treatment of all workers. Every week we try to provide the most valuable workplace safety tips to our readers, here are some of our most popular posts of 2017:

Last January Dave Darnley offered winter slip, trip and fall safety tips, definitely worth taking a second look at this winter.

In February, Randy Morehouse said when it comes to personal safety - listen to your inner voice and Rob Sylvester asked do back belts prevent back injuries.

Also in February, Adam Levesque covered OSHA’s updated electronic recordkeeping rule and in March advised on selecting the right shoes for your workplace.

Also in March, Greg LaRochelle explained load limits for structurally supported surfaces and Tony Jones talked about when it might be effective to pour another cup of coffee to stay alert when driving.

In April, Tonya Hawker explained what is a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) and why is it important.

In May, Allan Brown described the safe lift zone and how to keep lifts between the knees and shoulders to prevent injuries.

Let us know what posts you found most helpful so we can continue to offer the most valuable information possible. Thank you for your readership and here’s to 25 more years of safer workplaces!