Get Schooled on Safety

CampbellPosted by Jennifer Campbell, WCP®

Schools are arguably the most important workplaces to ensure health and safety and can be the most challenging.  Schools need to track, prevent, and mitigate a wide range of incidents from cyberbullying to bomb threats.  They need to manage and properly store a variety of chemicals used for cleaning, art, science, and more.  They need to prevent and manage accidents and injuries to employees, students, and visitors.  They also must train their staff on a number of topics as diverse as Emergency Management, Nutritional Services, Security & Cyber Security, Social & Behavioral Issues, Special Education, Transportation, and more.

School staff, teachers, and administration deserve both tremendous respect and all the support they can get.  MEMIC takes our work with schools very seriously, so we have partnered with Scenario Learning, a leading developer of award-winning school safety and compliance training programs focused on schools. Every school we insure has free access to the SafeSchools Learning Management System.  MEMIC policyholders can find out more by registering for a February 8, 2018 SafeSchools webinar.  Contact Christine Collomy ( with your organization name, MEMIC policy number, contact name, phone, and email address.

Policyholders can also watch a MEMIC Safety Director Webinar on Demand about the 10 most common accident exposures for school employees.  Many of these are common exposures for any workplace and you can find safety tips for them right here on the MEMIC Safety Net Blog:

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!

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

Hang Up and Drive

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

On Tuesday December 13, 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on all portable electronic devices (PED’s) for all motorists.  The NTSB came to its recommendation after investigating a multi-vehicle crash in Gray Summit, MO that involved a driver who was texting. The crash, which occurred on Aug. 5, 2010, killed two people and injured 38 including children in two school buses.  The National Safety Council (NSC) made this recommendation many months ago and was quick to endorse this NTSB vote.

It is clear that drivers are frequently distracted by electronic devices.  Naturally this creates a safety concern not just for the distracted driver, but for everyone else on the road, in cross walks, and in construction work zones.  The NSC estimates 1.3 million crashes, or 23 percent of all crashes, involve distracted drivers using cell phones. “Quantifying crashes and fatalities involving cell phone use while driving is challenging due to several factors such as a driver’s unwillingness to admit the behavior and lack of witnesses. Additionally, cell phone use currently is not consistently captured on police reports. We are able to develop an estimate of crashes based on risk and exposure, but the problem could be much larger than we estimate,” says Janet Froetscher, NSC President and CEO. 

The links below offer the latest information concerning this topic.  If your employees drive as part of their work routine, then it is time to review your fleet plan and consider eliminating this risk.   

National Safety Council

National Transportation Safety Board Fact Sheet

Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?

If you lead safely, I’ll follow

Dodge John Posted by John Dodge

Last month I was speaking to a group of supervisors and middle managers about the role of the front-line supervisor in workplace safety. We discussed that in some organizations, workplace safety and health responsibilities are assigned to a safety committee or a safety coordinator. And in many cases, injury prevention efforts fall short due to the fact that safety committees and safety coordinators are limited in their authority and aren't always available to ensure safe work practices.

However, the front-line supervisor does have the necessary authority and availability to ensure safe work practices. Who better to evaluate work conditions, safe behaviors, and employee skill levels?

Unfortunately, some organizations do not assign safety related activities to their supervisors, or educate them on leadership skills - they are expected to already have these skills or to learn on the job. As a result, many supervisors rely on their technical skills rather than the all-important human and conceptual skills necessary to lead.

Technical skills-- knowing how to do a job--are critical for teaching and coaching employees while human skills such as honesty, communication, sincerity, motivation, respect, and ensuring safe work, are essential for effective leadership. Conceptual workplace skills such as organization, job preparation, and evaluating employee skill are equally essential.  Effective use of technical, human, and conceptual skills will help the supervisor foster a safe, high performance workplace.  

Want proof that you should work on your human skills? Ask your employees and fellow supervisors to name some traits of the best supervisor that they have ever worked for. Write them down and note how many fall into the human skills category-you may be surprised!

Want to know more about leadership in safety? Join MEMIC for a one hour webinar on January 19, 2011 at 11 a.m.

Does my company need a written safety and health program?

Dodge John 
Posted by John Dodge

This week a business owner asked me if he needed a formal safety program. His business employed 10 people and has been successful in preventing workplace injuries for several years. However, he felt some level of uncertainty about his informal safety and health efforts.

Following a brief discussion and a work site tour, it was evident that his organization had elements of a formal safety and health program: An organized workplace, well maintained tools and equipment, elimination of hazardous tasks, and availability of personal protective equipment.

I suspect that many business owners find themselves in a similar situation. They feel that they are doing enough to provide a safe workplace and if they have few injuries, why have a formal program?

I also suspect that some businesses owners feel as if their luck has changed- the informal safety efforts that have worked in the past are no longer working.

If you wonder why you need a formal safety and health program, start by asking these questions:

  1. How do my employees know that I expect them to work safely?
  2. How do I address unsafe work conditions before an accident or near miss?
  3. Does management understand that they are accountable for safe work conditions?
  4. How are employees trained to perform their job?
  5. Do my employees participate in the safety and health process?
  6. Am I compliant with regulatory safety and health requirements?

If you don’t have answers to these questions, a written safety and health policy will provide a definite course of action and a schedule of activities. There are various guidance documents available, but most will have these basic program elements:

  1. Management commitment and employee involvement
  2. Worksite analysis
  3. Hazard identification and control
  4. Employee training

To get started, I recommend MEMIC’s Seven Steps to a Safer Workplace guide. This document and other safety support materials are available on MEMIC’s Safety Director website.  You will quickly build a formal safety and health program and will eliminate any uncertainty about the effectiveness and consistency of your future safety efforts.   

Part 1: What Do I Really Need for a Respiratory Protection Program?

Posted by Donna Clendenning and Greg LaRochelle

So what’s OSHA’s stance on respiratory protection in the workplace? Does everyone need to have a program?  Does everyone need to wear respiratory protection?  The short answer is “no”. 

Now, here’s the longer answer. (And it’s worth reading because this standard is once again among the top five of OSHA’s most commonly cited standards.)

Whether you work in general industry, construction, or shipbuilding, OSHA’s Standard 29 CFR 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, is the first place to look to understand what the standard requires. Exceeding OSHA’s exposure limits where engineering controls are not feasible will dictate the required use of a respirator.  In this case, the general requirements for a respiratory protection program are the following:

Written Plan – Employers are required to have a written plan with the following elements along with having a named designated program administrator.

Medical Evaluation – A respirator, itself, can pose as a hazard due to the increased stress placed on the cardiopulmonary system.  A medical questionnaire form (Appendix C to the standard) needs to be completed by the employee with review by a licensed healthcare professional for determination of employee clearance for respirator use.  Oftentimes, this includes a pulmonary function exam conducted by the healthcare professional.

Respirator Selection – Respirators are selected based on the hazards that the employee may be exposed to while in the workplace.  The employer is responsible for identifying and evaluating respiratory hazards in the workplace to determine which type of respiratory protection is needed.  And, the employer is responsible for selecting respirators from a sufficient number of respirator models and sizes so that the respirator is acceptable to, and correctly fits, the user. Lastly, only NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health) certified respirators are to be used.

Simply Breathtaking: Managing the Costs of Asthma in Maine Businesses

LaRochelle Greg 2 
Posted by Greg LaRochelle

Asthma affects approximately 10% of the people in Maine. Asthma is a chronic disease that literally takes a person's breath away. Employees suffering from asthma or caring for a loved one with the disease are oftentimes faced with livelihood challenges that can have an impact on workplace productivity.

The Maine Indoor Air Quality Council along with other sponsors will be holding a half-day program entitled A Program on Managing the Cost of Asthma in Maine Business on June 25 at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. The program is geared towards business owners, human resource personnel, health and safety specialists, and wellness professionals.

Register online at Maine Indoor Air Quality Council.

Established in 1998, the Maine Indoor Air Quality Council's mission is to promote quality of life through improved indoor environments. Its membership includes a wide array of business professionals from the public and private sectors striving to make our life-giving air easier to breath.

So mark your calendars for this important event and register early as you'll likely find this program to be simply breathtaking! 

Risk Management Professionals Getting Down to Business in a Town Near You

Did you know that every spring thousands of risk management professionals gather for a five-day conference to network, learn, and discover the latest innovations in risk management? The organization responsible for bringing it all together is the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS).  And this year they’re bringing it to Boston, MA.

Founded in 1950, RIMS is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to advance the practice of risk management. They represent more than 3,500 industrial, service, nonprofit, charitable, and governmental entities, and they serve more than 10,000 risk management professionals around the world.

And in another week, they’ll be a stone’s throw away during their Annual Conference at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. From April 25-29, you can discover how fellow risk professionals like yourself are taking charge of the current business environment and implementing strategies to take advantage of future opportunities.

Part of the conference is the extensive exhibition hall where you can connect with current providers and meet new ones. Over 400 companies will be exhibiting at RIMS 2010 to showcase there newest products and services. Find out more about this exciting conference and their exhibitors by visiting

And if you do plan to attend, make sure to stop by and visit MEMIC at booth #719!

A Clear Observation of Organizational Culture

Clendenning Donna Posted by Donna Clendenning


Recently, I had the opportunity to provide back safety and core awareness training at two locations of the same healthcare organization.


The two locations were operated by two individual administrators and directors of nursing. The administrator of the first location has led her workforce for more than a decade. She is pleasant, open, positive, and an easy-going person.  Sixteen staff attended the training. They participated, and were generally vocal and engaged, and they had a lot of fun with the back safety quiz.  Team competition and a return demonstration of core muscle awareness and strengthening ended in a vivacious finale.  A basket of candies was passed around for the "winners" numerous times and everyone ended up with lots of positive reinforcement. The room was filled with cajoling, laughter, fun, and most importantly, learning. 


The second location had a similar number of staff attendees. This administrator is also a veteran of the organization whose leadership style is more business-like. While providing the same training content and style, the second group was quiet and more difficult to draw out.


What struck me most were the vast differences in communication and attitude between the locations, despite being one organization.  Among other things, in MEMIC's four-part leadership series workshop, we learn of the value of communication as it relates to performance.


Leadership is an activity, not a person.  Leadership comes not from titles, nor even necessarily from expertise, but from the relationships between those who choose to exercise leadership and those who choose to follow. These relationships may result from trust, shared visions or goals, sometimes shared pain, or mutual gifts of significance where leader and followers help each other feel an important part of something larger than them. Leadership draws its power from issues of the heart.


What I witnessed was the personal aspect of being a positive leader. The staff of the first location was clearly ready, willing, and able to do whatever it takes for the good of a common goal. The paycheck, or a reward, or a raise was not what learning was about for this group!


What culture are you growing in your business? Are you a leader of authority or a leader who draws their power from issues of the heart?