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!

Preventing Slips and Falls

Koch Peter 2 Posted by Peter Koch

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 294,620 employees suffered injuries from slips, trips, or falls.  Of these, 221,100 were from falls to the same level or slip or trip events. 

The National Floor Safety Institute or NFSI  reports : 

  • Slips and falls are the leading cause of workers' compensation claims and are the leading cause of occupational injury for people aged 15-24 years.
  • Compensation & medical costs associated with employee slip/fall accidents is approximately $70 billion annually (National Safety Council Injury Facts 2003 edition).

All slips and falls are preventable with a little planning and forethought.  Since we may have little control of the surface we tread upon, slip and trip avoidance depend heavily on YOU.  Your attention to your surroundings, what you have on your feet, and what you’re doing in the moment are all critical.

Consider the following areas when planning for prevention or analyzing a slip/fall event:

1)  The surface,
2)  The awareness or behavior,
3)  The footwear,
4)  The environment.

It is usually awareness/behavior that contributes the most to a slip or fall occurrence, but the best attack on slip and fall hazards is a combined evaluation of these four areas.

The following is a checklist and mnemonic when evaluating slip and fall hazards and developing a plan for preventing them.

  • Condition and lighting of the surface and pathwayBlog photo
  • Condition of the Footwear
  • Surface Encumbrances (obstacles, fluids)
  • Pitch and Condition of Stairs
  • Location and Condition of Handrails
  • Relevance of Pathway
  • Behavior/Condition of the Worker
  • Pace of Work in/around Pathway


This is not necessarily a complete list of areas to evaluate, so don’t limit yourself when trying to develop a plan for prevention or in post incident analysis.

So Take a MEMIC Minute and remember, ALL slip and fall events are PREVENTABLE!

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!

OSHA Eyes Combustible Dust Exposures

Webb Hartley  Posted by Hartley Webb

This year many wood product companies have requested assistance from MEMIC to help identify and control wood dust exposures and to develop procedures to comply with OSHA’s wood dust regulations.

According to a 2006 report issued by the Chemical Safety Board, there were 280 combustible dust fires recorded over a period of 25 years, resulting in 119 fatalities and 700 injuries. Unfortunately, it took a massive explosion at a Georgia sugar refinery in February 2008 that killed 14 and injured dozens of others to put combustible dust safety squarely on OSHA’s front burner.

Concentrations of small dust particles in the air can form a mixture that will explode if ignited. This type of situation may occur in dust collection equipment and overheated motors or sparks can start wood dust fires.

To assist you with OSHA’s requirements for identifying and controlling exposures to combustible dust please review this document.

OSHA also offers an e-tool that explains how to control wood dust exposures generated by commonly used woodworking equipment. This document is found at:

In addition, OSHA has developed a document titled Safety and Health Topics for Wood Dust that explains the OSHA related standards, how to recognize wood dust exposures, how to evaluate combustible dust concentrations, and how to control exposure.

An OSHA guideline document warns against overexposure to wood dust. Acute exposures to wood dust include eye and skin irritation, asthma, erythema (skin rash), blistering, erosion and secondary infections of the skin, redness, scaling, itching, and vesicular dermatitis. Chronic exposures to wood dusts can result in dermatitis reactions, asthma, pneumonitis, and coughing, wheezing, fever and the other signs and symptoms associated with chronic bronchitis. Chronic exposure may also result in nasal cancer.

Lastly, OSHA has a National Emphasis Program for Combustible Dust CPL 03-00-008 that was published March 11, 2008. And, in October 2009, OSHA published a status report on the results of the national emphasis program for combustible dust.


Who is the Authorized Employee for Lockout/Tagout?

Henry Reynolds  Posted by Henry Reynolds


Do you know who your authorized employees are?  Do you have employees performing service and maintenance on machinery without adequate authorized training and exposure controls?

Safety consultants often see employees performing servicing and maintenance activities on machinery and equipment without proper lockout compliance because the employer does not see some workers as authorized employees under OSHA's standard for controlling hazardous energy.   Examples are equipment operators, employees helping maintenance personnel, cleaners, lubricators, employees working with contractors, or supervisors evaluating work being performed on machinery. 

Here's OSHA's definition of Authorized Employee: A person who locks out or tags out a machine or equipment to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment. An affected employee becomes an authorized employee when that employee's duties include performing servicing or maintenance covered under 1910.147.

OSHA's 1910.147 lockout standard requires lockout compliance under the following conditions:  "1910.147 (a)(2)(ii) An employee is required to remove or bypass a guard or other safety device; or an employee is required to place any part of his or her body into an area on a machine or piece of equipment where work is actually performed upon the material being processed (point of operation) or where an associated danger zone exists during a machine operating cycle."

When evaluating your employees to determine who the authorized employees are, you must consider the terms “servicing and maintenance".

Lockout activities are mandatory during "servicing and/or maintenance". These include activities such as constructing, installing, setting up, adjusting, inspecting, modifying, and maintaining and/or servicing machines or equipment. These activities also include lubrication, cleaning or removal of a jam in a machine or equipment, and making adjustments or tool changes, where the employee may be exposed to the unexpected energization or startup of the equipment or a release of hazardous energy.

 Are your workers performing tasks that require lockout? Are they putting their bodies in harm's way if an unexpected energization of the machine occurs? Are they removing guards? If so, then we must reconsider who the authorized employees are. Failure to do so could lead to serious injury and even death.

MEMIC policyholders who need further assistance with your Lockout/Tagout program should feel free to contact your Safety Management Specialist at MEMIC or contact MEMIC Loss Control Department to ask for assistance.

Chalkboard with lockout

Operator's Manuals - Instructions Worth Reading

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted By Greg LaRochelle


These days, due to the global market and cultural diversity, manufacturers produce operator's manuals in several languages that are often confusing. You either find a folded sheet at the bottom of the box that opens into a poster-size layout of seemingly disjointed instructions, or a virtual tome of information that ends up being cast aside as you begin to assemble the product.


Of course, just jumping in knee-deep, in a manner of speaking, can lead to confusion, frustration, spare parts, and sometimes, bodily injury.  I recall a number of years ago, finding a product shipped in a container with a VHS tape that offered instructions on properly opening the container.  Think about that one for a moment.


That said, though we may have to skip a few pages to continue with the instructions in our native language, it's always prudent to take the time to read the information, especially any safety precautions that are included.  Usually, this section is highlighted and appears at the front of the manual. 


I visited a jobsite for one of my abatement contractors recently and was pleased to see the operation and maintenance manual for the newly purchased infrared floor tile lifter in plain sight.  It was obvious the manual had been "flexed" and reviewed prior to the crew using the machine.  Electrical needs and other safety precautions were clearly defined in the manual. 


It turns out that temperature and dwell time over a square of tiles was really important for this machine. Otherwise, the vinyl asbestos flooring could overheat to the point of thermal decomposition, rendering noxious airborne by-products.  Not to mention the potential destruction of material. It paid to read these instructions.


So, frustrating though they may be, take the time to read the manual – even if you already know how to open the box.

Are you NFPA 70E compliant?

Hartley Webb, a MEMIC Safety Specialist, tells me OSHA is inspecting and citing workplaces—under the General Duty Clause—that are not in compliance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E Standard. 

If your workplace has electricians, mechanics or technicians that work near live electric circuits (exceeding 50 volts to ground),  then they are at risk of electrocution as well as injury from arc blast and arc flash. If a tool or piece of equipment accidentally contacts live electricity, the “welding-style” flash that occurs is very hazardous. A pea-sized piece of copper expands as it vaporizes to a volume of over 36 cubic feet or the equivalent of two, average-sized refrigerators. The heat during this arc event reaches up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly four times the temperature of the Sun’s surface). 

Due to these hazards, the NFPA established procedures for working on or near energized electrical systems. These procedures are titled NFPA 70E – Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. The standard covers how to avoid and protect workers from electrical hazards during maintenance and installation procedures.

In part to keep pace with this national consensus standard, OSHA updated their General Industry Electrical Standard (1910 Subpart S) and published the final rule in the February 14, 2007 Federal Register. An excerpt from the summary follows:

“The Agency has determined that electrical hazards in the workplace pose a significant risk of injury or death to employees, and that the requirements in the revised standard, which draw heavily from the 2000 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces (NFPA 70E), and the 2002 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), are reasonably necessary to provide protection from these hazards.”

The regulation went into effect on August 17, 2007 and can be viewed at:

• Electrical Standard; Final Rule - 72:7135-7221

In addition, a 2009 update of the NFPA 70E is slated for release this September. The standard is not free and must be purchased. You can buy and view a summary of improved work practices and key changes to the standard on the NFPA website:

• NFPA 70E®: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, 2009 Edition

I’m sure this update will raise some questions about electrical work within your organization, but you need to temper potential frustration and look at it as "Are we, or aren't we, in compliance?"