Hiring Practices

Holiday Stress Shouldn't Compromise Order Fulfillment Safety

Eric Grant 2014 Posted by: Eric Grant, CSP

A customer placing an order and the processing of that order is the true nature of business!  It is getting very close to Halloween and we all know that Thanksgiving is next.  For many businesses, this realization means the busiest time of the year is right around the corner. Many rely on this "peak" season, generally Thanksgiving Day to December 24th, to generate a large portion of the year’s profits.

On Thursday, October 23, MEMIC will present a webinar that covers the major elements of processing these customer orders. Businesses need to service the customer and deliver on-time, but must do so without suffering workplace injuries.

The webinar will cover best practices and offer suggestions and make recommendations associated with following elements:

  • Seasonal Hiring - The hiring of employees to work for a short duration in physically demanding jobs can create problems for these peak dependent businesses.
  • Customer Service - Call centers can be a busy and stressful environment. The need to consider office ergonomics and respond to pain or discomfort is crucial.
  • Replenishment - Starting at the loading dock, moving into the high bay racking, and ending up on the floor for picking. The handling of cases is critical and a major cause of injuries.
  • Warehousing - Fullness in warehousing creates unsafe conditions and promotes unsafe behaviors. Management of your inventory and proper usage of your space is important.
  • Powered Industrial Trucks - Many pieces of equipment are necessary to handle and manage the volume. Unfortunately, they are heavy and move fast in tight spaces, often in close proximity to pedestrians.
  • Picking - Selection of product to fill individual orders requires miles of walking, material handling, and exposes employees to upper extremity ergonomic risk factors.
  • Packing - Putting all the pieces of the order together accurately while making it look presentable to the customer is a stressful task that carries a high amount of physical demand and injury exposure. Ergonomic risk factors are the leading cause of injury in industry today.

Regardless of the size of your business, many organizations are planning for the 2014 Holiday Season. This requires months of planning and can be a very stressful time for all involved.  Being prepared, focusing on your exposures, and implementing a quality injury prevention program can reduce the impact of this season. It can also go a long way in providing a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season at work and at home!

Please register for the MEMIC webinar available from 10:00–11:00 am EDT on Thursday, October 23, 2014.


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!

Is Your Business Ready?

Darnley Dave Posted by David Darnley

Hurricanes, floods, wind damage, heat waves, shootings, and domestic terrorism – all events that have happened this year. Is your business ready?

MEMIC recently archived an August webinar entitled Is Your Business Ready?, which is designed to help our clients prepare, write, test and improve their own “all hazards” emergency response and business continuity plans.  This webinar is available to policy holders at MEMIC’s Safety Director.

The federal government provides excellent resources on the website, “Ready.gov”.  You can access templates to prepare a Risk Assessment, Business Impact Analysis Worksheet, Business Continuity Resource Requirement Worksheet, Business Continuity Plan Worksheet, Emergency Response Resource Requirements Worksheet, and Emergency Response Plan

Additional information on emergency planning and protecting people from natural and human-caused disasters can be found at other sites on the web including these:

OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response

FBI Workplace Violence Response

Federal Emergency Management Agency


Transportation Leads the Way

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

In 2010, 4690 U.S. workers died while on the job.  Although this represents a 3% increase from 2009, both years continue an overall downward trend in workplace deaths.  For example, in 1994 there were 6632 workers killed.  This trend is good news for all of us, yet over 13 people still die each day at work.   

Take a look at the pie chart below to see the manner in which fatal work injuries occurred.  With this knowledge you may be able to address specific issues at your workplace in order to mitigate the hazards.  It’s pretty easy to see what is killing most people:  40% of fatalities were transportation incidents.      
Transportation Graph
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2012

Ask yourself if your employees drive either company cars, vans, trucks, heavy machinery, or their own personal vehicles during the course of their jobs.  If the answer is “yes” then a fleet plan should be developed to ensure the safe operation and condition of all vehicles.  There are many elements to a comprehensive fleet plan and each organization’s would differ slightly.  However, they should all include policies regarding driver’s license checks, vehicle inspections, maintenance programs, traffic law responsibilities, and driver safety training and education. 

Check out the Safety Director Resource Library at MEMIC.com for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       


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 bwallace@cmcc.edu.

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?

Hiring Practices That Make Smart “Cents” for Safety

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

As the sluggish economy begins to heat up rendering a more favorable business climate, cost conscious employers looking to grow their workforce need to be even more vigilant to their hiring practices.  The search for a suitable fit can be an exhaustive exercise for a small business owner as well as for an HR professional in a large corporation.  Finding and hiring the right person demands that safety be at the forefront of the decision-making process.  Here’s why:

According to the Business & Legal Reports safety website, workplace injury statistics reveal that new employees are 5 times more likely to experience a lost-time injury in the first month of employment compared to the experienced worker.  Additionally, studies show that 40 percent of all workers injured on the job have been at it less than a year.  

 Given these facts, ensuring the safety of the “newbie” is of utmost importance, particularly where a business’s greatest asset is its people.  Equally, smart hiring practices and new employee safety orientation translate to preservation of the bottom line.

Proactive loss control measures in hiring should include:

  • Post-offer, pre-placement physical exams, especially for physically demanding job positions.
  • Written job descriptions that detail the physical aspect of the work tasks. 
  • New employee orientation and training on the equipment and tools associated with the job, emergency evacuation routes, location of first-aid kits, MSDSs, and items such as fire extinguishers. 

Most occupational health providers offer pre-placement physicals for a nominal fee. These are designed to determine the functional capacity of the individual.  The written job description stipulating physical demands can also be used in determining light duty activities for an injured employee with temporary work restrictions. 

Use of an orientation checklist while showing the new hire the safety features of the workplace can serve as documentation of the facility safety tour. 

As a timesaver, MEMIC has assembled a number of training checklists including an employee safety orientation form in the on-line MEMIC Safety Director resource library.  (Note: MEMIC Safety Director requires user registration and is exclusively for MEMIC customers.) For additional resources on hiring practices, click on the Human Resources link under the bold heading Action Plans on the Safety Director’s home page. 

Young workers, old story: Too many injuries

The special health section in Monday's Boston Globe featured a cover story about an issue important to every parent and, hopefully, every employer: workplace safety for young workers, particularly teenagers.

We know that inexperienced workers are twice as likely to be hurt at work as experienced employees. And, of course, by their very nature, teenagers are inexperienced. Couple that with the fact that they are often hired to do jobs with inherent danger and you have a potential tragedy.

What's the answer? Well, in part, it's training and supervision. And yet, this is reported in Elizabeth Cooney's story from the Globe:

When researchers from the Teens at Work Project interviewed 208 teens under age 18 who had been injured at work from 2003 through 2007, about half said they had no safety training. About 15 percent said there was no supervisor on site when they were hurt. Almost a quarter said they had no work permit.

This is inexcusable. If you have teen workers, make sure they get the training they need. And if you're a parent of a teen worker, ask them about safety. Have they been trained? Is someone supervising them when they are engaged in potentially dangerous tasks?

Work teaches lots of valuable lessons, but if the lesson comes from a workplace injury, its price is too high.

Maine construction subcontractor law gets an emergency update

Mike_2749 Posted by Michael Bourque

If you attempt to closely follow the laws around subcontractors and workers' compensation, you have been busy. This is an active area in nearly every state in country. It's confusing to some and confounding to many, but it's important. If you misjudge whether or not your relationship with subcontractors actually makes them your employees for purposes of workers' compensation, you can end up paying premium you didn't expect to pay. If your work is closely tied to competitive-bid contracts, this can be a significant problem that won't show up until it's too late to recover your costs.

As we insure nearly 20,000 employers in Maine, we watch these laws closely, and provide input to our elected representatives and regulators where appropriate. Last January, a new law in Maine came into effect regarding subcontractors in the construction industry. In an attempt to close loopholes and the make a level playing field, the new law created a new 12-part test to determine whether a subcontractor should be treated by their general contractor as an employee for purposes of workers' compensation. While the test itself appears to based on good policy, the administration of the new law for those who want to prove that they meet the test (and therefore are not considered the general contractor's employees) was unwieldy and bureaucratic. Not surprisingly, in difficult economic times, it became clear that an unintended hurdle had been placed before the entire industry.

And so, the Legislature asked a group of contractors representatives as well as representatives from the Maine Workers' Compensation Board and from MEMIC, to weigh in with a solution to this problem. The result (LD 1815) was signed into law last week by Governor John Baldacci. As emergency legislation, it took effect immediately.

The new law makes it possible for subcontractors to get "predetermined" by the Maine Workers' Compensation Board to be independent (not employees) under the new law. This predetermination, once approved, would be portable for the subcontractor to use as evidence with the many general contractors with whom the sub may work. It will also be valid for one year, provided the nature of their work and their contractual relationships do not change. The change means that the Maine Workers' Compensation Board can (and now has) provide a form that is considerably less intrusive (the old form asked for three years of tax returns as well as a list of customers).

If you work in the construction industry in Maine, you should keep your eye on this issue.  Whether you're a general contractor or a subcontractor, make sure you know where you stand.  Your insurance agent is a good resource for you. Most insurers will ask that you provide copies of approved predeterminations or certificates of workers' compensation insurance for any of your subcontractors.

To read more about the new law enacted in January, you can got to MEMIC's alert on the issue.  It was mailed in December and has recently been updated.

Can GPS enhance Fleet Safety?

Klatt Randy  Posted by Randy Klatt

Technology is everywhere in the 21st century.  This includes Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that are now compact, affordable, and easy to use.  If you operate a fleet of vehicles it might be time to look at GPS for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is safety.

Workers are more likely to die on the job from auto crashes than any other occupational hazard.  There are many steps that can be taken to improve the safety of a fleet operation including the review of driver’s motor vehicle records, requiring documented vehicle inspections, conducting recurring driver training, and employing DOT physicals.  However, employers cannot control the conditions in which employees are driving, or be with them at all times to ensure they are obeying traffic rules or following company policies.  Here is where GPS offers some help.

You can now actually know if your vehicles are exceeding speed parameters you have set.  You can instantly see where all your trucks, vans, or cars are located and their current speeds.  Dispatching, schedule changes, and responding to emergencies all becomes easier and more efficient.  Determining an ETA (estimated time of arrival) is no longer a guess; customers will appreciate this accurate information.  More efficient responses will also mean less temptation for drivers to exceed speed limits, especially since they know their movements can be seen.  For those who have hours-of-service restrictions, GPS can be used to ensure accurate reporting and log keeping.   

GPS can be used to run an operation both more efficiently and with a greater degree of safety.  Maintenance costs can be reduced as vehicles are actually being driven with more care.  This allows companies to make disciplinary decisions when necessary and reward those drivers who are doing the right thing.