Recognize and Reduce Manual Pushing and Pulling Hazards

Scott Valorose 2012 Posted by Scott Valorose

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, injury and illness cases requiring days away from work remained largely unchanged from the prior year, although overexertion rates increased.  Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) rates also increased compared to 2009.  Among others, these losses were experienced by laborers and material movers.

Are your personnel involved in manually moving, pushing, pulling, or transporting materials?  Have you identified these terms in the descriptions of any experienced losses?  If your answer is “yes” to either question, consider the following guidelines to recognize and reduce your hazards:

1. Look to, or better yet, at your employees.  In addition to any difficulties or problems your employees are telling you about, look for the following visual cues as they work:

  • Strained facial expressions – it’s possible that their facial expressions may be telling you that their efforts are high or demanding much of their physical capacity.
  • Leaning in to it – employees tend to stay more upright when force demands are low, but use their own body weight to get things moving when higher forces are required.
  • Somewhat erratic or jerky efforts – quick motions or efforts may be used to generate or halt movement when loads are high or conditions are adverse, as opposed to smooth, fluid, or appearing effortless when forces are low.

2. Look at your workplace conditions.  Pushing or moving materials on carts, dollies, or pallet jacks can become more demanding due to multiple turns or changes in direction, narrow aisles, doorways and thresholds, ramps, damaged flooring or expansion joints, or poor housekeeping.  Minimize changes of direction and elevation with good planning, layouts, and work methods.  Regularly inspect housekeeping and floor conditions.

3. Understand the forces involved.  Look at the loads or weights being handled as a general estimate; recommendations for maximum loads have included 500 pounds for four wheel carts and 1,500 pounds for manual pallet jacks.  That said, push or pull forces are typically not the same as the weight of the load being moved.  Under the most favorable of conditions (i.e., smooth level surface, well maintained carts, wheels aligned in direction of travel) forces may be as low as 2% of the load weight.  Forces quickly rise when these conditions are not met.  Consider measuring the actual forces using a tension pull gauge possibly found in your maintenance shop.  Recommended force levels have included:

  • 50 pounds or less to start the cart, dolly, or other device in motion.
  • 40 pounds or less to keep a device moving.
  • 25 pounds or less when the force has to be sustained for more than a minute or the device has to be pushed more than 10 feet.

Maximum recommended forces can change depending on handle heights, distances, frequency, gender, age, and percent of population you are trying to accommodate.  Commonly, at least 75% of females should be able to perform the manual material handling work without undue strain or fatigue.

4. Train employees to push as often as possible.  Pushing allows employees to better utilize their body weight when higher forces are required.  Pushing with both hands also helps to minimize twisting and reaching.  Acceptable forces can be to be up to 20% higher when pushing as opposed to pulling, and pulling, more so the pushing has been found to increase compressive loading of the spinal discs.  Train employees to identify the swivel wheels or casters on some carts and push from that end; forces required to turn the carts should be lower.  Consider labeling the associated handle, “Push From This End,” or remove the opposite handle to eliminate any possible confusion.

5. Perform preventative maintenance on equipment.  Regular preventative maintenance is critical for bearings and other components to operate as efficiently as designed and intended.  Consider going beyond any recommendation provided by the manufacturer or supplier, as instruction is limited depending on the device.

6. Consider powered equipment.  If loads are heavy, forces and frequencies are high, distances are long, or injuries continue to occur, consider providing powered equipment.  When looking for possible equipment, know your exposures and facility conditions; consider any limitations in space, aisle width, floor capacities, etc; consider associated requirements of inspection, storage, charging, eyewash stations, etc; and your budget.

If further assistance is needed, contact your loss control consultant and check out the following resources:


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, “”.  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 for fleet plan tools and resources.  Get started today and ensure all employees Arrive Alive each and every day.       


Seven Key Slicer Errors to Avoid

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

I never realized just how dangerous a meat slicer could be; but 20 years later I can still see the scar.  According to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry, between 2000 and 2004 more than 700 workers were injured while using a meat slicer.  I guess I was ahead of my time.  While working for a small family owned restaurant I committed one, well more than one, of the seven key slicer errors, and in an instant, became a statistic.

Seven Key Slicer Errors:

  1. Operating the slicer with the blade guard removed.
  2. Leaving the slice thickness set to anything but zero when not in use.
  3. Pushing the food into the blade with your hand.
  4. Slicing pieces that are too small for the food pusher.
  5. Cleaning the slicer with the blade spinning.
  6. Cleaning the slicer with the power cord plugged in.
  7. Taking your eyes off the slicer when it is in operation.

For me it was #5 and #7.  My penance was eight stitches and nerve damage to my left pinky finger.  Not a good trade off for what little time was saved.

This is by no means a complete list. However, to avoid injury when using or cleaning the meat slicer always:

  1. Read the user manual and complete required training before operating the slicer.
  2. Inspect the equipment to ensure all safety devices and parts operate smoothly and efficiently.
  3. Pressure the product being sliced with the weight handle/food pusher Use the slicer in manual mode before selecting automatic.
  4. Follow all manufacturer and company instructions for cleaning the slicer.
  5. Set the slice thickness to zero when finished slicing and before cleaning.
  6. Turn off AND unplug slicer before cleaning.
  7. Wear cut resistant gloves when operating or cleaning.

Remember, before your start; take a MEMIC Minute for slicer safety.  Check out these links on slicer safety and PPE:

Pocket and Utility Knife Safety

Jones Tony Posted by Tony Jones

As the emergency room physician sighed he said, “You’re lucky, you didn’t cut nerves or tendons.”  I was sitting on the emergency department stretcher getting ready for stitches in my hand.  I had been in a hurry, absorbed in the task, and cut toward myself on the last inch or so of opening an almost indestructible package.  I ended up with a deep laceration between my thumb and forefinger. 

I thought these tips might be a good reminder for all of us considering the prevalent use of pocket and utility knifes in businesses of all kinds.

  1. Dull knives slip.  Know how to properly sharpen or replace the knife blade.
  2. Use the right tool for the task.  It’s a cutting tool not a screwdriver or a mini pry bar.
  3. Do not hold items freely in your hand while cutting.  Use a stable surface or cutting board and both hands while cutting.
  4. Do not set the knife down with the handle or blade over the edge of the resting surface.
  5. You can cut yourself severely while attempting to catch a falling knife.  It is a safer to pick it up from the floor or ground.
  6. Do not store your knife with other tools or in large catch all drawers.
  7. Never carry an open knife.  When not in use, close it or retract the blade.  Place it safely in a tool pocket or a sheath. 
  8. When using the cutting blade, make sure to cut away from yourself.  Never cut in the direction of your body or your hand.  
  9. When closing the blade into the handle use the palm of the hand on the back side of the blade with your fingers clear.
  10. Use a “safety knife”  that has a guard or stop that prevents bodily injury if the knife slips. 

Check out the following resources online for more information:


Box Cutter utility knife

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!

Be Ready for Winter Driving

Darnley Dave Posted by Dave Darnley

Since today is the first official day of winter it is time to think about winter driving challenges and the condition of our vehicles. 

Check your vehicle to make sure your tires are in good condition and properly inflated (and never mix radial tires with other tire types).  The legal minimum tread depth is only about 1/3 of what is really needed for proper performance on snow.  Your defroster system and windshield wipers will see extra duty so be sure they are in good working order.  Keep a snow brush and ice scraper handy along with an extra gallon of windshield washer fluid. Include an emergency kit with first aid supplies, flashlight, blanket, and reflective triangles.  

If driving in mountainous regions the best advice is to stay off the roads; however, if travel is required you may also want to carry tire chains (check local laws first), sand, and a shovel. If driving in remote areas or on divided highways with limited exits, you should consider carrying a sleeping bag, boots and warm clothing.

Lastly, drive with extra caution when weather and driving conditions change, and use your seat belt every time you get in to your vehicle.  Check out the following links for more information concerning winter driving.

Clear Roads Winter Driving Campaign

Maine Department of Labor's Winter Driving Tips

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?

Chemical communication: Revised OSHA regs in September

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

OSHA is in the final rule stages of revising its Hazard Communication Standard -- commonly referred to as the “Right-To-Know” regulation -- to align with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  While the GHS itself is not a standard or regulation, it is a system that defines and classifies chemical hazards adopting a standard set of rules for communicating physical, health, and environmental hazards through a uniform format.  

The purpose of GHS is to promote efficiency between countries and government agencies in disseminating chemical hazard information to users.  For example, in the U.S. manufacturers and importers of chemicals are required to comply with multiple sets of regulations from agencies such as OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  The benefits of GHS include improving worker health and safety, facilitating trade, reducing costs, and enhancing emergency response to chemical incidents.

Currently, U.S. employers using chemicals, chemical mixtures, and other hazardous substances are required under OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to have a written program, ensure proper labeling of containers, acquire and maintain material safety data sheets, and inform employees through training on the hazards of the chemical products/hazardous substances used or encountered in their workplace.  The revised HCS will preserve these elements but adapt them to the GHS system.

For example, material safety data sheets will have a standard 16 section format as opposed to today’s variation (some having 9 sections or more) and the word “material” will be dropped.  Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and labels will be required to have signal words such as “Danger” or “Warning” along with hazard pictograms depending upon the class and category of hazards.

OSHA’s final rule on the revised Hazard Communication Standard is scheduled to be published in September.  A two-year transition period has been proposed for training with a three-year period for full implementation.

To meet the updated standard, employers should be prepared to:

  • Acquire a GHS-compliant Safety Data Sheet for each chemical in their inventory and re-label chemical containers;
  • Update their written hazard communication program; and
  • Train employees on changes to the standard. 

For more information on the Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication go to and .

Handy Hygiene

LaRochelle Greg 2 Submitted by: Greg LaRochelle

As a child you were probably reminded constantly to wash your hands before coming to the dinner table.  You might have grumbled on doing so with hunger pangs driving you to rush the process – a quick lather, rinse, and wipe on the hand towel, good enough, now let’s eat.

Today, hand washing is still just as important and even more critical as a preventative measure for infection control coupled with wearing disposable gloves. The germs of yesteryear remain with us with the myriad of bacteria and viruses possessing an innate and crafty ability to multiply. Their primary mission is to seek out a host organism, take up residence, and turn on their replication machinery, oftentimes at the detriment of their host’s health and welfare.  Even our own flora of skin and intestinal bacteria, bearing beneficial properties, can mount an attack and disrupt organ function when our immune system is compromised. 

And now with the prevalent use (and abuse) of antibiotics, both inside and outside of medicine over the past 60 years, the so-called bacterial “superbugs” have emerged through mutation with resistance to specific families of conventional antibiotic drugs.  What is our best defense against these superbugs? The common answer for infection control is personal protective equipment and hand hygiene (along with disinfecting contaminated surfaces). So, it’s back to the call of washing hands with soap and water, as simple as that may seem, to minimize our susceptibility to germ invasion and infection.  And what about hand sanitizers?  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are okay when your hands aren’t visibly dirty, but are not as effective. 

While there are a number of websites that campaign for hand hygiene, the World Health Organization offers a free poster with an illustrated, eleven-step process on thorough hand cleaning.

So, no skimping to rush to the break room table—as this poster states, “Save Lives – Clean Your Hands."