Winter Safety

Winter Slip, Trip and Fall Safety Tips

DarnleyPosted by Dave Darnley, MS, CHSP

Slip, trip and fall incidents result in some of the most common workplace injuries.  The risk of falling outdoors increases in the winter as temperatures drop and ice and snow accumulate across a wide swath of the country.  Even though the days are getting longer, we have a lot of cold weather ahead. Consider the following reminders:

  • Plan for the weather by wearing appropriate footwear – even if you’re only going across the parking lot and in to the building, wear a low heel boot or shoe with good tread made for outdoor winter weather. You can carry in high heels or leather soled shoes and put them on when indoors.
  • Consider wearing a pair of ice cleats or other traction enhancement device such as Stabilicers, Yaktrax, ICETrekkers, or Winter-Tuff Ice Traction Spikes. These can be a lifesaver, but use with caution and follow manufacturer’s instructions to include removing before you walk indoors!  Check out various models and features at Top10The Best.   You can also access Pete Koch’s previous post entitled “What’s on Your Feet This Winter?” or Greg LaRochelle’s “A Whoops and a FOOSH: Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls.”
  • When walking on ice and snow covered parking lots or walkways take short steps and walk at a slower pace so you can react appropriately to quick changes in traction.
  • Always use handrails when walking up or down steps. Take your time, and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • Use caution when exiting or entering your vehicle – use the door handles and vehicle itself for support, as needed.
  • Even if parking lots or walkways have been cleared of snow – beware – there still could be “black ice.”  Water can refreeze and create a very slippery layer of ice that can be treacherous.
  • Try not to carry too much when walking in inclement conditions – keep your hands and arms free to help maintain your balance, if needed.
  • Once you get in your building safely, be sure to remove as much of the snow and water from your boots/shoes as possible. If you have dry shoes to change in to, do it as soon as you can safely sit in a chair, out of the way of other pedestrian traffic.

Feel free to share this information with fellow employees via safety postings or “toolbox talks”.  Far too many people will end up slipping and falling this winter.  These are preventable injuries when proper precautions are taken.  Take a look at OSHA’s Winter Weather Preparation page for more tips on various winter hazards and precautions.  Additional information on this and other employee safety topics can also be found within MEMIC’s Safety Director and Video Lending Library


Still Plenty of Winter Driving to Go!

David-Darnley Posted by Dave Darnley, MS, CHSP

We're not quite out of the woods yet...there is still plenty of winter driving ahead, especially in the Northeast. So regardless of what the groundhog had to say yesterday, let's make sure we take proper precautions to stay safe in any forthcoming winter driving conditions.

Safe Winter Driving Tips:

  • Do not use cruise control if roads are icy, could become icy, or there is significant rain or standing water on the roadways. Loss of control could result as the car attempts to maintain the set speed.
  • Slow down in snow / ice conditions! Maintaining vehicle control becomes more difficult as the road conditions deteriorate, and this worsens with increasing speed. Stopping distance becomes much longer as well.
  • Use caution on bridges, overpasses, and highway exit ramps. These surfaces can freeze more quickly or are often not plowed and salted as frequently as the major roads.
  • Avoid making abrupt moves, such as quick braking or acceleration.
  • Track the weather before you leave to know what may be ahead and plan accordingly. Remember the old saying: Ice and Snow, Take it Slow!

Lastly, as the snow begins to melt there may be an accumulation of water on the road. This can be just as dangerous as ice as your car can hydroplane. This occurs when water builds up between the tire and the road resulting in momentary control loss. Higher speeds and tread style and wear are the most significant factors. To learn more about hydroplaning, and how to prevent it, take a look at information available from SafeMotorist.

For additional safe winter driving tips check out the online resource from the Auto Insurance Center, or previous posts from the Safety Net.

Tis' The Season To Get Injured, Fa la la la, la la la la!

Grant Posted by Eric Grant, CSP

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says there were approximately 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating in November and December, 2012. This translates to 250 injuries per day during the holiday season!

Of these 15,000 emergency room visits, 34% involved falls, while 11% were the results of lacerations, and another 10% stemmed from strained backs.

In New England, the month of December often means the beginning of “slip in the parking lot season.” These are workers who park their car at 7 am and do not make it into the building. Employers should develop a plan to maintain parking lots and walkways. Consider freeze/thaw cycles that occur early in the season.

The office cubicle decorating contest promotes seasonal creativity and competition can get fierce. Problems arise when we stand on our office chair, desktop, or cardboard box to reach those hard to get to places. Even the storage room company ladder or step-stool, in good condition and set-up properly, can expose employees to hazards not common in the office environment. Inspect and utilize these tools properly. Avoid standing on your chair, especially with rolling casters!

Holiday decorations look great but they can be highly flammable. According to the CPSC, from 2009-2011, tree and candle fires caused 80 deaths, 700 injuries, and $324 million in property loss. Consider the power source used to light up your office. Extension cords with exposed wires and missing ground prongs should be inspected and removed from service.

Increased holiday demands in the workplace means seasonal hiring. According to the Insurance Journal, in the retail sector alone, 2013 saw 786,200 workers hired for the holiday season. All workers experience workplace stress, increased physical demand, fatigue, and behavioral issues. Add this to the personal stress we feel during the holiday season and the odds of workplace injuries increase. Unsafe behaviors, not unsafe conditions, make up nearly 80% of workplace injuries. Focus on these behaviors along with your compliance prevention strategies.

Policyholders can visit the MEMIC Safety Director to obtain prevention resources on Slips, Trips, Falls, Electrical, Fire, and Ladder Safety. For additional training, review MEMIC’s archived webinars such as Order Fulfillment Safety, Slips, Trips, and Falls, and Winter Driving.

This is a magical time of the year, but it can also be a stressful time. Let’s not make it a season to remember the time you fell off of your desk putting up decorations!

Final Render 1080 HD

Seeing Stars on Ice

Greg LaRochelle 2014 Posted by: Greg LaRochelle

With all 50 states reporting temperatures below freezing on Tuesday, November 18th, ‘tis the season to pay special attention to the condition of outdoor surfaTipces underfoot.  Indeed, it seems that Old Man Winter has descended upon us suddenly and with a vengeance, coming down fast on the Polar Vortex Express. Along with the monumental snowfall in Upstate New York, there’s black ice on cold pavement, patches of ice in surface depressions, and wet grass on frosty mornings for most of us to contend with in making our way out the door and off to work.

As we enter into the holiday season, here are a few tips on avoiding slips and falls so you can enjoy festivities with family and friends without sporting crutches or a cast.

  • Bag the formal footwear for carry indoors and choose the shoes or boots with traction outsoles to wear into work and when heading home.
  • Park in locations away from sheets of glare ice and look for spots with scattered salt or sand.
  • When stepping out of the vehicle, test the ground surface with the left foot for a firm foothold before shifting body weight out of the driver’s seat.
  • Avoid loading up with the morning beverage, laptop case, lunch bag, smart phone, and other baggage in hand.  This kind of bundling can lead to a disastrous fall when off balance.
  • Adjust your stride with smaller steps and a slight forward lean of the body.

For more information on slip, trip, and fall prevention, click on the SafetyNet Blog Link and use the search field with key words “slip, trip, fall”.     

For skating enthusiasts and for that matter everyone else, for the sake of sure footedness, remember it’s “Stars on Ice” not “Seeing Stars on Ice”.

Ice rink1

Dress for Winter Success

  Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Working during the winter months can provide many opportunities to be outdoors when it is very cold. While outdoor winter work is necessary, not being prepared for the cold challenge can increase your risk for injury.

The CDC provides some good information and statistics on Cold Stress and Cold Related injuries here.

One important measure that can reduce the cold challenge is dressing properly.   Following are a few tips to Dress for Success when working outside in the cold:

  • Staying dry is as important as staying warm.  Choose clothing that will wick sweat away from your body and keep moisture out.
  • Dress in light layers.   Layering can help prevent overheating and unnecessary sweating by removing or adding clothing according to your level of activity.  One method for layering is as follows:
    • Under layer:
      • Long underwear made of polypropylene wicks moisture away from the body.
    • Inner layer:  
      • Inner layers of wool or hollow core synthetic yarns provide insulation.   Multiple layers can be used here.
    • Outer Layer:  
      • The outer layer should be made of wind and moisture resistant fabrics.
  • Fingers and toes:
    • Wearing an extra pair of thin socks under a heavier warm pair can help wick moisture away from your feet and keep them warmer longer.
    • Bring a change of socks to change into when the first pair gets damp.
    • Mittens use your body heat to help keep your hands warmer. 
    • Using a pair of gloves with an removable inner liner will also help. 
  • Top it off:.
    • The following quote from an article in the online version of the San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, gives insight on hats and head coverings: Article “Cover your head if you want to stay warm. In truth, wearing a hat will keep you warm, but the percentage of heat you lose through your head depends on how well you bundle up the rest of your body. And losing even a small amount of heat through your face, as well as your hands and feet, affects your body's internal temperature.” 


Throwing Snow Safely

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

According to a seventeen-year study appearing in the January 2011 issue of the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, injuries and medical emergencies from shoveling snow average 11,500 per year. 

The study reveals soft tissue injuries were the most common at 54.7% and  low back injuries accounted for 34.3% of the cases. The most common mechanism of injury was acute musculoskeletal exertion (53.9%) followed by slips and falls at 20.0%.

It can happen to anyone.  Last year there was a news report where a former Minnesota Twins pitcher suffered a lacerated spleen from landing on the handle of his shovel after slipping while shoveling at his home.

Shoveling can be great exercise as well as a winter necessity, serving to get us outside and into some physical exertion during the winter months.  However, simply walking outside in the freezing weather unprepared for the exertion of shoveling can be hazardous.  Proper preparation before shoveling and precautions during shoveling can help avoid injury.  Try these tips:

  • Use the proper footwear.  Wear a boot that has a good heavy tread or a traction enhancing device like Stabilicers or MicroSpikes.
  • Layer clothing to keep your muscles warm and flexible and to alleviate overheating and excess sweating.
  • Warm-up and stretch before you grab the shovel.  Shoveling can stress muscles in your arms, upper back, lower back, buttocks, and legs. 
  • Choose a shovel that you can easily handle.  Snow weighs from 7 pounds per cubic foot to an astounding 30 pounds per cubic foot, so one shovelful can weigh between 7 to 45 pounds.  Pick a shovel that will allow you to lift a reasonable amount and that has a long enough handle to limit your bending at the waist. • Walk or push the snow to the snow bank. Avoid sudden twisting and turning motions.
  • Bend your knees and try to keep your back straight not hunched when shoveling. Let the muscles of your legs and arms do the work, not your back.
  • Take frequent rest breaks to allow your muscles and cardiovascular system to recover.  Fatigue can lead to injury.
  • Stop and get help immediately if you feel pain in your chest, or have shortness of breath.

So Take a MEMIC Minute and Shovel Safely this winter.


Ol' Man Winter Is Comin... Are Your Employees Ready?

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  The leaves are down, the pumpkins are just about gone, and the frosty weather is here.  Now is the time to ensure your employees are properly trained and equipped to work safely in cold environments.

Cold weather adversely affects any worker who is required to be outside or work in unheated spaces.  Workers in the construction, utility, public safety, truck driving, mail delivery, and snow removal industries are regularly exposed to the elements.  However, almost all workers have some exposure as they commute to and from work and trek into and out of buildings from their cars.

The hazards of winter weather seem endless, but here are some common causes of injury: 

  • Slips and Falls:  Ensure there is a plan in place for the shoveling, sweeping, salting, and sanding of all walkways, stairways, and parking lots your employees will use through the winter.  Footwear is extremely important.  Check out previous issues of The Safety Net to read about specific slip/trip/fall prevention, or log onto the Safety Director at and search “slips” within the Resource Library.
  • Cold Stress:  The body will lose heat when exposed to cold temperatures.  When this heat loss exceeds the ability to create heat, hypothermia occurs.  This is an extremely dangerous situation that can affect the person’s ability to think or move effectively.  Avoid prolonged exposures whenever possible, dress in layers of wool or synthetic clothing, and take frequent breaks.  Avoid exposing bare skin such as fingers, ears, and the nose.  Frostbite, the freezing of the tissue, will occur in these areas first.  Stay dry, or change wet clothing frequently.  Eat well, stay hydrated, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.  Learn more about cold stress prevention from the Centers for Disease Control and from OSHA’s Cold Stress Card
  • Winter Driving:  Snow and ice wreak havoc on the traveling public, but disasters are largely preventable.  If poor weather is forecast, plan ahead and leave plenty of time to get to your destination.  Better yet, postpone unnecessary trips until the weather has improved.  Keep your vehicle tuned up and be especially aware of your tire condition.  Snow tires are the best bet in the winter months, but regardless of tire type be sure to check pressures and tread wear regularly.  Also carry the essential equipment in your vehicle:  ice scrapers, broom, flashlight, blanket, sand or kitty litter, a snow shovel, and always have a well charged cell phone handy.   The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a great winter driving tip sheet.

The bottom line is that winter is soon upon us and we can’t change the weather.  All we can do is prepare for it and understand the inherent hazards.  Skiers, snow boarders, and snowmobile enthusiasts will rejoice, but if you are at work take the time to prepare for the cold weather and get through the winter safely. 

Snowy scene

This winter it's time to protect our heads!

Koch Peter 1 Posted by Peter Koch

Head and face injuries are common among skiers and riders.  When high rates of speed are factored in, those injuries can be significant.  Did you know:

  1. In 2012, “67 percent of skiers and snowboarders now wear helmets.”   NSAA Helmet Usage  
  2. Head trauma accounts for 120,000 – or 1 in 5 – of the 600,000 injuries suffered by skiers and snowboarders each year.  The Dangerous Mistake You’re Making on the Slopes
  3. A concussion is caused by the sudden deceleration of your head and your brain impacting the inside of your skull; not by your skull impacting a surface or object.  Mayo Clinic: Concussion Causes
  4. Skiers and snowboarders travel at an average maximum speed of 27mph. - The Science Behind Helmets
  5. Hitting your un-helmeted head against a fixed object while skiing or snowboarding at an average speed of 19 mph can impart g-force to your brain of between 329 and 696g.  – The Science Behind Helmets (on average, football tackles generate between 50 and 120g - G-force and gray matter)
  6. You can sustain a minor concussion from an impact with as little as 95g and a serious, possibly life-threatening brain injury from 275g. – How Serious Are Concussions
  7. The ASTM F2040 test for recreational snow sports helmets requires force at impact to be under 300g at 13.85mph. - The Science Behind Helmets

The equipment available won’t always prevent those significant injuries.  So why would you wear a helmet?

Here are some points to ponder:

  1. Helmets can prevent almost 100 percent of minor head injuries (defined as scalp lacerations, scrapes, fractures, surface bruises). - The Science Behind Helmets
  2. Helmets can, at speeds below 30mph, reduce the likelihood of head injury when impacting icy snow. - Helmets and The Science Behind Helmets
  3. Speeds inherent in skiing and snowboarding can overwhelm the helmet’s degree of protection, but still reduce the force imparted to the head.
  4. Helmets are no replacement for good decisions and behavior within one’s skill and ability for the conditions and environment.

The bottom line is: Today's ski/snowboard helmets are light, comfortable, inexpensive, and effective. While they won’t protect from every impact, helmets offer an extra degree of protection over and above the safety basics of skiing/riding responsibly for the environment, snow conditions, and your ability. 

Before you leave the helmet home or on the shelf consider your answer to this question, “If there is a tool available, that offers some protection from potential injuries, why wouldn’t you use it?”

Skiing couple

Working in Cold Conditions

LaRochelle Greg 2 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

Now that our January thaw has come and gone, frigid conditions can be expected in the Northeast with the mercury plummeting into the single digits or below 0 degrees F.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides an overview of cold stress conditions on their website along with safeguarding recommendations for employers and workers.  We’re all aware of hypothermia and frostbite as the more common types of cold stress but here are a few other conditions described on the website (click on the CDC link above).

Cold Water Immersion - Cold water immersion creates a specific condition known as immersion hypothermia. It develops much more quickly than standard hypothermia because water conducts heat away from the body 25 times faster than air. Typically people in temperate climates don’t consider themselves at risk from hypothermia in the water, but hypothermia can occur in any water temperature below 70°F.

Trench Foot - Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is an injury of the feet resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Trench foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60 degrees F if the feet are constantly wet.

Chilblains - Chilblains are caused by the repeated exposure of skin to temperatures just above freezing to as high as 60 degrees F. The cold exposure causes damage to the capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. This damage is permanent and the redness and itching will return with additional exposure. The redness and itching typically occurs on cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes.

Symptoms and first aid measures are also listed for each type of cold stress condition.   The recommendations for employers describe administrative controls for protection that include reducing physical demands, monitoring workers that are at risk, and employee training.  Recommendations for workers include wearing appropriate clothing (several layers, wear a hat, waterproof and insulated boots), moving into warm environments during breaks, and avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin.  Anyone who’s ever been dared as a child to put their tongue on a flag pole in the dead of winter knows the importance of this last tip.

The CDC webpage provides links to other government sites as additional resources including OSHA’s Cold Stress Equation on hypothermia and frostbite.

So read up, stay warm, and think Spring! 

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!