Youth Safety

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month

SoaresPosted by Tony Soares, CSP, CHMM, CSHE

The gift giving season is upon us, so in a departure from the regular workplace safety topics posted here, we at MEMIC would like to take a minute to remind you to keep safety a personal priority as you chose gifts for the young ones in your life.

Parents have always been worried about the toys their children play with.  Are they too violent, too noisy, too expensive, or confirm stereotypes?  But do you make sure your kid’s toys are safe to play with?  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2007, Fisher-Price recalled 967,000 toys due to a lead poisoning hazard. Small children can absorb lead or other toxins into their small bodies when chewing on toys. Some toys contain magnets which can affect the child’s digestive system if swallowed.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that in 2007 there were 232,900 children treated in hospital emergency rooms for toy-related injuries and 18 children died due to toy injuries.

In August 2008, Congress passed a law to improve toy safety measures, including new testing procedures and harsher penalties for safety violators. This legislation also included a new ban on lead and other dangerous substances from toys, and the creation of a public database containing information on specific toys and how to file complaints about a toy.

This new legislation now makes it easier to enforce better safety practices, but won’t ensure them. In a matter of months after the bill passed, over 20 new toy recalls were issued. Many of these toys were still on store shelves. 

Do your part to be certain there are no unsafe toys in your home. Here are some toy safety tips for parents, grandparents, uncles,  aunts, and friends. 

  • Always match the age on the toy to the child’s age. The age grading system is based on safety. Choking hazards are prevalent with younger children.
  • Stuffed toys are always a classical gift for young children. For children under 3 years old look for sewed-on eyes or well-secured eyes and seams (little pellets are a major concern when spilled) that can stand up to the vigorous activities of your child’s play.
  • Never leave the toys inside cribs with infants.  
  • Remember to include a helmet with the bicycle, skateboard, or snowboard.
  • Batteries, especially those small coin-shaped ones, can pose a safety concern. Make sure children don’t have access to batteries or toy battery compartments.   Remember there are other products in your home not subject to toy safety standards. You will find batteries in your TV remote control, in clocks, and other products. It’s important that you keep those batteries out of your child’s reach and always discard them properly.
  • Be extra careful when buying toys from a flea market or from a garage sale. Some of those toys may have been made before safety standards were in place or they may be defective or broken.
  • Inspect all the toys in your home periodically for wear and tear, broken parts, or sharp edges. This is a good idea for all equipment in your house. If a toy is broken and cannot be properly repaired, discard it.
  • Watch out for toys with electrical wiring. Electrical shock can occur when the toy breaks and the live wiring is exposed, or it unexpectedly contacts water.

We now have stricter toy safety standards in our country. Any toy sold here, regardless of its country of origin, has to comply with these regulations.  However, recalls are an important step in the safety net should a problem be discovered. Be vigilant, check the US Consumer Products Safety Commission, Safe Kids Worldwide, BabyCenter, or ToySafety.Org to stay up to date on the latest recalls or other safety information. 

Safety kids

When is Pokémon a No-Go?

WestinPosted by Alexis Westin, MS, OHST

I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, especially since Pokémon is getting people out into the world and exercising! But there are a few things to keep in mind for safety while getting your Pokémon on. Since more than 75% of the population that participates in this game is of working age, let us start there. Do NOT do it at work! There are enough things at work that are hazardous; you don’t need to add careless and distracted workers into that combination.


Of course, getting injured off the job affects how you can do your work on the job. Even while participating in the game while away from work, keep safety at the top of your mind. People are literally falling off cliffs and getting hit by cars.

 It is great to have the break and get outside, but please do it safely:

  • Leave it for leisure time
  • Never turn the App on while driving!
  • Work in teams when you can - one navigator and one being the eyes and ears of the distracted
  • Predators thrive on the distracted - always be aware of your surroundings and leave valuable possessions at home

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!

Laptop Ergonomics

Allan Brown Posted by Allan Brown

Today almost everyone is connected to the electronic world.  School children, young and middle aged workers, and older workers are all using portable electronic devices for school, work, and social media interaction.  These activities are very common and sometimes necessary, but are also exposing our bodies to different strains.  The lack of movement with prolonged poor posture can contribute to a lifetime of discomfort. 

Laptop computers pose a difficult ergonomic challenge.  The portable design, although convenient, can create early unconscious patterns of poor posture.  When a child or young worker is using a laptop, even if they are sitting at a desk or table, the screen is too low and the keyboard and mouse devices are often too high.  If you curl up on the sofa, easy chair, or in a bed for hours while using a laptop the posture issues become more severe. 

Students or young workers are more tolerant of this forward head posture and flat or extended back because of their youth.  As their youth wanes the process of aging settles in.  Those practiced postures of their youth, good or bad, are difficult to change.  They sit in a “C” shaped posture with a forward head reaching for the keyboard and mouse.  Often they are not comfortable and can’t figure out why.  Use of a laptop or any small input device has had them in awkward posture for extended periods of time.  This becomes unconscious behavior and a habit.  This, in turn, increases the strain to the neck and back. 

We fight the forces of gravity everyday and the only way to reduce this strain is stand up tall, stay physically active, and improve posture.  Start by:

  1. Using a separate keyboard and mouse.
  2. Utilize a standing area or desk with an adjustable chair.  Yes, standing and working on a computer can be a good thing.  This puts less strain on the low back.  A stool can be added to allow the option of sitting or standing. 
  3. Discuss the importance of good sitting posture and encourage workers to get up frequently and take stretch breaks.  Walking during lunch breaks or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be helpful as well. 

Balancing our bodies is a lot like riding a bicycle; it’s easier when it’s moving.   We are not built to sit still for extended periods of time.  For more information, policyholders can use the MEMIC Safety Director,  or anyone can reference the OSHA Ergonomic Solutions E-Tool.  

Laptop type ergo

Back to School Safety 2012

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Although it seems we just posted a blog concerning July Fourth holiday safety, the end of summer and the beginning of the school year will soon be upon us.  The roads, already congested by construction, will soon be filled with school busses, students, and parents on the way to school.  With this in mind, consider the following:

  • Each year, approximately 800 school-age children are killed in motor vehicle crashes during the normal school travel hours (weekday mornings and afternoons during school months). 
  • Roughly 2% of the 800 children killed are school bus related while 74% occur in private passenger vehicles and 22% are the result of pedestrian or bicycle accidents.  

What can we do to protect our families?  Start with a good plan:

  1. Know your route – Be aware of any planned or current construction along your way.  Using web resources such as Trafficinfo, or a local city website can help identify areas where delays are likely.
  2. Leave early – Be sure to leave enough time to account for any known construction delays or school bus stops along the way.  Usually 30 minutes is enough, but more may be necessary depending on where you live. 
  3. Stay visible – Stop far enough back for the bus drivers to see you in their mirrors and use your hazards when stopped for a bus, giving notice to any drivers behind you.
  4. Avoid distraction – It’s not the phone, it’s the conversation.  Refrain from using cell phones while driving.  The same goes for other activities that distract the driver, such as changing CDs, looking at notes and reading maps.

The following sites provide additional tips and strategies for avoiding tragedy on you morning commute this fall:

• Jiffy Lube Safety Tips
• Back to School Safety Tips from Safe Kids

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.       


Time for a Tick Check

Peter Koch Posted by Peter Koch

Do you recognize these symptoms?   Fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint aches, and a red bulls-eye like rash.  These can be symptomatic of tick borne illness such as Lyme disease. 

If you work outdoors either for your job or just around the yard at home chances are good that you have already pulled a tick from yourself or a pet this year. While they are not as annoying as the mosquitoes or black flies, their bite can be more threatening to your health by transmitting bacteria which cause illnesses such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease.

The instances of Lyme disease are on the rise in the New England states.  Don’t believe it’s a problem?  Just look at these numbers:  221% . . .270% . . .497%.  They represent the increase in Lyme disease incidence rates between 2005 and 2009 for Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont respectively.  You can check out the incident rates for all states here:  Lyme Disease Incident Rates.

Ticks don’t fly or jump, but grab hold of their hosts from blades of grass, leaves, or abundant leaf liter then climb to find suitable place to feed. The State of CT, in their publication Tick Bite Prevention, provides the following recommendations for preventing tick borne illness.

1)  Wear lighter colored clothing
2) Wear long pants and tuck your pants into your socks
3) Wash and dry clothing – ticks can’t survive an hour in a hot dryer
4) Carefully inspect the body and remove any attached ticks
5) Carefully inspect your pets and remove ticks
6) Use repellants (see the State of CT publication on Tick Bite Prevention for a list of effective repellants)

A key step in prevention of tick borne illness, especially if you work in the woods or areas with high tick populations, is self inspection and early removal.  According to the CDC, early removal of a tick, within 24 hours of attachment, can dramatically reduce the chance of Lyme disease. 

For more tips on prevention check out the CDC and the American Lyme Disease Foundation.

So take a MEMIC Minute this summer and check for ticks.



Spring Clean Up: Chainsaw Awareness

Wood Andy Posted by Andy Wood

With the snow banks melting in the Northeast comes the requisite spring clean-up around the property. If your facility includes even a little wooded property, that clean-up will most likely include some quality time with your chainsaw. Regardless of your skill level, it’s critical that you are aware of the hazards you will face and have the skills to manage them successfully; or recognize that you don’t and obtain additional resources from your employer. These resources may take the form of gear upgrades, more help, or additional training.

The OSHA standard for logging operations (1910.266) sets the baseline standards for all chainsaw operations.  It is very specific about training, supervision, and operational guidelines. Some very practical information is available on their website, specifically the Logging ETool.

For basic chainsaw operation, I’ve divided the necessary information into three categories. MEMIC has developed webinars and guiding documents for each of these topics. All are available on the Safety Director at

  1. A full compliment of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  2. A saw maintained in serviceable condition.
  3. Some baseline knowledge of industry standards which address: hazards, ergonomics, saw control and physics. (Refer to the Logging ETool referenced above.)

Specific hands-on training should be attended and operations closely supervised in regards to the most hazardous chainsaw operations, tree felling, and storm damage clean-up.

If you consider the tools and equipment you’ll use during outdoor projects, I think you’d agree that the chainsaw may create the greatest hazard. Take the time to get it right as the stakes are high when the accident involves a chainsaw, trees under tension, and gravity.

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:

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?