Youth Safety

More Shoveling? Say It Ain’t Snow!

Allan Brown Posted by  Allan Brown

Before you start, consider:

  •  Snow shoveling puts a high physical demand on your heart and back.
  • Avoid snow shoveling after a big meal.  Give yourself 1-2 hours after a meal before you start shoveling.  It takes a lot of blood flow to digest a meal.
  • Avoid caffeine or smoking before and when you’re shoveling.  Both substances will increase your heart rate.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are 40 years or older, suffer a heart condition, or have hypertension.
  • Avoid shoveling if you suffer from low back pain.
  • Avoid shoveling if you are physically inactive.

Dress appropriately:

It’s winter, so layer your clothing.  Not only will this keep you warm, but it will be easier to shed clothing as you warm up. Make sure your clothing doesn’t restrict your ability to move.  Wear appropriate shoes/boots.  Make sure the boots have good traction to reduce slipping.  If it’s icy wear “ice grippers” over boots or shoes to prevent slipping.  Protect your face with sunscreen.

The right shovel:

All shovels are not alike.  Consider a shovel with a bent handle.  This will reduce the amount of bending you’ll have to do when shoveling.  Plastic is lighter than metal, so go light; the snow will provide plenty of weight.

Warm up and stretch your muscles before you shovel:

Prepare your body to do work.  Increase your core temperature by marching in place or with a brisk walk.  Once your core is warm, stretch your shoulders, back, and legs.  These areas of the body will be doing the majority of the work.  Take micro breaks every 10 minutes when shoveling and stretch any tight muscle.

Stop shovelling immediately if:

  • You experience shortness of breath
  • You feel tightness in your chest
  • You begin to experience back pain

Moving snow:

Do it sooner rather than later.  Fresh snow is lighter. Packed snow is tougher to move.  Push snow whenever possible and avoid lifting.  If you have to lift the snow, keep these points in mind:

  • Try to maintain your back as upright as possible.
  • Bend at the hips and knees to load the shovel.
  • Take less snow on the shovel if it is wet and dense.  A shovel full of wet snow can weigh up to 25 pounds.
  • Lift with your legs and hips while keeping your core muscles tight.
  • Avoid twisting, and always pivot the whole body when moving snow.
  • Train yourself to shovel left-handed and right-handed.  This will take a little effort on your part to practice.  It takes about a week to coordinate your body.  Alternate sides every 10 minutes.
  • Take frequent stretch breaks for the shoulders and back.
  • Pace yourself.
  • Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water before, during, and after shoveling.

When You’re Done:

  • Drink water and eat a healthy snack.
  • Stretch your muscles.


Read a past MEMIC SafetyNet blog titled "The Science of Shoveling".



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.

Splish, Splash

Klatt Randy Posted By Randy Klatt


It was one of those moments when I kept thinking, “How stupid can you be?  You’re a safety consultant!”  Fortunately, such thoughts don’t occur very often, but there I was in my driveway…

I was filling my lawnmower using a full 5 gallon gasoline container.  Since the plastic can was full it weighed about 35 lbs and the gasoline poured out of the plastic spout very quickly.  As I was trying to keep the gas flowing without spilling it the lawnmower tank filled quickly.  I was crouching over the lawnmower as I pulled the spout out of the tank.  The spout had been bent over in order to keep the pour going into the tank and when I pulled it out it flipped upward, splashing gas back towards my face.  The “how stupid…” thought that I mentioned earlier now came flooding over me as my right eye began to burn. 

I ran inside and flushed my eye with water for the next several minutes.  The burn subsided somewhat, but the eye was uncomfortable for the next several hours.  Now the question is “what did I learn from this and what can the readers take away from this story?”  

  • Keep your face away from any pouring operation.
  • Wear safety glasses when handling gasoline or any other hazardous chemical.

Additional safety tips for handling gasoline:

  • Never fill gas cans while in the bed of a truck or in a trunk; always fill cans on the ground.
  • Don’t get in and out of your car when pumping gas; the static buildup can discharge igniting the gas vapors. Remember, the flash point of gasoline is -40 degrees F; it is always extremely flammable!
  • Always wash your hands after handling gasoline, especially before eating or drinking.
  • Store gasoline in proper containers.

Nearly everyone handles gasoline; just remember it is a toxic substance that is extremely flammable.  Give it the respect it deserves.  I always wear safety glasses when mowing the lawn, but will now ensure I have them on before I ever start the engine.  I recommend you do the same.  For some sobering reading on what is in gasoline and its potential hazards, download a gasoline Material Safety Data Sheet using the BLR MSDS Search feature available through the Safety Director at

Back to School Construction—Commuters Beware

Koch Peter 2  Written by Peter Koch

The impending close to summer reared it’s ugly head earlier this week while dropping my daughter off at 6:30 AM for the first of her pre-season double session practices.  That also dredged up images of the hundreds of school buses and thousands of parents transporting kids, not to mention the scores of recently licensed drivers that will soon be competing for our attention during the morning commute. 

Combine these with the much needed repair work currently happening on our roads and a lack of planning on our part, and you have a recipe for, at best, a tardy arrival to work or speeding ticket.  You can imagine the worst case . . .

While no injury or fatality is considered good, the frequency of school bus related traffic fatalities is relatively low.  National Highway Statistics provides this brief summary of the stats relating to school bus crashes:

  • 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 keep the grim reaper or trooper from the rear view mirror?  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, Rand McNally, 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.  If you get there ahead of time you can catch up on your email and text messages.
  3. Stay visible – Stop far enough back for the bus driver to see you in their mirror 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 in school zones or areas with children. The same goes for 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:

Younger Workers: Willing To Please Even If It Hurts

School is out and kids are looking for work. Approximately 2.3 million will get a job this summer in the U.S. and 157,000 of them will get more than just a pay check—they’ll get hurt on the job too. Lacerations, burns and broken bones are just some of the common injuries young workers sustain summer after summer.

Even though out-of-school students fill a much-needed gap in the workforce, employers need to be aware that this age group is at higher risk for work-related injuries because of their unique biological and social characteristics:

  • Teenagers are known to do tasks they haven’t been trained to do. 
  • Many lack physical and emotional maturity to assess risk.
  • They may not know which work tasks are prohibited by child labor laws.
  • Young people are more susceptible to chemical exposures.

Right about now you’re probably wondering if you can prevent a young worker from getting hurt at your business. As with any worker, no matter what the age, the answer is always yes through proper training, supervision and clear safety rules.

The first thing to consider is their experience. 

  • Break them in. For example, if they have never spent the better part of a day painting from a ladder, you can lessen their risk by teaching them how to setup a ladder, pointing out overhead electrical lines and explaining why working on a sunny side is more hazardous due to higher work area temperatures and exposure to UV rays.
  • Beware of the over-confident returning worker. If the employee is experienced, then their break in time is shorter, but beware that this can create complacency. 
  • Be a safety coach. The only way to know if your young worker is working safely is to watch them work and coach as needed.  All too often this “safety coaching" is not done and I liken it to a two-legged stool—it might work for awhile but not for long.

Once the young worker shows proficiency, your supervisory role is not over. 

  • Be on the lookout for shortcuts. Even though they may be employed for only a few months, some workers may go out of their way to please you by skipping a safety step for the sake of productivity.
  • Monitor performance in 3 areas. If your worker is held accountable only for quality and productivity but not safety, you are back to the two-legged stool. Decrease exposure by reinforcing your expectations and hold them accountable.

Clear safety rules
One last thing to be aware of is how impressionable younger workers can be. 

  • Practice what you preach. If the rule is to have a blade guard in place on a meat slicer, then it must be applied across the board to all workers. If a 5-year veteran, or worse a supervisor, removes it--what kind of message does that send?  Putting oneself in danger just got a little bit easier.