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Cold Weather Work Habits and Personal Protection Equipment

Dec 07

Most of us have heard of cold-related illnesses such as frostbite, hypothermia, chilblains, and trench foot. All are illnesses related to cold stress. But the cold is insidious and works its way deep into the body where it indirectly causes cold-related problems.

Workers with chronic diseases such as asthma or arthritis are more likely to suffer flare-ups in cold weather.

Cold stress also decreases the worker’s dexterity, coordination, mental skills, and causes an overall decline in performance that negatively affects worker safety. Workers are more prone to accidents.

Also, working in the cold increases the likelihood of employee sprains and strains. This turns up as a health issue such as a low back strain. However, all muscles and tendons have less resistance to harm when exposed to cold weather.

What is Cold Stress?

Cold stress is the way your body responds cold temperatures stemming from heat escaping from part of your body, such as hands, limbs, feet, and/or head. When the body has prolonged contact with cold, lengthy exposure is a physical and mental challenge to your body.

Humans lose heat four ways:

  • Radiation
  • Convection
  • Conduction
  • Evaporation

The best way to avoid cold weather stress leading to cold weather illness or injury involves changing work habits and wearing the right clothing.

Changing Work Habits

How long an employee works in cold weather depends on wind and air temperature. The colder the temperature and the stronger the wind, the shorter work periods are. The following table, adopted by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) as Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) for cold stress is an excellent guide for management in establishing the length of a work period.

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Forklift Safety

Nov 30

Forklifts have revolutionized the construction industry. However, using them creates the risk of serious injury and death for drivers, other employees, and pedestrians.

Although following the rules for forklift operation – safety checks, maintenance inspections, and so on –are time consuming, they’re essential for workplace safety.

To help ensure that your construction projects stay productive and accident-free, we’d recommend these guidelines:

Designate walking and driving paths.

Many accidents happen because a worker was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Help prevent such incidents by clearly marking paths for foot traffic and forklift lanes. Yellow tape is easier to notice than signs, and won’t become covered with dirt or debris like floor marks.

Have the right tires.

A blowout could cause an accident or halt productivity. The type of tire is perhaps the most important difference between forklifts that only operate indoors and those used indoors. While indoor forklift-tire sizes relate to truck weight, aisle and lift height, tires for outdoor lifts aim to prevent punctures.

Identify gradient inconsistencies.

The floor gradient is an important consideration because slight changes can cause a tip-over. This is the number one cause of death and serious injury to forklift operators.

Because forklift designs vary significantly, choose the appropriate model. The first factor to consider is the maximum load. Trying to lift a load that exceeds this capacity can damage the arms or cause a tip-over. When possible, assign drivers who have experience with the model you’re using. If this isn’t an option, make sure the driver understands the limitations of this forklift and can do pre- and post-operation maintenance checks.

Our agency’s specialists would be happy to help keep your staff and equipment safe on the job.

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Comp Scams: Beware Of These ‘Red Flags’

Jan 18

workers-compensation - smallWorkers Compensation fraud is a widespread and serious problem that’s not only illegal, but leads to higher insurance premiums for all businesses – including yours.

According to industry experts, Comp-related scams often involve one or more of these “red flags.” Although no one sign should necessarily be cause for alarm by itself, two or more should raise suspicions and could trigger an investigation of the claim:

  1. Monday morning report of injury. The alleged injury occurs first thing on Monday, or late Friday afternoon, but is not reported until Monday.
  2. Change in employment status. The reported accident occurs immediately before or after a strike, job termination, layoff, end of a major project, or the conclusion of seasonal work.
  3. Suspicious providers. The claimant’s medical provider or legal consultant has a history of handling dubious claims.
  4. Lack of witnesses. No one else saw the accident and the employee’s description does not support the cause of the injury.
  5. Conflicting descriptions. The employee’s account of the accident doesn’t match with the medical history or injury report.
  6. History of claims. The employee has filed a number of questionable or litigated claims.
  7. Refusal of treatment. The claimant declines a diagnostic procedure to confirm the nature or extent of the injury.
  8. Late reporting. The employee delays reporting the incident without a reasonable explanation.
  9. Elusiveness. The allegedly disabled employee is hard to reach.
  10. Instability. The claimant changes physicians, addresses, or jobs frequently

If one of your workers files a claim that has some of these warning signs, be sure to let us know. We’ll work with you and your Workers Comp carrier to check it out.

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Should You Have A Full-Time Risk Manager?

Nov 30

MP900400507 - SmallAs your business grows, the risks you face become more complex, potential losses grow, along with your insurance premiums. At some point, you’ll need to decide whether it makes sense to turn over the responsibility for risk management to a full-time professional.

Before making this decision, experts recommend that you weigh two key factors: 1) the cost of paying a full-time risk manager, and 2) the potential savings that this manager can generate.

The first element is relatively easy to determine, it’s the salary and overhead of the manager, plus whatever clerical support that he or she needs.

The second item requires you to analyze the extent which a full-time risk manager can:

  • Centralize and compartmentalize responsibility for risk management in a single department. This improvement in efficiency should more than offset the increase in administrative costs.
  • reduce losses by providing analysis of loss control needs, careful scrutiny of reports, and knowledge of whom to contact for specialized help. Careful attention to loss reserves and adjusting practices can help cut costs dramatically. For example, adjusting liability and workers compensation claims requires special expertise. Insurance companies generally provide adjusters, it’s always helpful to have someone on your team who can evaluate their conclusions.
  • help lower your premiums by paying closer attention to coverage criteria, negotiating with agents, brokers, and insurance companies, and using familiarity with industry terminology.

If you’d like our input on making this key decision, feel free to get in touch with the risk management professionals at our agency at any time. We’re here to serve you.

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Your Disaster Plan: Continual

Nov 17

MP900414115 - SmallYou want your disaster plan, also known as a “business continuity” plan, to be complete, accurate, functional, up to date, and able to meet your recovery objectives. To ensure that you meet these goals, there’s no better way than a “live test.”

You can create buy-in among managers and staff by providing a test scenario that’s specific, realistic, detailed, and comprehensive.

Consider this real-world example: A television communication company in Miami was completing its disaster plan when it learned that a powerful hurricane was headed straight toward Southeastern Florida. Fortunately, because the business had several days’ warning, it was able to implement the plan rapidly and communicate it to employees. Although the company was prepared for the worst, the storm struck to the south and west, near Key West.

Although there was no significant damage in the Miami area, the exercise tested important components of the plan, such as the ability of the business to:

  • protect equipment and strengthen the building in a timely and orderly manner
  • activate and maintain an alternate transmission site
  • test backup electrical generation and other equipment under adverse weather conditions
  • communicate emergency technical instructions to affiliate stations throughout the Spanish and Portuguese speaking world
  • sponsor a shelter for emergency storm personnel
  • release and recall staff in an orderly basis

A post-disaster meeting led to a number of refinements in the plan. Most important, the exercise confirmed the ability of the company to maintain important business activities at a pre-established acceptable level, with minimal impact to its customers and revenue stream.

If you’d like advice on testing your company’s business continuity plan before disaster strikes, just give us a call.

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Fungi Can Be Dangerous To Your Workes’ Health

Aug 24

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Studies have shown that most Americans spend more than 90% of their time indoors – an environment that’s significantly more contaminated than the outdoors. Maintaining a pollutant-free indoor environment can help raise productivity, reduce potential legal liability for building owners and managers, and improve the health of workers.

Fungi, a biological contaminant that flourishes in moist environments, can trigger a wide variety of health problems and complaints. The best way to curb fungal growth is to monitor and avoid water leaks, moisture migration through masonry walls, and condensation. (For example, high humidity levels might be due to running a chilled water air conditioning system at too high a temperature).

To help manage the moisture and water infiltration that breeds fungi, experts recommend following these rules of thumb:

  1. If the fungal growth is on a hard surface, scrape it off as soon as possible.
  2. If the fungus is growing on a porous surface – such as plasterboard, carpet, or ceilings –have it removed carefully to prevent the uncontrolled release of fungal spores. (Removing or disturbing materials contaminated by fungi can increase airborne fungal levels by a factor of 10).
  3. Dispose of fungal-contaminated materials under controlled conditions to prevent contamination of clean areas and protect building occupants and the area from elevated exposures.
  4. Dry any porous materials where water infiltration has occurred within 24 hours.

Increasing concern by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state health departments about exposure to fungal spores reinforces the need for keeping the spread of fungi under control.

We’d be happy to offer our advice on helping keep your building fungus-free – and its occupants healthy.

 

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NIOSH Offers Tips On Preventing Work-Related Highway Crashes

Aug 17

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Employment-related accidents behind the wheel are the leading cause of death from traumatic injuries in the workplace, killing some 2,200 people a year and accounting for 22% of job-related fatalities. Deaths and injuries from these accidents increase costs and reduce productivity for employers – while bringing pain and suffering to family, friends, and coworkers.

Preventing work-related roadway crashes poses a significant risk management challenge. The roadway is a unique work environment. Compared with other work settings, employers have little ability to control conditions and exert direct supervision over their drivers. The volume of traffic and road construction continue to increase, while workers feel pressured to drive faster for longer periods, and often use mobile electronic devices that distract them behind the wheel.

To help reduce this risk, for both long-distance truck drivers and employees who occasionally use personal vehicles for company business, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that employers follow these precautions:

  • Require drivers and passengers to use seat belts.
  • Ensure that employees who drive on the job have valid licenses.
  • Incorporate road fatigue management in safety programs.
  • Provide fleet vehicles with top quality crash protection.
  • Make sure employees receive training to operate specialized vehicles.
  • Offer periodic vision screening and physicals for employees whose primary job is driving.
  • Avoid requiring workers to drive irregular or extended hours.
  • Prohibit cell phone use and other distracting activities such as eating, drinking, or adjusting non-critical vehicle controls while driving.
  • Set schedules that allow drivers to obey speed limits.
  • Follow state laws on graduated driver’s licensing and child labor.

For more information about how to prevent work-related driving deaths and injuries, just give one of our Risk Management experts a call at any time.

 

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Seven Steps To A Safer Workplace

Aug 03

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If you think of your business as a safe place, think again. Security experts recommend taking these precautions:

  1. Parking Lot Security/Lighting. Because crime flourishes in the dark, implement a “buddy system” to ferry workers to and from cars. Limit parking lot access and keep the lots – and your entire facility, inside and out – well lit during non-business hours. Entrance Area Safety. Keep a receptionist on duty at all times. Provide a registration system for visitors (even if they’re dressed as service personnel). Have locks on doors and windows. Use badge or other photo ID systems, with frequent checks of entry codes. Never let employees prop open an outside door with a chair so it doesn’t lock behind them during a break.
  2. Suspicious Activity. Urge employees to report anything suspicious around the building. Instead of allowing employees to open suspicious packages, give them to the authorities for search and disposal.
  3. Information Safety. Because it’s increasingly easy for hackers or disgruntled employees to steal your organization’s vital data, use updated security software with regular backups. Shred paper documents containing critical information when they’re no longer needed.
  4. Equipment Security. Inventory critical equipment, hardware, and software. This is especially important as electronic devices keep shrinking in size. An inventory will also make it easier for your insurance company to process any claims if anything “goes missing.”
  5. Employee Valuables. Provide secure places, such as lockable drawers and closets, for employee property. Valuables, especially those that reveal personal information, should be locked away during meetings or breaks.
  6. Safety Team. Have a group of managers and employees meet regularly with a set agenda.

To learn more, feel free to get in touch with our Risk Management specialists at any time.

 

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Safety Training: Once Is Never Enough

Feb 17

1Employees who don’t learn the safe way to work are accidents waiting to happen — and that means that workplace safety training should play an integral role in your company’s risk management program.

Repetition is essential to this process. Make sure that your trainers repeat essential work safety concepts, information, and terms several times. Look at it this way: At any moment during a training session, some trainees probably aren’t going to be paying full attention — and if they don’t hear something, they’re not going to do it when they get back on the job. What’s more, many people might need to hear, see, or experience things at least twice before they understand.

Repetition is also important when it comes to practical applications of safety information. Employees need the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned until it’s locked into their heads and their performance is flawless. So when a safety procedure involves a practical act, be sure that the trainers give a demonstration, repeat it a few times until everybody catches on, and provide feedback while trainees practice.

You’ll also need repetition to make sure that workers don’t forget what they’re supposed to have learned. Training industry leader Bob Pike says that people can remember 90% of what they’ve learned one hour after training, 50% after a day, 25% after two days, and only 10% 30 days later. According to Pike, full retention of subject matter requires no fewer than six repetitions! That means plenty of follow-up and refresher training — especially for more complex material. Other experts recommend spacing safety reinforcement training so that employees can practice new procedures and skills or use new information on the job supported by coaching before they go back to the classroom for review and additional training.

 

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