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    Safety Incentive Programs with Focus

    Incentive programs make a greater impact when focused on tangible results. Read this helpful example about focusing on keeping areas clean and safe! Focused Incentive Programs – Housekeeping

Spring into Safety – Slick Safety Tips

- May 1, 2020 by Guest Bloggers

It’s been a long, cold winter for much of the country, but now the weather is starting to warm as spring takes hold.  However, with spring comes rain, and with wet roads comes the need for drivers to use caution. …  Read more …

Workplace Emergency Planning – Emergency Drills

- April 22, 2020 by Guest Bloggers

The purpose of emergency drills is to teach people how to respond versus react during a stressful time.   It prepares people to respond calmly, quickly and safely. Drills take the chaotic reactions out of stressful situations and replace them with …  Read more …

Don’t Forget the WHY in Reporting Workplace Accidents

- April 12, 2020 by Guest Bloggers

Do your procedures for accident investigation include the WHY? How thorough are your procedures for investigating accidents and preventing future incidents? When conducting accident investigations at your company, you must be particularly thorough in determining WHY the accident occurred in …  Read more …

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Get Moving! Get Active!

A new year, a new you! I bet you have heard that before. Hopefully some of you reading this are doing what you can to lead a healthy lifestyle. For those of you who could use a little motivation, here is another great reason to get active.

Playing with my beloved German Shepherd on a cold December afternoon and feeling young, I hit a patch of gravel, did a face plant – hitting a rock, the patch of gravel and what felt like a freight train.  I can only imagine what my graceful fall looked like – and I am thankful that only Cassie (my beloved German Shepherd) was the only witness to the what I assume was somewhat comical and cartoon-like fall (but in my dreams was much more graceful). After a brief black out, I awoke with a bloodied nose, aching head, black eye and Cassie trying to get me to throw the Frisbee again.  What happened next?

I got up and I brushed myself off, and continued to throw the Frisbee and enjoy the day.  That is why we exercise and stay active. So we can get back up when we fall down.”

I have many friends who would not have been as resilient in that situation. They would be lying on the ground waiting for help because their bodies would not have been able to handle the stress of the fall. I lead a healthy lifestyle so my body can handle more.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “people who do 120 to 300 minutes of at least moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week have a lower risk of hip fracture.”

Do you get back up after you fall down?  Don’t risk losing a day to a silly slip and fall. Get moving and get active so you can get up too!  I admit I did stay out of the public eye for a few days because of the way of I looked (black eye, bruised and battered face, etc.). but consider myself so lucky and one New Year’s Resolution is to exercise more and Continue healthy eating habits – if for no other reason than to throw that Frisbee!

Happy New Year!

Paula Tetrault



Have you or someone you know been a victim of crime while using your cell phone?  Have you caused a traffic accident or been involved in a traffic accident because someone was using a cell phone?  How many times has someone bumped into you while crossing the street or taking a walk?  Think about all these scenarios, and we begin to see the number of accidents involving cell phones rising.

Everyone has at least one cell phone and there are so many safety issues to consider both as an employer and cell phone user.  We are all aware of the dangers of using cell phones while driving.  There is an epidemic of distracted driving and in many states; there are laws that prohibit texting and using a handheld cell phone while driving.  A good company policy is to ban the use of handheld cell phones while operating a vehicle – whether the vehicle is in motion or stopped at a traffic light.  This includes, but not limited to, engaging in phone conversations, reading or responding to emails, instant and text messages.

The TV show Mythbusters demonstrated that talking on a cell phone while driving a car is as dangerous (more dangerous, actually) than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Turning cell phones off or setting it to vibrate is by far the safest practice to further reduce distractions.

 If you need to use your phone while on the road, choose a SAFE location to stop the car.  DO NOT just pull over to the side of the road. Here some tips:

Driving and cell phone use is certainly the most well-known hazard; however, the National Safety Council has recently added distracted walking to its annual report of unintentional deaths and injuries.  Emergency rooms see more than 2,000 patients annually due to distracted walking injuries and 54% of adult cellphone users walk into something or someone causing injury.  The Federal Highway Administration has reported a 15% increase in pedestrian deaths since 2009 – caused by distracted walking (over 70% of the accidents involved males).  If you must walk and text the safer way is to use the voice command on the phone.

Cell phones are now a way of life. Following a few safety rules will keep us all safer from crime, while driving and walking! 

Paula Tetrault


Observing Safety – Keep Your Head on a Swivel

When I played safety on my high school football team, the defensive coach consistently drilled the concept of keeping my head on a swivel. This simply meant to keep looking left and right as I backpedaled to keep the ball and the receivers in my field of view. A few months after graduation, I was off to boot camp at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. Due to my uncanny luck, that day was September 11, 2001. My comprehensive training of keeping my head on a swivel was put into action.

Joining the Marines and then deploying to the battlefield shortly after was certainly a great way to have certain traits, for better or worse, ingrained into the fiber of your being. The Marines call this muscle memory. Muscle memory can be easily described as the instant reaction you have to a fly landing on you—you swat it away without thinking! These subconscious instant reactions turn into the tools that one relies on to safely and effectively navigate the battlefield. As a civilian, one is far away from a battlefield, but that doesn’t mean that one is safe and away from danger. In today’s day and age, we’ve certainly witnessed danger unsuspectedly sneak up on people at concerts and at work. Whenever I am out and about, or sitting at a restaurant, ensuring I get eyes on the people near me is necessary so I can quickly assess their threat to me. Therefore, continuing to practice situational awareness hasn’t only been crucial for me when I am out in public events, it has also helped me to be a more focused risk management professional.  

While visiting clients, I take a similar slow and systematic approach like how I was taught; I stop, scan one sector at a time, observe, analyze (eliminate the threat if needed), then move and repeat. As a leader in your organization, you can learn from my approach and follow similar techniques to get a better understanding of your safety program effectiveness. 

I first begin my observations at the front gate; I look to see if the client takes pride in how they present themselves, or are the premises suffering the consequences of time. I look to see if there are sufficient parking spaces, or are employees forced to double park. As I enter the building, I look to see if I am immediately greeted, or if employees have their heads buried in a cluttered desk. While with upper management, I take note of how they speak to subordinates and the reaction their staffs provides; are employees smiling or do they ignore the boss? As I walk through production areas, I pay extra attention to the speed and direction I am being led and ask to double back to areas that were rushed. In every room, I pay close attention to the condition of the floors to see if they are uncluttered, with floor markings and well maintained. I then shift my focus to the condition of electrical cords and machinery; is there pride in workmanship or is equipment held together by zip-ties and tape? I then move my focus to employees and their workstations; are stations cluttered or do employees look comfortable while conducting work? Are employees using proper Personal Protective Equipment, or are they using homemade protection? I wonder if they are genuinely happy, or if they look like they are just getting by. I consider this and more, as the strokes of a bigger picture to what type of risk this client will turn out to be; one that takes pride in their establishment, values its employees and cares about their safety, or one that cuts corners, views its employees as expendable and safety as a gimmick.

While maintaining my head on a swivel at work, I take note of what the client presents to me and obsess over what is not discussed. I look at the obvious, but ultimately rely on my gut’s answer to: would I genuinely like working for the superiors I just met, would I feel safe doing my job and would I take pride in working for this organization?  You will be able to draw similar conclusions from your observations.

Diego Garcia


Wild Fires and the Construction Trade

Quite a few of my construction trades received an urgent message from CALPASC concerning the new emergency order that Cal/OSHA signed on 7.18.19.   The “Emergency Order” became effective on July 29, 2019 compliments of the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s emergency regulation…which is drafted to protect outdoor workers from the harmful effects of wildfire smoke.  The emergency order adds a new section to Title 8 Division 1, Chapter 4;  §5141 which is now §5141.1 Protection from Wildfire Smoke.

If your a California employer that need to comply with this order, you can contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant to help you with compliance. 

Jacki Mortenson


All Aboard the On-Boarding Train

The new hire on-boarding process – that wonderful process that new employees experience before they really start working. This is the time where new hires are ready to make a great first impression and you, as their new employer, should be too. Not only are you expected to review essential human resources and logistical information such as when they take breaks, when they get paid, details about their benefits, and have them fill out endless forms, etc., etc. but this is also when you set culture and performance expectations.  What are your expectations?  Is safety one of them?  I assume it is, but do your new employees know that they are expected to work safely?  Formally including safety expectations will set the stage for that worker to remain injury free. Below are some tips on how to set the stage for safety.

Asher Sweet


Sleep Deprivation and Workplace Fatigue

Quick quiz.  Name something that has been linked to the following high profile disasters- the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, the grounding of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker and the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.  If you guessed sleep deprivation, you are correct.  In all of these high profile disasters, those in charge of operations and required to make critical decisions were operating under extreme sleep deprivation.  Not only did these incidents cost millions, even billions of dollars, they also caused innumerable damage to the environment and the economy.1

So what is sleep deprivation?  According to the American Sleep Association, it’s defined as not obtaining adequate total sleep.  When someone is in a sleep deprived state, they may experience the following:

These effects can often lead to forgetfulness, reduced decision making ability, reduced reaction time, poor productivity, increased sick time, absenteeism, medical costs and increased incident rates.  In fact, fatigued workers lose 5.6 hours of productive time per week and losing even two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having three beers!2   Many large studies have found a relationship between sleepiness and work-related injuries. Highly sleepy workers are 70 percent more likely to be involved in accidents than non-sleepy workers, and workers with chronic insomnia (difficulty getting to or staying asleep) are far more likely than well-rested individuals to report industrial accidents or injuries. People with excessive sleepiness who also snore (a potential sign of sleep apnea) are twice as likely to be involved in workplace accidents. And tragically, in one Swedish study of nearly 50,000 people, those with sleep problems were nearly twice as likely to die in a work-related accident.3

So who’s at risk?  Certain industries or positions that have certain characteristics can contribute to sleep deprivation.  Those characteristics may include long work hours, long hours of physical or mental activity, insufficient break time between shifts, changes to jobs or shift rotations, inadequate rest, excessive stress, having multiple jobs, or a combination of these factors.4    Some of the occupations affected by these characteristics are:

Cognitively demanding tasks such as, monotonous tasks (driving on a highway), high alert tasks (assembly line work), and repetitive tasks (data entry) can also be major drivers of sleep deprivation in the workplace.2

Advice for avoiding fatigue and sleep deprivation in the workplace as suggested by OSHA:

1 http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/matters/consequences/sleep-performance-and-public-safety

2 http://ergonomictrends.com/workplace-fatigue-statistics/

3 https://www.sleepfoundation.org/excessive-sleepiness/safety/relationship-between-sleep-and-industrial-accidents

4 https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/psychosocial/fatigue.html

Stacey DeVries


Handling Stress

When the going gets tough, what do you do? When it is crunch time, and stress levels are high, all of my best intentions for healthy eating and working out are the first to go. Who has time to be healthy? And cook? And fit in a workout? I have so many other things that need to get done now!

Wellness is a state of mind, and it has many dimensions. By looking at it as a process, we can see that sometimes the gears (nutrition, exercise, stress, etc.) may not be maintained all the time. But it is essential to understand that just because one component is out of sync, the entire process is NOT faulty. 

Steer clear of the ‘all or nothing’ approach. You can continue to make nutritious choices, even if you missed a workout. You can continue with a positive attitude, even if your day goes badly. It is ok if there are a few mishaps along the way. Remember, this is a process. And this process will prepare you to make earnest choices when the going gets tough.

Here are small changes that you can make along the way to improve the process:

As you read this Blog from your computer screen, may I make one more suggestion? GO OUTSIDE! Put down that phone, get away from that computer! A study published in Scientific Reports shows that the sounds of nature can bring us to a relaxed state. Making a little time for nature – a hike, a weekend escape to the mountains, a camping trip, or a visit to the ocean can improve our mood, our outlook, and even increase our lifespan. Nature is the Best Medicine!!

Paula Tetrault


Holiday Stress

With the Christmas season upon us, some of us can already feel the weight of the season bringing us down. The pressure to meet everyone’s expectations can deflate that jolly feeling faster than you can find a parking space at the mall.

Also, yes, it is Christmastime! Just take a look at any store! Who would have thought that pumpkins, pilgrims, and Prancer went so well together? No wonder some people get confused and leave their Christmas lights up year-round!

So what can you do to stay jolly? Good question!

During this hectic time of year, we run ourselves ragged. The holidays can quickly turn into a race to make purchases, wrap gifts, decorate and make it to all of the holiday parties. We eat unhealthy food, stop exercising (because we are running up and down the aisles at every store…that’s exercise, right?) and often don’t take the time to unwind with friends. Have you ever told someone that there was no time to meet for coffee or lunch because you were too busy with your holiday commitments?

Here are some solutions for managing holiday stress:

Happy Holidays!


Paula Tetrault


What a Stretch

Have you ever noticed that just before babies go to sleep, they often stretch? They do a full body—hands reaching as far as they can, toes pointed—all out stretch. Where did they learn that? Alternatively, have you noticed that when animals get up, they often stretch? They sometimes look like they have been doing yoga for years. Where did they learn that? The fact is that babies and animals innately do what is needed to protect their bodies, while we as adults have excuses as to why we don’t take care of ourselves like, “I’m too busy,” or “That will take too long.”

Professional athletes do not just walk onto the field, play their best game ever, and go home. They have a whole warm-up routine that includes stretching and movements that get the blood flowing. They want to ensure that they prepare their bodies for what they are about to do.

So then, why do we not see employees stretching? Why is it not a part of the daily routine? Why should the preparation process for work in a manufacturing plant or a construction site be any different from that of an athlete?

Many people move incorrectly because they have tight muscles or de-conditioned muscles. Yet, flexibility and strength are crucial to most work tasks.

Employees in jobs that are prone to muscle strains and repetitive motions should prepare for the tasks they will be doing. They would benefit from stretching and warming up just as an athlete would.

Everyday work-related injuries are soft tissue damage such as sprains and strains. Often these can be prevented. One way to address the possibility of an injury is by preparing the muscles for daily activity. This preparation gives the body a chance to warm up and get the blood flowing.

There also may be a psychological benefit at work in a stretching program. Company managers and workers together in a space doing an everyday activity can create bonding and increase workplace morale. This can be a time that creates the perception of caring and support felt by employees from management.

A basic warm-up or pre-work stretch takes no more than 5-10 minutes. To get motivated, encourage employees to set simple goals such as:

However, companies are better off implementing a comprehensive ergonomics program to address engineering and administrative controls and implement a stretching program as an element of the overall ergonomics program. It does take time, but it is time invested, not wasted.

Paula Tetrault


Emergency Exits – Don’t Block Your Path to Safety

I often have clients tell me, “We keep our exits clear,” at the beginning of a site tour only to find them blocked, locked, lined with gasoline containers, or with an exit path that is only 24 inches wide. That is a recipe for disaster!

OSHA regulation 1910.36 (g)(2) states:  “An exit access must be at least 28 inches (71.1 cm) wide at all points. Where there is only one exit access leading to an exit or exit discharge, the width of the exit and exit discharge must be at least equal to the width of the exit access.”

Consider what the inside of the building would look or feel like in emergency conditions. There is no lighting, and the area is filling with smoke. An alarm is screeching, but you can barely see. You know you need to get out, but all you have to rely on is emergency lighting.

Checking exit routes and exit doors should be included in your weekly building inspection checklist. It is critical that these paths are unobstructed at all times because while emergencies are not planned, you should have a rehearsed plan in place to handle them. It would be best if you considered each of the following:

Regular checks of emergency exits to make sure they are clear at all times will ensure employees can successfully exit the building in the event of an emergency.


29 CFR 1910.36 (g)(2); Means of Egress.” Osha.gov. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 8 June, 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2013.


Paula Tetrault


Eye Protection

There is, without a doubt, a wide variety of personal equipment available to help protect your eyes. But how do you know which type is best for the job? Different types of hazards may require different types of protection, including goggles, face shields, or welding shields. Here are some things to consider before making the selection.

Other important safety tips to consider:

Regardless of choice, keep records, and have eye protection policies in writing. Eye safety policies should be clear. NIOSH suggests that the following key points be addressed and communicated to workers:

An on-the-job eye injury can cause lasting and permanent vision damage, potentially disabling a worker for life. Even “minor” eye injuries can cause long-term vision problems and suffering, such as recurrent and painful corneal erosion from a simple scratch from sawdust, cement, or drywall. However, an estimated 90 percent of eye injuries can be prevented through the use of proper protective eyewear, according to OSHA.

If you have some other ideas to share, please let us know.



Paula Tetrault


Distracted Driving – Keeping America’s Road Warriors Safe

Just the other day, I saw a driver with a Kindle on her steering wheel and a taco in her hand. As I drove cautiously past her, I also noticed makeup scattered about in the passenger seat and an active GPS attached to the windshield. So not only was she hungry and bored on the road, but she was also unaware of how to get to the final destination. She also planned on looking pretty when she finally arrived.

As amusing as this scenario is, it is NOT funny. We drive vehicles that have the potential to seriously injure or even kill other people on the roadway. And we often drive at a speed that will not allow for much reaction time. So why do we surround ourselves with items that are distracting us from watching the road?

As technology evolves, we increasingly see people doing much more than just driving when behind the wheel. Even with new “Hands-Free” laws in most states, we often see drivers talking on the phone, texting, plugging information into their GPS, or selecting a song from a handheld device. The art of driving has become very complicated. Not only must we be aware of the road, but we must also anticipate the other driver and what he/she may be doing inside their moving vehicle.

So what can you do? Staying focused is key. We, as defensive drivers, must remain focused and have a clear understanding of what is happening on the roadway. Although we may just be heading to work or school, we must understand that there are other drivers on the road that are very distracted. They may be in the middle of a meeting, or an argument, eating breakfast or even scrolling through websites to shop.  Yes, these are just a few of the things drivers do while behind the wheel!

Being focused helps us to anticipate the other driver. We have to drive defensively. Here are five quick defensive strategies to incorporate into your drive.

So to all the Road Warriors out there – Anticipate the Dangers and Stay Safe!

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen on the road lately? Leave a comment. We’d love to share your thoughts with our readers.

Paula Tetrault


Safety Sound Off – Machine Safety Part 2

This edition of Safety Sound off is part two of Rob’s discusses with Leslie about machine safety with ICW Group Technical Specialist, Leslie Stoll.   In Part 2, Leslie and Rob discuss guarding ceiling fans, light curtains, and guarding saw blades.

Click Here to Listen

For more machinery insights, be sure to check out our machinery blogs.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Does Body Mechanics Training Really Prevent Back Injuries?

Manual materials handling is the risk exposure responsible for the highest share of claims costs among ICW policyholders. Historically, many employers have turned to body mechanics training to reduce injury frequency. What these employers don’t know is that study after study has shown this type of training to have no impact on the rate of injury associated with manual materials handling.

An oft-cited study sought to measure the impact of a robust training program for US postal distribution center workers. An intervention group of over 2,500 workers received two initial hour-and-a-half long, hands-on training sessions conducted by physical therapists. Also, refresher sessions were administered throughout the duration of the study. Five-and-a-half years after the program’s implementation, it was found that the intervention group’s rate of low back injury did not significantly differ from the control group of workers who did not participate in the training program. It’s clear that training workers on postures to assume while lifting should not be the primary focus of our injury prevention efforts.

Curious as to why such training is ineffective? Stay tuned for my next blog!



Daltroy, Lawren et al. (1997). A controlled trial of an educational program to prevent low back injuries. The New England Journal of Medicine, 337 (5), 322-328.

Brian Piñon, CSP


Safety Sound Off – Machine Safety Part 1

In this edition of Safety Sound off, Rob discusses machine safety with ICW Group Technical Specialist, Leslie Stoll.   Leslie and Rob discuss some ideas for machine safety best practices, Leslie shares one of her pet peeves about unsafe machinery and explains how to handle older machinery that did not come with guarding.

Click Here to Listen

For more machinery insights, be sure to check out our machinery blogs.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Safety Checks, The Van Halen Way

In the late 70s and through the 80s, while the mega rock ensemble Van Halen was touring, an unusual request began to appear on their backstage riders. The rider, which is a list of items a performer requests to have backstage, included M&Ms candy with the stipulation “absolutely no brown ones.” The strange request appeared to most as an arrogant and eccentric request from picky rock stars, but in actuality, it was an efficient way to do essential safety checks.

The massive amount of lights, pyrotechnics, and staging that Van Halen brought with them on tour meant that older and less equipped venues couldn’t handle the load without extra precautions. The entire crew would run rigorous safety checks before each show to ensure that all line items were met to guarantee the safety of the band, its crew, and the fans that were to attend. If all items were not to their standards, they couldn’t risk playing on the hazardous stage. Of course, the crew would make sure that all parameters of their safety requirements were made, but one item would be a tell-tale clue to dangerous conditions or disregard for their safety. Diamond David Lee Roth would often march directly to the green room of the venue and check the M&Ms. If the candy bowl contained the forbidden color, Roth could quickly determine that the venue had not followed every line item and other serious inconsistencies may exist.

In the same way, when I walk a job site for a safety audit, I have certain “brown M&Ms” that I look for in addition to our safety checklist. The primary one is hardhat and other Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) compliance. Even if the project is moving smoothly, workers without hardhats indicate that they are lax on one or more items, putting themselves, other workers and possibly pedestrians at risk. I know that an in-depth examination is in order once I observe a lack of PPE and often suggest to site supervisors to double-check their work and reiterate our standards under penalty of removal from the site.

When a clear indicator like PPE is missing it prompts me to examine all parameters of a subcontractor’s work, not just what appears to be happening onsite. Often, subcontracted companies that exhibit correct safety compliance tend to practice full compliance across the board, and those who do not usually have many other issues.

So, the next time you are on a job site, check the M&Ms.

Guest Bloggers


Machine Safety

We’ve been getting a lot of basic questions from our insured about machine safe guarding so we wanted to provide an informative blog on the subject.

There are four primary ways to safeguard a machine: Using guards, installing devices, by having adequate distance between people and the hazard, or by having the proper size opening to prohibit access to the danger.

The four types are of guards are:

Safety guard devices are electronic components that can stop a machine when triggered and include presence sensing mats, light curtains, motion-sensing technology, barrier gates, interlocks, and more. All of these devices must be properly installed, properly maintained, and routinely inspected.

Barriers will not provide protection if the opening is large enough and the barrier too close to the hazard. Proper distance in-between the person and hazard can prevent someone from potentially catastrophic danger. A barrier with small openings can be mounted close to the hazard while barriers with larger openings must be farther away. OSHA has outlined measurements in their standards for opening size and distance.

Devices like light curtains must also be installed at a safe distance so the machine can come to a stop before the operator enters the danger zone. OSHA has a formula to help calculate this at their website.

You can also protect employees from moving parts by mounting items at least 7 feet above the operator platform. But always keep in mind that if employees use a ladder in the area or work on a mezzanine and can reach over to a hazard that the hazard still needs protection.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


A Lean Safety Approach

Last week I took my car in to get an oil change. As I waited and waited, I noticed something interesting. The first thing that caught my eye were two hoses left lying on the service bay floor.  A shop-vac hose and an airline hose lying there screaming, pick me up! In my mind, it was just a matter of time before the hose decided to bite back and trip someone.

As I stood there observing, a couple of other things caught my attention. First, employees had become oblivious to the hoses being there. Life went on as if the hoses did not exist.  Second, supervisors ignored the hoses on the floor too! Third, the number of times employees had to step over the hoses!

In the hour or so that I was there, I observed four employees step over each hose time and time again! I counted about 20 times for each employee. I estimated that it took about an extra second each time the employee lifted his foot and completed the step over the hose. That came out to about 20 seconds at four employees for a total of 80 seconds within an hour. So I took this information and made the following calculations. (Yes can you tell I was bored?)

Hourly Wasted time Daily Wasted Time 1 Week Wasted Time 1 Year Wasted Time 10 Years of Wasted Time
80 seconds 15 minutes 90 minutes 78 hours 780 hours
Hourly Wasted Profit Daily Wasted Profit 1 Week Wasted Profit 1 Year Wasted Profit 10 Years of Wasted Profit
.37 cents $3.75 $22.50 $1,170 $11,700

Not only did the hoses on the floor increase the risk of trips and falls and all of the costs associated with direct and indirect costs of workers’ compensation claims. They also resulted in a loss of profit every time an employee had to take time to step over the hose. In a 10-year span, this company would lose approximately 780 hours of wasted time, at a profit loss of $11,700 out the window!

Blaming employees for leaving the hoses on the floors is the natural and easy response to trying to fix this situation. However, would it really fix the root of the problem?   Or, would employees simply revert to leaving items on the floor once time passes by?  No problem you say, if my employees keep leaving stuff on the floor, I’ll just have my supervisors write them up or fire them. However, do you really want to take it to this extreme? Especially with the difficulty of finding good employees these days.

So, I challenge you. What would you do? Other than verbal counseling, discipline, or training, what other effective solutions could you implement to improve this situation?  What could be done to make it less likely that employees will leave objects on the floor? How could you combine lean principles and safety in your operation to not only reduce the risk of accidents but also to limit defects, reduce lead-time, and increase profits? Let me know your thoughts, drop me an email when you have a chance.

Terio Duran


5 Tips for Complying with OSHA’s Forklift Inspection Requirements

If your company uses forklifts, you know what a hassle it can be to document forklift inspections. Worse yet is not understanding what OSHA’s requirements are for carrying out and documenting inspections. Do we really need to document every forklift inspection that we conduct? Below you will find 5 tips that will help you comply with OSHA’s forklift inspection requirements.

How often do I have to inspect my forklifts?
OSHA’s forklift standard 29 CFR 1910.178 requires daily pre-operational and operational inspections before placing forklifts into service. This means that the operator should conduct a pre-start visual inspection with the forklift engine OFF and then conduct an operational check with the forklift engine ON.

Do I need to document every forklift inspection that my operator conducts?
Documenting your inspections is a good practice but not technically required by OSHA. OSHA requires that you “conduct” an inspection. They do not mention anything about documentation. However, using a pre-operational checklist makes it easier for operators to understand what potential issues they need to look for, and it encourages them to operate their forklifts safely. Additionally, documentation will provide proof of your daily inspections in the event of an OSHA visit. Rule of thumb, always have your operators complete a forklift inspection checklist whenever they discover a maintenance issue. Be sure to immediately take the forklift out of service, follow up on and document your corrective action(s) as well!  If you decide not to complete a form each time, make sure to document that you trained the operator of your requirement to inspect before each use.  This documentation would be helpful should OSHA start asking questions.

What if I operate my forklift once or twice a month, do I still need to conduct a daily inspection?
If your forklift is non-operational and not used every day, you would not need to inspect until just before it’s placed into service. However, leaving your forklift non-operational for long periods of time could result in other mechanical problems. Be sure to reference or contact the manufacturer in these types of situations.

Where can I find a pre-operational forklift inspection checklists?
Click on the following link Forklift Inspection Forms to download free printable copies of inspection checklists from the OSHA website.

Click on the following link Checklist Caddy for a company that offers a convenient checklist product that can be easily mounted on your forklift.

Click on the following link iAuditor Forklift App for more information on a smartphone-based app that can be used to conduct your forklift inspections.

Remember to customize your forklift inspection checklists to your specific forklift e.g., electric, internal combustion, narrow aisle, stand up, etc. Every forklift has different features, limitations, and specifications. Make sure you refer to your operator’s manual and include any vital manufacture safety specifications in your checklist.

How long do I have to keep my forklift inspection records?
Based on an OSHA interpretation letter dated 2/7/2000 OSHA states it would be the employer’s discretion to determine the duration of powered industrial truck examination record retention. However, you may want to error on the side of caution and retain forklift inspection records for a more extended period of time in the event of a future OSHA inspection. Generally speaking 3 to 5 year OSHA document retention is a good best practice.

Terio Duran


Are you managing risk by intention or accident?

Managing RiskOrganizations that fail to allocate resources and full support to a dedicated safety person often risk watching their peers pass them by when it comes to risk identification and reduction.

As ICW Group has expanded into a national workers’ compensation carrier over the last decade, one of the nuances we have discovered regionally (from a safety and health standpoint) is how the states where we write business regulate workplace safety programs. In turn, there are varying degrees of when, if, and how, employers assign responsibility for a dedicated safety person for their business.

As a California-domiciled company, our CA customers are under the jurisdiction of Cal/OSHA, which in 1991 mandated all employers with ten more employees to implement a written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).  From a compliance standpoint, companies scrambled, at that time, to fulfill their written IIPPs, and typically found their way to a vendor selling IIPP templates (voluminous, plug and play three-ring binders). Some companies also scrambled to place a person in charge of overseeing their program.

In the early years of the mandated IIPP, the safety manager hat was often ceremoniously tossed on to the heads of the production, operations or Human Resource managers. All skilled professionals in their respective jobs, but none with enough hours in the day to be truly intentional about overseeing the organization’s safety program.

The safest companies we see on a day-to-day basis and hold up as best in class examples are, above all else, intentional about managing risk in their operations. This risk management starts with formally assigning safety oversight responsibilities, whether that’s hiring for the position, or promoting and providing continuing education to a qualified employee.

We’ve all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” In the world of safety and risk management, regular measurement, risk assessment, and reporting allow an organization to focus on risk management and safety, which allows for better decisions to improve loss experience results.

Assessing, identifying, and quantifying risk requires thoughtful analysis and focused attention. This focus doesn’t happen by accident, and it starts with assigning the safety role responsibility to a designated resource.

Whether your safety position is full-time or part-time, the key to success is choosing the right team member. A team member who can work independently; has demonstrated emotional intelligence (self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation; empathy and social skills); shows leadership qualities; has excellent written and oral skills; good soft skills, and above all, is coachable.

If your organization is at the point where it’s ready to assign a dedicated resource to safety and risk management, here are common day-to-day tasks you can use to write their job description:

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


Unexpected OSHA Visits – Setting a Procedure Before it Happens

When your employees work construction, landscaping, or perform as service in public view, they bring the risk of a surprise drop-in visit from an OSHA compliance officer. This visit can result in fines that can be exacerbated by the mishandling of the situation by the employee on site. Do you have a protocol to handle a random visit by a compliance officer? Will your employees know how to react?

In a manufacturing environment, managing an unexpected OSHA visit is as simple as making a phone call to the executive or safety manager on site. However, alone at a job site, who’s the employee going to call, what are they supposed to say? Set your employees up for a stress-free interaction by reviewing our pointers below.

What if OSHA stops at your job site?

  1. If OSHA stops at your job site, they probably think they already saw something concerning, but that doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. Don’t panic!
  2. Stop your work and use your top-notch customer service skills to greet the compliance officer.
  3. The compliance officer must be able to show you their official ID.
  4. A compliance officer will never ask you to pay a fine on the spot.

  5. Ask the officer what the scope of the inspection is. Then let him, or her know you need to contact your supervisor according to your company policy.
  6. Take a break from working while you wait for your supervisor. Being polite and making general conversation with the compliance officer is encouraged. Do not turn the conversation to work.
  7. To prevent the compliance officer from arbitrarily looking around the worksite before your supervisor arrives, inform the compliance officer that your company policy requires a ’Formal Opening Conference’ with a supervisor.
  8. If the compliance officer asks you work-related questions, remind them that you need to wait for your supervisor and change the subject casually. Never lie or try to cover anything up! The compliance officer may have already taken evidential photos of the worksite.
  9. If the compliance officer starts looking around your site, escort him or her. Take pictures of everything they look at.
  10. If the compliance officer points out an obvious hazard that you can correct – then do so immediately. An example of this is a ladder that may be leaning unsafely against a wall. Move it to a safe position.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Reducing Risk – Site Specific Fall Protection Plans

Preventing falls takes more than providing equipment and giving work orders. A proper site evaluation and assessment is crucial.  By using a Site Specific Fall Prevention Plan, companies are able to systematically review and access each situation. Washington State Industrial Safety Administration (WISHA) has a well-known version of this plan. This plan identifies fall exposures as hazards (e.g. working above 6 feet or near skylight openings). It continues by identifying location and appropriate fall protection methods.

This approach has been used to some degree since the fall protection standard adopted in 2005. Within industry and smaller jobs, the frequency of formal assessments using Site Specific Fall Prevention Plans was much lower. Formal assessments identify the hazard and their fall protection controls but does not focus on (1) specific tasks/actions that workers perform that create exposures, (2) the number of times individuals are exposed to those hazards, or (3) methods to reduce the number of times the hazardous tasks need to be performed.

A method of quantifying the risk exposure can help prioritize controls. One method to quantifying the fall exposures is to simply identify the number of people exposed to a specific hazard and use that for simple weighting. ICW has taken the Site Specific Fall Prevention Plan and added columns to identify the tasks and the number of workers exposed to each hazard.

Taking frequency of exposure into considering brings a new dimension to controlling hazards.  For a copy of the Site Specific Fall Prevention Plan with frequency consideration, please click here.

Rick Fineman, CSP, ARM


Asleep at the Wheel

The sound of gravel and debris banging against my car was the first indication that I had fallen asleep while driving.

I have no idea how far I traveled, and I don’t recall when I closed my eyes, but I do remember to this day, 32 years later, the whole-body panic I experienced.

The day I dozed off at the wheel began unremarkably. I was seven months into the first year of my first job as a sports writer for the Yuma Daily Sun in Yuma, Arizona. At that time, the YDS was a P.M. paper, so we began the day early in order to meet our 9 a.m. deadline for publication.

I was excited for the day because I was taking my first-ever official road trip to cover a sporting event that night in Phoenix. I was living my dream!

The trip from Yuma to Phoenix is pretty much a straight shot; just hop on Interstate 8 and head east. I had the option to ride the team bus that day, but since I was new to Arizona, I wanted to experience the drive through the desert and cactus.

While I don’t remember feeling tired, it was not long before I was experiencing some of the tell-tale signs of fatigue. You know the ones:

• Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids.

• Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts.

• Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes.

• Trouble keeping your head up.

Not taking seriously what was starting to transpire, I rolled down my window; turned up the volume on the radio, and sang, loud. All of that seemed to be working… until it wasn’t.

The most vivid memory I have is waking up to cactus and tumbleweeds spiraling over the hood and windshield of my car, like bowling pins after a strike.

Panic stricken, and producing a big cloud of dust, I swerved back onto I-8 with a fishtail that any stunt driver would be proud of. I then careened back across three lanes of I-8, and managed to come to a heart-stopping halt, adrenaline supplanting fatigue.

The silver lining of my story is that, despite being a major interstate, I did not hit or hurt anyone. I was amazed, as I looked around, that there were actually no witnesses to my two minutes of terror (except for the cactus – RIP).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.

Are You at Risk?

Before you drive, check to see if you are:

If you have employees driving for your company, add driver fatigue awareness and risk factor training to your risk management tool chest, you’ll sleep easier. You can find some excellent resources to help train your employees at the National Sleep Foundation’s website DrowsyDriving.org


Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


Hazard Recognition – Where Do You Begin?

John is the owner of a manufacturing company. He wants to bid for bigger jobs but injuries are preventing him from being able to make the transition due to rising costs. John genuinely cares about his employees well-being and makes sure he has work to keep his employees earning a steady paycheck but he just can’t catch a break. John gets a hold of his loss runs from the last couple of years and tries to see what injuries are driving up the cost.

After doing some research, John comes across an article on hazard identification and recognition. After reading the article, John thinks that this may be the answer. According to the article, hazard recognition is conducting initial and periodic workplace inspections of the workplace to identify new or recurring hazards. John has the information… he just doesn’t know how to begin.

Hazard Recognition

John understands that a hazard assessment is a thorough check of the work environment. He also understands that the purpose of a hazard assessment is to identify potential risks and hazards in the area, as well as to identify appropriate safety measures to be used to mitigate the identified hazards.

There are all sorts of forms online for hazard assessments and checklist… but which one is right for John’s company? What hazards should he look for?

If you were John – what would you do? Read below for best practices.

Best Practices

For a look at this process with a more fine tuned focus, please check out Leslie’s blog on how to conduct a knife safety audit. This technique can be used for other exposures as well.

Robert Harrington


Hiring in a Tight Market

There are a couple of truisms that I’ve found about economic recessions and boom times, particularly in California’s Greater Bay Area aka “Silicon Valley.” First, there’s a silver lining during recessions (less traffic and shorter commute times). Second, boom times not only exasperate traffic congestion and commute times, but more importantly, they pose extreme challenge when employers’ need to find and hire enough people to sustain their momentum or to grow their business.

My work as a risk management consultant has provided me with clients in a wide variety of industries that include construction, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, hospitality, health care, and various light industrial operations. All them have run into the same challenge (i.e., finding prospective employees to fill their personnel shortages). Even when employers are willing to pay higher than the going rate, the “bodies” are nowhere to be found.

To find a solution to this problem, I took a page out of the tough economic times of the late 1970’s and 1980’s. The challenge during those years was to find prospective employees from where there appeared to be none, particularly in industries that were just coming on the scene (that we now take for granted)

How were the challenges of those economic times solved? Employers began focusing on “skill sets” that were compatible with the job tasks for their open positions rather than seeking employees with exact experience in the field. By “skill sets”, I mean the characteristics, aptitude, and capabilities that make an employee successful in a given job position.

Examples would be a person who is comfortable working on computers would likely be a good match for a position involving computer-numeric controlled (CNC) machines. People who have an aptitude for simple geometry might excel at jobs requiring production layout schemes, such as a tile setter or carpet layer. And, one who has a knack for understanding logistical work flow, (the production process from point A to point Z), might fit well as a production lead person or production supervisor.

Obviously, even with the right aptitude, some training and familiarity will need to be provided regarding the specific job and how the employee can utilize their aptitude in the job. But what this different approach does is increase the available candidate pool.

So, where does one begin the process of identifying compatible aptitudes with your open job positions? Check out my next blog on how to develop effective job descriptions and job analysis to not only identify the compatible aptitudes, but also improve both employee training and cross-training to cover temporary downtime when employees are out sick, on vacation, or other temporary disruptions.  You can also review Leslie’s blog about using the interview process for evaluating a candidates attitude about safety.

Tom Keel


Top Management Safety Involvement

With top management support, a company is much more likely to obtain a best practice safety management program and maintain a proactive safety culture.  However, top management support means more than just writing a safety policy.  Top management must be an active part of the safety management system on a regular (preferably daily) basis.

Techniques for involving top management in safety include (but are certainly not limited to):

If you have had success involving management in safety, please let us know by commenting below.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Safety Training – Engage Your Students

I vividly remember Mr. Evans to this day. He was my sixth grade US History teacher.  He had a gray handle bar mustache with gray bushy side burns that extended down each side of his face. He was bald, except for a patch of gray hair on each side of his head. He wore a pair of round silver frame glasses, suspenders with rolled up shirtsleeves. Wore his pants tucked inside a pair of old brown leather boots. He literally looked like someone who had just arrived from the 1800’s.

The other part I remember about Mr. Evans was how much he loved to teach and how excited students would get to be in his US History class.  Even the kids like me, who sat in the back of the classroom, who were too cool for school. Even with those kids, he had a knack for getting them engaged and involved.

Mr. Evans would start his class every day with a 5-minute rapid-fire session. He had a student aide who was at the ready to document extra credit points. Mr. Evans would shoot out questions as if he was an old gunslinger shooting bullets from his trust worthy revolver! “Who can tell me the names of the 13 original American colonies?” “Boom, extra credit for that young man!” To add emphasis he would stomp his feet so loud it sounded like fireworks had gone off when a student answered correctly. “Who was the 16th president of the US? “Bam extra credit for that young lady!” “Hey you in the back row, in what year was the declaration of independence signed?” “Bam bam extra credit for that young man!” Wrong answer? No problem. He had a great way of knowing just how to use an incorrect answer as a teaching opportunity, without embarrassing you in front of your classmates.

Mr. Evans is a great example of a teacher that figured out how to engage his students. He did not regurgitate words from a book or a handout. He did not rely solely on videos or presentation slides. Instead, he challenged his students with questions and storytelling. He recognized and rewarded his students in front of their peers and he coached them through wrong answers. It was a powerful and effective teaching approach that we can use too. We may never be as great a teacher as Mr. Evans but we can certainly use his methods to be better trainers and teachers.

When you hold your next staff meeting or training session consider implementing a few of the following approaches:

Write down 3 to 5 important points from a topic and develop a question for each point. Each question can then be posed to the group and used as a discussion point.  Example below.

Topic: Safety Glasses

I also like to use some of the resource tools below to make safety meetings a little more engaging.

If you have any great ideas you would like to share, please comment below.

Terio Duran


Distracted Driving Awareness

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2017 alone 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

So, what is distracted driving? It’s driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from the task at hand. Other activities could be eating, drinking, texting, talking on the phone, fiddling with the radio, etc. Basically, anything that would take your attention away from driving. In this day and age, we are often easily distracted, but such distractions can become deadly – especially while driving.

– One in four drivers used a cell phone right before they were involved in a crash. (Chicago Tribune, 2017)

– 1 out of 3 people text while driving. (Driver Knowledge, 2019)

– Sending or reading a text takes your eyes of the road for 5 seconds.  At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. (NHTSA, 2018)

– While the maximum amount of time a driver can safety divert their attention from the road is two seconds, it takes a driver five seconds—on average—to send a text message. (TeenSafe, 2018)

What can be done? Talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving is banned in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Text messaging is also banned for all drivers in 47 states and the District of Columbia.

Distracted driving can impact an employer. In fact, employers are being held liable for up to $25 million for employee crashes, even when employees use hands-free devices, according to the NSC.  You can read the white paper here on why employers should care. Also for consideration is the cost to the employer an employee suffers an injury due to a distracted driving crash.  There are many indirect costs associated with a claim that auto insurance and workers’ compensation insurance will not cover.

To help prevent distracted driving at your company:

1. Create a distracted driving policy which may include banning the use of all cell phones regardless of using a hands free device.

2. Conduct distracted driving awareness training. The National Safety Council even provides a free kit that insureds can use with their employees to help reinforce company policies and driving education. It contains fact sheets, ready-made communications to educate employees, and activities to engage employees.  Click here to register for the free kit!

3. Have employees sign a pledge to not drive distracted. Here are two examples: Just Drive and It Can Wait

4. Review John’s blog about reducing your overall driving exposure. The less often someone is on the road, the lower the chances for a accident.

Stacey DeVries


How to Prevent Falls During Roof Top Work

Many of our policyholders have reasons for their employees to be on a roof at some point. Sometimes it’s to inspect the roof, or perhaps it’s to service an air conditioning unit. In some cases, it may be for something completely out of the ordinary like retrieving a lost baseball. As a child, I can recall many times when our school custodian would toss us back a ball from the edge of the roof. As a safety professional, I can appreciate his willingness to be helpful, but I’d much rather the school buy a new baseball than have him risk a fall.

HVAC contractors, satellite installation contractors, electricians, and many other building contractors must access rooftops to install or service equipment. Whatever the reason is for having any employee on a roof, proper control must be taken. Below I have outlined the four steps to reduce your company’s exposure to roof top related falls.

1. Decide why someone is going up.

It is critical or can it wait until another planned task has to be completed? The more times an employee accesses the roof, the more chances an employee could fall. Can the task be done from the ground? If you never go up, you can’t fall down! Insurance companies and roof inspection companies are moving towards technology and using drones to inspect roofs rather than having people working at heights.

2. Know who should go up.

Only employees who are trained to evaluate roof top hazard should be authorized to be on the roof. Can they recognize weak areas of the roof? How about skylights without barriers or other protection? Is the employee capable of working at heights? Just because you hire someone to be your general maintenance person doesn’t mean they are comfortable working 20 feet off the ground.

3. Plan the work.

Make sure there is a safe way to access the roof, a safe way to bring up needed tools and equipment, a safe way to erect temporary safety controls, a safe way to tie off with personal fall protection if needed. Also, be sure to check that weather conditions are expected to be good for the duration of the work to be performed.

4. Assess and control the roof hazards.

As soon as the employee accesses the roof, he/she should conduct a risk assessment to evaluate the situation for hazards and necessary controls. As mentioned in #2, people who access roofs should be able to identify unsafe conditions such as issues with any guard railing systems or wall parapets. Once accessed, the employee must be able to control the exposure. This may mean stopping work until controls can be put in place. Your employee should be given full control to stop work if needed.

Even the simplest of tasks performed on the roof can be deadly if proper controls are not in place. If you are a building owner, please be sure to review these four steps with supervisors and maintenance staff. If you are contractor, please stress the importance of conducting the risk assessment to identify hazards. Many contractors know how to control their employees’ fall exposures, but run into problems because their employees are making unsafe decisions in an effort to safe time. Please make sure everyone understands how to be safe on the roof before allowing them to climb.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Steel Toe vs. Steel Plate

Years ago in my previous occupation as an iron-worker, I was working for a state I live in. They routinely hired us to fabricate parts and do bridge repair. One this particular project I was working in the shop drilling beam plates. Each plate was (if my memory serves me right) about 2ft by 1ft by 1/2inch thick and weighted right about 95 pounds.

We had a system set up – one guy would put the plate on the table, another would do layout, then one would drill the holes, and the last guy would double check and place them on a pallet with other parts and pieces, bolts, etc. I had finished drilling a plate, used the overhead crane to set it on a two-wheel cart to roll into the final check. I didn’t realize that someone had set a plate on the floor leaning up against the table leg. I hit the table and the plate tipped over onto my foot. I had no time to react since as I mentioned, I had no idea the plate was there.

Luckily for me, one of the requirements for working for the state, (at least in this department) was steel toe boots. The plate landed on my right foot with the edge hitting my foot just past where the steel toe ended. I was taken to the ER to get my foot checked out. I got lucky, nothing was broken. Only a bruise in a straight line about a 1/4” past the steel toe. I was off work for the rest of that day and the next but it could have been much worse.

Although I was left with a sore and bruised foot, it was much better than having a smashed foot. And as I have gotten older I wonder if my injury would have been more severe how would it affect me now?

These days with the continuous advancement of technology safety shoes are much different than 30 years ago. Then steel toe boots were about all you could get. Now you have tennis shoes, dress shoes available with a safety toe. You can choose steel, alloy, or composite and just about all (if not all) major brands carry some sort of safety shoe that should be suitable for about any job requirement.

For more info, check out this EHS Safety News article on requirements for footwear.

Dan Heinen, ASP


Safety Toe Boots in Warehouses

Do warehouse employees need to wear protective shoes? As a Risk Management Consultant, I get this question a lot. There is no single answer that fits every organization. But, there is a consistent approach to analyzing your workplace to determine what requirements you should have.

The first thing to ask is, has a PPE assessment been conducted? How is PPE determined for the work environment? Each department may have different exposures and should complete an assessment to determine task-risk-hazard exposures. Using our hierarchy of control method mentioned in Robert’s recent blog post, we only want to protect employees from injury using PPE as a final resort. We should also look to eliminate or reduce the exposure through engineering or administrative controls first.

Once the employer completes an assessment (similar to a job-hazard-analysis) and reduces the hazard through engineering controls and administrative controls, then the PPE can be determined. To develop risk reduction controls we need to consider how to PREVENT or REDUCE FREQUENCY of employees walking up to a powered forklift to speak to the operator.

Some ways include:

If the risk exposure for pedestrian vs forklift contact has been minimized, non-safety toe work boots may be suitable for the facility. A policy that states what footwear is allowed should still be created even if “safety” shoes aren’t required. You may choose to require non-slip footwear, no open toed shoes, no high heels, no canvas material (i.e. sneakers) to be on the warehouse floor. After all, if you do not provide any guidance on proper footwear, you could have an employee reporting to work in flip flops.

If a company does believe that their assessment warrants employees to wear safety toed boots, they should consider reimbursing the employee for the boot/shoe cost or partial cost (say $100). If the employee separates from the company before a determined amount of time, the company could deduct the cost of the boots from his/her last paycheck. If the company is a union shop, then you should review the contract to see if there is a clause determining the cost reimbursement for personal protective safety equipment that the employee will wear on a daily basis, such as footwear.

If administrative controls such as training, aisle markings, and intersection rules are part of your injury prevention plan, then you should have a routine audit process to make sure rules are being follow. A regular training plan should also be in place for forklift drivers and pedestrians.

Jacki Mortenson


Cumulative Trauma – Steps to Reduce Claim Frequency and Risk

Cumulative Trauma (CT) Disorder is a difficult and complicated topic. CT claims account for a large volume of claims across all industries and are often associated with repetitive motions, high force, and awkward position tasks. Although it is difficult to predict how the human body may react to conditions in the workplace, best practices have emerged over the years as the field of Industrial Ergonomics has continued to grow and identify actions that can help reduce frequency and risk of CT.

CT management is part of a broader overall ergonomics program. In one example, some of the best improvements from an OSHA inspection settlement agreement reduced a companies CTD rates by 90 percent and included:

Mark Yeck


Helpful Tips to Engage Your Team

I vividly remember Mr. Evans to this day. He was my sixth grade U.S. history teacher.  He had a gray handle bar mustache with gray bushy side burns that extended down each side of his face. He was bald, except for a patch of gray hair on each side of his head. He wore a pair of round silver frame glasses, suspenders with rolled up shirtsleeves. Wore his pants tucked inside a pair of old brown leather boots. He literally looked like someone who had just arrived from the 1800’s.

The other part I remember about Mr. Evans was how much he loved to teach and how excited students would get to be in his U.S. history class.  Even the kids like me, who sat in the back of the classroom, who were too cool for school. Even for those kids he somehow had a knack for getting them engaged and involved.

Mr. Evans would start his class every day with a 5-minute rapid-fire session. He had a student aide who was at the ready to document extra credit points. Mr. Evans would shoot out questions as if he was an old gunslinger shooting bullets from his trust worthy revolver!

“Who can tell me the names of the 13 original American colonies?”

“Boom, extra credit for that young man!”

To add emphasis, he would stomp his feet so loud it sounded like fireworks had gone off when a student answered correctly.

“Who was the 16th president of the US?

“Bam – extra credit for that young lady!”

“Hey you in the back row, in what year was the declaration of independence signed?” “Bam, bam – extra credit for that young man!”

Wrong answer? No problem. He had a great way of knowing just how to use an incorrect answer as a teaching opportunity, without embarrassing you in front of your classmates.

Mr. Evans is a great example of a teacher that figured out how to engage his students. He did not regurgitate words from a book or a handout. He did not rely solely on videos or presentation slides. Instead, he challenged his students with questions and storytelling. He recognized and rewarded his students in front of their peers and he coached them through wrong answers. It was a powerful and effective teaching approach that we can use too. We may never be as great a teacher as Mr. Evans but we can certainly use his methods to be better trainers and teachers.

When you hold your next staff meeting or training session consider implementing a few of the following approaches:

Write down 3 to 5 important points from a topic and develop a question for each point. Each question can then be posed to the group and used as a discussion point.  Example below.

Topic: Safety Glasses

I also like to use some of the resource tools below to make safety meetings a little more engaging.


Terio Duran


“Bee” Safe: Safety Tips When Working Near Bees

As the days start to warm up in the Central Valley of California, many of our agricultural accounts will be bringing out bee boxes to help pollinate the different nut crops and assorted field crops. Bees are usually brought to the fields or orchards in white commercial bee boxes and are not likely to sting when gathering nectar or pollen. While beekeepers take precautions when handling bees, our employees may find themselves in a situation where they disturb a nest and could be at risk for being stung.

There are two different types of bees Africanized honey bees and European honey bees. While we’re not likely to actually be able to differentiate between them visually, both types of bees sting once and the effect of the sting is similar. Africanized honey bees like to build nests in areas that are protected from the weather while European honey bees may nest in open trees, old cars, building pipes or even underground.

Some honey bees are very protective of their young and will respond quickly by stinging a person in the nest area or by merely walking within 50 feet or more of the nest. Vibrations from motorized equipment may disturb the bees at distances of 100 feet or more. Africanized honey bees will continue to defend the nest for up to a quarter mile.

Areas around the work environment or your home that could be potential hive locations also include storage sheds, wood piles, empty containers, air conditioner, barbeque grill, chimneys, eaves or rain gutters. They also may nest in mailboxes or attics.

Last year at my own home, we had a swarm of bees suddenly appear near the eaves of our backyard patio. We deduced that for some reason the queen bee decided to stop in this spot and all of the worker bees followed her to the area where we had a pretty significant swarm. We called a beekeeper who brought over a commercial hive in hopes that we could get the bees to go in on their own. The hive sat for a couple of days and on the third day the beekeeper came back and ended up donning his personal protective equipment and then scooped the bees up to encourage them to go inside. In doing so we hoped to move the queen since if the queen goes, they all will go. We ultimately had success in relocating the bees inside of the hive, then the hive was removed from our home.

The following are precautions if a bee’s nest is disturbed:

Mild reactions to bee stings include:

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a bee sting requiring immediate medical attention include:

Don’t hesitate to act should you experience allergic reaction-type symptoms as they could be deadly in as quickly as 30 minutes. “BEE” SAFE!


Pam McIntire, ARM


Cold Weather (and Not Drinking Water) – Could Put You in Hot Water!

During the winter months and even into the spring, it’s often too cold to reach for that glass of water to keep ourselves hydrated. Many of us opt for coffee, tea or other adult beverages instead. But when you’re still outside working where the humidity is low or inside with a heater blowing – you inevitably create a dangerous recipe!

Your body sweats so that it can use evaporative cooling to reduce your body temperature. During the summer when it’s humid, we see the perspiration build. But, in the winter your sweat works more effectively and evaporates more quickly – reducing the odds of noticing it.  And people also don’t want to drink water because it may reduce our core temperature making us colder than we would like to be. This can quickly lead to dehydration and its dangerous side effects.

An easy way to combat this is to drink warm, but not hot beverages. This way you get the liquids but it won’t cool you down nor will it cause you to sweat. Another item to look at is making sure what your drinking can replace what’s lost in sweat. A personal favorite of mine is Russian Tea, which is instant tea, lemonade powder and various spices to help warm up after shoveling snow or working outside.



Asher Sweet


Why I Choose Risk Management

As a safety professional in the insurance industry, I take great pride in the service that ICW Group and I provide to our customers.

Personally, it’s rewarding to be able to make a difference in our client’s work environment, and to help others achieve both personal and organizational goals.

ICW Group achieves this by creating a 360-degree approach to customer service, which yields rewarding relationships with business owners and employees.

Bottom line, I love coming to work each day knowing I’m helping others and providing a real sense of value.


Jesus Lozano


Reducing the Likelihood of a Press Brake Incident

Use of machines such as press brakes and mechanical power presses are still commonplace in manufacturing throughout a variety of industries. Over the decades, there have been numerous improvements in safety technology available for the equipment that includes light curtains, motor control systems and A/B gate systems.

Since machine operation is typically high-frequency production, reducing the Likelihood of injury is a key risk reduction area with potential for significant risk reduction and return on investment (2010 average cost of amputation claim survey estimated over $65,000). That said, many antiquated pieces are still in service, often with no safety features at all and poor if any maintenance. Compounding lack of basic safety features is the nature of the work itself. Tasks often requires holding the work piece in the machine or in close proximity. Some press work may require multiple entries into the die for production of small or difficult to extract parts (like rings). Die changes can also pose a significant risk.

Likelihood reduction efforts for high-frequency machine operations could include:

Do you have an exposure your company’s struggling to get under control? Let us know, and we’ll dedicate an upcoming blog to that topic

Mark Yeck


Resolve to Reduce Your Incidental Driving Exposure

Many companies, even though they do not have a fleet of vehicles, or any company owned vehicles, may still have an exposure for motor vehicle accidents. For instance, if you may have employees who drive their own vehicles to:

In any of these incidences, your employee could be injured in a vehicle accident. Their injuries would be a workers’ compensation claim, and therefore would directly affect your company’s workers’ compensation ex-mod.

To protect your company from this exposure, you should create a program for employees that drive their own vehicles on company business. Here are some important steps to consider in your company’s non-owned auto program:

  1. Make a list of employees who do or could drive on company business, in their own vehicles.
  2. Collect personal insurance certificates on their vehicles, and have the employee provide the company with proof of insurance annually or semi-annually, depending on the terms of their policy.  Check with your insurance agent or broker as to what the minimum insurance requirements should be.
  3. Narrow down your driver list as much as possible based on results of the MVR checks and need. The fewer people driving, the less exposure.
  4. Have employees sign an MVR authorization form to allow your company to check their State Motor Vehicle Records.
  5. Assign the task of checking the employees’ Motor Vehicle Records annually to a staff member, or sign up for an employer notification program, if available in your state.  Some insurance agents and brokers offer this service as well.
  6. Establish company driver eligibility guidelines.  These guidelines should state the number and type of violations or accidents that would disqualify an employee’s driving eligibility for the company.
  7. Conduct training on safe driving and defensive driving by showing videos or having conversations with all drivers.  In addition, include education about distracted driving, maintaining proper following distance and driving in inclement weather.

ICW Group has online resources including computer-based interactive defensive driving courses and safety topic sheets on a variety of safe driving topics available at no cost to our policyholders. Contact your ICW Risk Management Consultant for more information.

For a better understanding of the liability associated with this exposure, you should talk with your insurance agent or broker about Non-Owned & Hired Auto Liability Insurance.  Non-Owned & Hired Auto Liability Insurance covers bodily injury and property damage caused by a vehicle you hire (including rented or borrowed vehicles) or losses caused by non-owned vehicles (vehicles owned by others, including vehicles owned by your employees).

John Virsack, ARM


Why I Love My Insurance Career

My “why” for choosing, and staying, in the insurance profession has evolved over 30 years.

My career with ICW Group began when I applied for a loss control trainee position. I was fortunate to be hired and taken under the wings of several mentors who saw the safety profession not as a job, but as a mission to protect the lives and health of workers. These leaders pushed me to never stop learning, and gave me the latitude to grow and find my way as a consultant.

What I love about my day-to-day life as a risk management consultant for a work comp carrier is knowing that I can make a difference in the lives my customers’ employees, and in the overall education of my customers’ understanding of their workplace risk exposures. The relationships we build with our customers are not transactional in nature; they are partnerships, and often time, friendships.

We do what we do as safety professionals to ensure workers go home safe to their families, every day; and so our customers’ businesses can continue to grow and prosper financially. That’s a pretty cool way to walk through life!

Lastly, I love ICW Group’s culture of charity, which is modeled by our Founder and Chairman, Ernest Rady and CEO and President, Kevin Prior and encouraged and supported throughout the organization.


*Picture: ICW Risk Management and Underwriting team giving back to community at Three Square food bank in Las Vegas.

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


How to Dress for Success in Any Type of Weather

No matter what the weather, there’s a tried and true formula to keep yourself safe and comfortable. This formula is composed of three parts: wick, insulate and protect.


The wicking layer should be the first layer on the skin. This layer is designed to pull the moisture away from your body to keep you dry and improve your ability to cool. Most technical fabrics (Nike, Adidas, Columbia, etc.) have been weaved in a way that increases the surface area of the fabric than that of the skin it’s covering. During the summer this keeps you cool as the sweat evaporates away. In the winter this helps keep you dry, so you stay warm.


This layer is used to act as a buffer between the other two. Here is where you want to wear wool or other thicker fabrics. This layer traps the heat and reflects it back to the body. During the summer you may not need this layer unless you work in areas that have a high amount of radiant heat (kilns, fires, sun) then you may want a thin layer insulating you from the heat.


This layer acts as the shield, preventing the wind, snow, and rain from getting in. This can be raincoats, winter coats, or thick duck cloth. This can also be your boots, keeping your feet dry but wool socks keep them warm. During the summer months, this can be arm sleeves to keep the sunrays off of you.

With this formula, and knowing your clothes, you can dress for success for any type of weather!

Asher Sweet


Machine Risk – Reducing Likelihood

Use of machines such as press brakes and mechanical power presses are still commonplace in manufacturing throughout a variety of industries. Over the decades there have been numerous improvements in safety technology available for this equipment that includes light curtains, motor control systems and A/B gate systems. That said, many antiquated pieces are still in service often with no safety features at all and poor if any maintenance. Compounding lack of basic safety features is the nature of the work itself. Tasks often requires holding the workpiece in the machine or in close proximity. Some press work may require multiple entries into the die for production of small or difficult to extract parts (like rings).

Since machine operation is typically high-frequency production, reducing the likelihood of injury is a key risk reduction area with potential for significant risk reduction and return on investment (2010 average cost of amputation claim survey estimated over $65,000).

Risk reduction efforts for high-frequency machine operations could include:

Do you have an exposure that your company is struggling to get under control? Let us know, and we’ll dedicate an upcoming blog to that topic.

Mark Yeck


What Would You Do? Creating an IIPP

Jeff, the owner of the company, stops by the office of Celia, the company’s HR representative.

“Celia I know you have only been here for three months, but I was just contacted by a government agency and they would like us to have a completed Injury Illness Prevention program and additional procedures for the type of work we do,” said Jeff.

Celia looked up from her desk and asked “Do we have anything started I can go off from?”

“You may want to check the filing cabinets from your predecessors,” replied Jeff.

Celia gets up from her desk and looks through the cabinet for any work that has been completed. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the records or in the computer.

Celia walks to Jeff’s office and pokes her head in.

“Jeff I have no idea where to begin,” said Celia. “We have nothing on file or in the computer. Where do I go to get the information on what we need to fill out and where do I start? Is there anyone else that can assist me on this?”

“Well, Celia, you are in charge of safety. Why don’t you Google it and get started?” said Jeff.

Celia confused, sits down at her desk and begins to search “Injury Illness Prevention program.” There are so many web pages and ads for them it only makes her head hurt even more.

Injury Illness Prevention Programs

Celia has a limited amount of time and from what she gathered from Jeff, little to no budget to ask for help. Celia wants to do the right thing for the employees to keep them safe and understands that having clear policies and procedures will help move the company in the right direction for safety.

She can copy an IIPP off the internet but how does she know if it will work? As she begins to jot down ideas on her notepad she notices a stack of business cards, the company’s broker information and The name of the Work Comp Insurance company.

If you were Celia – what would you do?




Best Practices

Robert Harrington


Winter Wind and Parking Lots

I wrote a blog in March 2017 called “Thar she blows! How to drive safely under windy conditions” and wanted to elaborate on that topic a bit more. Winter wind can pose different hazards than the same wind in spring-fall. With lower temperatures, bridges and overpasses may freeze up before the road does and before you know it, you can be in a guardrail or worse yet over the side. Winds and even light snow can make for hazardous driving conditions. In this blog, I’ll focus on parking lot hazards associated with winds. Particularly, hard caps or tonneau covers on pickup trucks, and shopping carts.

Recently, I went into a big box lumber store for a purchase. A high wind advisory popped up on my phone. It’s been windy all day and I didn’t think anything of it. There were two pickup trucks parked near mine, both with hard shell bed covers. One was two spaces closer to the door than mine and the other a couple rows back but directly behind the first. I went in, made my purchase and walked back out to my vehicle.

On the truck a couple of spots over, the hard cover was now up and on the verge of being blown off. The truck cover behind me already lost the battle with the wind. It had been blown off and was now partially wedged under another vehicle’s rear tires.

Luckily, no one was injured and no damage to any vehicles that I saw. Needless to say, I was taken off guard and it got me wondering. What if the one that was blown off had struck someone? It was off a full-size pickup and probably weighed 100 pounds or close to it. And driven by a 50 mph wind would have enough force to injure a person and/or damage another vehicle.

If you have a hard cap or tonneau cover on a vehicle, make sure it is securely latched at all times. Park with your truck facing into the wind. Avoid purchases or deliveries that may require you to open the top up, as it’s kind of a double edged sword when windy. One direction may cause the cover to unexpectedly fly open and being damaged or, worse case being blown off the truck, injuring a bystander or damaging another vehicle. Park the other way and you may risk the cap slamming down on you as you place or remove items from the bed.

Shopping carts are another item. Seems like the only ones that steer straight, are the ones being driven by wind, at high speeds, across a parking lot, headed right at a vehicle.

Try and park away from the cart corrals. Watch for stray carts, customers loading or returning lightweight or large items that have the potential to become airborne, (think sheets of plywood, drywall, foam backer board, etc.).

As always, pay attention to your surroundings during adverse weather conditions. You left to go on a shopping trip…not a hospital trip!


Dan Heinen, ASP


Shockingly Cold During the Winter Months

Now that it’s winter time, the humidity is lower than normal. Have you noticed that as you walk across the carpet to grab a doorknob, you felt a slight electric shock? How about when you opened the dryer door – did you see some of the clothes still clinging together? Or, did your hair stand on end as you brushed your hair this morning? If so, you have just experienced the effects of static electricity.

Static Electricity

Static electricity is the result of an electrical charge that forms when two materials are linked together and then pulled apart. One surface becomes positively charged and the other negatively. In a flammable work environment, or during the unintentional release of flammable vapors or dusts, a static electricity spark, could result in a much more than frizzy hair.

The examples above are common, but here are some examples that you may not have considered:

  1. Polypropylene rope sliding through certain types of gloves.
  2. The flow of a flammable liquid, such as gasoline, from a tank to a container or your vehicle while refueling.
  3. The dispensing of a flammable, such as paint thinner, from one container to another.
  4. Dry powder passing through a chute or on a conveyor.
  5. A non-conductive belt on a drive pulley on a piece of equipment.

Bonding and Grounding

So, how can you reduce the exposure to of static electricity? A couple of methods include “bonding” and “grounding.” Bonding is the connection between one container and another so that the electrical charge flows between the two.

Grounding is the connection between an item or container and the Earth (ground). A simple wire connection to solid earth is a suitable example. Most (if not all) buildings are grounded. As steel structures are built they are all interconnected, (think bolted, welded, screwed) the building is grounded by a metal rod driven into the ground to eliminate the charges as they are produced. Or think of in your home, your wash machine has a wire to the cold water pipe. The pipe is buried in the ground outside the home providing a ground.

You can also continually monitor the work environment’s relative humidity, and use bonding or grounding when the concern for flammable vapors or dusts is present.

Other means of prevention include static collectors, Anti-static additives in liquids, and controlling static electricity on employees, vendors and contractors performing service work.

So, if you aren’t sure if your company has the potential for static electrical issues talk to your people. Line employees, shift supervisors, department heads. Ask maintenance if they have received reports, or if any of the above apply. If you get a Yes answer from anyone, bring it to the attention of management immediately.

Dan Heinen, ASP


Resolve to Eliminate the Hazard

Over the years, mySafetynews.com has provided a lot of a content containing training tips and informational blogs about how to improve safety. While that’s still important and we’ll continue to post blogs of that nature, this year we’re refocusing our efforts to help you physically eliminate hazards or reducing the risk of a hazard if it cannot be eradicated.

When you eliminate a hazard, it’s no longer an exposure that harm your employees. You won’t have worry about the human factor any longer which is often a contributing factor in most of our incident investigations. For example, if you eliminate the hazard, you no longer need to rely on your employees to make the safe decision such as wearing their respirator or using the proper ladder.

By eliminating the hazard, you remove it from the injury equation.

No matter how you look at it, if you remove the hazard, then everyone goes home safe! Now, we aren’t saying this going to be a simple process, and we certainly aren’t saying that you can eliminate all hazards. After all, if your building is two stories, we can’t expect you remove the stairs to prevent people from falling down them or if your operations involve delivering product. Just like we can’t expect you to eliminate driving from your employee’s day.

In addition to eliminating hazards, we’ll focus other blogs on reducing the chances of an injury when a hazard can’t be erased from the equation. This can be done by cutting back on the frequency of exposure to the hazard, limiting which employees are exposed to the hazard, and lessening the severity of an injury.

We’ll be looking at exposure to prevent all types of injuries including material handling, motor vehicle accidents, caught in, struck by, workplace violence and more. Stay tuned!

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Digging Safety

Do you really know that you are clear below or do you just dig until you “hit” something?

According to the Common Ground Alliance, an underground utility line is damaged once every six minutes because someone dug without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities. Furthermore, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the U.S. alone!

What happens if you don’t verify what’s below? There may be serious negative consequences, including:

All 50 states and five Canadian provinces have adopted an excellent system to help prevent damage to underground utility lines and subsequent injury to workers — call before you dig. This is known as “ 811.” It’s a Positive Response System that you can use FREE with 24/7 access. Every state has a local “one call” number that allows anyone to contact all their local utilities with one phone call and have the dig area marked for existing utility lines prior to digging. If you call 811 anywhere in the US or the participating Canadian provinces, you will be transferred to your local “one call” system.

The law requires that you verify (Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Chapter 556). Verifying tells you that you are clear below….and it is not just a best practice — it makes sense.

Check your state requirements to ensure you have allowed sufficient time for the utilities to be marked. Generally, the requirement is to call two to three business days prior to digging, but not more than ten days before beginning work.

Ready to dig? Follow these steps to do it safely:

Safe digging!

Ken Helfrich


Office Ergonomics – Don’t Just Sit There

Movement invigorates the mind, leads to higher productivity, reduces back pain and increases your energy levels. It also helps the blood circulate oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Some studies have shown that lack of movement throughout the day may increase your cholesterol, blood pressure and overall risk for diabetes.

Office workers and clerical employees sit for several hours at a time. For this post, I’ll be sharing ideas you can pass along to your team to help them be more active at the office. The below tips are small things that anyone can do that have huge workplace benefits!

Drink more water — This will result in a more frequent need to use the restroom and be a reminder to get out of your seat.

Don’t eat at your desk — The short break from your desk will not only invigorate your mind it will also get you some much-needed steps by walking to the breakroom.

Walk with a buddy during your lunch break — When you break of the monotony of the day with a little movement, you’ll be able to come back refreshed for a productive afternoon. Socializing with others can do wonders for ones mood also. Just try your best to avoid conversing about work while you on your break

Never call a coworker that is just down the hall — Instead, walk over to their desk and follow up with them in person.

Exercise at your desk — Practice sitting up straight, extend your legs five times, reach your hands over your head and stretch.

Consider a sit-stand desk — Having an adjustable desk provides for a way to change positions while you keep productively working.

The key is to interrupt the sitting and incorporate movement. Not moving throughout the day causes a decrease in blood flow and can drain you of your energy. So let’s get moving!

Jason Rozar


Screw Conveyors: Hazardous Machinery Requires Specific Procedures

Screw conveyors are used to convey bulk materials in granular form from one point in a process to another. They consist of a continuous helical blade about to a rotating shaft, (also referred to as an auger), enclosed within a trough or tube, powered by a motor and gearing system. They may be horizontal, inclined, or vertical. Screw conveyors are most commonly found in the agriculture, food processing, pharmaceutical, building materials (such as cement), metals processing, coal, lumber (for sawdust), and other industries.

The forces needed and produced by screw conveyors depend on a number of factors. These include the rotating speed of the auger; the density of the material being conveyed; and the friction produced by the material. Depending on the application, the forces produced can be tremendous. If a person working with or around a screw conveyor came in to contact with the rotational portion of the conveyor while it was in operation, that person could be subject to crushing injuries, with the most severe cases resulting in amputations and even death.

When Things Go Wrong
In the summer of 2017, at a foundry in Southern California, a screw conveyor system was in use as part of a dust collection/reclamation system. During simultaneous maintenance and cleaning operations, the electrical power to the screw conveyor was turned off. An employee was performing cleaning inside of the hopper that fed the conveyor and was in a position where his legs were in contact with the auger. After the maintenance operations were complete, another employee (who could not see the employee doing the cleaning) activated the machine by turning on the power. Once activated, the rotating auger grabbed ahold of the employee’s legs and pulled them in to the screw conveyor causing massive crushing injuries to both legs and pinning them inside. Emergency medical personnel were summoned, and it was determined that the employee could not be extracted without using extraordinary measures. A surgical team had to be brought in and both of the employees legs were amputated on site.

Another example occurred in the fall of 2013, at a winery in Northern California. A screw conveyor system was in use to move grapes from a collection hopper in to de-stemming and pressing machinery. An employee was performing cleaning operations inside this hopper when the power to the screw conveyor system was switched on inadvertently. The rotating auger grabbed ahold of the employee and pulled him in to the machinery causing crushing injuries to multiple body parts, resulting in a fatality.

What You Can Do to Prevent Injuries
In order to prevent injuries, certain control measures should be undertaken. These control measures include:

Screw conveyors allow quick and efficient moving of bulk materials to perform a high volume of processing.  Such machinery can reduce exposure to severe injuries during maintenance, cleaning, and similar operations.  When proper hazard control procedures are established and practiced, injuries can be prevented.



KWS Manufacturing, Ltd.; Screw Conveyors Engineering Guide; 2015; Burelson, Texas

Yu, Yongqin; Theoretical Modeling & Experimental Investigation of the Performance of Screw Conveyors; 1997; University of Wollongong; New South Wales, Australia

Pasadenastarnews.com; August 28, 2017

KSBW.com; October 4, 2013

Glen O'Rourke, ALCM


Safety Resolutions

As we close out 2018, we wanted to repost an article from last year – Top Ten Safety Resolutions. Each resolution has a link to a full article on the subject if you care to learn more. Have you successfully implemented any of our suggestions?  Did you set new goals or resolutions that you’d like to share? If so, let us know!

1. View safety as equal to production, not as a government compliance item.

There is a lot more to safety than OSHA compliance.  Some companies have a policy in place so employees can halt production due to quality issues; the same should be true for safety issues.  Just because a company is in OSHA compliance doesn’t guarantee that they will be injury free but creating a culture where safety and product go hand in hand can impact injury rates.

2. Discipline safety violators even for near misses (when they don’t get injured).

OSHA is taking a strong stance against employers who retaliate against employees for getting injured on the job.  Employers with safety policies are in their right to discipline for violating a safety policy, but if you are only disciplining after an injury, you are potentially looking at an OSHA violation.  Discipline needs to be consistent for all safety violators not just for those who report an injury.

3. Empower your supervisors.

You can’t manage safety from your office, and you can’t be every place all the time. You need to empower your supervisors to correct unsafe conditions and unsafe acts on the spot.

4. Learn everyone’s name.

How can you expect your machine operator to feel comfortable expressing their safety concerns if you don’t even know their name?  Get to know people and let them get to know you and you will be surprised how much more effort they put into their job.

5. Include safety at production meetings.

When you include safety in production meetings, your production supervisors can be held more accountable for being proactive in their department.  They will also be more likely to address safety before making changes or starting non-routine tasks.

6. Allow your employees to participate in and lead safety training.

There is nothing less effective than a boring safety meeting taught off a pre-written safety bulletin.  Make your safety meetings more exciting by asking employees to participate and share stories.  This will not only improve your meetings but your safety culture as well.

7. Investigate for root cause and making changes to stop re-occurrences.

Accident investigations are not just for documenting an injury; they are for developing countermeasures to prevent future incidents.  Teach your supervisors to investigate down to the root cause and not to stop at the quick fix.

8. Use your monthly audit forms as a catalyst for change.

No one is benefiting when the same items repeatedly noted on the monthly safety inspections.  Start developing a process to correct the root cause of the repeat items.

9. Track something other than injuries for your incentive.

When you reward your employees for not having an injury; employees are incentivized not report their injuries– it doesn’t mean they didn’t get hurt, it just means they aren’t telling you.  Develop a new incentive that improves safety such as participation in a safety meeting, improving audit scores, or making a safety suggestion.

10. Track safety successes – Find the Positive.

Good things are happening in safety every day if you just start looking.  The new year should be a year to celebrate the safety successes.  Set a goal; find five positive things to highlight every month.  It could be that your forklift driver stopped at the intersection or that an accountant put on this steel toe shoes before walking into the plant.  Whatever the successes are, find a way to acknowledge them in the new year and for the years to come.


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Chipping in for Safety

Wood chippers (also referred to as wood shredders) are used by tree trimming and landscaping contractors to shred trimmed branches and pieces of brush in to small chips for use as mulch or compost material.

Basic operation is thus: the branches/brush are placed in to a feed chute where rollers will move them to a cutting chamber. Inside the cutting chamber a series of rotating knives shred the branches/brush in to the chips. After shredding, the chips are flung out of a discharge chute to a collection point.

Hazard Exposures

Wood chippers present many hazard exposures, up to and including being pulled in to the shredding chamber and suffering severe laceration/amputation and crushing injuries, up to and including death.

In the summer of 2017 in Northern California, a tree trimming contractor was operating a chipper to shred branches of a freshly trimmed tree. The employee operating the chipper picked up a branch and fed it in to the feed chute. However, the rope that was used to lower this branch from the tree was still attached. As the branch went through the feed rollers, the rope became entangled around the employee’s neck, thus strangling him as it was pulled in to the cutting chamber with the branch, resulting in a fatality.

Safety Tips: Before, During & After

What can you do to stay safe? In order to prevent injuries while operating a chipper, certain safe procedures need to be followed.

Procedures to follow BEFORE operation of the chipper:

Procedures to follow DURING operation of the chipper:

AFTER the completion of the chipping operations:

Wood chippers represent a significant exposure to series injuries. To prevent such injuries from occurring, specific safe procedures need to be practiced.


Lind, Sara & Ricketts, Mitch; Chipper/Shredder Safety; Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment and Cooperative Extension; 2006; Manhattan, Kansas

Cal-OSHA Consultation Services Branch; Tree Work Safety Guide; Division of Occupational Safety & Health, California Department of Industrial Relations; 2016; Sacramento, California

Napavalleyregister.com; August 16, 2017

Glen O'Rourke, ALCM


Phasing Out Ladder Cages

Did you know that part of the new General Industry Working Walking Surface Standard applies to fixed cages for ladders that are 24′ or greater above a lower level? Ladder cages as an acceptable form of fall protection are being phased out. The changes began November 2018 and have deadlines that are important to consider.

Below are the key highlights of these important changes:

From a risk standpoint, cages have never been a good solution because they don’t actually stop anyone from falling, and in many cases create gruesome injuries from entanglements during rapid decent. It can also create difficult situations for first responders if the person strikes their head and becomes unconscious and entangled. In fact, I can remember one such incident happening in my time working as a safety professional. If the employee had not woken up, I’m not sure how the rescue would have taken place as the person was 15 feet off the ground.

So, why did they create this regulation? The new ruling was designed to allow more uniformity between the construction standards and general industry. This is great for employers that fall under general industry because it allows for more fall protection options that were previously only available to the construction industry.

Keep in mind you don’t have to get rid of your ladder cage. You just need to ensure there is another means to arrest a fall should it occur.

Want more information? Ask your local fall protection provider and or your designated ICW Group Risk Management Consultant.


Erin Silva, CSP


Crane Rigging – A Near Miss Story

There are important reasons why the training requirements exist for both riggers and signal persons. In this blog, I’ll share an important story that took place in early 2013.

I was doing my normal rounds on a project I was working on when I came upon a crane pick. When I walked up, I could clearly see they were trying to keep a bad situation from getting worse. I took note that there was a main larger load and then a few boxes on top of it. As the load approached the building, I watched as three small unsecured boxes slid towards the man on the receiving end and one of the boxes fell 8 stories down. Luckily, the load just barely cleared the edge of the building, but it almost dropped to the ground. No one was hurt, but after investigation I found out the main load was indeed rigged properly. What happened is that when the boxes shifted, it caused that main load to shift and thus enabled the sling holding the main load to shift. Because of the boxes, they could have lost the entire load.

To keep this from happening, here are a few things everyone should consider:

1. Crane operators should always ask for rigger and signal person qualifications.  This is something the crane operator must ensure since they are required to stop the lift if they don’t feel it’s safe.

2. Adhere to OSHA requirements for training. OSHA states:

“All signal persons must be qualified and tested through a written or oral test and a practical test, and the qualification must be documented [§ 1926.1428].”

“A qualified rigger is needed during assembly/disassembly of cranes, when employees are engaged in hooking, unhooking, or guiding the load, or in the initial connection of a load to a component or structure and are within the fall zone.” 1926.1404; 1926.1425].”

3. Create and require a pick plan for all crane picks. Make sure everyone sticks to that plan or rewrite it. This includes both general, critical and production (repetitive) type of lifts.

If you would like more resources about a pick plan and training requirements, please reach out to your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant – we’re happy to help!

Erin Silva, CSP


Catastrophic Loss – Is Your Company at Risk?

The President and the Vice President of the United States do not travel in the same car or airplane. The United States government created this rule as a way to reduce the risk of suffering the loss of both leaders at the same time. When the President gives his State of the Union Address, one member of Congress does not attend because there must be a contingency plan in case the unimaginable occurs. The United States has these rules to protect the country and allow “business as usual” to continue on.

Organizations should consider their exposures and what controls they have in place to prevent catastrophic results that could lead to your company’s demise.

Ask yourself these key questions:

Recently, I learned of a car accident involving a work crew. Five employees were traveling to a jobsite when they were involved in an accident. Three employees suffered horrible injuries and two employees died in the accident. The company was small and could not recover quickly from this loss and suffered huge profit losses as a result of not being able to service their customers.

As a general rule, ICW Group recommends that the number of employees in one vehicle be no more than three; if you have not considered the impact of such a loss, we recommend that you take a moment to address this with your management team to develop a travel policy.

As a business owner, you need to consider what would be a catastrophe for your company. Many companies have controls in place such as back up machinery, secondary material suppliers and back-up generators. But, have you thought about your human resources? Are you taking the proper measures to ensure that a tragic accident doesn’t change the path of your company for good?


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


IIPP Series Part II – Where the Rubber Meets the Road

In my last blog, I discussed the financial impact of the IIPP. Here I’ll discuss from an emotional standpoint – where the rubber meets the road and how the IIPP can help keep you and your employees safe and productive.

Accidents will  cause a ripple of issues for your employees starting with their confidence in you as an employer to keep them safe. And in some cases, you may even share their concerns! Loss of a member of your workforce to injury (or worse) has a long lasting emotional impact on everyone –  the blame-shifting and “if only…”, the sting of seeing the sight of the incident, feelings of anger and sadness. I know most employers don’t want to hurt their employees and feel beyond horrible when it does happen. I believe most of you want to keep your employees safe; for many of you they are like family and for small employers, one employee is a huge percentage of your  workforce that you need to keep your business running.

Because most of you are small business owners, you wear a lot of hats and at the end of the day it’s all you can do just to keep on top of the day to day madness. At times thinking about actually having to create and manage a formal safety program is just too much. It simply isn’t enough to have a few safety meetings and just tell your employees to be safe.

An effective IIPP helps you set the ground work for a safe workplace. It helps you establish everyday and practical work practices to address safety and respond to hazards. Think of the IIPP as your safety tool box, not only do you need tools to do the job but you need the right tools, the right tools gives you an effective means to do the job. 

For those of you who have an IIPP or said “Yeah, I’ve got something with OSHA on it in a binder somewhere,” now is the time to look and see what’s missing to get you the right tools to run a safer business. For those of you who scratched your heads, don’t worry you’re not alone. Like I said earlier, lack of an IIPP is the #1 citation in California!

Many of you may be tempted to try to hire an outside party to help or use template/model programs found on the internet. However, keep in mind – bigger is not always better and there is no such thing as an effective template or generic program. Please be leery of consultants that are just sending you a huge binder with “your company name here” cut and paste. Your program should come from you and should be as simple or complex as you are. A quality consultant will meet with you and involve you in the process, it’s never going to be effective if you don’t invest some time into it. Only you know your business and what tools you need in your safety tool box to provide your employees with a safe workplace. I always advise employers to start by thinking about and capturing on paper what you are actually currently doing to meet the expectation of each element; give your self credit where credit is due!  Then, look at each element and see if there’s any blaring gaps or small cracks that could be filled with better practices. Remember to keep it simple, less is more. There’s no need to make it sound like a doctorial thesis!

So, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts here. What are these elements I’ve been talking about? Responsibility, Communication, Compliance, Hazard ID, Hazard Correction, Accident Investigation, Training and Recordkeeping. Over the next several blogs I’ll help you break each of these down and get you on your way to a more meaningful safety program.

Rhyanne Skinner, CSP


IIPP Series Part I: It’s Not a Porta Potty Request!

What is an “IIPP?’’ First and foremost, it does NOT involve the little blue room on your jobsite! It’s a written safety program required by the State of California, Title 8 Safety Orders and enforced by Cal/OSHA. IIPP stands for Injury and Illness Prevention Program.  If you’re not located in California, please don’t stop reading! Having an IIPP is a good idea for everyone.  Other state run OSHA programs have similar expectations and Federal OSHA may not require an IIPP but I’m sure that any compliance officer would appreciate your effort in creating one. In this blog series, I’ll cover what it is and why it’s important to have one.

Let’s start with the financial aspects. It’s citeable by Cal/OSHA should you ever have the great (mis)fortune of having an inspection. As a former Enforcement officer, I can tell you a few things about the financial relevance of this as it pertains to citations. The average starting penalty for not having an IIPP is $1,000 but can be as high as $1,500. Lack of an IIPP also affects your penalty reductions, particularly as it relates to serious citations (starting at $18,000!). Without one you loose up to 15% reduction in penalty, for a serious citation that equals $2,700!  Some day in the federal OSHA

Now here’s the clincher, the law says not only do you have to have an IIPP but it must also be “implemented, maintained, and effective.” What this means for those of you who thought “Hmmm… I think we have one of those, it’s in a binder somewhere on my secretary’s desk,” is that isn’t enough!  You need to take that thing down, blow the dust off of it and figure out what you’ve committed yourself to!  Part of the reason lack of an IIPP is consistently the #1 most frequently cited citation in California is because employers frequently don’t meet the measure of the standard; their program is just like a lot of yours, it sits on a shelf or on the floor of a truck and it’s not implemented, maintained, or effective. Another way employers get bit on this one is that Cal/OSHA will focus on individual required elements and cite you under the same clause that that element doesn’t meet muster.

What the citation and workers compensation statistics show is that employers without an IIPP, an – effective IIPP – are far more likely to have accidents. The problem with accidents from an economic stand point is multi-fold: they cost you money, production time, labor time, increase your workers’ comp rates and they’re likely to cause Cal/OSHA to show up and now you’re looking at citations and penalties.  Let’s not forget the potential for legal costs here, also!

Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll discuss the “emotional” aspects of IIPPs!

Rhyanne Skinner, CSP


Safety Incentive Program – Safety Bucks, Prizes, and Games

In my last blog, I discussed safety incentive programs. Today, we’ll dig a bit deeper and discuss a specific incentive program that I’ve seen bring success to companies.

I like to utilize an points system. Whether it be “atta boy” cards or “safety buck” or a traditional “gold star” type of approach. The exchange of the “atta-boy”, buck, or star is the immediate part of the reward system. Employees can save up by acquiring these throughout the course of a month/quarter/year.. Employees can then use their rewards to get what they want which helps addresses individual the issue of personal motivation and perceived value.

I suggest giving multiple denominations depending on the level of the behavior rewarded. You may also want to consider the ability to take away these “points” for safety violations. Any additional activity to encourage group cooperation and competition can also really help motivate! Try putting together a competition between shifts, locations, or departments and see if people jump on the opportunity to “win”.

The goals is for employees to acquire and build their points, stickers, bucks or whatever you decide for use towards a larger “prize” or “prizes” at the end of the recognition/reward period. Individuals and groups with the largest “stockpile” could/should also get additional prize incentives.

If you’re feeling creative, set up your system like a board game or a sport such as basketball, soccer or football; for example, the person or team with the most “points” (i.e. best behaviors) gets to keep the “ball” (maybe it’s a stack of extra points or a visible object) that can be “stolen” by another team or individual if they are caught doing a “bad” behavior or if they achieve a higher status with good behavior.

When its time to redeem points, you need to plan ahead. Should big ticket items be included or just trinkets, T-shirt, and gifts cards.   Using an auction type activity at the end of the reward period is another fun activity to consider rather than “buying” or a store type approach. As the details of the program are identified consider:

Remember these programs are dynamic and can be challenging to create and implement at first. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to work through some kinks early on or if you need to make adjustments later to keep in fresh. You will be shocked by the energy and synergy the program will ultimately add to your workplace!

Rhyanne Skinner, CSP


Preventing Indoor Heat Illness in the Colder Months

Have you ever added a fish from the pet store to an established fish tank? Chances are you threw him into the water to see if he would sink or swim. He will swim in most cases, but not for long. Why? Because you subjected him to a significant temperature change which stressed the fish and stress kills fish. You should have taken the sealed bag your fish came in and let it float on the surface of your aquarium for about 15 minutes. This amount of time allows the temperature of the water inside the bag to reach the same temperature inside the aquarium which helps the fish become acclimated.

Ectothermic vs. Endothermic

Fish are ectothermic, meaning that they regulate their temperatures strictly from their immediate environment. Humans, however, are endothermic. We produce our own heat and regulate our body temperatures at a consistent 98.6° Fahrenheit. Even though we produce our own body heat, we still need to adjust to internal/external temperatures just as the fish from the pet store.

Heat Stress

As the winter months come upon us, we can expect colder temperatures. We will layer clothes as we become more acclimated to the cold. But what would happen should our bodies become acclimated to colder weather and then we need to perform work inside environments near forges, boiler rooms or other heat sources? Even though our bodies our capable of venting excess heat, we could experience the symptoms of heat stress such as profuse sweating, dizziness or nausea.

Effective Heat Illness Prevention Programs

Heat illness can affect us just as much in the winter as it can in the summer. To help mitigate employees from indoor heat illness, organizations should have effective heat illness prevention programs. Some components of an effective heat illness prevention program include:

For more information on indoor heat illness, watch ICW Group’s “Beat the Heat & Keep Cool: Indoors” on-demand webinar.


Neidhardt, Amalia. Oct 24, 2018. Heat Illness Prevention in Indoor Places of Employment Draft Text. State of California, Department of Industrial Relations. https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/doshreg/heat-illness-prevention-indoors/

Harrison Barrett


Safety Incentives – The Changing Face of a Successful Program

ICW Group Risk Management professionals advise employers that safety incentive programs that are based on lost time and lack of accidents, or tied to production and performance are be avoided.  Those programs encouraged lack of reporting and attention to true injury needs, which is really a “lagging” indicator of safety since it skews the statistics and ultimately allows small incidents to go unreported that could have resulted in intervention. Instead, we now encourage employers to develop programs that reward the safe behaviors you want to see from your general employees and supervisors/managers.

In general, we encourage employers and their management team to evaluate their current safety programs, particularly safety rules (aka code of safe conduct, code of safe practices) to ensure you’ve got a good base for do’s and don’ts. Likewise, we also consider any loss trends you have identified through your most recent (3-5 years) claims history as well as any non-injury and near miss trends as sources for behavior modifications. For example, you’ve had lots of eye injuries; the program should encourage proper PPE use and selection. Or, you’ve had lots of back injuries; the program should identify and provide proper training in lifting/handling and body mechanics and then reward correctly using those techniques.

Rewards should be immediate and appropriately valuable. Consideration should be given to what motivates your employees; individually and as a group. Some group-based rewards should be considered to encourage group cooperation and accomplishments as well as individually based to recognize individual actions. Most programs lose momentum because the rewards become less valuable and/or don’t provide accurate and prompt recognition. A program that is flexible and can be easily adaptable as personal motivations and reward values change will be one that can stand the test of time.

Considerations for your management team:

Once you have an idea what you want to accomplish (i.e., what behaviors you want to change and reward) and who will be the administrators you can start identifying which type of reward system will work for your establishment. Stay tuned for my next blog where I’ll discuss ideas on types of reward systems for your consideration.

Rhyanne Skinner, CSP


Hierarchy of Hazard Control: Part 2

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of a hierarchy of control. In this blog, Let’s look at each control method in more detail:

Elimination (includes substitution)

Remove the hazard from the workplace, by either the removal of the hazard or by changing the process or by outsourcing the hazard altogether. Substitute a hazardous material or machine with less hazardous ones. An example is to substitute a pesticide for a natural, non-hazardous pesticide. Another example is the use of a water jet cutter vs. hand torch cutting. It’s safer for operators and the environment as it produces no vapor or smoke and any dust particles produced by the erosion process is trapped in the water and is filtered out safely later.

Engineering Controls

This includes designs or modifications to plants, equipment, ventilation systems and processes that reduce the source of exposure. This can be done by using a sand blasting box instead of blasting in the open.  Or the use of adjustable guards, light curtains and two hand tripping devices as machine guarding alternatives.

Administrative Controls

This involves using controls that alter the way the work is done, including timing of work, new policies, and work practices. Tactics for implementing administrative controls can include training, improving housekeeping, formalizing equipment maintenance, and encouraging personal hygiene practices.  A common administrative control to help reduce cumulative trauma injuries is job rotation. In a manufacturing plant or at a construction site, when people rotate their duties through the day, they lessen the stress on their body from repetitive motion. Administrative controls can be as simple as reducing the weight of a load by using smaller containers

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

This includes equipment worn by individuals to reduce vulnerability, such as exposure to chemicals, noise, flying sparks, etc. Using PPE can be an easy way to reduce a hazard, but PPE does not eliminate the hazard. Personal protection equipment is a form of physical protection to reduce exposure to various risk factors. PPE should be considered the last resort for employers and their employees. PPE is at the last resort choice because it is designed to protect the employee after the hazard is present.

PPE also relies on the human factor.  Even though employees may be properly trained in its use, often employees don’t wear PPE or wear it incorrectly so it’s not effective or they wear it when only when they know leadership is around. Here’s an example of when PPE might be the only option. A plumbing contractor working on a drainage pipe issue. The pipe must be handled in order to replace the broken piece; the pipe is contaminated. The plumber must then pick up the pipe using his neoprene gloves and possibly additional personal protective equipment to use as a barrier to keep them from coming into contact with the contaminant.

Using the hierarchy of control method to eliminate or reduce risk is a great way to make your workplace safer. Employing effective risk reduction measures from the appropriate part of the hierarchy of control, can assist your organization reaching your area of the acceptable or tolerable level of resulting risk.

So, now you know something about the ‘hierarchy of controls’ it’s time to apply it to mitigate and reduce your risks. If you need further assistance your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant can help.

Robert Harrington


Hazards of Autumn – Leaves, Frost, Deer and Darkness

Autumn has arrived. In many parts of the country, autumn brings about new safety concerns including slip and fall hazards, extreme changes in weather conditions, and less daylight. If you have employees that are working outside in the autumn weather, consider covering the following topics are your next safety meeting.

Leaves and frost can create slippery conditions

This is especially true for people who work early morning hours. Most people haven’t switched over to their winter footwear since the temperatures have not dropped low enough, but having good traction on shoes is still important. When you discuss this hazard with your staff, ask everyone to look at the bottoms of their shoes. Are they flat and worn? If so, encourage them to replace their shoes.

Besides getting your employees in suitable footwear, encourage them to remove wet leaves from their work area daily. They may have to clear frost and ice from their work area or vehicle as well. Provide them with ice melt (stock up early) and the proper equipment to clear the frost and ice. Remind your drivers that clearing the entire windshield before driving is the only acceptable practice. Clearing only a small spot to see out of is not safe.

Weather in a large travel radius can change drastically.

If employees have a large radius of travel during the day, make sure you start looking at the weather conditions for their entire region. A sunny day in Chicago can be a wintry mix in Northern Indiana or Iowa. Extreme temperature changes can also lead to overheating for some sensitive employees. Encourage everyone to dress in layers so they can shed outerwear when the 28-degree morning turns into a 60-degree afternoon. And water is still crucial for hydration even when the temps are not extreme.

Daylight hours are limited in the fall.

This may mean arriving at the job-site before daybreak and driving home in the dark. Remind employees to use extra caution to prevent trips, slips, and falls and other injuries related to poor visibility. After the annual time change (for most of the country), drivers may find they are driving into the sunrise or sunset now. This can result in significant traffic delays so plan accordingly.

Slow-moving farm equipment.

Driving in the fall in rural areas also means driving around slow-moving farm equipment. Remind employees that should only be passing slow-moving vehicles in approved passing zones and only when it is safe to cross. Remind them that arriving on time is not worth risking their life. For tips on driving during harvest season, check out our other blog, “Driving Risk During the Fall Harvest.”

Wildlife and Deer

Deer can also be an issue in the fall in both urban and rural settings. I’ve seen deer cross roadways in high traffic areas near Chicago, so remind your drivers to always be on the lookout for deer when driving by forested areas. You can find tips about avoiding deer in our other blog, “Deer in the Fall.”


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Hierarchy of Hazard Control: Part 1

Hierarchy of hazard control is used to minimize or eliminate exposure to hazards. The controls are ranked by strength to help people make the best decision possible when trying to control hazards in the workplace. The controls include Elimination, Engineering, Administrative, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

The control methods at the top of graphic are potentially more effective and protective than those at the bottom. Obviously, eliminating a hazard is the ultimate goal, but it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to do this. For example, I can’t eliminate forklifts from a warehouse nor can I keep a truck driver from driving. If I did, my business wouldn’t operate.

Effective controls can reduce or mitigate workers from injuries, sicknesses and incidents and assist employers in providing workers with safe and healthy working conditions. It’s common to combine controls, for example a noisy manufacturing plant has loud machines, employees wear hearing protection while working in the area for the hazards workers are also rotated out of the area during shifts to a quieter task in another area. This combines both administrative and PPE to assist in employee’s safety.

To accomplish the goal of using the hierarchy system, you’ll need to collect, organize and review the information with your workers to determine the types of hazards or potential hazards that may be present while completing each task. The best control will eliminate the hazard, but as I explained before, that’s not always possible. To find the most appropriate control you’ll need to evaluate the risk to each worker. 

Let’s look at this example – if I’m trying to eliminate my employee from cutting themselves on the machetes that I provided them for opening boxes, should I give them PPE or should I take away the machetes and replace them with safety cutters? An injury from a machete could be quite severe so should I risk them not wearing their PPE properly? No! As the danger increases, thus should the restraint method. In this case, I should eliminate the machete from the risk equation.

Stay tuned for my next blog in which I will lay out more examples of how the hierarchy can be properly applied to risk management.

Robert Harrington


Hazard Communication – 2012 Changes You May Have Missed

Back in 2012, changes to the OSHA hazard communication standard went into effect. The change aligned the standard with the Globally Harmonized System (GHS,) which is an international approach to Hazard Communication. The reason for the change was to bring the United States more in line with the rest of the world. Most companies took action per the deadlines OSHA set to have all their employees changed and all their Safety Data Sheets updated, but we are still finding some of our customers do not know about the change, so I wanted to address this again for those who missed it before.

The changes included improvement to labels, and a reformat of the Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS). Labels now require four elements: a pictogram, signal words, a hazard statement for each hazard class and category and a precautionary statement must be provided. MSDS will now be called Safety Data Sheets (SDS) and have a more uniform format of 16 sections in a specified sequence. This allows for greater consistency from manufacturers and suppliers and will make it easier to locate the necessary information.

Changes to the Hazard Communication Standard became law on May 25, 2012, and training of all employees on the changes and updates to the newer Safety Data Sheets should have already been completed by all employers who use chemicals.  However, its never too late to communicate this important safety message to your employees. You should review the OSHA fact sheet on safety data sheets and labels and pictograms and conduct training with your employees at your next safety meeting.  You should document the training that includes showing employees what the new SDS looks like and how to read it.  You should also review your hazard communication binder or electronic files to verify that all your data sheets are all in the 16 section format.  If they aren’t, contact your supplier to get an updated version.

If you didn’t complete the training, put this on the agenda for your next safety meeting. Although this may seem arbitrary, it’s still important to cover the changes with employees. When injury or illness occurs related to a chemical, knowing how to find the proper first aid response promptly can make a huge difference in the outcome for the affected employee.

The ICW Group RMRx Safety Adviser or your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant can provide more resources for you on the subject.


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Laceration Prevention – Conducting a Knife Safety Audit

Since lacerations injuries are usually minor, exposures are oftentimes overlooked. But, lacerations can be prevented by using the safest tool available for the job. Have you conducted a walk-  through of your facility recently with a focus on knife safety?

Conducting one will help you develop corrective actions to prevent lacerations. Below are some key things to look out for as you conduct your review:

Look for Physical Hazards

1. Look for exposed blades.

Utility knives should be retractable, have a guarded blade, or have a blade-less feature
Fixed blade knives should be sheathed in a protective case when not in use.

2. Knife blades should not be excessively long.

If you are cutting 1 inch thick material, do you need a 12 inch blade?

3. Knives should always be stored in an organized manner.

4. Look for old blades laying around and not properly disposed of.Used blades should be discarded in safety containers.

5. Assure that knives are properly assembled. Loose housing or handles are unsafe.

Look for Proper Use

1. Employees should pull the knife and not push it.

2. Employees must keep hands and other body parts out of the path of travel.

3. Employees should never use blades to pry, twist, or turn other objects.

4. Employees should use cut-resistant gloves when handling, changing or cleaning blades.

We recommend that you conduct specialized audits like these to help you focus your safety efforts.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Risk Retention or Risk Transfer – Considering your Options

You’ve finally got the fund to start a major project, the excitement is uncontrollable. You’re going to finally be able to modify your facility to accommodate all your extra growth. But, with change comes choices. How do you manage the project and not take on too much risk? In this blog, I will identify key risk associated with major change and key considerations to consider.

If your plans include building or remodeling, one of your first decisions will be figuring out if your existing maintenance department can handle the task. Sure, you have electricians on staff who work with electricity daily repairing your machines, but are they qualified to install new building electrical or re-wire existing electrical? What about dry-walling the new office? Do you have the right tools and equipment to make this task safe for your employees to self-perform?

The question to ask yourself is “Does your staff have the skills, time and safety equipment to do the work?”

Once you factor in all the costs of doing the job safely, you might find it makes sense to hire a professional contractor. Plus, don’t forget about the risks associated with your staff performing the work incorrectly – when you hire a professional in the industry, they will have more resources than your staff does and if an error occurs causing a defect, they will be able to fix it properly.

If you determine that hiring subcontractors for some or all of the work is a good idea, the next thing to ponder is hiring a company to manage the project or hiring a general contractor.

Can your plant manager effectively manage the daily operations and a construction project?

The work that goes into qualifying subcontractors, managing and scheduling your project, and managing safety of the project may be too much to handle. Hiring a general contractor or project manager will ease the burden. You’ll also get an extra layer of protection if the proper contractual controls are in place to reduce your liability exposure. Whether you hire a sub directly or you partner with a general contractor, making sure that you have legal contracts protecting your interests is important. Your insurance agent or legal counsel can help you make sure everything is protected.

Once you’ve decided that hiring a general contractor is the right decision, that doesn’t mean you should just sit back and ignore the project. Regular meetings to get updates on the project will help keep your project on schedule and most importantly safe! An accident on your site will affect your company. Not only can it cost money if you lose production time, but a serious accident can bring OSHA onto your property.

Your ICW Group Risk Manager can help you develop a safety plan for your project with our contractor safety program. You can also download a copy of a contractor safety program by logging into the RMRx Safety Advisor.


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


So We All Go Home Safe – Work-life Lessons

A good safety program identifies hazards in a task or process and then establishes proper control procedures. It’s assumed that if workers follow those procedures, the risks will be controlled, and everyone will go home safe at the end of the day. But how often do our procedures account for upsets? For those “what if that happens” situations.

Early in my career, I came face-to-face with the tragedy of what can happen when someone relies on the safety of “The Procedure” after an upset condition occurs. The event changed those of us involved, forever.

Dave was an experienced heavy equipment operator on the tank extraction team who often had to find creative ways to solve routine problems to keep the project on schedule. And so far, the team had done just that. Quickly locating, digging out and hauling away each old fuel tank along the railroad line.

But now, in the middle of the Wyoming prairie, the team uncovered a new problem. No one had mentioned the water line that was hidden underground, adjacent to the tank. So, it came as a surprise to Dave, when – with the tank almost completely excavated – he lowered his backhoe bucket to scoop up the last load of earth, and pulled up a gushing water pipe. The excavation around the tank quickly filled with water, and the tank (which was nearly empty) bobbed to the surface. Because of the weight of the topside piping, the tank then flipped upside-down.

Once the water was shut off and drained, the tank lay upside down in the mud. Unfortunately, the fittings that Dave would normally attach to his backhoe bucket to were now under the tank in the mud. This is where Dave got creative, deciding to use his torch to weld an eye bolt to the drain plug on the bottom of the tank.

“Wait!” you’re probably saying. “That tank had flammable vapors from years of holding fuel”. You’re right, of course. And that’s why, up to this point, the crew had followed proper procedures to identify the tank, open the fill cap, and add a copious amount of dry ice before commencing to dig.

CO2 generated by the dry ice is used to purge all the oxygen-rich air to the outside atmosphere. The crew had used their gas meter before digging, and the readings had shown the tank to be inert (oxygen free). As it sat there, resting upside-down in the mud, there was no reason to believe anything had changed; but, it had. The team just didn’t know it.

Assuming the tank atmosphere was still inert, Dave got busy. He pulled the drain plug from the tank and ignited his torch. It took about five seconds for the intense torch flame to get sucked into the tank through the small opening. The tank began to vibrate and swell, and Dave had just enough time to look over at the supervisor standing in the staging area and say “Oh no!” before the tank violently exploded, killing him instantly.  His body was later recovered about 40 yards away, across the project site.

Dave was a good, warm-hearted man who was easy to like. He left behind a loving wife, and two small children that never got a chance to know their dad.  All because of an assumption.


Guest Bloggers


So We All Go Home Safe – Childhood Memories

Having grown up in a small steel town about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, my school’s history classes always emphasized the industrial revolution, steel manufacturing and the dangers that came along with this industry during that time due to minimal safety enforcement. The vast amount of rivers running through the city and suburbs, made Pittsburgh’s location easily accessible for river transportation, making the “Steel City” a leader in the American industrial manufacturing. The city and surrounding towns produced a number of raw materials, but the steel and iron industry was by far what boosted Pittsburgh’s economy in the 19th century.

In the prime of the steel industry, the working conditions were extremely poor and lacked any sort of safety and health enforcement or any regulations. This lack of safety, lead to countless injuries and fatalities among steel mill workers. The mills alone, posed serious hazards with extremely hot working conditions with poor ventilation. Workers were also being exposed to high levels of fire, chemicals, liquid metal, vibration, material handling, elevated work, confined space, etc.

With these hazards present minimal safety efforts were in place, leaving employees exposed to fatal working conditions. The mills had improper tools, unsuitable emergency preparedness, improper fall protection, minimal personal protective equipment (PPE), no lock out tag out in place, no machine guarding, etc.

Safety and health has come a long way since those days. Setting rules, regulations and laws for employers to follow to ensure the wellness of all employees. The number of injuries and fatalities have dramatically decreased with the implementation of such laws and regulations.  I may not live near Pittsburgh now, but the safety lessons I learned about as a child are carried with me as I work with my ICW Group accounts to create a safer workplace for all.

Kurt van Hartogh


Driver Safety: 3-Points of Contact

Did you know that one of the highest risks of injury for commercial truck drivers is the simple task of entering or exiting a truck cab? Falls from truck cabs can result in serious head injuries or knee and ankle injuries that are painful and difficult to heal. You can reduce your driver’s risk of falls by training them on the safe work practices we have listed  below. Please follow these at all times – So we go home safe!

Once you conduct the training with your drivers, a great follow up idea is to do some spot checks on your drivers as they return to the facility at the end of the day. If you observe all of your drivers exiting properly, you have the perfect opportunity to acknowledge and thank them for being safe. Perhaps you could even provide them with a reward like breakfast at your next safety meeting!

Terio Duran


Safe + Sound Week is Here!

OSHA’s Safe + Sound week is here! Safe + Sound runs August 13-19, 2018. This annual event is designed to increase safety awareness at all levels of an organization from senior management to the front line worker. Just like the Stand-down for safety week in May, OSHA has developed three areas of focus – Management Leadership, Workers Participation and Finding and Fixing Hazards. OSHA highly encourages business take on activities that promote safety in one or all of these areas.

Here are some ideas are listed below:

Activities for management and leadership include delivering a safety a and health message to employees, being present on the production floor or attending a safety meeting, issuing a press release to formally publish the companies commitment to safety or simply putting a note in everyone paycheck to encourage safe behaviors at work and at home.

Employee activities includes anything that will heighten their engagement in safety like being more deliberate in asking for safety feedback, empowering workers by tasking them with developing safety solutions, recognizing outstanding safety behaviors, and partnering with key employees to develop plans for the rest of the year to get more employee involvement.

Finding and Fixing Hazards is the simplest because many of us do it as part of our normal safety routine. But to change things up a little, can you involve new people? Maybe a leader from department A would enjoy a tour of Department B and vice versa. Perhaps the President of the company hasn’t been on the floor for a while and would like to find and fix some hazards. Each new person has a new set up eye and will probably find something new. You can also change things up by doing your inspections differently, Try walking the department in the opposite direction as usual or focus on the areas under the machinery or on the ground, or focus on things above up head. Changing your few just a little can change your results drastically.

If you decide to formally participate in the program you can let OSHA know by signing up on the OSHA website and downloading a certificate to post on your safety board. We’d also love to hear about your successes. Please let your ICW Group Risk Manager know or email us a note about your experience at mysafetynews@icwgroup.com.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


So We All Go Home Safe – Family Matters

My desire to help workers go home safe is what ultimately steered me into the risk management profession; but, the first chapter of my story begins with my grandpa, Samuel Jolliff, an autoworker from Lansing, MI.

My grandpa was quick to smile, had a chortling laugh and was always overjoyed to see his grandkids. He wore thick black glasses, sported a closely shaven haircut and like many of his generation, had an ever-present cigarette in his hand.

He had also suffered a disabling workplace injury.

When I was a young boy, my grandpa’s severe speech impairment and shuffling walk frightened me. He was dependent on relatives to help him with the most basic daily activities, something I always remember is driving him to all of our family gatherings.

In the aftermath of his injury, he was left to deal with a life-altering path of health issues, emotional pain and societal seclusion because of his speech impairment. All because of a workplace accident that prevented him from going home safe that day.

In my late teens, when I learned the facts behind his disabilities, I remember thinking that he had been unjustly treated by his employer. At the time of his injury, the early 1950s, worker safety was often an after-thought in the workplace (if thought of at all).

Samuel Jolliff – Thanksgiving circa 1975

There was no formal modified duty or return to work programs to transition employees back into the workplace, and the implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act was still farther away than the moon landing.

As a safety professional, I see the aftereffects of workplace injuries almost every week. My colleagues and I retell these incidents as lessons learned, and the impact of hearing these stories is influential, no matter who the audience.

Providing a safe workplace isn’t complicated, especially when we take a humanistic approach to risk prevention. It comes down to a simple, yet powerful, principle that we ask leaders and workers alike to share. A commitment to ensuring every worker goes home safe to their loved ones, each and every day.

Every worker deserves that promise and the opportunity to live a long, fulfilling life!

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


Same Level Fall Prevention Series Part IV: Floor Matting

Floor matting has long been recognized as an effective strategy to capture contaminants from footwear and provide an improved coefficient of friction near liquid sources. This blog will review the various types of matting and provide guidance for maximizing their effectiveness.

Entrance Matting

Scraper Mats – Their surface is made of an abrasive material, designed to scrape or rake away heavier contaminants.

Wiper Mats –  With an absorptive surface, these mats are designed to dry footwear by wiping away moisture.

Wiper/Scrapers – With a surface comprised of both absorptive and abrasive material, wiper/scraper mats are designed to both rake away heavy contaminants and provide a drying effect.  

Research by the Carpet and Rug Institute indicates that 80% of contaminants tracked into a building are captured by the first 15 feet of a carpeted surface. Using a combination of matting types is generally recommended to maximize this effect.

For example, a 5-foot scraper mat may be placed outside the building entrance to capture heavier contaminants. Another 5 foot wiper/scraper mat within the building to continue capturing heavy contaminants but also begin drying. And finally, an additional 5 feet of wiper matting to more thoroughly dry the shoe sole. 15-20 feet is generally considered the ideal entrance matting length for dry conditions. That ideal is extended to 20-24 feet for wet conditions and 24-29 feet for snowy climates. Needs will also vary with the amount of foot traffic. The absence of moisture or contaminants on the flooring at the end of the entrance matting is a good indication that the appropriate length has been selected.

Multi-Purpose Matting

Multi-purpose matting is typically placed near liquid sources to capture spills, elevate workers above spills, and provide a higher level of slip resistance than the installed flooring. Absorptive wiper mats are often effectively placed in front of sinks, drink dispensers, and in the produce departments of grocery stores. For liquids that create especially slippery conditions like cooking oils and greases, a webbed rubber mat can be used to drain the spill to the floor and elevate workers onto a highly slip resistant surface.


Select a mat that is designed for the intended use. For example, a rug should not be used as entrance matting. Rugs tend not to have a slip-resistant backing, and they are unlikely to absorb moisture as efficiently as a wiper mat. It is also good practice to select matting with a beveled edge to reduce the likelihood that it will become a trip hazard.


Once a mat has reached its saturation point, it is not only rendered ineffective, it becomes a source for contaminants to be tracked further into a building. A cleaning routine should be designed to prevent matting from ever reaching its saturation point. Flooring under matting should also be cleaned to ensure the slip resistant-backings do not become compromised by debris or liquids.


Matting should be routinely inspected for damage that will reduce the effectiveness or present a trip hazard. Visible signs of surface wear and furled edges are indications a mat should be replaced.

Brian Piñon, CSP


Bloodborne Pathogen Exposure for Plumbers


Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms in blood, bodily fluids and feces that can cause serious diseases in humans. The most common bloodborne pathogens to which plumbers are exposed to are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).





The most common sources of pathogens are from infected blood, urine, feces, vomit, vaginal secretions and semen. The most common routes of entry into the body are from toilet water, waste and residue due to a worker being splashed while handling the water, waste, or residue, contact with breaks in the skin, skin abrasions, and the pathogens coming into contact with mucous membranes such as the eyes, nose and mouth.


The first line of defense is the wearing of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). When working with or around pathogens such as with stopped-up toilets, toilet lines, toilet leaks (particularly at the base), be sure to wear at least the following PPE:

Because the toilet contents can splash or come into contact with your clothing (due to leaked contents already on the bathroom floor), it is important to verify that your clothing has not been contaminated.


A  bloodborne pathogen exposure incident involves either an injury or contact between blood, urine, feces, or vomit and a vulnerable part of your body such as a break in your skin, abrasion, mouth, eyes, or mucous membrane areas.


If an exposure incident occurs, take the following action:


After working in an area where bloodborne pathogens may have been present, cleaning up the work site is an important part of the whole process as you will want to make sure that splashes that were not noticed while performing the job do not inadvertently come into contact with your clothing and subsequently cause you to touch them.

When cleaning up:


For each exposure incident that occurs, the following information should be maintained in a readily accessible location:

Tom Keel


Ergonomic Risk for Housekeepers

Housekeepers are exposed to a variety of risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders. This blog will review common exposures and controls for reducing the risk of injury.

Awkward Postures

Housekeepers may be exposed to awkward postures like stooping and extended reaching while making beds, changing trash can liners and scrubbing toilets, floors, mirrors, shower walls and bathtubs. A common solution is to provide workers with long-handled brushes that allow workers to more easily reach surfaces that are above the shoulders and below the knees. Long-handled brushes can eliminate awkward postures when light scrubbing or wiping is required, but have been shown to prompt workers into awkward postures when more force is needed to adequately clean a surface. It is recommended that they be provided to workers, but use should not be mandated. Workers should also be trained to place trash cans on an elevated surface before changing the liner, and to squat or kneel when tucking sheets under mattresses.


Housekeepers are often required to lift bulk linens, wet towels, mattresses and furniture. To reduce the weight lifted, limit linen bag size and require team lifts for rearranging furniture and turning mattresses. A 2013 study found that squatting to lift a mattress while tucking in sheets reduced the compressive forces on the low spine by 37% over the frequently used method of conducting the task while stooping over. Workers who squat or kneel to tuck in bed sheets avoid an awkward posture but also tend to lift the mattress less because the hand and forearm can be inserted under the mattress to act as a wedge. Another option to be considered is supplying handled mattress wedge tools that can eliminate lifting during the bed making task.

Nightstands are often an obstacle to bed making within hotel rooms. Housekeepers are forced to either manually move them aside or lean out over them while lifting the mattress corners at the head of the bed for sheet tucking. This is an exposure that should be assessed on a case by case basis. The weight and dimensions of the nightstands should be considered to determine whether it is safer for workers to move or lean over them.

A common recommendation for reducing the frequency of mattress lifting is that hotels utilize fitted bottom sheets. The presumption is that the elastic bands on fitted sheets can be pulled over mattress corners, eliminating the need for lifting. In 2011, a study found that after being laundered, fitted sheets had shrunk enough that housekeepers had to lift 3 mattress corners to put them on. Unless easier to use models can be found, flat sheets are the better choice. It is recommended that workers be trained to tuck in flat bottom sheets at the head of the bed and then tuck the remainder in at the same time as the top sheet.


A 2013 study found the average initial push force exerted by workers on a fully loaded 290 lbs. housekeeping cart with 8” hard rubber wheels to be 26 lbs. This is well below the Liberty Mutual MMH Table’s 55 lbs. design goal limit for a 25 ft. push conducted once every 30 minutes.

The force required to get a cart moving from standstill, and keep it moving, is substantially impacted by the caster wheel material and diameter. Carts found to be substantially heavier, or those with smaller wheel diameter or softer wheel material should be further assessed to determine whether they pose a hazard to workers. Casters should be regularly cleaned and maintained such that they provide the least amount of rolling resistance. To reduce cart weight, it may also be a good practice to frequently unload soiled linens as they accumulate. Workers should be trained to push rather than pull, as this more efficiently spreads the force required over a wider range of muscle groups. To reduce the force required to push and pull vacuums, lightweight models should be selected.

Work Rate

Excessive work rates increase the risk associated with awkward postures, lifting, pushing and pulling. It is recommended that employers establish a procedure for workers to contact their supervisor to obtain peer assistance or reduction in quota when encountering excessive room mess. It is also recommended that workers be encouraged to report musculoskeletal symptoms at onset and a process be established for assessment and intervention.



Wiker, S. F. (2011) Evaluation of Hotel Housekeeper Physical Workload and Overexertion Injury Risk Reduction Proffered by Use of Fitted Bottom Sheets for Hotel Bed Making. Report No. 1-2011 Ergonomic Design institute, Seattle, WA.

Wiker, S. F. (2013) Evaluation of Musculoskeletal Disorder Risk in Hotel Housekeeping Jobs. Ergonomic Design institute, Seattle, WA.

Brian Piñon, CSP


Helping Keep Electricity Safe

Electrical hazards exist where there is need to provide power to equipment, lighting, etc. Electrical shocks can occur unexpectedly, at any time and often without notice. That’s why it’s often referred as the “silent killer.” Unlike a machine that may show signs of deterioration or misuse, electrical issues may show no such signs of a problem brewing.

We could get into the physics of electricity, but let’s concentrate on the effects of electricity. As you likely know, electricity generally travels the shortest path to ground. The human body has low resistance to the flow of electricity. In other words, it’s a good conductor. As electricity passes through the body, it can cause disruption of heart activity, muscle contractions, thermal burns and death. The heart and lungs are in the line of this flow of electricity. An electrical shock is an incident. Electrocution is death resulting from electricity.

Although providing an insulator between the current and the employee can protect the employee from shock, there are more effective methods of providing protection.

Double insulated tools: Double grounded tools. (These need to be labeled as such).

Grounded tools:  Fully grounded. (To verify, use a ground tester).

Heavy duty (grounded) cords: These have labels indicating “S”, “SJ”, or “SJ0”. (Flat cords are not heavy duty).

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI): This device automatically shuts off the current if there is an abnormal flow of current.

Lock Out Tag Out (LOTO): Make sure that you have a LOTO policy that meets OSHA standards. In short, lock out the current when working on or repairing machinery or equipment.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help your experiences with electricity, good ones. Please share your ideas with us – I’m sure there are many.

 Additional Resources can be found at OSHA’s website.


Guest Bloggers


Money Spent is Money Saved

Company safety managers, human resources managers, and plant managers often have the responsibility of implementing safety programs and controls. Unfortunately, with many industries suddenly finding themselves back in a growth mode, it can be difficult to find financial backing for safety improvements when all the money is being set aside for capital projects. It can also be hard to find time to make important safety improvements when people are so busy with growth that they can barely get the current safety expectations completed. For those who are facing a tight budget with time and money, I’ve listed some key arguments to get management interested in investing in safety.

Spending money on safety can save the Company money on…

Remember, you have to invest in safety to improve safety. Help your company grow profitably. Money and time spent now is money and time saved in the long run.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Cardboard Baler Safety

Cardboard waste is a never ending battle for many companies.  As a result, cardboard balers are used in many industries on a daily basis. But, because they are not part of production, the safety training on the machine is sometimes overlooked.  The most common types of injuries associated with balers are crushing injuries, amputations, cuts and eye injuries. Below are some training tips for your staff.

BEFORE an employee starts working with a baler, they should be familiar with the manufacturer’s operator manual and be trained on following:

Supervisors should be familiar with the baler operation as well.  Supervisors should always:

Making sure your baler is used safely takes a little more effort than just putting up a sign or applying a warning sticker. Make sure you have documented training and written operating procedures for the machine.

Ken Helfrich


The Hidden Hazard at the Repair Shop – Needle Sticks and Blood-borne Pathogens

When working on customer vehicles in a mechanical repair shop or a body shop, technicians must be careful when reaching under or between seats or in other dark or blind areas. Occasionally, occupants of the vehicle may purposefully discard or accidentally drop hypodermic needles.  Needles can end up under or between seats or other places hidden from view. This leaves a potentially dangerous hazard ready to strike the next person to venture into the area.

Technicians should take precautions to avoid being stuck, and this starts with awareness training. If an incident like this has not happened in the past at your facility, it’s probably not something that technicians would even consider a hazard.  But, when someone is stuck by a needle, they could be exposed to bloodborne pathogens and should receive immediate medical care to ensure that no diseases were transferred.

Bloodborne pathogen exposure could also occur if your technicians are dealing with a vehicle after an accident and find blood or bodily fluids in the vehicle. OSHA has addressed this scenario in a letter of interpretation, which I encourage you to review.

Start prevention efforts by adding needle stick awareness and bloodborne pathogen training to your safety orientation and safety meetings. Your company should develop a policy on what to do if bodily fluids or needles are found.  Contacting the customer to clean or remove the item would be a good idea because that eliminates the hazard for your employee. Of course, that also means you  need to take the car out of the work bay to prevent your customer from walking into the hazards of the shop.

Some things to consider when developing your company prevention program include:

For more information on bloodborne pathogens, check out these resources from the Center for Disease Control.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Same Level Fall Prevention Series Part III: Slip-Resistant Footwear

The use of slip-resistant footwear is a common response to slippery conditions in the workplace. Part III in our Same Level Fall Prevention Series will cover the general effectiveness of this type of footwear, and program elements that will enhance your risk reduction effort.

Every step we take requires a minimum amount of friction between the flooring surface and shoe sole. When the horizontal force behind our step is enough to overcome the provided friction, a slip occurs. Slip-resistant shoes are specially designed to reduce the risk of a slip by providing a higher level of friction than typical footwear. Their effectiveness is based upon an open tread design and a soft rubber sole material. The open tread gives liquid somewhere to go and channels it out from under the shoe to make hydroplaning less likely. The softer rubber sole material is more flexible and provides a better “grip” on floor surfaces. A 2010 study of 475 fast food restaurant workers found that the mean self-reported rate of slipping was 54% lower for those wearing slip-resistant footwear.

Currently, there are no minimum requirements regulating at what point a manufacturer can market a shoe as slip-resistant. A look at the testing results from a manufacturer showed that the performance among models varied considerably. When measured on wet, oily quarry tile, the coefficients of friction of shoes marketed as slip-resistant ranged from .41 to .76. A 2011 restaurant study found that for each .1 decrease in the coefficient of friction, the rate of slipping increased by 21%. This is a strong case for employers to research their vendors and establish a preferred models list. Many vendors will provide testing results upon request.

The effectiveness of slip-resistant footwear not only varies among models, but degrades with use. A 2014 study of fast food workers found that there was no statistically significant difference in the self-reported rate of slipping between workers who wore slip-resistant shoes with at least 6 months of wear and those who wore shoes not marketed as slip-resistant. The workers who replaced their worn slip-resistant shoes experienced an average reduction in slip rate of 55%. Any employer requiring the use of slip-resistant footwear will benefit from establishing replacement guidelines.

To maximize the reduction in risk that slip-resistant shoes can provide, employers should implement a formal written program. It should include guidelines for shoe selection, purchase, reimbursement and replacement. Careful consideration should be given in selecting a vendor, establishing a list of preferred models, determining whether workers will be reimbursed, and developing a minimum standard for shoe replacement.

If you did not have a chance to review Part 1 of my series, The Surprising Impact of Floor Cleaning Methods or Part 2 Three Floor Cleaning Mistakes That are Working Against You, please take a minute and check them out.


Verma SK, Chang WR, Courtney TK, et al  A prospective study of floor surface, shoes, floor cleaning and slipping in US limited-service restaurant workers. Occupational and Environmental Medicine Published Online First: 08 October 2010. doi:10.1136/oem.2010.056218

Verma S. K., Chang W. R., Courtney T. K., Lombardi D. A., Huang Y. H., Brennan M. J., Mittleman M. A., Perry M. J. Workers’ Experience of Slipping in US Limited Service Restaurants. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Hygiene. 2010;7(9):491–500

Brian Piñon, CSP


Construction Fall Prevention – Non-Routine Fall Protection

During work at heights, non-routine fall hazards are often overlooked in job plans, fall protection plans, and Job Safety Analysis. This can include transitioning from one working level to another before the working levels are finished (and guarded) or leading edge work (building in virtual space at height).

One method of managing fall risk that is unique or non-routine for your normal operations is understanding why it may need to occur, recognizing what the hazard is by clearly defining it, and eliminating or developing mitigation for instances where it has to occur.

Areas worth noting that can pose a non-routine fall hazard could include:

It is common to have inadequate design here and well worth considering eliminating the need to use fall protection by engineering out hazards in advance of the work.

Why Non-Routine?

Tasks that are out of the ordinary or possibly never before performed by your team are non-routine. Some reasons for conditions that create a non-routine hazard could include;

How to identify non-routine fall hazards in a job plan?

A key often missed in a job plan is a pre-work survey or pre-job planning walk. During the walk, the team that includes “qualified and competent” fall protection leaders locates where the workers need to go. This is where non-routine items can be clearly identified. (For example, “Securing rebar on a 60’ high structural connection) The survey could have several photos of the area and measurements taken as needed.

In instances where modeling is available, a 3D fly through of the model with build teams can aide in mitigation strategies for every step of a build before it is actually constructed.

The best way to mitigate fall risk during non-routine tasks is to eliminate it. When that is not possible developing unique or advanced fall protection via a qualified engineer is also appropriate;

A key to safe non-routine task completion is safe build coordination and safe design.


Mark Yeck


Are You Using the Right Fall Protection?

When working from an elevated scissors lift (ANSI A92.6 series), workers need only be protected from falling by a properly designed and maintained guardrail system. However, if the guardrail system is less than adequate, or the worker leaves the safety of the work platform, an additional fall protection device would be required.

In regards to scaffolds, OSHA states employees working more than 10 feet above a lower level shall be protected from falls by guardrails or a fall arrest system, except those on single-point and two-point adjustable suspension scaffolds. Each employee on a single-point and two-point adjustable suspended scaffold shall be protected by both a personal fall arrest system and a guardrail.

Employers must provide fall protection for all affected employees.  It is important to note that a competent person must determine the feasibility and safety of providing fall protection for employees erecting or dismantling supported scaffolds.

Type of Scaffold Fall Protection Required
Aerial lifts Personal fall arrest system
Boatswains’ chair Personal fall arrest system
Catenary scaffold Personal fall arrest system
Crawling board (chicken ladder) Personal fall arrest system, or a guardrail system, or by a ¾ inch diameter grabline or equivalent handhold securely fastened beside each crawling board
Float scaffold Personal fall arrest system
Ladder jack scaffold Personal fall arrest system
Needle beam scaffold Personal fall arrest system
Self-contained scaffold Both a personal adjustable scaffold arrest system and a guardrail system
Single-point or two-point suspension scaffolds Both a personal fall arrest system and a guardrail system
Supported scaffold Personal fall arrest system or guardrail system
All other scaffolds not specified above Personal fall arrest system or guardrail systems that meet the required criteria

Personal fall arrest systems include harnesses, components of the harness such as d-rings, snap hooks, lifelines, and anchorage point.  Vertical or horizontal lifelines may also be used.  Lifelines must be independent of support lines and suspension ropes and not attached to the same anchorage point as the support or suspension ropes.  Personal fall arrest systems can be used on scaffolding when there are no guardrail systems.

Personal fall arrest systems used on scaffolds need to be attached by lanyard to a vertical lifeline, horizontal lifeline, or scaffold structural member. Vertical lifelines cannot be used when overhead components, such as overhead protection or additional platform levels, are part of a single-point or two-point adjustable suspension scaffold.

Vertical lifelines should be fastened to a fixed safe point of anchorage when used.  They should also be independent of the scaffold, and shall be protected from sharp edges and abrasion. Safe points of anchorage include structural members of buildings, but do not include things like standpipes, vents, other piping systems, and electrical conduit. Vertical lifelines, independent support lines, and suspension ropes should not be attached to each other. They should not also be attached to or use the same point of anchorage. They should not be attached to the same point on the scaffold or personal fall arrest system.

Horizontal lifelines should be secured to two or more structural members of the scaffold.  They may also be looped around both suspension and independent suspension lines (on scaffolds that are equipped) above the hoist and brake attached to the end of the scaffold. Horizontal lifelines should not be attached only to the suspension ropes.

Wisith Jiengwattana


Falling: It Can Happen to Anyone

On a wet day in the spring of 2015, my previous employer had just finished a complete rebuild of our fall protection system for loading rail cars and tractor trailers. This was to help combat a string of fatalities that occurred from falling at heights that have plagued our industry and to update to the current standard and iteration of fall protection systems.

Me being a young and ever fit safety person, decided that I should use the system first to make sure that it worked properly. After all, I was the person that had received the most training on the topic.

Now, the construction company had already had their employees test it the day before, and it was signed off by our engineer as safe. But I wanted to make sure that I was the first employee to put it through its paces.

It was an impressive machine, with an overhead rail system designed to keep the fall protection over the employee to prevent swinging by the employee in case of a fall. We had the latest self-retracting lanyard to catch you in case of a fall. The system would allow a rescue employee on the ground to use a pole and fork to engage the mechanism to slowly lower the employee to the ground. All the employees received 5-point harnesses to make sure that nobody fell out of his or her fall protection. We even gave the employees D-ring extenders and bootstraps, to make it easier to use the system and to make it so that they could self-rescue in order to prevent blood clotting in the legs in case help and couldn’t arrive in time.

With all this technology and all the other employees watching I donned my harness. I explained every step as I went along. First, I inspected my harness for any damage such as scrapes, scuffs, and tears. Second, I donned the top half of the harness, making sure the chest strap sat across my breastbone, and the waist belt was tight but not too tight. Third, as I got up onto the catwalk but before the fall protection was mandatory, I tightened up the leg straps so that only two fingers can get underneath. As I attached the lanyard to my D-ring and stepped out onto the truck, I felt like an astronaut getting ready to go into space.

As I started to move around on the trunk, I noticed that the system allowed me to maneuver quite easily. There was little resistance from the lanyard and the rail system always kept it just over my head. As I opened the first hatch, it seemed too easy, almost like this was a training video on how to do this job. I turned around to get to the second hatch; I had to crawl on all fours to get over it because of the loading equipment in the way. As I placed my left foot on the hatch, it slid out, because of the wet material and rain on the truck. I tried to grab for whatever I could, with no luck. In that instant, I closed my eyes and came to terms with my life.

A moment later, I open my eyes expecting to be on the other side. But there I was, staring back at everybody, their jaws on the floor. After a few moments of awkward silence, my plant manager asks if I’m okay.

“As soon as I start to breathe I’ll let you know. But go ahead and get your pictures in then get me down,” I replied.

Everyone busts out in laughter and then one of the supervisors got me down. In the end, I did everything right, and something went wrong. But because we had everything in place, I was able to go home.

Asher Sweet


Preventing Injuries from Falling is as Easy as 1-2-3

Falling from heights continues to be the number one killer of construction workers, with 370 deaths in 2016 (BLS data).  Each one of these fatal injuries were preventable if three simple steps were followed:

1. Plan for the job

2. Supply the employee with the right equipment

3. Train all the employees to use the equipment correctly

Planning for the Job of Working at Height

Any worker who is going height six feet or above a lower level is putting themselves at risk of falling and the employer is required to plan accordingly to ensure the task is done safety.  This should start by determining how the work is going to be done, what specific task are to be performed and the proper equipment that is needed to do the job safety.  Employers when estimating the bid of a job they need to include all the necessary safety equipment as well. The equipment need to be readily available at the job site just like any other tool needed for the job.

A common scenario for construction companies is roofing. There are many hazards associated with roofing a building including holes, skylights and leading edges. The employers fall prevention plan should address all these hazards and have the proper equipment in place like a personal fall arrest system (PFAS).

Supply the employee with the Right Equipment

As stated earlier construction workers who work more than six feet above a lower level are at great risk for death or serious injury from falling.  In these situations, the employer is required to provide the appropriate safety equipment to protect to worker.  This includes: proper ladders, scaffolds or PFASs.

If it is determined that PFASs are the right equipment for the task at hand then the employer shall ensure that the worker receives a harness, lanyard or self-retracting lifeline and a proper tie off point or anchor.  All this safety gear must fit the user properly and be regularly inspected before each use.

Train All Employees to Use the Equipment Correctly

Employers are required to train each employee who will use any piece of fall protection equipment.  This training shall cover the safe use of the equipment, how to don and doff the gear and properly set up the equipment. Employers must also train workers to recognize the hazards associated with working at heights.

Guest Bloggers


Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction

Next week, mySafetynews.com will be publish blogs in conjunction with OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down week May 7-11, 2018. We encourage all of our insureds to take part in the annual event by focusing on fall prevention.

How can you participate?

It’s simple! Just put a little more effort into your current safety meetings that focuses on fall prevention like equipment inspections, reviewing specific elements of your fall protection plan for feasibility, conducting a facility review for unrecognized and uncontrolled fall hazards, asking employees to don their fall protection harnesses for a fit check, or simply sharing a fall related story at a safety meeting. Interested in seeing what others have done for the day? Check out OSHA’s site highlighting past years.

The key to a successful stand-down is enthusiasm and making the meeting a little bit different than a normal safety meeting. Let your staff know that this is important and that you are participating in the National Stand-Down Day to be part of the safety community. We encourage everyone who chooses to participate in the Stand-down to take photos. You can post your photos using OSHA’s hashtag #StandDown4Safety.

If you are looking for support materials, stay tune to our blog and social media accounts for updates. OSHA’s also has a list a safety resources for the day that you might want to check out ahead of time.

To get you thinking about the week, I’ve listed a few ideas below:

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Walking Working Surfaces

Did you know that On November 17, 2016, OSHA issued a final rule on Walking-Working Surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to protect workers in general industry from falls? This is significant because falls from heights are still one of the leading causes of serious workplace injuries and deaths. If you’re in the construction industry this rule doesn’t have any effect on you, but for those in General Industry you now have greater flexibility for choosing what fall protective measures are best for you.

Historically, construction standards have allowed a greater variety of fall protective measures such as:

This rule comes into effect on January 17, 2017, and will ease the compliance by bringing many of the general industry standards in line with current construction standards. This means that if you, as an employer, can demonstrate that is not feasible or creates a greater hazard to use a guard rail, safety net or personal fall arrest system you may develop a fall protection plan as outlined in the construction standards. Want to know more about what that looks like see: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=10758&p_table=STANDARDS

Keep in mind you will need to have a qualified person develop this plan for you and meet all the training requirements outlined in the standard and always use the hierarchy of fall protection. Check back later for more on the hierarchy of fall protection.

Want to know more? Ask your designated Risk Management Consultant for more information.

Erin Silva, CSP


Safety and the Hiring Process – Pre-Hire Physicals

In my last blog about the interview process, I discussed questions to ask to help evaluate a person’s safety attitude. Now that you’ve found a good candidate and made the job offer, now it’s time for the person to start working, right? Maybe not. It might be a better idea to send that candidate to a post offer, pre-employment physical.  In this blog, I’ll provide some tips for establishing a pre-employment physical process. Of course, with any Human Resources policy, it’s best to consult with your legal counsel to make sure all local and federal laws are being considered before implementation.

In general, the first thing to do is to look for a local occupational health clinic or physical therapy facility who can run the test for you. Many of the larger chains have programs set up to make this process easy. The facility you chose will probably ask for the job description(s). If you don’t already have one, some clinics can help you develop these as well. Many of our policyholders found that the same clinic they are using to treat work-related injuries can provide the employment physicals as well.

If the exam results indicate that the candidate cannot perform all the essential job duties, then you must fully review all the considerations laid forth by the EEOC before refusing that person employment.

According to the EEOC, “If the question or examination screens out an individual because of a disability, the employer must demonstrate that the reason for the rejection is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” Additionally, “if the individual is screened out for safety reasons, the employer must demonstrate that the individual poses a ‘direct threat.’ This means that the individual poses a significant risk of substantial harm to him/herself or others and that the risk cannot be reduced below the direct threat level through reasonable accommodation.”

Also worth noting from the EEOC, if you require a physical for one candidate in a job category that you must require it for all candidates; otherwise, the EEOC could consider this a form of discrimination.

The EEOC policy contains a lot of helpful information including a section on frequently asked questions.

If the exam results indicate some limitation, but you can accommodate them, you now can place that employee into a work environment that is less likely to lead to an injury and a worker’s compensation claim.

Stay tuned for my next blog about hiring practices – first day of work orientation!

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Preparing for the Season

Across the country, as spring struggles to stick around, many contractors are gearing for hopefully a productive, safe and profitable year. With that in mind, it’s also a good time to review your safety policies and procedures, ensure your required OSHA programs are current and revisit your safety training and retraining.

Another best practice would include inspecting your tools and equipment. Below are some helpful tips:


Rebar and Other Potential Impalement Hazards

With construction season in many parts of the country getting ready to start up again, I want to address the simple topic of “rebar caps.”

OSHA standard 1926.701(B) states:

Reinforcing steel. All protruding reinforcing steel, onto and into which employees could fall shall be guarded to eliminate the hazard of impalement.

In reviewing that standard, it says “onto and into” which means not just vertical rebar extending past a footing. It also means if you have a wall poured and you have rebar sticking out of it that are horizontal, they need to be covered.

A quick Google search shows a variety of rebar caps, but you do not have to limit yourself to just caps. The standard says “guarded” – this gives an employer a wide variety of options. Manufactured rebar caps, if purchased, aren’t really that much of a cost (online I saw them for anywhere from 39 cents each and up depending on type and size) considering they are reusable and may last a long time. But they are plastic, get broken, lost misplaced and can take up some space as if you store them in a job site tool trailer. They may also get spilled or knocked of the rebar they may also present a tripping hazard if one steps on them and rolls an ankle.

When I was ironworking often times, the general contractor would have a trough built out of 2×4’s they would place on a section of wall or footing and tie it to the rebar. This trough would have a 2×4 on top and one nailed or screwed downward on each side and would then set this over the top of the rebar if vertical or over the edge of the rebar if horizontal (think upside down U only with a flat bottom). This gives a large area of protection with materials that are onsite anyway.

Okay, maybe you’re thinking “that’s fine for rebar but what about other things that could cause an impalement injury such as electrical conduit or water pipes?” Since OSHA doesn’t have a standard those don’t need to be covered right? Well, yes and no. There isn’t a specific standard addressing those items but let’s go back to OSHA’s 5a1 General Duty Clause.

The following elements are necessary for a general duty clause citation:

1.) the employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of the employer were exposed

2.) The hazard was recognized

3.) The hazard was causing or likely to cause serious harm or death

4.) There was a feasible and useful method to correct the hazard.

The issue of impalement due to exposed rebar, conduit plumbing or any other exposures are simple and easy fixes that should never be overlooked. Although time is money, it’s faster and less expensive to correct them beforehand than to have a jobsite shut down and the potential fines for a preventable incident.

Dan Heinen, ASP


Electrical Preventative Maintenance Programs

Electrical Preventative Maintenance (EPM) programs are one of the most overlooked safety programs in the workplace. Perhaps this is because when it comes to electrical— “there are no moving parts so why would it need preventative maintenance like machinery”? Regardless of the reason an organization might not have an EPM program, the following is motive to ensure a proper EPM program is in place.

First, what is an EPM program and why is it important?

Like all preventative maintenance programs, EPM is simply a check-up, reconditioning and test of your systems. As important as regularly changing fluids and seals in motors; electrical systems require the same scheduled care since failure would mean a serious loss of productivity. Moreover, repairs resulting from catastrophic failures can easily surpass the value of the original item.

So, what should one do and how often?

Simply put, do as the manufacturer recommends. All electrical equipment should be tested by the Underwriters Laboratory against nationally recognized standards. Therefore, safety-related information for your electrical components exist and should be adhered to. From extension cords to electric generators—safety-related information exists! On items like extension cords and power strips this information is usually found on a tag attached to it, on more sophisticated items, this information will be in detail in the technical and service manuals.

We need to conduct PM on  extension cords?! Simply put, yes.

Extension cords should be inspected before use to ensure there is no damage, including frays, exposed copper or missing grounding plugs. While this is not preventative maintenance in the traditional sense, like lubing gears or changing fluids, this sort of PM is also meant to prevent catastrophic failure. The National Fire Protection Association’s report for 2008 explains that electrical fires, electrical failures or malfunctions result in an average of 53,600 home fires each year and account for $1.4 billion in property damage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reports that during 2007, workers suffered 1,100 electrical burn injuries and 1,480 electrical shock injuries in the private sector. Aside from the possibility of workplace accidents, an electrical issue with would mean a huge disruption and cost to any business.

So what should I do to start an EPM program?

A great source to begin at is the National Fire Protection Agency’s standards 70B and 70E. These standards are essentially guides for starting an effective EPM program. Generally, an organization has to consider the environment in which they operate—hot, cold, dusty or wet; the operational pace—is electricity used continuously or intermittently; and the experience of the maintenance staff.

The frequency of an EPM inspection will depend on the technical data that comes with the equipment and the above mentioned. In general, equipment that should be part of your EPM program includes switchgear, circuit breakers, connections, flexible cords, conduits, raceways and enclosures, electric motors, battery stations and chargers, as well as emergency power supply systems. Aside from correcting deficiencies typical inspection procedure include cleaning, dusting, tightening loose items, checking for moisture build-up, ensuring proper ventilation and in some instances infrared inspections.

There are many unexpected challenges that a business faces to operate successfully. However, a good preventative maintenance program will prevent many equipment related issues and allow an organization to focus on business generating operations—instead of “putting out fires.”

If you don’t have a qualified in house electrician to manage and conduct preventative maintenance requirements, please check out my other blog on selecting an electrical contractor.

Diego Garcia


Safety and the Hiring Process – Interview Questions

Many of the clients I visit are in hiring mode. Some because of retirement and other due to growth. Regardless of why, hiring brings about new safety issues that companies with very low turnover don’t deal with on a week to week basis. If your turnover rate is so low that you would have to dust off your new hire orientation program to use it, read on.

In this series, safety and the hiring process will cover: interviewing questions, pre-hire physicals and drug testing, first-day orientation, advanced training, and more. This blog will cover some the key things to ask during a new hire interview process.

Having a sit-down interview with an employee is important. You need to be sure that the people you’re interviewing can represent your company in a positive light. This is especially important if they will be meeting with customers as a service provider but also important for future employees that will have little contact with customers. Employees need to fit into your culture especially if you’ve worked hard to make a safety and healthy culture already.

During the interview process, here are good questions to ask to evaluate their attitude towards safety.

Adding some of all of these questions into your interview process could go a long way in identifying quality employees who will fit into your safety culture. Of course you always have to be weary of not asking questions prohibited by the EEOC. For a list of those questions you can’t ask, click here. For a list of questions that the EEOC states that you shouldn’t ask, click here.

If you have any questions that you ask during the interview process to evaluate a person’s safety attitude, please feel free to share below.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Choosing the Best Electrical Contractor

Electricity is certainly the one utility a business cannot work without. So when it comes time to perform electrical work, how can an organization ensure they are finding the best qualified worker for the job?

First, what is a qualified worker? The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) defines a qualified person as one who has the skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical components and has received training on the hazards involved. The key things to remember are: is the worker knowledgeable on the equipment and have they received safety training?

While most workplace maintenance crews have sufficient knowledge to conduct most in-house repairs and upgrades, would your maintenance staff be considered a qualified person for all electrical jobs? The reality of most businesses is that sooner or later there will be a need to seek the services of an electrical contractor.

When choosing a contractor, some important factors to consider are:

  1. Licenses, certifications and insurance. Every State will have basic licensing requirements an electrician must possess before selling services. Verifying your contractor possess all licenses, certifications, and insurance certificates in your State is the first step to ensuring you are dealing with a trustworthy contractor.
  2. Experience. Not all electricians are equal! Electrical systems differ greatly from residential, commercial, industrial and machinery applications. Moreover, depending on the location of your electrical systems further considerations must be taken, for example, is the system located in a wet, dusty or explosive environment?
  3. Continuing education. Unfortunately, experience is not enough when choosing the best contractor.   Electrical devices are continuously updated and new products are invented regularly. Moreover, the National Electric Code is updated every three years and local regulations might update in between the NEC updates. Many contractors will participate in trade organizations, Union training or some sort of third party training to stay current with regulations and best practices.
  4. Warranty and References. Any good electrician should be able to provide references and proof of quality of work. Other good indicators include willingness to provide a written work guarantee and promise to fix any non-conforming work. Number of customer reviews, testimonials and pictures of completed work on public websites compared to years in operation.
  5. Cost. Beware of low estimates. Ensure your quote is in writing and that it specifies who is responsible for ancillary cost. Many times low estimates are given based on a “best case scenario” however, when it comes to fixing or upgrading electrical what is actually behind the wall, is rarely what is expected. Dealing with unforeseen cost after the work has begun can be a really unpleasant experience if not detailed in the contract.

There are many things to consider when hiring a reputable electrical contractor. Ensuring these steps are taken, however, can be the difference between a smooth electrical upgrade or a potentially catastrophic fire.

Diego Garcia


Lockout Tagout – Group Lockout

Normally, we’d love our supervisors to take an active leadership role. However, when it comes to lockout- tagout, it is not advisable to let them take complete control.

A few months ago, I was touring a manufacturing facility and decided to ask the plant manager about the lockout-tagout procedures for their largest machine. Proudly, he explained that he takes charge and puts on a lock so all his employee can work with the machinery shutdown and locked out. To keep it simple, he explained that he has trained the other employees not work on the machine until he applies his lock. His procedure is incorrect.

According to OSHA,


When servicing and/or maintenance is performed by a crew, craft, department or other group, they shall utilize a procedure which affords the employees a level of protection equivalent to that provided by the implementation of a personal lockout or tagout device.

This means that each employee deserves to have personal control over their personal safety.


Each authorized employee shall affix a personal lockout or tagout device to the group lockout device, group lockbox, or comparable mechanism when he or she begins work, and shall remove those devices when he or she stops working on the machine or equipment being serviced or maintained.

This section explains that each person must apply his or her own lock either directly to a machine or to a lockbox that contains the key that locks attached to the machine or emergency source. Each person should carry their personal key on their body for the duration of the lockout and must personally remove their lock at the end of the work.

When OSHA’s procedures are not followed, safety is compromise. Annual audits should be performed for lockout-tagout operations. Next time you conduct one, aim for finding a multi-person lockout tagout situation to make sure your employees are safely applying their own locks.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Are You Seeing Green? You Must Be Working Safely (or Irish)

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, the color green stirs up images of Ireland, a landscape painted with lush green foliage, and on March 17 each year, for green beer. It is even their national color, for Leprechaun sake!

In honor of St. Paddy’s Day, I took a deeper look at the color green as it relates to the world of safety and risk management.

In the U.S., both OSHA and ANSI (American National standards Institute) require color-coded labels and tape be used to mark hazards and alert employees to dangers that exist in a facility or workplace. The colors help identify the level of severity, with the ultimate purpose being to reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and injuries.

The color green typically denotes the location of first aid equipment, safety equipment, respirators, safety showers, etc. in the form of a green cross.  The green cross is a symbol of nature and life, and depending on what country you live in, the green cross symbol has various meanings.

In the U.S., which established the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, the green cross is a well-recognized symbol of the National Safety Council.  The NSC’s mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

In Japan, a flag with a green cross (midori-juji) on a white field is flown on construction sites and in factories to encourage workers to remember health and safety. It also appears on badges and armbands for the same purpose.

In Germany, the symbol represents human health, as well as concern for the protection of animals and plants.

In Ireland, green represents more than beer and four-leaf clovers. The country’s first steps toward improving workplace safety happened in 1955 with the Factories Act. The purpose of the Act was to address workplace conditions in factories, which included an application for “young persons” in certain occupations. The Act also addressed cleanliness, overcrowding, environmental conditions, sanitation, and safety devices.

Whether you are observing St. Patrick’s Day this month, or planning your next workplace safety awareness campaign, remember to think “green” and have a safe day.


Website references:

A History of the Green Cross (12, February 2012) Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/site/ryoichihoriguchi/home/greencrosslogos


Safety Color Coding Labels and Tape (2017). Retrieved from


What is Green Cross? The difference between the Green Cross and the Red Cross! (nd). Retrieved from                                                  http://www.profarma.al/index.php/news-and-media-profarma/blog/174

Factories Act, 1995 (nd) Retrieved from   http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1955/act/10/enacted/en/print#sec4

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


What Drives Behavior?

We’ve all witnessed unsafe behaviors at work. But do you ever wonder what drives these behaviors? Is it lack of training or awareness?

Imagine the following scenario:

You see one of your employees smoking a cigarette on a break. You approach him as he is smoking and ask, “Do you know cigarettes can kill you?” Do you think he’ll quit smoking? I highly doubt it.

Contrary to what many believe, unsafe behaviors are not due to lack of training. Now, let’s analyze a different scenario.

Imagine that same smoker was told by his doctor at his last appointment that if he doesn’t quit smoking, he will die within two years. What do you think will happen when he leaves the doctor’s office? I’m confident that his chance of quitting has increased significantly.

However, the smoker didn’t receive new training and he wasn’t reprimanded by the doctor. So, what changed?

This is the concept of behavior-based safety. Our brain consists of two sides: the left side houses our knowledge and the right side houses our feelings.

What do you think drives our behavior? You guessed it; our feelings drive behavior.

The smoker already knew that cigarettes can cause cancer and kill people, but that wasn’t enough to keep him from smoking. Despite this knowledge, the right side of his brain kept telling him that smoking feels too good to give up. When the smoker was told by his doctor that he could die, emotions were triggered in the right side of his brain that made all of the knowledge stored on the left side suddenly become real. The knowledge he had about the dangers of smoking actually applied to him.

How do we apply this for changing behavior in the workplace?

Go to the safest worker at your company (every company has one), and ask that person to tell you their story. From personal experience, a painful incident most likely transformed that person into your safest worker. The pain, recovery time and the unfulfilled responsibilities for their family made them emotionally invested in safety. It’s their goal to ensure they never another accident.

Your safest worker is the person whose experience allows their brain to bridge the left and right side reinforcing what they know with what they feel and vice versa. This is a worker who will be safe at work and at home, who does not need to be monitored by the safety officer – this is the worker we all need and want!

Trisha Rule


Same Level Fall Prevention Series Part II: Three Floor Cleaning Mistakes That are Working Against You

In my last blog, Floor Cleaning & Same Level Fall Risk, I highlight the impact floor cleaning procedures can have on the amount of friction your floor provides. Now that we know cleaning methods (and not just frequency) are worth our attention, let’s review three common cleaning mistakes that may be negatively impacting your fall prevention efforts.

1. Using the Wrong Cleaner – Choosing the right cleaner can have a drastic impact on the efficiency of your cleaning process. As we saw in my last blog, one study found that 7 out of 10 surveyed restaurants were using neutral cleaners, rather than an alkaline degreaser, to remove grease and oils from their kitchens. Here are the four basic types of cleaning agents and their typical uses.

2. Ignoring Manufacturer Guidelines – Manufacturers provide usage guidelines for their products to optimize their efficiency. Ignoring them can lead to wasted product at best and reduced floor friction at worst. Common mistakes involve water temperature and dilution ratio. Most workers understandably presume that their floor cleaner should be mixed with warm or hot water. This is not the case for enzymatic cleaners, which contain living bacteria and enzymes that are neutralized by anything but cool or room temperature water. A 2011 study (Verma, Chang, Courtney; 2011) found that 62% of restaurant workers responsible for using enzymatic cleaners reported doing so with hot or warm water. Many workers also either don’t take the time to measure out the recommended cleaning agent dilution or purposefully deviate from the recommended ratio. This is often driven by the mistaken belief that they can adequately clean a floor and also save solution by skimping, or boost efficiency by over-concentrating.

 3. Single-Step Mopping – While this method does remove some contaminants, it also spreads them out all over the floor surface, leaving a contaminant/cleaner residue that can make the floor substantially more slippery when wet. It also tends to provide little time for the cleaner to act upon the contaminants. When mopping is the chosen cleaning method, it is recommended that a two-step process is utilized. This involves liberally spreading the cleaning solution over a section of flooring, allowing time for the cleaning agent to break down the contaminants, and then utilizing a wrung out mop to remove the solution. Using a combination of power scrubbers, squeegees, deck brushes, hoses, spray applicators and wet shop vacs are also effective tools. The goal is to ensure the cleaner is given adequate reaction time with the contaminants and then properly removed from the flooring surface.

Brian Piñon, CSP


Summer Begins

With summer weather here for most of the country, BBQ’s, ball games, weekend trips, time on or near the water and other enjoyable outdoor activities will be taking place. For some parts of the country, these are seasonal activities and providing a few safety reminders to employees is a good idea.  In areas of the country where these activities are not seasonal, complacency can set in, so let’s not forget to remind those employees about safety either. We need to keep safety in mind both at work and at home, to insure we can continue to look forward to these things in the years to come.

Last but not least, ENJOY! Have fun, whatever your project or activity is. Plan it with the thought the “safe way is the right way!”

Dan Heinen, ASP


Bomb Threats – Proper Response

Bomb threats or suspicious items should always be taken seriously. How quickly and effectively you respond could save lives. Every bomb threat is unique and you should collect as much information as possible so law enforcement can best determine the credibility of the threat.

What to Do If You Receive a Bomb Threat

Bomb threats are most commonly received via phone, but can also be received in electronically, in writing, or even in person. If you receive a bomb threat, stay calm and try to get as much information as possible. Note any unique features about the voice and any background sounds you hear over the telephone. Keep the caller on the line as long as possible and take detailed notes about what is said. Record the call, if possible. Try to note the following:

How to Respond to a Bomb Threat

Consider all bomb threats as serious. Notify 911 immediately. Do not hang up the phone on an incoming call. Signal or email a co-worker to notify 911 immediately. If a second person is not available, call 911 from another phone. Do NOT hang up the phone on which the bomb threat  was received, use another phone to make the emergency call. Remember…keep the caller on the line as long as possible and stay calm. Below are some suggested questions to ask the caller to keep the conversation going.

When is the bomb going to explode?

What does it look like?

What kind of bomb is it?

What will cause it to explode?

Where did you place the bomb?

Where are you calling from?

What is your address?

What is your name?

You can find a sample checklist on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. Its important to remember that your safety and the safety of your co-workers is the number one priority.  Evacuation procedures should be followed as soon as possible.


Robert Harrington


Same Level Fall Prevention Series Part I: The Surprising Impact of Floor Cleaning Method

When diagnosing a slip/fall problem within an organization, there are a variety of factors to look at that may be affecting the level of risk. Floor cleaning, while usually not overlooked completely, is often not given enough attention. Most assess only the frequency with which floors are swept and mopped, but completely ignore the efficiency of their cleaning process.

Let’s take a look at an example from the restaurant industry. A study published in 2008 (Quirion, Poirier & Lehane; 2008) tested the effectiveness of the cleaning procedures employed by 10 restaurant establishments. 7 out of the 10 restaurants used neutral cleaners, rather than alkaline degreasers which tend to be more efficient at removing the oils and greases commonly found on commercial kitchens floors. The three restaurants that were using the more effective degreasers were found to be over-diluting the product, reducing its efficiency at breaking down and removing targeted contaminants. And, as is unfortunately all too common in the food industry, each of the restaurants utilized a single-step mopping method. This tends to spread contaminants around the floor and leave a residue that makes any subsequent liquid spill substantially more slippery than it would be otherwise.

All 10 of the restaurants had opportunities to improve the friction of their flooring by altering their cleaning procedures. The researchers found that over-diluting a degreaser and single-step mopping quarry tile contaminated with oil, yielded a coefficient of friction of .37, making it a designated low traction surface per the ANSI/NFSI B101.1-2009 standard. Under the same conditions, two-step mopping with the degreaser mixed to the manufacturer recommended concentration produced a coefficient of .77, well above the .60 ANSI threshold for a surface to be designated as high traction.

Consider that another 2011 restaurant study (Verma, Chang, Courtney; 2011) found that for each .10 decrease in the coefficient of friction, the rate of slipping increased by 21%. A restaurant over-diluting their degreaser and single-step mopping could stand to reduce their rate of slipping by 84% from making two minor adjustments to their cleaning process!

Stay tuned for our next blog in the Same Level Fall Prevention Series, which will more comprehensively address common floor cleaning mistakes that may be detrimental to your slip/fall prevention effort.

Brian Piñon, CSP


Safe Handling Practice – Chlorine Cylinder Change Out

The changing out of gas cylinders in some industries is a somewhat routine event. Spent cylinders are shut off, disconnected and removed from manifolds. New cylinders are reinstalled, checked for leaks and turned on. This work is often done by a gas supply company, lab technicians or facility maintenance personnel.
This process may often be overlooked in safe Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) development or Job Hazards Analysis (JHA) documentation since it takes place in laboratories, service  areas and often remote manifold locations. Although much of the gasses in use are comprised of simple asphyxiants like Nitrogen, more toxic gasses are frequently in use too and require special handling. Chlorine is one of these gases.

In this blog, I’ll be discussing safe practices for chlorine cylinder change out. Before discussing best practices for handling cylinders, it is worth noting three actions to consider:

Eliminating exposure is always the preferred option. Utilizing a service company with highly trained and equipped personnel removes handling risk from your employees.
Another key activity could be completing a personal protective equipment assessment or including that element within a JHA.  During cylinder changes, there can be exposure to leaks, a most likely scenario is respiratory, skin, eye, face, hand, and arm exposure during a leak. Chlorine rated PPE will help protect your employees.

Cylinder handling best practices include:

Maintain leak stop or repair equipment such as non-sparking wrench and cylinder containment vessels in vicinity ready for use only by trained personnel. Employees also must be aware of what to do during a spill or leak. The best practice is to evacuate. Part of an emergency plan (which also may be captured in a JHA) includes awareness of cylinder locations, such as confined space or semi-confined areas like a stair well. People should not be using exit routes that contain potentially hazardous cylinders. Early leak detection and alarm devices should be considered in your emergency plan. Chlorine has good warning properties, so recognizing an exposure isn’t as hard as with other gases, but the best exposure is zero exposure since chlorine also can cause severe lung, skin, and eye burns.

For emergency response to a Chlorine incident, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) with chlorine rated full body suits are the required emergency response equipment unless an on-site coordinator has designated otherwise. It is worth noting that emergency response requires training based on response level to be performed. A risk assessment must be performed to determine what employees should and should not do in an emergency situation. In many cases, Chlorine emergencies should be left to the professionals and employees should plan to evacuate.

Mark Yeck


Workplace Burns – First Aid

In my last blog, Workplace Burns – Recognition and Prevention, I discussed how to recognize and reduce hazards of burns. In this blog, I’ll discuss first aid response for heat burns, chemical burns and electrical burns.

Heat Burns

First degree burns from heat are usually just a minor nuisance, but employees should still be required to report them to their supervisor so the burn can be monitored for signs of infection. For more significant heat burns, prompt medical attention is important to reduce severity. Supervisors should be trained in basic first aid and burn response. A great resource is for a training meeting can be found on the Center for Disease Control’s website. First degree burns can usually be treated without medical attention but if first-degree burns occur over a large area of the body, then seeking additional medical treatment is advised. Outside medical attention for second and third-degree heat burns is always recommended. In severe cases, 911 should be contacted.

Chemical Burns

The best response to a chemical burn depends on the chemical, so having up to date safety data sheet readily available is key. Prevention is key to chemical burns and employees must be trained in the hazards of all chemicals they have exposure to. Unlike fire safety, we aren’t taught the dangers of workplace chemicals in preschool, so any safety knowledge on chemicals needs to be specifically addressed upon hire and refreshed annually. Supervisors should be trained not to come into contact the chemical when responding to an employee with a chemical burn as they could be burned by the chemical also.

Electrical Burn

Responding to a person with an electrical burn must be done with extreme caution. If the injured employee is still in contact with the electrical producing source, the responder could receive a shock when they touch the person. CPR may need to be performed as well. If your facility is located in a remote area, where 911 responses take more than 3-4 minutes, employees should be trained formally to respond to all types of potential burns and to perform CPR. The Red Cross and National Safety Council both offer workplace first aid and CPR classes. Many local companies also provide this service.

Being prepared to respond appropriately to a burn can make the difference in the outcome of the injury. Check your training records today to see when you last conduct burn safety training.


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Workplace Burns – Recognition and Prevention

Have you done a safety evaluation for burn sources at your facility? Burns can occur from touching a hot tool, equipment parts, electricity, chemical, and fire or an open flame. You may have looked for burn hazards during your personal protective equipment assessment (PPE), but PPE should be the last resort for preventing burns – Elimination, substitution, isolation, and administration controls should be considered first.

To conduct a burn hazard assessment, you need to look at the physical building and operations and the tasks that employees perform. Below are suggestions to conduct an assessment for the three main types of burns.

Heat/Fire/Open Flame

To find sources of heat burns, a physical walk through the facility is required. Are people working near heat producing equipment without proper protection? Can a barrier be installed to prevent contact? Can insulation be added to reduce the amount of heat? Do people need to be working near the heat source or can a workstation be rearranged? Those are some key questions to ask before resorting to PPE. But if PPE is your only option, keep in mind that protective gloves, arm shields, leg spats, and boots come in all varieties and you must understand the level of heat exposure to make the proper PPE decision. I always recommend that my clients take advantage of their PPE supplier’s salesperson. They have researched their product and understand the limitations and benefits.


Since every chemical is unique, you need to review all safety data sheets for the chemicals in your workplace. For chemicals with severe skin contact hazards, the first step is to see if there is an alternative that is not as hazardous that can be substituted. If that’s not possible can you create a system that encloses the chemical so employees are not in contact with it such as a direct piping system from tank to point of application? Can you install a physical barrier or shield to prevent splashing or move the employees to a better location to work? If there are no other options but to use personal protective equipment, I suggest using your vendor’s expertise to make sure you are getting PPE that protects employees from your specific chemicals. You can also review my colleague’s blog, “How to Select Chemical Resistant Gloves.”


Electrical burns can happen when a person comes into contact with electricity or a conductive substance such as water that is electrified. This is not just an exposure for electricians. Office workers who use electrical corded equipment or extension cords can also receive burns if the cords are in poor condition. Having a preventative maintenance program and inspection process for electrical equipment is an easy way to reduce this risk. For more significant exposures such as working inside a live electrical panel, specific tools and PPE are required. How to determining what type of protection is needed is required knowledge for an electrical worker. The NFPA70E Standard offers a guide to selecting the right PPE for working with energized electrical. You should refer to article 130 in the standard for more details. As a general rule, if your employees who perform electrical work don’t understand what is explained in the NFPA 70E standard, then they are not qualified to be performing energized electrical work. Employees who are not qualified to perform electrical work should receive a basic training on hazards of electricity and what to do if they find an unsafe electrical concern.

In my next blog, I will discuss proper first aid for burns.


Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


The Hidden Gems in the OSHA Silica Regulation

If you’re complying with the OSHA Silica Standard for Construction by following the requirements in Table 1, then congratulations!  You’re doing well.  But do you know about the two little hidden gems in the standard?  Those two requirements are connected to the use of respirators in Table 1.

For those tasks that require a respirator, OSHA only says “APF 10”.  You probably know that APF 10 means that the worker is to use either a filtering face-piece (dust mask), or a re-usable cartridge-equipped half-mask respirator.  But do you know that being required to use a respirator during that task also means that your organization must write and implement a Respiratory Protection Program (RPP)?  And that means all the bells and whistles such as respirator selection, medical clearance (OSHA Questionnaire), fit testing (initial and annual), and training.

The second little gem is a bit more technical.  Because the Silica standard is focused on protecting workers from ‘Respirable Dust’ (very fine particles), then the respirator used must be capable of protecting against those extremely small dust particles.  That’s no problem if your workers are using a re-usable ½ mask respirator with filter cartridges since those filter cartridges are HEPA filters, which protect against 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns.  Very effective.  But if you choose to use a dust mask, then you have to be careful.  The most commonly used dust mask is the N-95.  The ‘95’ means that the mask is only 95% effective against those small particles.  So, you need a better dust mask.  One that is equivalent to the HEPA filter.  No problem.  Just ask your supplier to provide you with a N-100 dust mask and you’re good to go!

And with regard to that letter ‘N’ in N-95:  Sometimes dust masks are used to protect workers from exposure to oil mist.  Dust masks that offer protection against oil mists have a ‘R’ (Oil Resistant) or a ‘P’ (Oil Proof) designation.  Masks designated with ‘N’ are the least expensive (and most common) since they are NOT treated to provide protection against oil mists.

N-100 dust masks are made by Moldex, 3M, and other manufacturers.  But wherever you buy your dust masks, be sure that they are always NIOSH approved.  Beware cheap un-approved knock-offs!


Guest Bloggers


Qualified Electrical Worker – Do You Have Any?

A few months ago, my colleague wrote a blog about using electrical multimeters. It got me thinking about qualified electrical workers. According to OSHA, employees must be trained as qualified electrical workers if they are potentially exposed to energized electrical over 50-V. This is not that unusual for a maintenance person. Potential exposure occurs when an employee uses an electrical testing meter to verify that electrical power has been properly shut down. They are potentially exposed to electricity until they have verified that power was in fact successfully shut down. You may think this is redundant because if they followed the procedure then of course, the power would be shut down but its not that simple.

Consider the example of crossing the street. If you are crossing at a designated cross walk with a pedestrian traffic signal, you are crossing the street by following the “proper procedure.” But, when the walk signal comes on, no one blindly walks into the intersection. Everyone looks both ways before crossing the street. According to the sign, you should be safe to cross, so why take the time to pause and look both ways? We do so because we need to verify that traffic did in fact stop. Let me compare it for you in more detail.

Creating an electrically safe work condition Crossing the street
Use the written procedure to find the proper isolation point Walk to the designated cross walk area
Follow procedures Wait for walk signal
Wear proper PPE while opening panel for testing Stand on the curb while waiting to cross
Wearing the needed PPE, use a test meter to verify de-energization Look both ways before crossing
Proceed or wait depending on outcome Proceed or wait depending on outcome

In testing the electricity with the meter, we are “looking both ways” before putting ourselves in potential danger.

According to OSHA,
Qualified persons (i.e. those permitted to work on or near exposed energized parts) shall, at a minimum, be trained in and familiar with the following:
The skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electric equipment.
The skills and techniques necessary to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts, and
The clearance distances specified in 1910.333(c) and the corresponding voltages to which the qualified person will be exposed.

Take a walk out to your maintenance area. Is there an electrical multimeter? If so, you need to look at who uses it and why. Do they have training to the level of a qualified electrical worker? Do they know how to use it safely? Do they understand the risks of using one? I recommend reviewing the online version of NFPA 70E to get an in-depth understanding of what is needed to perform energized electrical work. You can access it through the link below.

For more information on electrical hazards, please review our other blogs or reach out to your risk management consultant.

NFPA Free Access Widget

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Assessing Risk is Not Limited to Workplace

In the winter of 2015, I began preparation to hike a section of the Oregon Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The plan was to start at the Santiam Pass Trailhead and, eight days later, finish at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood (a little over a 100 miles).

Even now, after three years have passed, I still wonder what I was thinking!

For an experienced hiker, this section of the PCT is not a difficult hike; but, I was not seasoned by any stretch of the imagination. As each month leading up to the hike peeled away, I became more and more anxious. I did exhaustive research, read an entire book (twice) on the PCT, and made numerous trips to REI to make sure I had everything necessary to ensure a safe, successful hike. I am, after all, a safety geek.

If nothing else, I was book smart.

When the day of our hike arrived, we gathered at the trailhead, lifted our backpacks onto our backs, posed for a PCT group picture, and stepped on to the dusty (often rocky) trail. As the parking lot grew smaller and smaller in the distance, all I could keep thinking was, “This is really happening!”

I was confident that I had prepared for an injury-free hike. My boots were broken in; I had purchased hiking socks that “guaranteed” no blisters, and I had packed an ample supply of food. By the end of the first day (30,000 steps later), I already had a list of lessons learned running through my head. The recurring thought being, “You should have asked more questions at REI.”

Risk management/safety professionals never really get away from assessing risk. Our daily walk through life is consumed by thoughts of how safe (or unsafe) something looks, or how can we reduce the frequency, likelihood or severity of a task.

I thought about all of those things a lot on my hike.

We walked seven to eight hours each day (10-13 miles on average), which provided a lot of time to think about “stuff”. Each new day, I encountered something that made me a smarter hiker for the next day. Example: You might get a nose bleed at elevation, so keep Kleenex or toilet paper in your tent. I learned this lesson on Day Three, at 3:30 a.m., as I scrambled out of my tent to find my backpack, which held my toilet paper. After I got my nose bleed stopped, all I could think about was “I wonder if bears can smell blood?”

Having survived the hike ( sort of), I wanted to share my lessons learned as it relates to preplanning jobs or completing a job hazard analysis in the business world. Here’s my top five list of what I learned on the PCT:

  1. When planning to complete a new or unfamiliar task, ask lots of questions from various experienced sources. If you are still unsure, keep asking questions. If you are still unsure, ask some more.
  2. When buying personal protective equipment (i.e. socks that won’t cause blisters), have a back-up plan if that PPE is not the right one. One size or type does not fit all.
  3. When purchasing tools from a vendor, make sure they understand what you need. I bought a water filter straw (good for drinking out of a stream or pond); however, what I needed was a gravity-fed water filter that I could use to fill my camelback, and extra water bottles every day. Note,this was my biggest mistake, and it still makes me laugh.
  4. When choosing footwear, consider all environments you’ll be walking in. The books I read recommended bringing sandals to wear at the end of each day. Great idea if you’re at the beach; not so great for walking in dusty, dirty campgrounds, or traversing the rocky edge of a lake or pond. Take light-weight tennis shoes instead. My second biggest mistake!
  5. The final lesson addresses first aid and emergency preparedness. I had a false sense of security about my “guaranteed” no blister socks, so I packed a small first-aid kit, which had exactly six band aids. Truth be known, I seriously thought I would not get blisters at all. Well, by day two all my band aids were gone and I was mooching first-aid supplies from my friends. By the end of day four, when I had to end my hike, my left pinky toe resembled a squished cherry tomato, and both feet were swollen (ironically, I then had to wear my sandals – see lesson learned #4).

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


Role and Responsibilities of a Safety Committee

Have you ever attended a safety committee where people gather around a table eating donuts and a moderator is droning on about the rising cost of claims and you’re thinking to yourself “why am I here?”.  Unfortunately, safety committee meetings can become routine and non-productive. So, what is the point of a safety committee?

Besides being required in states like Nevada, when an establishment has 25 or more employees, a safety committee makes sense for companies that would like to establish a safety culture.  As we are taught in Risk Management 101, it takes a team to establish an effective safety program and one of the key teams that should be created is the safety committee.

Safety committees can be an effective tool to enhance safety within an organization, or it can end up as a meeting to socialize with friends and colleagues and drink coffee and eat donuts.  An effective safety committee can provide senior management with safety problem solvers that understand the processes, challenges and dynamics of the business.

By analyzing accidents and incidents within the company, the safety committee can help determine the root cause of how or why the accidents/incidents occur.  By understanding the how and why, they can make suggestions and recommendations to upper management on how prevent future occurrences. Since your committee members are on the production floor, at the construction site, or working in the field on a daily basis, they can provide valuable insight that a manager or officer of the company may not have.

The role of the safety committee is only limited by the imagination of its members and management that created it.  So, how big is your imagination?

Guest Bloggers


Needle Stick Prevention Tips: Worker Safety in Recycling Facilities

State law (H&SC §118286) in California makes it illegal for a person to knowingly dispose of home-generated sharps in their trash or containers used for the collection of solid waste, recyclable materials or green waste. Similar laws exist in many other states. Examples of home-generated sharps include hypodermic needles, intravenous needles, pen needles, lancets, and other devices that are used to puncture through the skin.

Even with these laws, millions of home generated sharps are still carelessly thrown away every year. As a result, workers in the solid waste industry are at higher risk to punctures, cuts and lacerations caused by needles and sharps devices.  A puncture wound by a hypodermic needle or other sharp object might cause serious infection or expose the worker to bloodborne pathogens including hepatitis, HIV and other dangerous diseases.

Employees working in the recycling industry and in particular in material recovery systems have to take extra caution when handling garbage along sorting lines.

To reduce the risk of injury, follow the safe work practices listed below:

  1. Always presume that needles and sharp objects are hidden inside garbage and recyclable material.
  2. Never carelessly place your hands inside bags, containers or areas that could contain needles or sharp objects.
  3. Never compact or push down on garbage or material with your hands.
  4. Always use personal protective equipment including gloves and protective sleeves.
  5. Use gloves and sleeves that offer the highest level puncture resistance to the parts of the hands and arms that are most susceptible to puncture injuries.
  6. If you’re gloves or sleeves are torn or damaged immediately report this to your supervisor and request replacements.
  7. Remember that gloves and sleeves are not puncture proof. They offer some puncture resistance however needles and sharp objects can easily puncture through most materials.
  8. Never run your hands and arms carelessly through garbage and recyclable material.
  9. Never cradle or hold garbage, garbage bags or material inside your arms and hands.
  10. Remember that the tops and sides of most gloves have virtually no protection. This will make the tops and sides of your hands more susceptible to punctures.
  11. Try to sort through garbage and material by grasping with your fingers. Do not to grab and squeeze garbage and material with your hands.
  12. Take extra caution with handling plastic bottles as people frequently use these to dispose of hypodermic needles and small sharps devices.
  13. Take extra caution with handling and removing trash from inside garbage bags as people frequently discard their needles inside these.
  14. Never sift or move your hands under and through garbage.
  15. If you see a hypodermic needle or other sharp device, on the sorting line, immediately notify the line operator to stop the conveyor. Once the conveyor has been stopped, notify your supervisor of the needle.
  16. Hypodermic needles should be retrieved by trained and authorized personnel only.
  17. All hypodermic needles must be disposed of in sharps containers which should be placed at designated locations near your sorting stations.
  18. If you are punctured by a needle or sharp object, immediately clean the wound with soap and water and notify your supervisor.

Terio Duran


How to Prevent Forklift Truck Accidents

Powered industrial trucks (commonly called Forklift trucks) are used in most industries to move heavy and awkward material promptly and safely. Their use reduces the lifting exposure over manual lifting.  However, there are risks associated with their use.  Some hazards include excessive speed, operating in close confines, working near traffic, pedestrians, and working near loading docks, to name a few.  Accidents can occur, even when using best practices.  But, knowing some of the typical accident types is knowledge well studied.

Typical accident types:

Most, if not all, of the above accident types can be prevented. Proper training is key. Training does not mean providing a driver with a pamphlet of instruction or a tool box topic. It is not the same as instructions for assembling a bicycle or making pot roast for dinner.  One forgets that a forklift truck, although smaller, weighs as much or more than an average automobile.

OSHA insists that all forklift drivers must be properly trained in stating:

The employer shall ensure that each powered industrial truck operator is competent to operate a powered industrial truck safely, as demonstrated by successful completion of the training and evaluation specified in this paragraph…prior to permitting an employee to operate a powered industrial truck, (except for training purposes), the employer shall ensure that each operator has successfully completed the training provided…” 

“…training shall consist of a combination of formal instruction (e.g. lecture, discussion, interactive computer training, video tape (DVD), written material), practical training (demonstrations performed by the trainer and practical exercises performed by the trainee), and evaluation of the operators performance in the workshop..” 1910.178(l)(1)(i)

Many forklift fatalities occur because the operator jumps from the forklift truck during or in reaction to an accident or event. Instinct is to jump off when a forklift is falling from a loading dock, truck trailer, or other height. Typically, what occurs is that the driver jumps downward and is crushed by the falling forklift.  The best practice would dictate that it is far better to stay with the forklift truck even if it tips over.  Enforcing a seat belt rule for all forklift drivers is a great preventative measure.

Training can also reduce the severity of the accident. For example, keeping the load as low as possible will increase the vehicle stability by lowering the forklift truck’s center of gravity. Should the driver ignore the safety rule, the severity of any injury while staying forklift, is generally less severe.

Training is a continuum. It needs to be ongoing, not just officially every three years, but when conditions such as type of forklift truck used, changes in operations or conditions, or when unsafe conditions of actions are noted.

Guest Bloggers


Falls: A Workplace Hazard

In 2016, 19% of all injuries reported in general industry were the result of falls, slips or trips and most of these accidents are preventable. Falls to a lower level accounted for 81% of all fatal falls. Of those cases where the height of the fall was known, more than two-fifths of fatal falls occurred from 15 feet or lower. Moreover, OSHA cites falls as the leading cause of death in construction.

Most of us assume that we will not fall – maybe we feel that we are more coordinated than the next person, more aware of our surroundings or just have better reflexes. However, OSHA names falls as one of the most common causes of workplace fatalities and the risks are even greater when the fall is at a lower level – the deadliest type of workplace fall. All of us – from the most experienced employee, the new employee or the committed clutz can easily slip, lose our grip or balance. A simple fall becomes a lost workday case or even worse, a fatality. If your workplace contains catwalks, elevated platforms, scaffolds, use of ladders or any number of other fall risks, a small mistake can become serious in the blink of an eye.

Believe it or not, with the use of cell phones – texting and walking have attributed to the increase in slip and fall claims. Do you have a cell phone policy and if so has it been updated?

Of course, a great way to help prevent falls is to continue to improve the safety culture in your company, and there are certain steps to consider in order to have an effective fall prevention program:

  1. Educate –Knowledge of workplace regulations for your industry is crucial – are there elevated platforms, floor openings, open-sided platforms or floors that drop to lower levels? Is fall protection required? OSHA has excellent guidelines on fall prevention measures. Not only will your company become OSHA compliant but a safer workplace will be developed.
  2. Investigate – Monitor and investigate all fall hazards and incidents on a regular basis
  3. Change – Eliminate all hazards when possible
  4. Educate –Train your employees on fall hazards: why there are guardrails, why non-slip footwear is required, what fall hazards exist and proper workplace protocol. If a formal fall protection program is in place, monitor the program, training, effectiveness. This is perhaps the most important step!
  5. Prevent – Install and maintain fall prevention and protection devices; Develop an inspection program and get employee input and involvement

Of course, the most important change is improved commitment to overall safety and communication between management and employees. The outcome will be an improvement in the safety culture of your company.

Paula Tetrault


Don’t Fall for the Anti-Slip Myth

Problem: Slippery Floors

Solution: Anti-Slip Footwear… Right?

WRONG! Anti-Slip Footwear is only part of a full slip prevention plan. The anti-slip design is only functional if the sole is clean and well maintained and the floor surface is also properly cleaned and maintained.

Proper Footwear Maintenance

To properly maintain the footwear, the soles should be brushed free of dirt and debris and cleaned as recommended by the manufacturer to maintain the anti-slip properties.  A buildup of grease, dirt and debris will clog the crevices on the sole and make it one solid surface with nowhere for the water or new grease on the floor to go when walking. Cleaning the soles of the shoes after each shift and only wearing the anti-slip shoes at work will keep them in good working order. Additionally, anti-slip footwear won’t be effective on floors with too much grease/oil build up or floor cleaner/degreaser residue.

Helpful Tips

Follow these tips for a more effective slip prevention program:

Enacting these tips will help keep the floors and footwear working together to keep everyone on their feet. Stay tuned for my next blog on floor mats!

Guest Bloggers


Workplace Emergency Planning – Emergency Drills

The purpose of emergency drills is to teach people how to respond versus react during a stressful time.   It prepares people to respond calmly, quickly and safely. Drills take the chaotic reactions out of stressful situations and replace them with trained methodical responses.   Drilling provides the routine and structure to a catastrophic event where generally there is chaos.

A key to setting up an emergency plan is to make the plan simple.  The fewer steps, the better.  For most people, there are only three steps that they need to follow and practice in a drill.

Step 1: Move to the nearest exit and evacuate the building.

Step 2: Proceed to the determined location to be accounted for.

Step 3: Wait for the all clear or for authorization to leave the property.

When drilling, ensure anyone with special needs (hearing impaired, mobility restrictions, etc.) get assistance as needed. Assign personnel to assist them down the stairs in a multi-storied building.

After your drill, identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and revise as necessary, drill again and repeat as necessary.

OSHA states in OSHA 3088, How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations, that an emergency action plan should include, at a minimum, the following:

If you have any questions, please contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant.

Guest Bloggers


Winter Fatigue

Last summer, we published a blog about worker fatigue that focused on the fact that summer usually brings a higher workload for many companies due to higher construction demands in the summer months. Today, it was brought to my attention that this is not just a summer issue. When temperature remains below zero for extended periods of time, HVAC contractors, mechanical contractors, overhead door contractors, and many more are pushed to the max to keep homes and businesses safe and sound in the frigid temperatures.

Below is a winter recap about worker fatigue that many employees may find useful to review this season:

History has shown that significant accidents like the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the BP Texas City oil refinery explosion indicate fatigue was a contributing factor. Those industries are known for their robust safety program and controls, but human factors can affect all workplaces including yours. Take time today to train you supervisors on recognizing fatigue and how to react to it.

Guest Bloggers


Don’t Get Too Comfortable

If you follow any of my blogs you will notice I post quite a bit about hazards on the road. If you travel with someone or have a passenger ride with you, then this blog may be of interest. One thing I see quite a bit (and I can’t understand why), are people riding with their feet on the dashboard.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHSTA) an airbag is designed to rapidly deploy in moderate to severe front end collisions. And by rapidly I mean in 1/20th of a second.I did a Google search on “Injuries from feet being on the dash when an airbag goes off” and I was shocked. I had no idea exactly how horrific the results could be.  My thought was broken noses, twisted or possibly fractured leg or knee but what came up left me stunned.

A lady in Georgia had her nose, ankle, femur and arm broken, “Basically my whole right side was broken, and it’s simply because of my ignorance,” she stated.

A 26 year old lady in Michigan had her knees driven into her face. Her left eye socket, cheekbone and nose were broken. Her jaw was dislocated, a tooth cut through her lower lip and she would lose her spleen. Both feet were broken and compressed, and would eventually end up nearly two sizes smaller than they were before the crash. Her left pupil would remain permanently dilated affecting her vision, her hearing would remain altered and her memory would be wiped and rebooted like a faulty computer program. But perhaps the most dangerous injury would be the one her mother was told at the time not to worry about: a brain bleed.

A trauma surgeon wrote about a woman’s toes that were amputated as the vehicle she was in flipped onto its roof, her foot pushed outside the window from the force of the airbag and was drug across the asphalt.

When you drive for either work or pleasure ensure that your passenger is not only wearing their seatbelt but do not allow them to put their feet on the dash. Be aware of how far back they recline as well. Seatbelts are designed to go across the shoulder and ride low on the waist right above the hips. If they are reclined to far back they may not get the protection form it in an impact which can increase the chances of an injury from an airbag. And if you are a passenger, keep your seat upright, as far as possible your feet on the floor and off the dash, (and not outside the window).

Like any safety feature, airbags are designed to provide protection provided they are used properly. Injury can occur just like misusing a tool, bypassing a safety device on a machine, or ignoring a set policy or procedure.

Dan Heinen, ASP


What Drives Your Safety Culture?

What drives your safety culture? On second thought, as I ask this question, the proper question should be who drives your safety culture? Without a doubt there is a component of improving the culture of safety within an organization to be sure, such as accountability for safety being shared at all levels of the organization. The “who” however is the paramount question.

The primary group that drives your safety culture is your supervisors. There are several reasons why – first and foremost is the fact that your workers listen to and get direction from their supervisor. He or she is in charge of their day-to-day operations and as such, commands respect. Safety personnel will have their ability to influence worker’s safety will either be inhibited or enhanced by the supervisor.  Ultimately, your supervisor will have more of an impact on safety performance than the best safety manager.

Another reason for your supervisors being the key in driving your safety culture is that when it is a choice between production and safety, it will be your supervisor that makes the choice. Top management must incorporate safety into the supervisor’s performance requirements, otherwise, your supervisors will tie their compensation only to production and not to safety. They will see safety at the safety department job only.

Supervisors should also be the ones providing discipline. Discipline should be:


Planning Family Get-Togethers for the Holidays? Read This!

Holiday Safety

Holiday safety should be everyone’s priority, and not just while driving on the road to reach or return from our destinations – it should also include pre-holiday preparations and post-holiday activities.

Estimates from the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicate approximately 15,000 injuries resulting in emergency room visits were experienced in 2012. Injuries from falls represented approximately 34% of the emergency room visits, with lacerations and back strains representing 11% and 10%, respectively.

Safe Placement and Removal of Decorations

To reduce the likelihood of a holiday injury, what precautions should be made? In addition to not decorating while in a state of DUI (Decorating Under the Influence), there are many ways to decrease the likelihood of being on the unfortunate side of a statistic. I’ve included a few below:


Traveling for the Holidays? Safe Travels are Best Travels

According to AAA, Christmas and New Year’s holiday season is the busiest time to travel with approximately 103,000,000 estimated to have traveled in 2016. AAA also indicated the Thanksgiving holiday season is the second busiest time to travel with approximately 44,000,000 estimated to have traveled in 2012.

Coinciding with AAA, the United States Department of Transportation estimates 91% of long-distance travel (more than a 50-mile radius) is by personal vehicles. Depending on the distance traveled, motorists have two very distinct travel patterns:

In 2013, 343 motorists died on New Year’s Day, 360 died on Thanksgiving Day, and 88 died on Christmas Day. Alcohol-related fatalities was said to represent 31% of the totals.

Safe Holiday Travels

To assist in traveling safe during the holiday season, travelers are encouraged to incorporate the following safe driving tips:

Safe Travels Are Best Travels

Traveling during the holiday seasons can be daunting – incorporating the above tips should help you safely get to and return from your holiday destinations.

Here at the ICW Group, we hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday season!

Mike Pettit


Root Cause Analysis – Not Just for Accident Investigation

Safety professionals have been using root cause analysis for decades to understand and solve a problem. Fault tree analysis, fishbone diagrams, the 5-Whys analysis and other approaches are useful tools for investigating serious losses. These techniques can be just as effective when applied to unsafe acts and conditions observed without an accident or near miss. Root cause analysis can be used to identify opportunities to reduce risk at any given time.

For example, if a machine is found unguarded during an inspection, replacing the guard will rarely fix the problem. Why? There was a reason the guard was off the machine, a reason behind why the guard remained removed from the machine while individuals operated it, reasons for the operator to ignore the removed guard and ultimately reasons the guard will be removed again. If a simple root cause analysis technique like the 5-Whys was applied to this scenario, we may have found the following:

5 Why Question


Why was the guard off the shear? The operator removed it….
Why did the operator remove the guard? The stock would not fit through the guard…
Why would the stock not fit through the guard? New stock was brought in for cost – instead of pre-cut stock, the stock is in a multiple piece form which won’t fit through the shear when guard is on
Why was the stock size issue ignored when it was inspected by engineering? Engineering does not have a formal step of reviewing machinery feed size when selecting stock
Why doesn’t engineering have a formal step to review machinery feed size needs when selecting stock? There is no formal audit of processes and procedures within any of the departments.

By drilling into the root causes of the guard not being on the machine, opportunities for improvement become more meaningful. Addressing the engineering process for identifying machinery feed needs and formalizing process audits can affect far more than just this one shear.

Using root cause analysis to identify the reasons unsafe acts and conditions occur and then addressing those fundamental issues can have a significant impact on overall risk reduction efforts. For another look into this concept, check out Leslie’s blog from October. If you would like to speak with one of ICW Group’s risk management consultants about conducting a root cause analysis and action plan, please contact us here.

Rick Fineman, CSP, ARM


Be an Influencer in 2018

Our Risk Management consultants started a book club in 2017 with the purpose of supporting our commitment to customer experience, and risk reduction outcome.

We did this as a team, 45 strong. Everyone rowing in the same direction with one simple objective – to learn. Learn, and become better, so that we can make our customers better and employees safer.

Our first book, Influencer, took us on a journey of discovery, dissecting the norms and behaviors that influence every-day decision making. The authors wrote of personal motivation, social motivation and structural motivation, and how influencing vital behaviors play a key role in attaining change in an organization.

A vital behavior, as described in Influencer is that crucial moment when a behavior puts success at risk. Or, in our world, puts employee safety at risk.

From a workers’ compensation insurance standpoint, where frequency and severity drive premium costs, an organization must understand, above all, what is driving their losses. We call this “major loss sources” or risk exposure areas. Once these loss sources are identified, work can begin on identifying the vital behaviors (crucial moments) that contribute to a decision/behavior that resulted in an accident.

As you enter 2018, whether you are starting a new policy year on January 1, or whether you are half way through your current policy period, be resolute in your efforts to identify vital employee behaviors that may be busting your safety culture.

Need assistance identifying your major loss sources or vital employee behaviors? Contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant, and let us help you influence your loss results in 2018.

Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


Accommodating Modified Restrictions (Transitional Duty Program)

Many employers don’t realize how much it benefits a company and injured employees when they are accommodated on modified work restrictions due to a work-related injury. On the surface, this may seem inconvenient, but a transitional duty program benefits both parties in several ways and reduces the overall cost of a workers’ compensation claim.

Accommodation of work restrictions is becoming increasingly important. Studies have shown that “early return-to-work” programs result in employees getting back to full duty faster, with reduced risk of attorney involvement. Keeping employees engaged in their scheduled routine, coming to work and maintaining a semblance of productivity helps to maintain a positive outlook and morale. The exact opposite happens when someone is off work. They are out of their routine, they feel disconnected from the workplace and they may even start to wonder about how they will be treated when they return. The risk is in developing a “disability attitude.”

There is also no way to stem rising claim costs without a strong transitional duty program, which includes accommodating modified restrictions. The impact of higher claim costs will affect your company in the future, with a rising experience modification factor (Ex-Mod), which results in higher workers’ compensation premium for the next three years. The outline below provides a highlight of transitional duty program “best practices.”


Stay tuned to “mySafetynews” for more on transitional duty programs in the near future, including examples of modified duty tasks and what options ICW Group customers have when finding modified work is not reasonable.

Additional Resources

Please contact ICW Group Risk Management with any questions or assistance in developing your Transitional Duty Program.


Jeff Yeaw


Safety at Home: Whole at Work, Whole at Home

“If they are not at work, it’s not my problem.”

“Off the job safety? That doesn’t make me money.”

These are just a few of the replies I often hear when asking if employers have an off-the-job safety program. But if you take a moment to think about it, it’s a great idea. It helps your workers stay safe so they can come to work healthy and injury free. It shows that you’re a good employer because you care about them off the clock, too.

A simple way to help with off the job safety is to allow your employees to an extra set of personal protective equipment home to use on jobs around the house. Safety glasses and hearing protection are not that expensive, considering the cost to replace an employee who is off work with an eye injury or the possibility of paying for a hearing loss claim down the road due to a combination of on and off the job noise exposure.

Explain to your employees how valuable they are to you and your business. Ask your employees “Do you work on cars, do yard work, work around the house, have any hobbies? If so, have you had anything fly into your eye while doing them?” The answer nine times out of 10 is yes.  Then offer up a free pair of glasses for them to take home and use.

You should talk about home safety at your next safety meeting. Make comparisons to exposures at home and at work.  Give an example of how an electrical hazard on the job would be overloading a circuit with too many power tools while at home the same safety concern happen with too many holiday lights or appliances. Another example is how you use a fire watch at work after welding but rarely worry about fire safety in the kitchen, on the grill, or on the Fourth of July. What’s the escape plan? Where’s the extinguisher? Is it working?

These are just a few, easy to use examples of how on the job safety applies off the job. If you want more ideas or benefits of off-the-job safety contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant.

Asher Sweet


Resolution #10: Track Safety Successes – Find the Positive

I had a conversation with some employees in a training class this week. They were all complaining about their GPS Systems in their company provided vehicles and how they get called into their supervisor’s office if their name hit the weekly violation list. The reason someone makes the “list” included driving over the maximum allowed speed for more than 2 minutes, idling too long in one place, hard stopping, and more.

Making the list didn’t have any consequences except having to meet with the supervisor, so employees saw it as a nuisance. The meeting was not enough to really change any driving behaviors because they believed their violations were justified.

With an employee like this, focusing on the positive would be a better option than serving up more severe discipline. I’m not a GPS expert, but I figure, that if GPS software can run a list of violators, it can also run a list of non-violators (and if it can’t, you can compare lists on your own). I believe that if the supervisors of these same drivers met with them to acknowledge their safe driving when they did not have any weekly violations, those conversations would go a lot farther in motivating the drivers to continue to drive safely and avoid risky behaviors.

Focusing on the positive works on construction sites, retail stores, manufacturing environments, office settings. You can get started today by simply acknowledging things such as:

If you haven’t already started focusing on the good things happening around your company when it comes to safety, make this resolution your first one for 2018. Not only will you see improvements in safety, but you will see a happier workforce as the compliments continue and the culture of positivity grows.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Preparing for the Unexpected: Travel Baggage Tips

Employees who travel frequently probably have the details about their travel down to a science. But when employees who travel on the spur of the moment or just travel for a rare seminar, they may not have such an easy time preparing for their flight and dealing with all the hassles of travel.  Travel can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Unfortunately, travel stress may reduce productivity and performance in an employee.

Recently I had a unique experience on a cross-country flight for work. I had arrived at my departing airport early, received my boarding pass, got through security and to my departure gate. I was then informed that this particular airline had overhead bins that would not accommodate standard carry-on luggage and I had to check my bag. Not a problem – my bag is checked, flight lands, I get my bag and proceed to my next leg. However, I get to my connecting flight and, while I was in line to board, it was announced that all the overhead bins are full and some passengers will have to check their bags. This scene repeated itself on both of the return flights.

Now, it wasn’t an issue because my bag arrived in the same condition and nothing was missing. But it got me to thinking – what if that wasn’t the case? I had no ID tags, and nothing to indicate my bag at the baggage claim or jet way (since it was a carry-on I didn’t figure I would need any of these things).

When I think about the possible time, energy and stress I could have spent to recover my bag and/or damages, I begin to think about loss productivity. If my bag had been lost, I would have endured three days of meetings with nothing but the clothes on my back. My lost bag would have been a major distraction, resulting in a much less productive employee. Even if my bag would have made it there and not back, the same stressful issues would have to be addressed once I returned home (i.e. contacting the airline, my employer, etc.).

Airline Baggage Tips

The following should help you avoid many of the common problems that passengers have with carry-on or checked luggage. For those that don’t fly too often, here are my lessons learned:


Proactive Workplace Initiatives

Companies have a choice of either initiating risk reduction through design or reacting to incidents/accidents after they happen. If they choose to react, then they attempt to redesign equipment and/or processes to prevent a future occurrence. But as in the latter example, if an unfortunate situation has already occurred, lives may be changed forever in addition to large sums of money that would have been spent. According to the Accident Prevention Manual for Business and Industry, “Research and experience show that a company achieves the greatest effectiveness and economy when dealing with hazards in the preoperational stage of the design process. By taking such a proactive approach, the company obtains designs that can reduce employee risk, improve productivity and lower cost.”

By having the foresight to design operations for risk reduction, decision-makers can ask questions of themselves during this process. It is easy to overlook (or not give it enough consideration) this process in the beginning stages. However, taking the time upfront to address these issues can drastically reduce the amount of time and money if an incident occurs. These questions can include:

For example, when planning a mobile operation, a production manager designed the process with extra hoses that were on the ground behind the vehicles. The hoses were attached to the vehicles and were moved along as the vehicles moved. A driver of one of the vehicles unintentionally stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake. This caused the vehicle to quickly move forward about 70 feet. Employees behind the vehicle didn’t expect this, and one got caught up in the extra hose that was laying on the ground and was dragged behind the truck. A better design process would have been to govern the top speed of the vehicle during this operation and minimize the number of hoses on the ground during the operation.

Since some companies adopt a reactive mindset for risk reduction, decision makers tend to focus on behavior modification or training as the sole solution. By only focusing on these, workplace design and work methods are not addressed. That is not to say that behavior modification and training are not important because they are an essential part of the overall risk reduction process. But these methods can be misdirected when applied to solve equipment or workplace design issues.

Philip Bivens, CSP


OSHA Electronic Reporting Requirement

In 2016, OSHA issued a final rule regarding the tracking and reporting of workplace injuries. Electronic submission — rather than paper submission — of injury and illness data, also known as the Log 300, will be required. Covered employers with 250 or more employees at an establishment will be required to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300300A and 301.  Certain smaller employers in industries with high rates of injuries and illnesses will be required to electronically submit the OSHA Form 300A.

The Federal electronic reporting requirements will be phased in over a two-year period. Initial Federal reporting requirements set for July 1 of this year were moved to December 15, 2017, and the current Federal administration is also reviewing the final rule.

Employers who fall under Electronic Reporting guidelines can use the updated Injury Tracking Application for electronic reporting.

California Employers

If you are a California employer trying to determine if you have to follow the electronic reporting required under the new Federal electronic reporting requirements, the short answer is no.

At this time, California employers do not need to follow the Federal requirements.

So what does all of this mean for employers who are governed by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA?

Federal OSHA has given states that operate their own safety and health programs, such as California, extra time to implement the new requirements. The Federal compliance dates do not apply to California employers.

According to Cal/OSHA, California employers are not required to follow the new Federal requirements and will not be required to do so until “substantially similar” state regulations go through the formal rulemaking, adoption and approval process.  “California employers are not affected by the Federal OSHA extension date because the new requirements have not yet been adopted or approved in California,” said Department of Industrial Relations Public Information Officer Frank Polizzi to the Cal-OSHA reporter.

Cal/OSHA drafted a proposed rulemaking package to conform to the revised federal OSHA regulations. The package is being reviewed internally before the formal rulemaking process and public comment period begins.

Until Cal/OSHA implements the Federal changes in California, the Federal rules will not be enforced. Employers should be on the lookout for California’s implementation of these Federal rules.

If you have operations outside of the state of California, all employers will be required to report electronically.  This will be phased in with employers with over 250 employees starting in 2018.

In addition, certain industries will be required to comply with the requirements at a lower employee threshold (25 to 250 employees).

*Note -the following OSHA-approved State Plans have not yet adopted the requirement to submit injury and illness reports electronically: CA, MD, MN, SC, UT, WA and WY. Establishments in these states are not currently required to submit their summary data through the ITA. Similarly, state and local government establishments in IL, ME, NJ, and NY are not currently required to submit their data through the ITA.

Contact information for each of the State Plans can be found at: https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html

Rick Fineman, CSP, ARM


The $23,000.00 Sandwich

How much would you be willing to pay for a sandwich? As preposterous as it may sound, some people are willing to spend $214.00 for the “Quintessential Grilled Cheese” sandwich.  Several years ago, it was given the distinction of being the most expensive sandwich in the world.

Actually, the most expensive sandwich I’ve ever heard of was when an OSHA compliance officer cited the automotive shop of a car dealership after observing a service technician eating a sandwich at his workstation. The initial penalty for what was considered a “repeat” violation was $23,000! The OSHA regulation cited in this case was 29 CFR 1910.141(g) (2), which states, “No employee shall be allowed to consume food or beverages in a toilet room nor in any area exposed to a toxic material.”

The practice of eating and drinking in industrial environments, laboratories, and patient care settings is quite common.  Of course, no one would knowingly consume a toxic substance. However, employees may inadvertently ingest hazardous materials by eating, drinking, chewing gum, applying cosmetics, using tobacco or even taking medication in these environments. Toxic materials can settle on tables, drinking cups, exposed food and eventually ingested by employees.

The following strategies can help limit ingestion hazards:


Fall Protection – Scissor Lifts and Aerial Lifts

When a ladder no longer makes sense to use, we turn to a scissor or boom lift. Ladders are convenient for quickly getting up and down, but should not be used to perform work at any significant height. The likelihood of falling increases since they are easily tipped and do nothing to prevent a worker from falling.

Scissor Lift vs. Aerial Type of Lift

That leaves us with either a scissor lift or an aerial type of lift. OSHA does not consider a scissor lift to be a type of aerial lift; scissor lifts instead fall under the scaffolding requirements. When we are talking about aerial lifts there are two main types: Articulating knuckle booms and Telescopic straight booms. Articulating booms have multiple sections that articulate and allow the user to gain access to work areas that may be more difficult to access because of obstacles.

Fall Protection

The main difference behind fall protection in a scissor lift and an aerial boom lift is that scissor lifts have built in fall protection from the guard rails that are part of the working platform. The rails prevent employees from falling over the edge as long as they are used properly.  In the case of an aerial lift, employees must be tied off 100% of the time because the design does not prevent employees from falling out. Keep in mind, that OSHA does allow for additional fall protection in a scissor lift, but in this case the manufactures instructions must be followed.  For example: some manufacturers of scissor lifts recommend the use of a fall restraint system. This positions an employee and physically restrains someone from leaving the basket or falling from it. Other forms of fall protection are not allowed, because the force of a person falling out could potentially cause a scissor lift to topple.

Tie-Off Requirement

When using an aerial boom lift there are more options to fulfill the 100% tie off requirement. You have the option of using a positioning lanyard similar to what can be used in some scissor lifts, and you can also use a retractable lanyard which allows employees to move more freely. In some cases you can also use a personal fall arrest system with a fall arrest lanyard. There is no one size fits all solution, so make sure that each situation is properly evaluated.

One final consideration is to make sure your attachment points are meeting regulatory requirements. Never tie off to guardrail, and use only designated attachment points.

For more information on the OSHA standards specific to scissor lifts take a look at:

CFR 1926.451; for additional information on the use of aerial lifts see: CFR 1926.453.



Erin Silva, CSP


Crystalline Silica Alternatives – Making Sure the Solution doesn’t lead to Unintended Consequences

Crystalline Silica has been linked to serious and sometimes fatal chronic lung disease.  Safety agencies worldwide have moved to control exposure to this commonly found material by lowering exposure limits, and proposing alternatives to its use in industry.

For years, common sand has been used as an abrasive material in sandblasting.  Since sand contains crystalline silica, efforts to protect workers have resulted in the development of alternative blasting materials.  It’s common to see abrasive blasting being done using metal shot, glass beads, coal slag, dry ice, walnut shells, ground corncobs, and other materials.  These materials all differ in density and hardness, so the material selected depends on the type of blasting being done.  Some countries have even banned the use of sand in abrasive blasting.

Unexpected Consequences

Under most circumstances, these alternatives are less harmful to human health than common sand containing Silica.  However, as the recent death of a 33-year-old in Canada showed, these ‘less hazardous’ alternatives carry their own risks.  The victim was inspecting an area that was undergoing abrasive blasting with walnut shells/corncobs.  As a child, he had been diagnosed with a nut allergy and had been briefly hospitalized because of the allergy only once.  But less than a half hour after entering the site, he succumbed to anaphylactic shock; an extreme and life-threatening allergic reaction.  He died five days later.

The Importance of a Hazard Assessment

Not many people would recognize that walnut shells could be the agent of such a senseless tragedy.  That’s why a Hazard Assessment by a qualified team is so important.  That team may have concluded that when coarsely-ground walnut shells are blasted against a hard surface, they shatter and fragment, producing a micronized dust capable of penetrating deeply into the lungs.  Clearly, anyone with a nut allergy breathing that dust would be in serious trouble.

Dust control strategies such as providing a wet blasting method, or robust exhaust ventilation may have prevented that exposure.  But a sound hazard assessment of a task is the first and best step in understanding the range of safety and health challenges in that task, as well as the effectiveness and possible complications of the solutions we implement to solve those challenges.

Guest Bloggers


Resolution #9: Track Something Other Than Injuries for Your Incentive

If you haven’t read the OSHA memo from 2012 regarding their stance on incentive programs based on being injury free, I recommend you take a moment today to check it out. Item #4 outlines their concern about incentive programs based on zero injuries. In it, OSHA states, there are better ways to encourage safe work practices, such as incentives that promote worker participation in safety-related activities, such as identifying hazards or participating in investigations of injuries, incidents or “near miss.”

Curious how you can redesign your incentive program? I’ve provided a few suggestions below to take into consideration.

Are there any items that you audit or inspection every month?

Don’t reinvent the wheel. If you are already checking items such as fire extinguishers on a monthly basis, start with those. Audit your audits to see if they are being done and track the successes and the failures.

Do you conduct safety training and with a sign off sheet?

You can start tracking employees’ attendance. Employees who attend all the trainings qualify for the incentive.

Who conducts your safety training?

Considering allowing employees to speak at your meetings and providing them an incentive for sharing their story

Do you expect that your jobsites or plants maintain good housekeeping?

Base your incentive on meeting housekeeping expectation. You will need to be very clear about what “meets” expectations and what does not. I recommend taking a photo of good housekeeping and posting it on a bulletin board so everyone know what meets standards.

Other things to consider

Since you can’t reward someone who doesn’t have any injury, spend time observing employees and rewarding those who work safely. For example, if your machine operators are getting foreign bodies in their eyes and you determined that safety glasses are not worn with consistency, use that as your incentive base. Employee wearing safety glasses get rewarded. Those not wearing safety glasses get disciplined.

You can combine elements of my examples and award points and then award an incentive after employees earn enough points if providing on the spot rewards doesn’t fit in your culture. Unless you are bound by union contract terms, how you design your incentive program is limitless. You should make the change to your incentive program today. If you are bound by a contract, make sure you bring this issue to the table as soon as possible. Coming up with an incentive program just requires a little creativity.

Do you have any other interesting ways of awarding your incentive program?

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Hurricanes – Evaluation, Evacuation, and Recovery Plans

As recently witnessed with hurricanes Harvey and Irma, hurricanes involve catastrophic winds and rain, which cause considerable disruption and damage before, during, and after these storms. This blog will discuss what to do at each stage.

Before the Storm

One way to assist in protecting employees and property is to evaluate the worksite to identify any potential safety and/or health hazards before a storm is anticipated. You should inspect the property for comprised and/or damaged structures, items that could become projectiles, damaged or dying trees, ineffective drainage systems, unsafe chemical containment, etc.

When potential concerns are identified during the inspection process, proactive completion of the appropriate repairs, removal of dangerous trees, etc. should be prioritized.

Another way to assist in protecting employees and property before a storm is to establish an evacuation plan, which would need to include the days leading up to a hurricane and allow sufficient time for everyone to evacuate the area. To assist in keeping high winds from getting inside buildings, the last to leave should make sure all doors and windows are closed and secured, including those within the building.

Unfortunately, when hurricanes happen we often hear about those needing to be rescued, and those who could not. When the National Weather Service and government agencies advise evacuation, best practice is to heed the advice and leave. No property is more valuable than a life – buildings can be replaced, people cannot.

During the Storm

One way to assist in protecting employees and property during a hurricane is to remain out of the area until local authorities provide the “all clear” to return.

The evacuation plan would also need to include a way of maintaining consistent communications with all employees to make sure no one is under the impression they are expected to return to work before it is safe to do so.

We often hear about those who check on their property or return to work when they believe “the worst is over,” only to be caught in the storm with no chance for rescue, being electrocuted by downed power lines in standing water, etc.

After the Storm

Once the “all clear” to return has been issued, the owner of the property and/or professional engineer should first inspect the buildings from the outside to identify any potential post-storm safety hazards such as structural damage.

Note – In the event a building used to contain hazardous chemicals appears to have any damage, the local fire department should be contacted to perform the initial inspection prior to entry by any worker.

Once it is determined safe to enter the buildings, the interior structural components should then be inspected, and then the equipment, storage racks, etc. – basically, anything that could potentially collapse and/or fall onto workers should be inspected.

When clean up involving building debris is required, it is best practice to have a licensed and insured contractor complete the efforts, as they have the equipment specifically designed and capable of safely handling damaged metal, wood, glass, etc. This should also be completed prior to employees returning to the worksite.

While performing final clean-up efforts, all those involved should be furnished and required to wear the appropriate forms of personal protective equipment. Eye protection should be worn at all times, cut-resistant gloves should be worn while handling any sharp and/or jagged materials, dust masks should be worn in dirty and/or dusty environments, etc.

When power has yet to be restored following a storm, temporary power from generators is common practice. When generators are used, they should only be used in open, well-ventilated areas due to the hazards associated with carbon monoxide.

Hopefully, you will never experience a hurricane in your area. However, if you carefully plan for a hurricane and one is experienced, following your established evaluation, evacuation, and recovery plan could assist you in preventing a tragedy at your workplace.

Mike Pettit


The Value of a Modified Duty Employee

Getting an injured employee back to work promptly is essential for keeping claims costs down. In fact, in many states, a factor that goes into calculating your experience mod is whether someone remains at work or is taken off work. Claims that result in someone losing time from work (receiving indemnity benefits) have a greater effect on the bottom dollar than those that result in medical only costs. This cost savings is the reason that so many companies have adopted a return to work program. But having a program is not as simple as writing it down and putting it on a shelf. You can’t bring someone back to work to do nothing; they need to come back to perform meaningful work. The days of sorting paper clips are gone!

Having a successful return to work program and finding meaningful work for an employee to do while on modified duty is not hard, it just takes a little planning.

1. Have updated job descriptions on file. The treating doctor can use this information to determine if the employee can perform their full job duties or transitional job duties for your company. Your supervisors can use the job descriptions to make sure that injured employees are not working outside of their work restrictions and are working within the listed job duties.

2. Take a minute to brainstorm. Brainstorm a list of all the tasks that need to be done routinely around your facility. This includes all the little things that no one has the time to do, but are still important to the operations.  I’ve listed a few ideas below:

3. Train your staff. Under pressure, your supervisors may find it easier to send an injured employee home than to find work for him. Make sure your supervisors know that your company has a return to work program and they are expected to make every effort to provide modified duties to an employee injured at work.

Before I conclude, I would be remiss if I did not bring up modified duties and labor unions. If you employ union employees, you might think that the union will not allow employees to perform modified duty work because it’s outside of the scope of the union, but I urge you not to make this assumption. While I’m sure there are unions who will put up a fight, there are also union leaders who will support your return to work program. You may need to spend a little extra time developing your modified duty task list so you are not crossing into other union areas, but it is certainly possible to make it work.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Safety Training – What Type of Learners are Your Employees?

Did you see an ocean of blank stares in the audience the last time you conducted training on a new process, chemical or piece of equipment? Was your team fully engaged and active in the discussion?

If you saw mostly stares, you’re not alone.

When it comes to employee training, audiences typically consist of three types of learners:

    1. Visual – they learn best by seeing/reading;
    2. Verbal – they learn best by hearing;
    3. Kinetic – they learn best by hands-on demonstrations.
    4. Unless trainers incorporate all three learning styles into their presentations, blank stares will continue to be the norm, and their important safety messages will continue to fall short of their intended objective.

      So remember, during training sessions:

          • Show your employees images to convey your messages. Use charts, photos, and illustrations whenever possible.
          • Explain what they will learn. Follow up with the concepts and the instructions. Finish by summarizing them what they learned. Keep messages clear, short and concise.
          • Have your employees complete the hands-on steps. Be sure they practice the skills that they will be required to do after the training session.
          • Do you have any tips you’d like to share?  If so, leave us a note in the comment section below.

            Jason Rozar


Did You Hear That? Dual Hearing Protection – Part II

In Part 1 of this series, I addressed the use of single hearing protective devices (HPDs) and the effects HPDs have on noise attenuation (weakening of noise levels). In Part 2, I’ll address the use of dual HPDs, and their effects on reducing noise exposure.


According to OSHA, “Hearing protector attenuation must be sufficient to reduce employee exposure to a TWA (time-weighted average) of 85dBA.”

HPDs are considered the last option for controlling noise exposures, and their effectiveness depends on the protectors being properly fitted and worn.

Dual HPDs
HPDs come in several forms, most commonly ear plugs and ear muffs. Some may argue which is better than the other in regards to reducing noise levels, comfort, etc.

Some also believe using both forms of HPDs at the same time will result in the protection equaling the noise reduction rating (NRR) when the intended protection levels are added together.

Per OSHA, the actual NRR achieved by dual HPDs, when properly fitted and worn, includes the following calculation:

Taking the above into consideration, the anticipated 23dBA reduction would be considered sufficient protection for noise levels at or below 107dBA (but, not for noise levels at 108dBA).

However, due to OSHA’s experience and published scientific literature showing laboratory-obtained real ear attenuation for HPDs seldom being achieved in the workplace, they strongly recommend applying 50% correction factor. Again, this is due to relying on the HPDs being properly fitted and worn during the exposures.

Using the above-recommended calculation method, the following would result:

Taking the above into consideration, the anticipated 14 dBA reduction would be considered sufficient protection for noise levels at or below 98dBA, and not for noise levels at 108 dBA.


Sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss, which can be immediate or take a long time to be noticed. It can also be temporary or permanent, and can affect one or both ears.

Please remember, the best way to prevent hearing loss is to reduce noise at the source by engineering a noise control solution – an example would include isolating the noise source with an enclosure. Unfortunately, engineering out the noise is not always realistic or feasible.

In both parts of this series, I addressed the use of single and double hearing protective devices once all engineering controls are implemented, and the methods needing to be used to calculate the anticipated noise reduction ratings.

Did you hear that? We hope so!

Mike Pettit


Resolution #8: Use Your Monthly Audit Forms as a Catalyst for Change

Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That being said, are your safety committee, managers, or department supervisors insane? Are they doing their monthly audits and inspections and finding the same deficiencies every month? Hopefully not, but too often I see that this is the case. We go through our checklist and constantly find ourselves making the same notes month after month.

Instead of getting mad and frustrated about reporting on the same issues, let use these issues to initiate some changes that will not just correct the conditions but prevent them from re-occurring. We need to use the same concept discussed in my last blog on root cause analysis.

If we determine why the west exit door is being blocked, we can prevent future occurrences. For example, after investigating I find that the west exit door is always blocked with shipments from supplier XYZ. Those shipments are arriving 30 minutes after the receiving and warehouse department leave for the day. Once I figured this out, I can ask the warehouse manager to staff someone 30 minutes later, ask the supplier to show up in the morning, ask the supplier to leave the shipment in a designated location or task another qualified employee with managing that shipment.

Don’t wait for an injury to occur to find the permanent solution. Treat your monthly audits/inspections as if each issue was a near miss and investigate them. For more information on the concept of a near miss reporting program, check out Mark’s blog. A near miss reporting system can benefit your company in many ways. Stay tuned for my next blog about incentive programs where I address alternatives to tracking injury-free workdays.

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Halloween Safety Tips – On and Off the Job

Common sense should mean that on Halloween, employees driving in residential areas will pay closer attention to their driving. But common sense doesn’t always prevail. Safety training should be conducted on Halloween as a reminder to all employees.

Remind drivers to:

    1. Drive slowly.
    2. Don’t assume pedestrian see you or will stop for you.
    3. Don’t back your vehicle up after trick or treaters are on the prowl unless you have a spotter outside of your vehicle to watch for kids.
    4. Don’t pass a stopped vehicle on Halloween. You don’t know why its stopped and could risk running into a child.
    5. Stay off the phone and control your other distractions.

A reminder to parents to help drivers keep everyone safe:

      1. Head out before dark if possible.
      2. Take a flash light, glow stick, or have reflective tape on costumes.
      3. Stay in a group –  Drivers are more likely to see a group then a single child.
      4. Use cross walks is available or cross at intersections.
      5. Obey traffic signals.

Happy Halloween!

Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


Fall Weather

Fall is fickle; you can easily go from sunny to rain to snow in one day. If you live in or travel through high elevations, the changes can be extreme and occur quickly.

Recently, I was on a vacation trip in the mountains, and it happened to me. It was in the mid 50’s at our location. My friend that lives there showed up to our campsite and said, “We have to go NOW!” He explained there was a foot of snow on the pass and more coming. We got one truck out with no problem, but the truck I was in was pulling a trailer with an off-road UTV . We ended up unloading it, then unloading the trailer so we could get to the top of the pass. It took us 6.5 hours to go 12 miles. Not fun driving on a forest service road though 2.5 feet of snow. We were lucky that another couple left the same time we did, and they had a winch on their truck so working together we all made it out safe.

Fall also brings new slip and fall hazards into play. Leaves and frost can create slippery conditions, especially for people who work early morning hours. Pay attention to places on your property that collect leaves and make sure you are clearing employee pathways. Frost cannot be prevented, but making sure that you have ice melt handy for the first day ice forms is a good idea. If your employees work off site, now is the time to remind them to wear proper shoes for the conditions and report any hazards at the customer locations.

Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Dan Heinen, ASP


Fall: Time Change

If you travel whether for work, leisure, or both, the arrival of fall brings about a multitude of distractions that we should be aware of. In this blog, I’ll focus on one: time change.

Time Change

Not everyone has the luxury of driving west in the morning and east in the evenings to keep the sun at our backs for sunrise and sunset. Often the procedure is put on sunglasses, lower the visor and squint your eyes.  If you can schedule your travels, so the sun is high enough or set low enough it isn’t an issue, great! If not, here are a few tips:

On the first Monday after the time change, driving safety should be discussed to remind your drivers of the tips mentioned above.

Dan Heinen, ASP


Deer in the Fall

As we enter the fall season we get to enjoy the experience of empty farm fields, changes of the colors of leaves on trees. The weather cools off, leaves begin to change, crops are coming out, and animals are more energetic. Yes, fall is deer mating season and as it turns cooler they become much more lively as their hormones become more active.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, resulting in 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. Being prepared can help prevent you from adding to these statistics.
There are several things you can do to help prevent being on of these statistics. When driving this fall, you should:

If the above plan fails (and remember, it happens 1.6 million times a year), you should take the following steps in the deer collision aftermath:

Slow down, watch your surroundings and safe driving!

Dan Heinen, ASP


Hearing: Loss and Protection – Part I

Have you ever had to lean closer to someone and/or raise your voice to communicate due to high noise levels? If so, there’s a risk of hearing loss if you are exposed to the noise levels for extended periods of time and without the appropriate hearing protection.

The best way to prevent hearing loss is to reduce noise at the source by engineering a noise control solution – an example could include isolating the noise source with an enclosure. Unfortunately, engineering out the noise is not always realistic or feasible.

If a person is exposed to sounds averaging greater than 90 dBA (the unit of measurement is decibel, which is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound) without hearing protection for eight hours per day, hearing loss will most likely result. As the volume increases, the amount of time you can safely stay in the noise environment decreases.

Here are some loudness/time facts to consider:


Tick, Tick, Tick Part 4 – Symptoms of Tickborne Illness

Over the course of this blog series regarding ticks, we covered the types and geographical locations of ticks, how to avoid and prevent tick bites and how to find and remove ticks. In the last blog of the series, I’ll address the symptoms of known tickborne illnesses and treatment efforts.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many tickborne diseases can have similar signs and symptoms. The most common symptoms include the following:


Tick, Tick, Tick Part 3 – How To Find And Remove Ticks

In the previous blogs, we addressed the types and geographic distribution of ticks, and how to avoid and prevent tick bites. In this blog, I’lladdress how to find and remove ticks from our bodies.

Finding Ticks – Immediate Efforts Recommended

1 – Take a very good bath or shower as soon as possible after being outdoors, preferably within two hours, to assist in determining if any ticks are crawling on you.

2 – Check all over your body for ticks – in your hair, under your arms, in and around your ears, inside your belly button, behind your knees, between your legs, around your waist, etc.

3 – Exam your clothes and gear, as ticks can cling onto these items, later attaching to you.

4 – If the clothes do not require washing, place them in a dryer on high heat

  • If clothes are completely dry, a minimum of 10 minutes in the dryer should kill the ticks.
  • If clothes are damp, additional time may be necessary.
  • 5 – If the clothes do require washing, hot water is recommended to more effectively kill ticks.

  • If the clothes cannot be washed in hot water, tumble dry on low heat for a minimum of 90 minutes, or high heat for a minimum of 60 minutes – the clothes should be warm and completely dry.
  • Removing Ticks – Immediate Efforts Required

    Note – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible – not waiting for it to detach.”

    1 – Using clean, fine-tipped tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure(see below).

    2 – Do not twist or “jerk” the tick, as this can cause the mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin.

  • If the above happens, remove the remaining parts from the skin with the tweezers.
  • If all of the parts cannot be easily removed, the CDC recommends to leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • 3 – Once the tick has been removed, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

    4 – Dispose of the tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag or container, wrapping it tightly with tape and throwing it away, or flushing it down the toilet.

    Note – The CDC recommends not crushing a tick with your fingers

    Mike Pettit


    Tick, Tick, Tick Part 2 – Time To Protect Yourself From Ticks

    In my first blog post regarding ticks, the geographic distribution of ticks known to bite humans was addressed. In this second blog, I’ll discuss how to avoid ticks and prevent tick bites.

    How Ticks Find You

    As parasites, ticks require a “host” – a human, for example. They will locate often-used paths, resting on tips of grasses and shrubs, and wait for a host by detecting breath, body odors and/or heat, moisture and vibrations.

    Ticks cannot fly– they simply hold their first pair of legs outstretched, waiting to climb onto the host. Some ticks will quickly attach to the host, while others will crawl around searching for places with thinner skin (ears, armpits, waists, etc.).

    How You Can Avoid Ticks:

    1 – Try to avoid wooded and brushy areas with high grass, leaf litter, etc.

    2 – If walking in the woods, try to walk in the center of trails and avoid contact with the above.

    Skin Protection

    Use a repellant with at least 20% DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin for protection.


    Resolution #7: Investigate for Root Cause and Make Changes to Stop Reoccurrences

    When an accident occurs, the top priority is to make sure the injured employee is taken care of and out of danger. But after that is done, a thorough accident investigation must be conducted to figure out what went wrong and how to prevent re-occurrence in the future.

    While there are many techniques that can be used to help identify the cause of an accident, my favorite is the 5-Whys, in which you repeatedly ask why the incident happened.

    For example:

    Incident: An employee fell down the stairs, in the initial investigation it was determined that there was water on the floor. Instead of stopping here and blaming the water for the incident, it’s important to dig a little deeper to find out why the water was there.

    Why#1: Why did the employee fall? Water was on floor.

    Why#2: Why was there water on the floor? Water came from the floor scrubber.

    Why#3: Why did the floor scrubber leave a water trail? Water left behind is normal.

    Why#4: Why was the employee walking in the area? The employee took an alternate route to reach his destination because his usual route was blocked by maintenance work.

    Why #5: Why wasn’t there a wet floor sign? Placing a wet floor sign is not part of the procedure because scrubber is only used when no employees are present.

    Conclusion: The employee fell in water left behind the floor scrubber while using an alternative. The floor scrubber operator does not place wet floor signs because he only scrubs floors in department where there are no employees at the time.

    Solution: Develop a hazard notification system to alert departments of maintenance activities and make changes to the cleaning schedule to accommodate.

    There plenty of other techniques to help you determine the cause of an accident, which we will talk about in future blogs. Until then, try the 5-Whys technique next time you have an accident to investigate.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Is This Thing On? How to Use a Multimeter

    Disclaimer: I’m not an electrician, I hate working with electric. I’m the type of person that will turn the main breaker to my house off if I have to rewire an outlet or replace a light fixture. The spark of a screwdriver from crossing circuits, to shaking your hand cursing while jumping about because you touched the black and white wires, to the sound of sirens as medical personnel  arrive are several ways to verify that the circuit you thought was off, really wasn’t. Here, I’ll provide a general overview on how to verify power using multimeters.


    Used to test for live power, multimeters are also known as amp meters and occasionally voltmeters (although the two are different). There are quite a few on the market with a wide range of capabilities. Most can be either analog or digital. The difference in those two is just the display.

    So, how do you know if it will do the job you need? How do you know whether you have a reputable one or not?  Here are several things to think about if you are going to purchase a multimeter:

    USE- What will it be used for? How high will the amperage and/or current will it need to measure. Multimeters have designated categories. A simple line of thought is the higher the category the high it’s capacity to measure current and amperage.


    Is it a quality meter? Independent testing most of us are familiar with is the UL label. We see that on just about everything buy. This means an independent testing agency has tested and verified that it can, will and does what it says it is able to. But, if it does not have the UL label, does that mean it is no good? Not always. There are several testing labs out there look for, UL, CSA, TUV or other approved labs. An item can only be labeled if it has passed their quality standards. If it is labeled CE it means it has met the European Commission requirements. Manufacturing companies can self certify with a CE mark; therefore, units with a CE mark do not have to be tested by an independent testing group. Beware of such wording “Designed to meet specifications of…” Remember, the Titanic was “designed” to be unsinkable.

    When choosing a meter, remember you are relying on it to keep you safe, so chose wisely.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Reducing Material Handling Claims in the Workplace

    Do you know what the leading cause of workers compensation claims is each year and one of the most costly? Injuries related to manual material handling and strains and sprains. In fact, manual material handling injuries account for nearly one-third of the total workers’ compensation claims reported each year, with strains and sprains as the most common type of work-related injury.

    The National Safety Council reports that pulling, lifting, pushing, holding, carrying and throwing activities at work account for approximately $13.6 billion in costs annually. These injuries can range from a mild strain to permanent disability. More importantly, they can occur in every workplace from an office environment to the most hazardous manufacturing workplace.

    How can we prevent strains and sprains? Are there ways to prevent back injuries? When most of us think of safe lifting programs, the first thing that comes to mind is “bend your knees and hold the load close to your body.” This is a time-tested safety rule – important, of course, but there is more to a successful material handling program in any organization.
    Education and training is the most important element of any successful program. The program should also include reducing material handling demands by utilizing equipment when practical.
    Other ways to decrease manual material handling in the workplace:

    When combining the above elements with an effective training program, you will ensure every employee is aware of the hazards of manual material handling.

    Paula Tetrault


    Resolution #6: Allow Your Employees to Participate in and Lead Safety Training

    Nothing makes for a more boring and ineffective safety meeting than having a supervisor read from a safety handout. At ICW Group, we provide a variety of safety talks to use during training, but using them effectively means using them as a resource – not as a script.

    If you are trying to get your employees to participate more, here are a few ideas:>


    Horizontal and Vertical Standards – What’s the Difference?

    I was told once that if an OSHA Compliance Safety & Health Officer (CSHO) cited me in the wrong book (for example a construction company cited in 29 CFR 1910 General Industry) that the citation would be thrown out. Is this correct?  The answer – it depends!

    It depends whether the standard cited is a horizontal and/or a vertical standard. So, what is the difference?

    Horizontal Standard

    Let’s say the example above is a citation for Hazard Communication, and the CSHO cited 1910.1200(f)(9).  The employer shall not remove or deface existing labels on incoming containers of hazardous chemicals unless the container is immediately marked with the required information. Then the CSHO would be in his right to cite this General Industry standard because it is a horizontal standard.  A horizontal standard is one that is ‘general’, or ‘across the board’.  Another example of a horizontal standard is CFR 1910.178 Industrial Trucks, also known as forklifts.

    Vertical Standard

    However, if the CSHO is on a construction site and observes that an ironworker did not tie off while connecting iron 25 feet up without fall protection, and he were to cite the iron worker’s company under Walking/Working surfaces in 29 CFR 1910 – the CSHO would be wrong to do so.  Or, if the CSHO were to go in the correct book, 29 CFR 1926 of the construction standards, and cite Subpart M, Fall Protection – he would also be wrong.  That is because the 29 CFR 1926 has a subsection R which would be a vertical standard because it only applies to steel erection and ironworkers.

    Vertical standards are only applicable to particular industries.  When reading the scope of the standard for Subpart R in 29 CFR 1926, it specifies which industry the standard covers, and it defines the operations which would be considered for that particular industry.


    In conclusion, just because you are responsible for safety for an organization that falls into a construction related trade, it does not mean the General Industry book is worthless or not relevant to your operations, as there are horizontal standards that may have implications for your company.

    Guest Bloggers


    Car Dealerships Safety: Reducing the Frequency and Likelihood of Slips, Trips and Falls

    Slips, trips and falls are a leading cause of workplace injuries at car dealership and auto service centers. Eliminating slip, trip and fall exposure is nearly impossible, but reducing the frequency and likelihood of a fall is. In this blog, I’ve outlined considerations you should take at your facility.


    Most salespeople are in the showroom for the majority of their workday, where dress suits are appropriate. But when an employee in dress shoes enters the service area, they are at an increased risk of falling on wet or greasy floors. Why are they in the service area? Are they using it for a shortcut? You should prohibit anyone from being in the service area without appropriate nonslip shoes. Shortcuts should not be allowed through hazardous areas without proper protection.  When salespeople need to show a customer a car, do they walk out to the remote lots? If so, the potential increases to fall on a parking lot hazard such as litter, leaves, snow/ice accumulation, or potholes and cracks in the pavement. Since porters are more likely to wear shoes appropriate for hazardous walking conditions; one suggestion is to develop a system where porters bring cars to the front of the parking lot for viewing purposes.


    Technicians walk all day long. Hopefully, you always require nonslip shoes, but if not, that something to consider. Also, can you reduce their exposure by providing mats/rugs at each exit so they can wipe their feet of grease or oil before leaving the shop floor? Can you direct pedestrian traffic away from wash bays where wet floors are more likely to be found?

    Porters/Car Wash/Detailers

    Porters who wash cars and remove snow have one of the highest slip, trip and fall risks. How are you controlling their slip and fall exposures in the wash bays? Do you have adequate drainage? Can you add safety mats to cut down on standing water? Are their squeegee brooms to remove puddles? Nonslip shoes are a good option but should you offer rubber boots which will also keep the employees’ feet dry? A wet shoe can last for hours and could impact the porter’s ability to work in other areas safely. Do you have a winter snow removal plan that requires winter boots for a snow removal? You can give them extra protection by purchasing slip-on ice trackers that will grip icy areas better than normal winter boots.

    Office Staff

    Sometimes the only thing that you need to do to prevent office staff slip, trips and falls is a little education.  They probably don’t even know what the slip, trip, and fall hazards are when they are walking around the facility.  They may not know what safety rules are already in place (such as wearing slip-resistant shoes) and they probably don’t realize that the rules apply to them also.

    Of course, with any employee group, a great way to reduce the chances of a slip trip or fall is through diligent housekeeping and proper rugs and mats throughout the facility.  For more information on choosing the proper mats and rugs check out this blog by one of our guest bloggers, The Right Mat System Can Help You Avoid Slips-and-Falls.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    The Safety is in the Numbers – Calculating the Right Hearing Protection for Your Team By Brian Pinon

    In the course of my career, I’ve walked through hundreds of operations utilizing powered equipment producing high noise levels. Most of these organizations offer hearing protection to workers but have not taken the time to quantify their noise exposure or ensure the provided hearing protection is adequate. In this blog, I will explain how to ensure your hearing safeguards sufficiently protect your workers.

    All Hearing Protectors Are Not Created Equal

    If you’ve ever shopped for ear plugs or muffs, one of the first things you would notice is that they are assigned a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) in decibels. In selecting hearing protection for their workforce, the most common mistake leaders make, is assuming that an NRR signifies the number of decibels reduced for a particular noise exposure. However, this rating reflects the highest noise exposure reduction that the protector can provide in an ideal laboratory setting.

    Due to physical differences between people and how effectively protectors are worn, the actual level of protection afforded to someone will almost always be lower than the listed Noise Reduction Rating.  I recommend using the following OSHA formula as a best practice for calculating the effectiveness of a hearing protector:

    (NRR – 7) ÷ 2 = Presumed Reduction in Exposure in Decibels. (dBA)

    For example, ear muffs with a listed noise reduction rating of 27 would provide a presumed reduction in exposure of 10 decibels.

    (27 – 7) ÷ 2 = 10 dBA

    Doubling Up, Doesn’t Equal Double Protection

    A second mistake leaders make, is to assume that combining protectors (i.e., wearing ear plugs and muffs) results in a purely compounded noise exposure reduction. The reality is that bone conduction, the transmission of sound through the bones of the skull to the inner ear, produces a decreased effectiveness for the 2nd protector. To account for this reduction, OSHA recommends plugging in the protector with the highest NRR into the formula and adding 5 dBA to account for the second protector.

    [(NRRHighest – 7) ÷ 2] + 5 = Presumed Reduction in Exposure in Decibels(dBA)

    If you have not yet quantified your worker noise exposure, please contact your ICW Risk Management Consultant for guidance.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    OSHA Top Ten List for 2017 Released

    OSHA announced its top ten list of most frequent citations for 2017 at the National Safety Congress and Expo in September. The National Safety Council covered the story on their website, but since this data can help our policyholders find a focus area for their companies, we wanted to share it here as well.

    You’ll notice the list includes standards from the general industry regulations (1910) and the construction regulations (1926). As you review the list, please take special note of those that apply to your area but don’t bypass the others. In most situations, similar standards are in place for the other group.

    1. Fall Protection (1926.501) – 6,072
    2. Hazard Communication (1910.1200) – 4,176
    3. Scaffolding (1926.451) – 3,288
    4. Respirator Protection (1910.134) – 3,097
    5. Lockout/Tagout (1910.147) – 2,877
    6. Ladders (1926.1053) – 2,241
    7. Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178) – 2,162
    8. Machine Guarding (1910.212) – 1,933
    9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements (1926.503) – 1,523
    10. 10. Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305) – 1,405

    If you see any areas that you know your company has an exposure to, it’s a good idea to update your written program and conduct an audit to confirm that the practices taking place concur with the procedures you have in writing. If you find discrepancies, employee retraining is necessary.

    If you need more help, contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant who can point you in the right direction.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    80/20 Risk Management Rule

    Have you ever thought about how much time you spend productively at work? At the end of the day do you feel like you were busy, but didn’t accomplish much? If so, the 80/20 rule could be very useful to you.

    The 80/20 rule is a simple principle of how a small number of things can have the biggest impact. Specifically, the rule means that in any situation, 20 percent of the inputs or activities are responsible for 80 percent of the outcomes or results. People who don’t apply the 80/20 rule are inclined to spend a large portion of their time on things that yield small results.

    The 80/20 Rule & Risk Reduction

    Let’s look at some specific examples of how this rule can apply to a business owner or risk manager. When assessing risks, not all risks carry the same consequence. For most industries, manual material handling and slips/trips/falls are the leading loss sources, but a lot of companies do not allocate the same time and resources to these loss sources as they do for loss sources that have smaller impacts on their business. By applying the 80/20 rule to risk reduction, companies can select the top risks that pose the highest potential for damage and focus the majority of the efforts on those. That doesn’t mean that you can forget other risks, but it will allow you to better allocate your time and resources to the most impactful areas.

    Another example could be a specific location/department that is having the majority of the injuries. By applying the 80/20 rule to this situation, you may find that a trivial few number of locations/departments are accounting for the majority number of total injuries. Knowing this information will allow you to focus your efforts in a more effective way.

    This same rule can be applied in many other areas of business as well; sales, production, employee retention/turnover, etc. If you take the time to really understand and apply this rule to your business, the results could be very lucrative.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Selecting High Visibility Clothing

    Employees struck by vehicles or equipment while working can lead to long-term injuries that can cost your company thousands of dollars in lost time and increased insurance costs. On large construction projects, its standard practice to have employees wear high visibility clothing. However, other employers can benefit from high visibility clothing as well. Below are some things to consider when deciding if high visibility clothing should be required for your employees.

    Are Your Employees Facing Any Struck By Hazards?

    High viability clothing is not just for construction sites and employees working on the road like a tow truck drivers. At ICW Group, we’re seeing high visibility clothing on more and more of our insured all the time. Some employees that should consider the upgrade to high visibility clothing include:

    Since OSHA has the general duty clause to base fines on when there is no specific standard and requires employers to conduct a personal protective equipment assessment, it is possible that if a struck by injury occurred, a citation could be issued for lack of proper high visibility gear. Personally, it would be hard for an employer to convince me that s/he didn’t recognize that his grocery cart collector could be struck by a vehicle.

    Once you made the decision to require high visibility clothing, here are some things to consider before making a purchase:

     ANSI 107 Standard Requirements

    The ANSI 107  Standard provides practical instruction regarding both reflective material and garment design to enhance worker visibility. ANSI 107 presents three performance classes of garments and identifies garment types based on expected use settings and work activities being performed:

    Remember, when evaluating gear, consider if there are special concerns that need to be addressed like cold weather, wet weather, non-flammable or gear that provides for ease of movement. Do you require high visibility clothing for any of your employees or for any tasks that might surprise us? Let us know so we can learn from your efforts by leaving a note below.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    3 Steps to Protect Yourself from an Active Shooter

    A business continuity plan, emergency action plan and natural disaster preparedness, are often considered as part of the overall operational risk management plan of a company. Sadly, in today’s environment we should consider the implementation of active shooter program.  This program and employee training should become part of your overall preparedness plan. Education in the workplace on how to handle an active shooter event is important.  The Federal Bureau of Investigations has identified over 160 active shooter incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2015.

    Active shooter and workplace violence events are on the rise but there are things you can do to lessen their impact if an event were to occur. The Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency advises these three steps:

    STEP #1 Escape 

    Determine the best course of action to protect yourself and others around you

    STEP #2 – Evade

    If you are unable to escape find a place to hide

    When calling 911 give them as much details as possible including:

    STEP #3 – Engage (last resort)

    If your life is in immediate danger, the last resort may be to disrupt or immobilize the shooter


    Law enforcement’s first goal is to stop the active shooter as soon as possible and will proceed directly to the area of the last shots. Officers may shout commands, and may push individuals to the ground for their safety when law enforcement arrives remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions. Put down any items in your hands and keep your hands raised and spread your fingers.  Keep hands visible at all times and avoid making quick movements toward officers such as holding on to them for safety. Evacuate in the direction from which officers are entering do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating. Once outside stay quiet and listen to the commands of law enforcement.

    For more information, check out FEMA’s “IS-907: Active Shooter: What you can do,” web-based class at no charge.

    Robert Harrington


    Machine Safeguarding Series – Part 4: Rollformers/Rollbenders and Turning Machines

    This is the fourth and final blog in the machine safeguarding series. This blog will discuss rollformers/rollbenders and turning machines.


    Rollformer machines’ primary function is metal bending, rolling and shaping functions. Rollformers bend a continuous strip of metal gradually to a predetermined shape. Rollbending machines usually have three rolls arranged in a triangle shape and they perform the same process as rollforming, except the machine produces a bend across the width of metal to achieve a curve.

    Amputation is one of the most common types of injuries associated with roll formers/roll benders. The point of operation creates an in-running nip point where a hand can get caught and pulled into the operation. Safeguarding these machines must be tailored to each individual machine, taking into account the operations. Some examples of primary safeguarding on rolling machines are: fixed point of operation barriers at the in-feed and out-feed points, interlocked guards to cover any other rotating parts, presence sensing devices (light curtains, safety mats), two hand controls with only one control station.

    In addition to the primary safeguarding controls, sometimes secondary controls are also needed. These can include: awareness barriers, foot pedal locations away from point of operation, safe work procedures, training, emergency stop devices and routine maintenance.

    Turning Machines

    Manual turning machines create parts by turning work pieces in one or both ends of the lathe and changing its shape using tools with specific cutting edges. These machines can pose serious injuries if effective safeguarding controls are not in place. Some of the most common types of hazards associates with turning machines include: entanglement of clothing in moving parts, impact by loose objects (chuck keys, tools), entanglement from wrong tooling and being struck by a work piece that is not secured in lathe.

    Machine Safeguarding and You

    Some primary controls for manual turning machines are: ensure exposed drive parts are adequately guarded, ensure controls are within easy access of the operator, use of guarding around the chuck, use of spring-loaded chuck key and guarding around lathe. In addition to these primary controls, secondary controls are needed at times. These can include: presence sensing devices around machine, proper training for workers, audible/visual warning signs and a routine maintenance process.

    In closing, machine guarding should be routinely inspected to make sure all devices have the proper protection in place. Your workers should be fully trained on the importance of machine guarding and the proper use of guards.  Anytime new equipment is purchased, be sure to add to your checklist to inspect the machine guards and confirm they will adequately protect. Your organization can become safer and more efficient through the proper use of machine guarding solutions. For any questions, reach out to your ICW Group risk management consultant here.


    Philip Bivens, CSP


    September is National Preparedness Month

    Natural disasters are front page news, from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma on the East Coast to raging wildfires in the West. ICW Group encourages its insureds to be prepared when violent weather breaks. Several other organizations also offer valuable resources for emergency preparedness. Those other organizations are:


    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

    National Safety Council

    Emergency Preparedness for Business Owner

    To be prepared for a disaster, business owners  should create an action plan. This includes alert systems such as employee communications, storage of important documents and contacts, shelter, first aid and utilities. They should also build an emergency supply kit that would include enough food, water and other supplies to last at least 72 hours.

    Business owners should have a communication plan in place to do the following:

    Examples of important information include:

    Prior to a disaster, employers should:

    After a disaster, employers should:

    Stacey DeVries


    Hurricane, Flood, and Tornado Recovery and Cleanup Safety Tips

    Floods can cause extensive damage to property and equipment. The cleanup associated with floods can also pose dangers to employees that may not be aware of the risks. Since it is common for employees at all levels to assist with clean up operations, it is imperative to protect your workforce during this process.  It’s a good idea to conduct a hazard analysis for clean up operations since this is a non-routine task.  Cleaning up after a flood will have different hazards that your employees are used to.  A hazard analysis will help you identify all the potential hazards and concerns.

    Texas Department of Insurance is a good resource to educate and train employees participating in clean up operations. For more information, please visit: http://www.tdi.texas.gov/pubs/videoresource/fshurricaneclea.pdf,


    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Flood Safety Tips

    As we watch the news and see the devastation from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, it serves as a reminder that hurricanes not only bring lots of wind, but rain (and at usually much more than we are prepared for).

    As we built our cities, we covered soil with asphalt and concrete eliminating nature’s sponge to help absorb excess rain. In turn, this causes the surrounding ground to become saturated, preventing it from absorbing water leading to flooded yards, fields, roads and in extreme cases—entire cities.

    I live in the Midwest, and not in a location one would think is typically a flood prone area. But in the winter of 2015, four people within 10 miles of my home were killed by doing exactly that—trying to drive down or cross a flooded road. There are many YouTube videos available online that show not only the hidden dangers of a flooded road or area such as downed power lines, raw sewage, and open manhole but how fast the water can rise and the power it possesses.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, the majority of flood-related drowning deaths are people who either drive or walk into a flooded area, often ignoring warning signs and barriers. These accidents are preventable, but people have to recognize that water is incredibly powerful. How powerful? According to the National Weather Service when water is rushing or fast moving:

    Flooding is a serious hazard. The National Weather Service has tips for navigating around flooded areas on their website. They suggest these basic safety rules when out and about:

    Have you, or someone you know, been a victim of a flood? Share your story below so we can prevent others from becoming a victim.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Resolutions #5: Include Safety at Production Meetings

    Supervisors are held accountable at production meetings for results. If their department under produced, they will need to be able to explain why. The pressure of being called out for poor production can motivate supervisors to ensure demands are met, but as I mentioned previously in Resolution #1: View Safety as Equal to Production, Not as a Government Compliance Item, this can lead to cutting corners when it comes to safety to meet production goals.

    At the beginning of every production meeting (whether it is daily, weekly, monthly, or periodic), you should start by talking about safety. Here are some items that you should discuss if you want to make sure safety is on the minds of your supervisors:

    Of course, not everyone can have their supervisors sit in a meeting and be off the production floor, but you will need to assess for yourself to what level you can add safety to your production meetings.  Adding safety is an easy way to help with implementation of Resolution #1.

    Keep an eye out for Resolution #6: Allow your employees participate and lead safety trainings – coming soon!

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Business Continuity: Is Your Company Prepared?

    When business is disrupted, it usually costs the company money. Lost revenues in addition to extra expenses can quickly result in thousands of dollars in reduced profits. Insurance does not cover all costs and cannot replace everything that can be lost in a disruption. That is why emergency preparedness and business continuity plans are essential.

    Workplace Emergency

    A workplace emergency is a situation that threatens workers, customers and/or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations or causes physical damage. Emergency preparedness means that you have procedures and resources in place in case of an emergency.  This plan should include:

    – Program management

    – Planning

    – Implementation

    – Testing and exercises

    – Program improvement

    Business Continuity

    Business continuity planning involves defining potential risks, determining how those risks will affect operations, implementing safeguards and procedures designed to mitigate those risks and testing to ensure they work. This plan should include a risk assessment that can identify potential loss scenarios. The 4 steps in a business continuity plan should include:

    – Business impact analysis

    – Recovery strategies

    – Plan development

    – Testing and exercises

    Proper Planning

    Some common questions to ask yourself when developing these plans are:

    – Have you considered what your business needs to recover from an emergency?

    – How long can you continue to carry operating expenses if you cannot open your doors?

    – Can you access important file without entering your place of business so that work can be done?

    – Can you contact your customers and suppliers?

    – Can you pay your suppliers or employees?

    – Do you have critical equipment that if taken out of service due to an incident will prevent or hinder production?

    Considering these questions and others ahead of time can reduce the headache of having a serious loss. It can also help reduce costs help you keep your business running smoothly.

    Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Solar Eclipse Safety

    The solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017 is not just a danger that parents of school kids need to be concerned with.  Adults will also be tempted to look into the sky on Monday.  As an employer, it’s your duty to train your employees about recognized hazards in their workplace, and if their workplace on Monday will be outside, you should definitely take a minute to document training about the dangers of solar eclipse viewing.  Not only can Monday’s eclipse lead to eye damage but it also means an added risk of vehicle accidents and distracted working.

    Below are tips for keeping everyone safe:

    The hazards include eye damage, vehicle accidents, or injuries due to distractions. Mild eye damage includes sun spots for a few minutes, and severe damage can cause blindness. Driving will be affected depending on the direction of travel and because many other drivers will be distracted by the sun. When driving on Monday – defensive driving should be a top priority. Some of your employees will probably be thinking about the sun while at their workstation which can lead to distraction and injuries. Distractions when working outside will also be a concern as people try to avoid looking into the sun while they do their job. Remind everyone to stay focused.

    Solar viewing glasses are required. The only safe way to look at the sun during an eclipse is through solar filter glasses. Normal sunglasses will not protect you from the intense light. This year, there have been many counterfeit solar viewing glasses on the market so look for a manufacturer that is compliant with ISO 12312-2.  The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has a website that lists reputable vendors of solar filters and viewers

    Watch for people stealing your welding shields out of storage on MondayWelding glass rated shade 12 or higher can be safe to view the sun. But the problem with this is knowing what the shade rating is.  Many older shields (you know, that one laying in the pile of junk in the storage room) are not rated 12 or higher and will not be safe for viewing. We recommend that you prohibit employees from using any welding shields to view the eclipse just to be on the safe side.

    NASA will have two live streams of the event all day. To alleviate some of the distraction of the day, let your employees take a minute to view the live stream during breaks. Here is the link to the NASA stream, so make sure you come back on Monday to check it out. Indirect viewing is also a possibility; you will notice that shadows will look different during the eclipse which can be very interesting to see.

    The eclipse will affect much of the country and let’s face it; most people will want to be a part of it. Plan ahead, prepare for safety, and grab a pair of protective glasses, find the live stream, and train your employees about the hazards today. For more details on the solar event, check out NASA’s Website.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Near Miss Examples Are All Around Us

    Last month, the San Francisco airport nearly saw a horrible disaster. Luckily tragedy was avoided when the landing aircraft diverted away from a taxiway filled with planes ready to take off. I’m writing about this event because it is an excellent example of a near miss investigation.

    At most places of business, when something doesn’t actually go wrong that causes a loss of money, it is ignored and no lessens are learned. Not learning from these close calls is a tragedy itself, because there are a lot of key learnings from near miss situations.

    If you are a safety manager, safety committee leader, or a plant manager who agrees with me, I suggest you share the story of Air Canada Flight 759 with your leaders, committee members and key employees to help them understand why near miss investigations make sense.

    There will be a full investigation into the nearly missed airport disaster, so we are learn from what went wrong and make changes to prevent similar reoccurances. For more information on implementing a near miss reporting system, check out Mark’s blog “How to Implement a Near Miss Reporting Program.”

    Do you have any meaningful near miss stories that you like to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Machine Safeguarding Series – Part 3: Conveyors & Mechanical Presses

    Welcome to the third blog in our four part machine safeguarding series. This blog will cover machine guarding and hazards associated with conveyors and mechanical power presses. These two  machines are used in a wide range of industries for many different functions.


    Conveyors are used in many different capacities to transport materials or equipment. They can be configured to move material horizontally, vertically, at an angle and around curves. Conveyors present unique hazards including nip points, pinch/crush points, rotating parts, counterweights, material dropping, entanglement and servicing without proper lockout. Some of the most serious injuries on conveyors are from no/inadequate safeguarding and failure to lockout during servicing or maintenance.

    Hazards associated with conveyors vary so it’s imperative to evaluate each specific machine to determine what controls should be used. Guarding conveyor belts properly will prevent clothing, jewelry and long hair from becoming entangled. Guards should protect the user from in-running nip points and projections and rotating parts.  In addition to physical guards, workplaces can be protected by keeping the hazardous parts a safe distance away from the worker, installing signage warning employees of the hazards, conducting routine inspections, and having properly functioning emergency stops along the line.

    Mechanical Power Presses

    Mechanical power presses (aka punch presses, stamping presses) are used to punch, shear, form and assemble parts. They have some distinctive features that separate them from other machines including a flywheel, crankshaft, clutch, brake and ram. One of the greatest dangers involving  mechanical power presses is at the point of operation where the stock is inserted. A hand or body part in this area can result in crushed or severed limbs.

    Safeguarding controls for mechanical power presses include barrier guards and devices such as two-hand trips, pullbacks and restraints. Barrier guards prevent the entry of hands or fingers into the point of operation because people cannot reaching through, over, under or around the guard. A presence sensing device (light curtain) is an option when a barrier guard is not. When programmed properly, a light curtain will shut down equipment when an object, such as fingers, break the beam. Because light curtains require some technical expertise to set up and program correctly, I recommend that you consult with your supplier to make sure your maintenance team understands how your devices work and what is required to test and maintain the light curtains.  Pull backs can be found on many older machines and are rarely installed on newer machinery but are effective to prevent point of operation contact.

    Check back soon for our final blog in the machine safeguarding series. We’ll be covering rollformers/rollbenders and turning machines. Stay tuned!

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Machine Safeguarding Series – Part 2: Performing a Risk Assessment and Determining Controls

    Welcome to the second blog in our four part series on machine safeguarding. In the first blog, we covered some of the basics of machine guarding. Here, we’ll focus on how to recognize hazards and performing a risk assessment

    Risk Assessment

    A risk assessment is a guide to estimate, evaluate and reduce risks associated with machine tools. When performing a risk assessment (hazard analysis), attention should be given to exposure to any recognized hazards. These could include any immediate or impending exposures. Additional effort should be also be given to reduce and/or eliminate exposures.

    The risk assessment should address the level of exposure to hazards. This is done by considering the levels of severity, likelihood and frequency of an incident. A scoring system can then be used to quantify the levels of risk so an organization can identify the areas to focus on. For example, an organization may initially think that an older saw poses a high risk, but after completing a risk assessment of all machines they may determine that the saw is unlikely to cause a severe injury and is rarely operated that the highest probability and severity of incident is on a newer machine that is not guarded effectively and used daily.

    Some companies prefer to use a team to perform risk assessments. Assessing risk using a team requires the reasoned judgment and expertise of people with a variety of experience. Team members can be comprised of people who can answer technical questions about the machines, have actual experience of how the machine is set up/operated and knowledge of the machine processes and their limits. Members should also have knowledge of any incidents with this type of machine, be aware of specific safety issues and understand the human factors and ergonomic issues.

    The team should take into account the hierarchy of safeguarding controls when performing the risk assessment and determining risk reduction actions. These controls are (in order of most effective to least effective) are:

    Elimination/substitution – eliminating human interaction, automate the process

    Engineering controls – barriers, presence sensing devices 

    Awareness means – audible warnings, floor markings

    Training and procedures – safe job procedures, equipment inspections

    Personal protective equipment – glasses, gloves

    For a more detailed explanation about conducting a frequency, likelihood, and severity risk assessment, check out Leslie’s blog on the subject.  In my next blog, we will dive into some specific machines and hazards associated with them.


    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Machine Safeguarding Series – Part 1: The Basics

    This is the first in a four part series of machine safeguarding blogs. Each blog will address a different aspect of machine guarding as it applies to some of the most common machines. This blog will focus on the basics and will be the foundation for the series.

    Machine Guarding Basics

    The original equipment manufacturer of the machine has some responsibilities in the safeguarding process. Their responsibilities include designing out, covering and warning of hazards (with instruction manuals, warning signs and color coding).  However, the end user (employer) has the final responsibility to properly safeguard the machine to prevent employee injury.

    Contrary to what some may think, there are no OSHA “grandfather clauses” for machine safeguarding.  Machines are NOT  “grandfathered in” because they were manufactured before the regulations existed. Another surprise to many is that new machines are not always properly guarded and compliant when they arrive from the manufacturer. It’s also worth noting that training is not a suitable replacement for proper machine guarding.

    According to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the word “safe” is defined as “the state of being protected from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm.” All machines operated by humans contain some risk to humans. The only way to eliminate the risk would be to program a robot to operate the machine in a secured area impossible to access by a human. But that’s not reasonable in most facilities, so placing guards over the hazards or devices on the machine is the more common option.

    Machines can be protected with guards (physical barriers) or devices (electronic or mechanical controls). An example of a guard is the cover that prevents you from touching the blade on a fan – the openings in the fan’s guard need to be small enough that your fingers can’t reach the danger area.  An example of a device is a laser or light curtain that is connected electrically to the machine to stop the machine when certain conditions are met such as breaking the light beam with a body part.

    In the next blog we will cover how to quantify the level of risk by performing a risk assessment. Stay tuned!

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Diagnosis of an Incident – Electrical Control Panel Incident

    As a workplace safety expert, it’s important that you’re able to use a detective’s eye when evaluating the cause of an accident. Let’s take a look at a true case, and work backwards to determine how and why the incident occurred.

    The Incident

    A “well-seasoned” company electrician was working on an electrical control panel at a manufacturing plant. The panel door was open while he performed his maintenance task. His screw driver came in contact with 440v electrical current from inside the panel. In an instant, he received the effects of an arc flash. He was nearly electrocuted and received third degree burns to much of his body. He received extensive medical attention and remains off from work, as his rehabilitation will be a lengthy and expensive process. 

    He thought that the power was off, but did not verify this. Being a well-seasoned electrician, he assumed that he could work around the electricity, if he was careful (after all, in his mind, he had successfully done it that way before and had no incident).

    The Diagnosis

     – The company has a lock-out/tag out program (LOTO) in place. The power is to be turned off and locked out when any maintenance work is undertaken. No exceptions.

    – The plant safety policy includes using a high voltage multi-meter to check for current flow before starting the work.

    – The electrician has a multi-meter (located about 10’ from the work site) when the incident occurred.

    The electrician made two major errors in judgment. First, he did not follow the LOTO policy that is in place. Secondly, he assumed the electricity was not live—but did not check first.  The safety policy is there for a reason. Violating the policy is poor judgment. Even if he had failed to do this, he had one more chance to avoid the serious injury: the multi-meter. But, he made another error. He left it on the nearby workbench.

    The Solution

    Safety policies are in place to help keep people free from injury. Safety assumptions are like spinning the wheel of chance. You might be fortunate, or the result may be similar to that of the above electrician. You or your supervisor should enforce safety policies at all times and set a good example for others. Any violation of a safety policy should be reviewed and taken seriously.

    Please leave a comment below if you have had similar experiences and have found other solutions.

    Guest Bloggers


    SASVEEEK: The Four Elements of an OSHA Violation

    SASVEEK is not the sister of Sasquatch, but rather, an acronym for the tenets of a sound (and just) OSHA violation. Criteria must be met for Compliance Safety Health Officers (CSHOs) to have a solid case to support a citation. Here are the four elements:

    SA = Standard Applies: CSHO’s must cite the correct standard for the correct industry. As the first criteria for the violation, the standard must apply to the hazard which is associated with the appropriate standard. For example, if a general industry type company is working at a height of greater than four feet and the CSHO cites Subpart M in the construction industry book, Fall Protection, the standard does not apply.

    SV = Standard Violated: Not only must the standard apply, but the standard must have been violated. This is usually done through observation by the CSHO and/or through interviews with employees.  Proof is usually a picture or video.

    EE = Employee Exposure: If an observation of a violation occurs, the CSHO needs to ensure s/he has the correct employer of the person he observed violating the standard. For temporary workers, this can be more difficult to uncover. Some questions to determine the employee’s employer are:

    – Who tells you what to do?

    – Who tells you how to do your work?

    – Who tell you what time to be here,  when you can leave, take breaks or go to lunch?

    The person directing their work is likely to be associated with the employer. CSHOs must prove an employer/employee relationship when citing employers.

    EK = Employer Knowledge: At times, this is the most difficult for CSHO’s to support their case. Employer Knowledge is whether the employer knew or could have known of the presence of the hazardous condition.

    Since the supervisor represents the employer, a supervisor’s knowledge of the hazardous condition amounts to employer knowledge. In cases where the employer may contend that the supervisor’s own conduct is an isolated event of employee misconduct, the CSHO will determine the extent to which the supervisor was trained and  managed so as to prevent such conduct, and how the employer enforces the rule.

    In closing, SA (Standard Applies), SV (Standard Violated), EE (Employee Exposure), and EK (Employer Knowledge) are  four elements that must be proved by the CSHO to have a solid citation. If any are missing or weak, the employer has an opportunity to successfully argue for removing and/or reducing the citations and penalties.


    Guest Bloggers


    Resolution #4: Learn Your Employees Names

    “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” – Dale Carnegie

    People enjoy hearing their name. Remembering names is important on many levels. It makes people feel good to hear their name, and they pay more attention. It also shows the person that they are more than just an ID number or a job position. When you are faced with high turnover, your supervisors may have a tough time remembering everyone’s name. In this blog, I’ll discuss a few techniques to help remember names.

    Focus on the name and person. Repeat the name when you are told. Look directly at the person. Do not get distracted by the thinking about what to say next.

    Associate the name to a physical memory trigger.
    – Bob has a no hair – Bob Bald could be your trigger
    – Mary has curly hair – Mary had a little lamb (with curly hair)
    – Jack is very tall – Picture jack and a tall beanstalk

    Rhyming or alliteration.
    – Bob – Imagine Bob sob(bing) in the corner
    – Wally – Picture Wally looking at a Walrus
    – Mike – Visualize Mike riding a Bike

    Form a vivid or outrageous picture in your head.
    – Rachel – Picture her sitting in the “Friends” Café
    – David – David happens to be your brother’s name, so picture them together
    – Rich – Imagine Rich standing on a pile of money

    The same techniques can help your supervisors remember personal tidbits about their employees too. This will definitely help build your culture. For example, if you find out that Bob has a pet tarantula, picture the tarantula sitting on this head. If Kathy likes to hike, picture her on top of Mount Everest.
    If you have any helpful memory tips, let us know by leaving a comment below.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Tick, Tick, Tick Part 1 – Types and Locations in North America

    Welcome to the first edition of our Tick, Tick, Tick blog series. Outdoor workers face a slew of hazards on the job. Beyond severe weather and extreme temperatures, an additional concern may be present: ticks. According to NIOSH, ticks may be infected with bacteria, parasites and viruses, and can pass certain pathogens to humans. Common tick-borne illnesses include Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

    This blog will identify the geographic distribution of ticks and their respective information to help you stay safe.  For photos of the different ticks, check out the Center for Disease Control’s website

    Type / Common Name

    Locations Found

    Associated, Most Common Disease(s)


    American Dog Tick

    East of Rocky Mountains, Limited Areas of Pacific Coast Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia Highest risks during spring and summer
    Blacklegged Tick

    NE, SE, and Upper Midwestern states Lyme Disease Highest risks during spring, summer, and fall, also during winter when temperatures are above freezing
    Brown Dog Tick

    Worldwide Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in the SE and along the U.S.-Mexico border Dogs are the primary host, but may also bite humans
    Gulf Coast Tick

    Coastal areas of the U.S. along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Rickettsia parkeri (RP – a form of spotted fever) Mainly feed on deer and other wildlife, but have transmitted RP to humans
    Lone Star Tick

    SE and Eastern U.S. Tularemia, STARI Very aggressive, distinguished by a white dot or “lone star”
    Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

    Rocky Mountain states, SW Canada (at elevations of 4,000- to 10,500-feet) Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Colorado Tick Fever, Tularemia Primarily feed on large mammals, but are associated with pathogen transmission to humans
    Western Blacklegged Tick

    Along the Pacific Coast of the U.S., particularly in northern CA Lyme Disease Typically feed on lizards and small animals, rates of infection among humans is low (~1%)

    Stay tuned for our next blog where we’ll discuss how avoid ticks.

    Reference – The above information was obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (www.cdc.gov)

    Mike Pettit


    The Benefits of Stretching

    Have you ever noticed that just before babies go to sleep, they often stretch? They do a full body—hands reaching as far as they can, toes pointed—all out stretch. Or perhaps you noticed that when animals get up they often stretch? Where did they learn that? The fact is that babies and animals innately do what is needed to protect their bodies, while we as adults have excuses as to why we don’t take care of ourselves like, “I’m too busy,” or “That will take too long.”

    Common work-related soft tissue injuries such as sprains and strains can often be prevented by a proper stretching routine. Stretching prepares the muscles for daily activity. This gives the body a chance to warm-up and gets the blood flowing. Professional athletes do not just walk onto the field, play their best game and go home. They have a whole warm up routine that includes stretching and movements to get the blood flowing. They want to ensure that their bodies are prepared for what they are about to do. So, why don’t we see employees stretching?  Many people move incorrectly because they have tight muscles or deconditioned muscles. Yet, flexibility and strength are crucial to most work tasks.

    Benefits of a work related stretching routine include:

    Employees in jobs that are prone to muscle strains and repetitive motions should prepare for the tasks they will be doing. They would benefit from stretching and warming up just as an athlete would. A basic warm up or pre-work stretch takes no more than 5-10 minutes. To get the motivated, encourage employees to set simple goals such as:

    A proper stretching routine can be beneficial to both employees and employers. If a program is implemented correctly, it can lead to profitable results for companies and enhance the moral of the employees.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Safety Sound Off – Building a Safety Culture

    In this edition of Safety Sound Off, Gio and Andy discuss how to build safety leadership and get buy in from your workforce when it comes to safety. Andy also addresses the age old issue of not having enough time in the day to work on safety.

    Click Here to Listen


    Giovanni Tejada


    Safety Sound Off – Success Stories from the Field

    In this edition of Safety Sound Off, Gio and Andy share success stories from the field.  Andy takes a moment to explain what characteristics a safety manager should have and discusses a new safety manager coming on-board at a workplace.

    Click Here to Listen

    Giovanni Tejada


    Resolution #3: Empowering Your Supervisors

    Imagine you are a restaurant manager. Ideally, your job is to make sure things run smoothly. To do this, you make sure everyone is trained, that the facility is maintained properly and unexpected situations are handled correctly. You will step in only when staff is unable to resolve a situation. Your staff is doing most of the daily work. A safety manager’s role is similar – they manage, while the front line supervisors do the bulk of the hands-on work; however, this cannot happen if you do not give your supervisors authority to make decisions. In this blog I will discuss how to get your supervisors to take control of safety.

    Interview & Skills Assessment

    One key step is to make sure your supervisor promotion or hiring process includes a thorough interview and skills assessment. Longevity at the company often leads to someone being promoted to a supervisor level, but longevity does not always make that person a qualified supervisor. What are your safety expectations for a supervisor? Are they clearly defined in writing and clearly communicated to all supervisors? Do you provide any specific training for new supervisors?

    Safety Policy Statement

    One simple technique to help supervisor understand the importance of safety at your company is for senior management to create a safety policy statement. Your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant can provide you with sample policies or you can check out this link from OSHA.

    Set Specific Goals

    Most importantly, you need to give your supervisor a chance to succeed in making decisions about safety.  Have you ever told your supervisors to “make sure everyone is working safe” or “don’t let anything unsafe happen.” “Safety” is a very broad term and giving your supervisors such broad tasks makes it hard to see the successes. Change your statement to something more specific like “Today, make sure all the machine guard are in place” or “Today, make sure everyone is lifting properly.” A focused goal is easy to accomplish and easier to track and compliment on. Assigning a focused task to supervisors and following up on their progress throughout the week will give you the chance to recognize their efforts and motivate them to take more actions towards improving safety.

    Stay tuned for my blog on resolution #4 – Learn Everyone’s Name.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Combating Workplace Fatigue

    As a general rule, summer can be a very busy time of year. Not only do some industries ramp up production in the summer, but many people are staying out late enjoying the sunshine after work, partaking in the warm weather activities on the weekends and taking vacations. This can quickly lead to your entire workforce fighting fatigue at work because they are not getting enough sleep, proper nutrition and may be working too much overtime.

    This physical stress on the body impacts one’s ability to work safely. Signs of fatigue include (but are not limited to) mood changes, depression, decreased reaction times, difficulty with cognitive thinking such as programming machinery, calculating a measurement and holding conversations. The following pointers can help you manage your workforce and combat the fatigue encroaching in on production. 

    History has shown that significant accidents like the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and Texas City BP oil refinery explosion indicate fatigue was a contributing factor.  Those industries are known for their robust safety program and controls, but human factors can affect all workplaces including yours. Take time today to train you supervisors on recognizing fatigue and how to react to it.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    OSHA: Strategies for When They Inspect You

    No matter how many OSHA workplace safety inspections you’ve encountered, the thought of an inspector knocking may make you anxious. Often, OSHA inspectors will arrive without providing advanced notice – only adding to the uncertainty and anxiety.

    However, by knowing the inspector protocols, you can be confident that even if you don’t know when OSHA is coming, you fully prepared to welcome and impress the inspector.
    In this blog, we’ll discuss common practices that will assist you in getting through an OSHA inspection.

    Things You Should Do:


    Resolution #2: Discipline Safety Violators Even for Near Misses

    Your grinding operator is caught not wearing his safety gear during a routine audit.  You have to stop your audit and ask him to put on his safety equipment.  Do you also note this in his discipline file? Most people will not because there was no negative consequence (such as an injury). But, in this blog I’ll discuss the importance of 2017’s Safety Resolution #2: Discipline Safety Violators Even for Near Misses (when they don’t get injured).

    Let’s start by asking you two questions about your facility/company:

    1. If someone breaks a rule and doesn’t injure themselves, will your supervisors discipline them?

    2. If so, is the discipline consistent with the same rule violation as when an injury occurs?

    If you answered yes to both questions, congratulations! You have the elements of an effective discipline program in place.  If not, keep reading. Why is this important? When a supervisor doesn’t discipline someone for breaking a safety rule, it’s almost as if they are rewarding bad behavior. Soon, the employees will start to realize what they can get away with. As a result, maintaining a safe workplace will get tougher.   

    If your supervisors write up rule violators consistently, then all you need to do is make sure the discipline is consistent. Regardless of whether an injury resulted, the same discipline should be inflicted for the same rule violation. You should never make the discipline more severe because an injury occurred.

    Besides the fact that having good Human Resources practices is smart for business, being fair and consistent in discipline is a Department of Labor issue now. According to the Whistleblower Program, the Department of Labor is now asking these two key questions:

    1. “Does the employer monitor for compliance with the work rule in the absence of an injury?”

    2. “Does the employer consistently impose equivalent discipline against employees who violate the work rule in the absence of an injury?”

    Your Human Resources department is a great resource for the safety department in developing a fair and consistent discipline program.  Now, with OSHA looking at these issues, it’s even more important than ever to address this.  If you need more human resources advice on the subject, ICW Group policyholders can log into MyResource and checkout the HR library in the RMRx Safety Advisor.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Heat and Hydration: How You Can Prevent Heat Illness

    Summer is here and as temperatures rise, we all start thinking about heat and hydration. But it’s really something we should keep in mind every day! The average field, construction or factory worker finds nothing rewarding about becoming dehydrated and overheated at work; however, it is a common and sometimes unavoidable hazard.

    What accommodations can you make to help your employees from becoming dehydrated, over-heated and potentially suffering from heat exhaustion? I’ve listed a few below, but if you have any other suggestions, please submit a comment with your ideas.


    How to Select Chemical Resistant Gloves

    In my last blog, I discussed selecting the proper glove. However, choosing gloves for chemical hazards is more complicated and requires some research to ensure the appropriate glove is chosen. Skin contact with chemicals can result in local effects such as irritation, corrosion and allergic reactions, as well as systemic effects, such as toxicity and cancer, if chemicals are absorbed through the skin.

    Generally, gloves are tested and rated in three categories for chemical compatibility: breakthrough time, degradation and permeation rate. All three should be considered when selecting a glove:

    Breakthrough Time

    The “breakthrough time” is defined as the time between the initial contact with the chemical on the outside surface of the glove and when it is detected on the inside surface. It’s important to remember that mixtures can have shorter breakthrough times than their individual components. In this case, the glove should be tested against the mixture before use in the workplace.


    Another selection consideration is the degradation of the physical properties of the glove due to contact with the chemical. Most glove manufacturers will provide chemical resistance data for their products. In addition, Safety Data Sheets can provide information on the proper personal protective equipment recommended for use with the chemical.

    Permeation Rate

    Permeation rate describes how quickly a chemical can move through a chemically resistant barrier. The thickness of the glove can significantly affect the permeation rate. Manufacturers also report permeation rate in different ways.

    It’s important to also note that penetration can also occur due to punctures or tears in the glove, so gloves should always be inspected prior to use. The use of latex gloves, a natural rubber, has been associated with allergic reactions, which introduces another hazard to be considered.

    When choosing gloves for the workplace, remember that improper selection of gloves and the failure to use them appropriately may result in injury or occupational disease. Proper glove selection will increase safety within your company and help increase your overall bottom line and productivity.

    Linda Schafer


    Caution – Oversized Driver on Board

    True or False: People who drive for their jobs cannot eat healthy because they are on the road all day long.   

    Answer: FALSE!

    There are days when I spend more time in my driver’s seat than in front of a customer or in my office. Does this give me a legitimate excuse to eat unhealthy fast food all day long? No!

    My fellow road warriors and I no longer have an excuse to make unhealthy food choices. Convenience stores now stock fresh fruits and vegetables. Many fast food restaurants now list their calorie counts on the menu. Grocery stores have fresh food counters and salad bars. With a little planning and awareness of what your daily caloric intake should be, you can easily start making better food choices.

    First, you need to determine how many calories you need in a day (this will vary from person to person). The United States Department of Agriculture has developed a chart with general guidelines. Since I’m an active person in my 40’s I should take in about 2,200 calories per day. How I decide to fill my calorie bank is up to me.

    Let’s think about this, if I eat unhealthy fast food for breakfast (a breakfast sandwich has 480 calories) and lunch (a quarter pound cheeseburger with fries has 900 calories), I would have consumed 1380 calories BEFORE 2pm (assuming I didn’t snack and drink a sugary beverage as well). To stay within my 2200 calorie diet that doesn’t leave me many calories left for the next 8 hours of the day.  And If you are like me, you aren’t going to be able to make it until bedtime without dinner.

    Making healthy choices is also getting easier due to food labeling regulations.  A little education on how to read a food label is important.  The US department of Health and Human Services has an excellent resource for educating your employees on this. The key that I always check now is the number of portions on the label.  My green tea has 70 calories per serving, but the label also says that one can holds three servings. Multiply 70 calories x 3 servings for a total of 210 calories – just from my green tea!

    Eating healthy has many benefits including having more energy and less health issues.  Packing a lunch at home may be the easiest way to stay healthy on the road.  If I’m hungry, I will not allow myself to stop for a snack if I still have something left in my lunch box, even if my choice is a carrot – I’m going to eat it.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    The Right Glove for the Right Protection

    Exposure to harmful chemical and physical agents can result in injuries to workers. Many of these injuries can be prevented through the use of appropriate protective clothing. Choosing the right work glove is extremely important because different gloves provide protection in different ways and can help protect against chemicals, lacerations, burns, contusions, abrasions, electric shock, vibration, etc. With so many types of gloves available today, it’s important to understand the nature of the hazards your employees face in order to make the best glove choice. This blog details some of the factors that may influence the selection of workplace gloves:

    Natural vs. Synthetic

    While gloves made of natural materials (such as cotton and leather) are frequently used for physical hazards, synthetic gloves often provide the best protection against chemical risks. There are a wide range of materials varying in composition, thickness, and length, which allow workers to choose the right glove based not only on performance, but also on functionality and budgetary constraints.

    Physical Hazards

    Selecting gloves for physical hazards focuses on protecting against thermal hazards, vibration, abrasions and cuts. Leather, canvas, Kevlar and stainless steel mesh gloves provide resistance to heat, burns, and lacerations. Polymer coatings on cotton/polyester gloves add to durability and protection from abrasions. Non-conductive gloves protect against electric shock.

    Chemical Hazards

    Some gloves will provide protection against both physical and chemical hazards. Butyl rubber gloves provide exceptional resistance to gas and water vapors and are resistant to tears, abrasions, and degradation from heat, weather, and aging. Nitrile rubber gloves protect against solvents, petroleum products, and other harsh chemicals and also provide resistance to cuts, punctures, and abrasions. In my next blog, I will discuss specific considerations to be made when selecting a chemical glove.

    Finally, when choosing a glove you need to make sure you are not creating any new dangers. For example, a glove can actually contribute to an injury if worn when operating some machinery. Always conduct a full analysis before making glove choices. When in doubt, contact your local Risk Management consultant for a thorough safety assessment.


    Linda Schafer


    Be Ready When a Wildfire Ignites!

    With summer just around the corner, we wanted to remind you how important it is to be prepared for wildfires. We suggest having a complete evacuation plan in place for your business, employees and customers. This is essential in preventing confusion, injuries and even death.

    According to OSHA, an effective evacuation plan should be reviewed with workers and include:
    • Conditions that will activate the plan
    • Chain of command
    • Emergency functions and who will perform them
    • Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
    • Procedures to account for personnel, customers and visitors
    • Equipment for personnel (safety glasses, respirators, hard hat, etc.)

    We also recommend implementing these four best practices as part of your overall fire safety strategy:

    1. Establish a safety zone perimeter around your business—it will help prevent loss
    2. Clear out any vegetation and dry brush within 30 feet of the facility
    3. Remove any combustibles or other flammable materials from the building
    4. Train your team on what do in case of an emergency
    5. Have emergency drills throughout the year, and make any needed changes to your evacuation plan

    Robert Harrington


    Electrical Safety – NFPA 70E Chapter 1 Overview

    In my last blog, I discussed the basics of NFPA 70E. In this blog, I’ll dig a little deeper by discussing Chapter 1– Safety Related Work Practices. OSHA has already started issuing citations based on NFPA 70E, so it’s time to start looking at your company’s compliance efforts. Keep in mind, this is only a brief overview of some important aspects of the standard, so it ‘ll be important to seek out more information as you see fit.


    NFPA 70E has defined essential verbiage for electrical safety in the first section of the standard. Their definition of a Qualified Electrical Worker is the only one that I will dive into here. A qualified electrical worker does not need to be a formally trained electrician (although it won’t hurt if they are). According to the NFPA, a qualified person is defined as, “one who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installation and has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved.”

    So, who is responsible for deeming someone qualified? According to the NFPA, the employer will through, “regular supervision or through inspections conducted on at least an annual basis that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by [NFPA 70E]”. But this will be difficult to comply with unless a written electrical safety program is created.

    General Requirements for Electrical Safety Related Work Practices

    Employers should implement an electrical safety program that outlines electrical activities, hazards and controls. It should include a method to assess and control electrical risk before starting work and a process for briefing employees on exposure and controls before each job. Employers must also develop a means for training and evaluation of employees. Training must be specific to the exposures and potential injuries that employees face.

    In other words, if a company policy prohibits any employee from entering an electrical control panel, then the training need not cover how to safely access the panels but rather that the panels are not allowed to be opened. Employees who are not working directly with electrical risk should be trained as unqualified persons on electrical safety related to the scope of their exposure.

    Other topics covered in Chapter 1 include:

    There’s a lot of great information in Chapter 1. The entire standard is referenced in OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K so, it’s worth reviewing yourself. If you do not already have access to the NFPA 70E standard you can view a copy at NFPA.org.

    For more information on electrical safety check mySafetynews.com for future blogs on the subject.  If you’d like to get started developing an electrical safety program today, check out the grant material resources from OSHA.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Top Eight Safety Tips for Portable Chainsaws

    If you’ve ever seen a horror movie that takes place in the Lone Star State, you know firsthand how much damage a chainsaw can inflict when handled dangerously. Keep these eight safety tips top of mind BEFORE you cut to keep your work space from looking like a masked psycho has struck again.

    1. Know the chainsaw that you will be using.


    Electrical Safety – OSHA and NFPA 70E

    Most business owners understand how OSHA effects their workplace, but few understand the impact that other institutions can have though consensus standards. In this blog,  I’ll focus on one of those institutions, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and the NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®.

    The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)

    The NFPA is a non-profit organization that provides guidance on fire prevention and fire safety. The organization developed consensus standards that OSHA refers to when developing their regulations. The NFPA does not enforce their standard but, OSHA can. Therefore, any company that has electrical equipment in their workplace should be aware of NFPA 70E guidelines.

    The NFPA 70E Standard

    To give you a quick overview of the NFPA 70E standard, it is split into three chapters with 16 informational annexes:

    1. Safety Related Work Practices
    2. Safety Related Maintenance Requirements
    3. Safety Requirements for Special Equipment

    The informational annexes provide additional support and information for adopting the concepts explained in the three chapters including an example job briefing and planning checklist, a sample Energized Electrical work permit, personal protective equipment information, and more.

    Are You OSHA Compliant?

    If your production manager or maintenance manager or electrician has no knowledge of the NFPA 70E standard, you should be concerned. Please check with them to make sure they have a basic knowledge of the standard.

    Even if you or someone at your company has a basic knowledge of the standard but is unaware of the 2015 update, then your company may not be compliant with OSHA.  The 2015 update to NFPA 70E puts more emphasize on training and auditing processes for electrical work. To read the 2015 standard, free access is available at the NFPA website.

    In short, OSHA Sub Part S – Electrical, explains WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE for electrical safety compliance and NFPA 70E explains HOW TO DO what needs to be done.

    I will be posting more blogs about the NFPA 70E standard soon. Stay tuned!

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Handy Safety Solutions: 10 Nail Gun Safety Tips

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 37,000 emergency room visits are from nail gun-related incidents each year. While nail guns are invaluable tools, they can be extremely dangerous tools when used incorrectly.

    Nail gun injuries have been on the rise along with the increased popularity of these powerful tools. Injuries include puncture wounds when nails shoot directly into hands, fingers, and legs – other injuries include those affecting the eyes when the nail is misdirected and/or when the material is displaced.

    These injuries are preventable – consider the following key elements for preventing injuries:

    1 – Prior to operating a nail gun, the owner’s manual should be reviewed to identify all precautions and warnings – even if you’ve operated a nail gun before, a different brand of nail gun may have different hazards

    2 – Before each use, the nail gun should be inspected for any damage and lodged particles such as wood or nail sleeve adhesives – always disconnect the tool before clearing jams or performing other maintenance

    3 – All nail guns must have a safety trigger mechanism (sequential trip systems are recommended, as these require specific actions for the gun to fire each time) – the safety features including the trigger mechanism should never be disabled or circumvented

    4 – Keep co-workers and bystanders away from the immediate work area – never shoot into a board or piece of plywood without knowing exactly what is on the other side

    5 – Always keep hands and fingers out of the line of fire, and aim the nail gun away from the body

    6 – Make sure the nail gun is placed firmly against the work piece – do not attempt to complete a task with the nail gun aimed at an angle as this may result in a nail deflection

    7 – Never carry or handle a nail gun with a finger on the trigger as this may cause a misfire

    8 – Never point the tool at anyone, even if it is empty or disconnected from the air supply

    9 – Never assume the nail gun is empty

    10 – Always wear the appropriate personal protective equipment including eye, hearing, and hand protection

    Following the above 10 Nail Gun Safety Tips should assist you in preventing such an incident – take a look at your practices and use these tips to reduce injuries, save lives, and promote safe work practices within your company.




    Mike Pettit


    A Must Read if You Operate Forklifts – It Could Save Your Life!

    From 1980 to 1994 there were 1,021 fatalities due to forklift-related accidents per The National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) Surveillance System. The fatalities occurred as a result of the following types of accidents:

    Type of Accident Percentage of Accidents>
    Forklift overturns 22%
    Worker on foot struck by forklift 20%
    Victim crushed by forklift 16%
    Fall from forklift 9%

    By far, forklift overturns and pedestrians struck by forklifts are the leading cause of death due to these types of accidents in the workplace. What can be done to prevent this from happening? Here are some helpful resources and tips to stay safe:

    Forklift safety is a multifaceted challenge. It includes proper training, appropriate vehicle maintenance/inspection and using the right type of machine for the job. Do you have any forklift safety resources/tips to share? Let us know by dropping a line below.

    Terio Duran


    OSHA and National Consensus Standards

    What do ANSI, NFPA, ASME and ASTM all have in common? If you said the letter A, you are partially correct; however, if you stated that these were all national consensus standards recognized by OSHA, then you are even more correct.

    Did you know that OSHA standards were originally developed from three sources: Consensus Standards, Proprietary Standards and Federal laws. In this blog, I will focus on consensus standards.

    In 1910.2(g) defines ‘National consensus standard’ to mean any standard or modification thereof which (1) has been adopted and promulgated by a nationally recognized standards-producing organization under procedures whereby it can be determined by the Secretary of Labor or by the Assistant Secretary of Labor that persons interested and affected by the scope or provisions of the standard have reached substantial agreement on its adoption, (2) was formulated in a manner which afforded an opportunity for diverse views to be considered, and (3) has been designated as such a standard by the Secretary or the Assistant Secretary, after consultation with other appropriate Federal agencies.

    Consensus standards are national in scope and are developed by a committee of experts within a particular field and are often developed through subject subcommittees. An example of a consensus standard is ANSI standard B56.1-1969, standard for Powered Industrial Trucks.

    In the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), such as CFR 1910.178 will often refer to a consensus standard as reference. If a consensus standard is referenced, language that states the employer, shall, must or will can be used by OSHA officers to cite employers that are not complying with the consensus standard.

    In conclusion, the CFRs are not the only citable reference for OSHA compliance officers, references to consensus standards and violation of those standards can be citable as well.

    Guest Bloggers


    Woodworking Safety – The ABC’s (Always Be Careful)

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 15,500 woodworking injuries were reported in 2014. The injuries included amputations, eye injuries, and struck-by incidents.

    What can you do to make sure one of your employees is not another statistic?

    Provide Training To Better Familiarize The Employees With The Equipment

    Create and Post Safety Procedures For All Employees

    Train Employees On What To Avoid When Working With Woodworking Machines

    We all know accidents should never happen. At ICW Group, it’s our goal to ensure you’re not another statistic.

    Mike Pettit


    A Heads Up to Lumber Yards

    If you own, work or have your employees purchase materials from a lumber yard, then you’ll want to review this. Lumber yards possess a variety of hazards and safety challenges, and OSHA is taking notice!

    Below, are the most common safety deficiencies noted by OSHA during their on-site visits. They are based upon frequency of citations, and not on the economic severity of the citation. For lumber yard operators, this list will inform you on the areas that should be reviewed and addressed prior to an OSHA visit.

    Powered Industrial Trucks

    Woodworking Machinery

    Hazard Communications (HazCom)

    Our risk management consultants are available for assistance. We welcome your input and solutions of addressing these conditions.

    Guest Bloggers


    Help Prevent the Welder Shuffle

    If you have worked construction, or in a manufacturing facility with welding going on, I’m sure you have witnessed the “Welder Shuffle.” If you aren’t familiar, it’s the panicked dance someone does when a piece of molten metal (usually slag) lands in a welder’s ear, down their shirt or in a boot. This causes an almost involuntary frantic reaction to dislodge the object as quickly as possible with no regard to the movements needed to perform this task. It can be quite humorous to watch—but trust me; having done the shuffle myself it isn’t fun at all!

    What are a few of the dangers of a “little hot piece of metal?” besides the obvious burn?

    Yeah— it’s not fun in the least!

    To help prevent these things from happening, there are several measures you can take.  They include:

    Wear proper gloves. Leather, not cotton. These gloves come in various thicknesses to provide different levels of protection to the hands, and since they are usually only gripping, dexterity isn’t really an issue.

    Insist on employees wearing at the minimum the light weight welding jackets. Welding leathers are preferred as they have more resistant to the sparks and slag that is created during the welding and cleaning process.

    No ankle high shoes – It’s best to require 6-8 inch boots that slip on, as they can be quickly removed if needed.

    Wear welder’s caps – These are thin light weight caps with short bills that can be worn to give additional protection to protect the head and ears.

    Keep band-aids and topical ointments on hand.

    Lastly, and most importantly, if employees have to do the “shuffle,” have a policy in place that makes them get the burn examined. It might be an inconvenience, but it will prevent additional lost time or job restriction—and pay off in the long run.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Heat Safety: How to Prevent Heat Illness

    It’s spring and the days are growing longer. Soon, the temperatures will begin to reach dangerous levels in many parts of the country. Occupational heat exposure and prevention is a topic that should be given attention in many industries. Operations involving high air temperatures, radiant heat sources, high humidity or strenuous activities have a high potential for causing heat-related illness.

    Keep Cool

    When the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, cooling of the body becomes more difficult. As body temperature rises, the skin is not able to lose its heat and sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. However, sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation and if the fluids/salts that are lost are adequately replaced. Excessive exposure to heat can cause heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can result in death and requires immediate medical attention.

    Ways to Beat the Heat

    Proactive measures are the best way to reduce the exposures of heat-related illnesses. Engineering controls such as air conditioning, cooling fans and insulation of hot surfaces are the best way to prevent heat exposures. Job specific work practices are another effective way to reduce the likelihood of heat illnesses. These can include practices such as acclimation of workers, availability of drinking water, shade and reduce physical demanding jobs during hot weather.

    Proper Training

    Employees should be trained on the hazards of heat exposure and prevention. This training should include:

    Company Program

    Employers can reduce the likelihood of heat-related illness with an effective program. By implementing a program that addresses heat-related illnesses, employees will be safer and more productive.

    For more ways protect your outdoor workers from heat-related illness, listen to our recorded webinar.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Safe Driving During Planting Season

    Farmers have a limited window of opportunity to plant crops. Weather can be a major factor in diminishing this window so they try to make the most progress when they have the chance to do so. Often this means long hours preparing the ground for planting and planting.

    With the advances on GPS systems in today’s tractors and computerized planters, farmers can (and often do) work late into the night since it is now possible to plant rows straight as an arrow with limited visibility due to such things as fog or darkness.  What does this mean? It means you are more likely to see large slow-moving farmer equipment during peak travel times (morning and evening), as well as during in climate weather (rain) as farmers move from field to field. Often while “this particular field” may not have soil conditions suitable to be planted, another one several miles down the road may be fine.

    So, here are a few things to think of and be aware of during planting season:

    You may have an important job, meeting or other appointment; but the men and women that farm have an important one as well. Have patience this season when you encounter them.


    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Can you Dig it? Tips for Digging Safely

    Do you really know that you are clear below or do you just dig until you “hit” something?  Even a small project can be a big problem if you hit an underground utility line.

    According to the Common Ground Alliance, an underground utility line is damaged once every six minutes because someone dug without knowing the approximate location of underground utilities. Furthermore, there are more than 20 million miles of underground utilities in the US alone!

    What happens if you do not verify what’s below? There may be serious negative consequences, including:

    All fifty states and five Canadian provinces have adopted an excellent system to help prevent damage to underground utility lines and subsequent injury to workers—call before you dig. This is known as “ 811”. It’s a Positive Response System that you can use FREE with 24/7 access. Every state has a local “one call” number that allows anyone to contact all their local utilities with one phone call and have the dig area marked for existing utility lines prior to digging.  If you call 811 anywhere in the US or the participating Canadian provinces, you will be transferred to your local “one call” system.

    The law requires that you verify (Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act, Chapter 556).  Verifying tells you that you are clear below….and it is not just a “best practice”—it makes sense.

    Check your state requirements to ensure you have allowed sufficient time for the utilities to be marked.  Generally the requirement is to call two to three business days prior to digging, but not more than ten days before beginning work.

    Ready to dig? Follow these steps to do it safely:

    Safe digging!

    Guest Bloggers


    Spring has Sprung: Outdoor Safety Tips

    If April showers bring May flowers, what do May flowers bring? No, not pilgrims, as the joke goes, but with outdoor work comes exposure to hay fever, pollens, allergies, bees, wasps and other flying, crawling, stinging and itching creatures needed to pollinate. And let us not forget that many other animals give birth in the late spring/early summer and can be aggressive in protecting their nesting areas and young.

    Unfortunately and well known to those that suffer from it, the allergy and hay fever can run from spring when plants start blooming all the way until the first frost (basically May through October). If you happen to be one of the many that suffer from allergies and hay fever, a simple over the counter (OTC) medication may be all that is needed to keep symptoms under control. Often a pharmacy can help choose the right one according to the symptoms. In more extreme cases, seeing an allergy specialist may be needed to find out what exactly is the cause of the sniffling, sneezing and runny nose. They can perform tests, usually a series of shots (more like little needle sticks under the skin along the back) of typical allergens to see which allergens react. Then treatment is planned from the results which may range from taking an OTC medication as needed to more extreme (life threating) cases carrying an EpiPen. Other plants such as poison oak, ivy or sumac may also cause a reaction with treatment ranging from OTC creams or lotions to prescribed steroid shots.

    Bug bites and stings usually are just annoying, causing temporary discomfort and pain, but no serious or lasting health problems. But sometimes, they can cause infections that require treatment and allergic reactions that can be serious, even fatal. In those cases, immediate medical treatment is required. Trying to plan your jobs so exposure is at a minimum can be tough. Often times you have no idea there is a wasp nest underground until you drive over it with a mower. For instance, I was working for an electrical contractor years ago and when they pulled the meter off the house to change it out there was a bee hive in the wall. Nesting geese or ducks (believe it or not) can and will be very aggressive when their nesting areas are disturbed and they do bite… and it hurts! Same goes with an encounter with a raccoon or squirrel den in an attic. Not a fun scenario! If you discover one of these, it is best to work away from or call a company that specializes in pest removal.

    Furthermore, OSHA has a standard that addresses harmful plants and animals that may be encountered on a job site:

    1926.21(b)(4) In job site areas where harmful plants or animals are present, employees who may be exposed shall be instructed regarding the potential hazards, and how to avoid injury, and the first aid procedures to be used in the event of injury.

    You can’t prevent all exposures to everything you may encounter, but planning ahead for situations that may occur, requiring and providing proper PPE as well as communicating with your employees about job site conditions can help reduce exposure, minimize down time and result in a more harmonious outcome for you job.


    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Turn Around & Don’t Drown: Flood Safety Tips

    As winter fades away, temperatures rise, and the sun shines! We can finally stop worrying about driving in snow. However, with the seasonal change comes a new situation to be aware of: flooding. As the weather gets warmer and the snow melts away, the ground may become saturated preventing it from absorbing water. This can lead to flooded yards, fields and roads.

    Every year you can turn on the TV or radio and see or hear about a person or a family being swept away while trying to cross a flooded road. I live in the Midwest, and not in a location one would think is typically a flood-prone area. But in the winter of 2015 four people within ten miles of my home were killed by doing exactly that, trying to drive down or cross a flooded road.  There are many YouTube videos available online that show not only the hidden dangers of a flooded road or area such as downed power lines, raw sewage, and open manhole but how fast the water can rise and the power it possesses.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, the majority of flood-related drowning deaths are people who either drive or walk into a flooded area, often ignoring warning signs and barriers.  These accidents are preventable, but people have to recognize that water is incredibly powerful.  How powerful?  According to the National Weather Service when water is rushing or fast moving:

    Flooding is a serious hazard. The National Weather Service has tips for navigating around flooded areas on their website. They suggest these basic safety rules when out and about:

    Have you, or someone you know, been a victim of a flood? Share your story so we can prevent others from becoming a victim.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    An Incentive Program that Works – Safety Slogan Contest

    The safety slogan incentive program is designed to increase safety awareness by motivating employees to review a weekly safety topic in the form of a catchy slogan. Slogans can be developed internally, but can also be found online. A simple web search of “safety slogan” will result in numerous website resources.

    Here are some examples:

    The basic concept of the program is to promote safety by providing simple weekly reminders to employees. A new safety slogan is posted weekly in a prominent area of the facility, emailed, texted, or included in paycheck envelopes to employees. Employees are encouraged to read and memorize the slogan. During the following week, random individuals are asked by supervisors, safety committee members, members of management, or another designated person to recite the slogan. If they can recite the slogan, the employee is rewarded. If the employee doesn’t know the slogan, this is a perfect opportunity for a little safety training on the subject.

    Items to consider before implementing the program are listed below:

    1. What is the time frame for a slogan (weekly, monthly)?
    2. How many people will be asked during the time frame?
    3. Will there be a physical incentive or just recognition of the employee?
    4. If you are awarding a physical incentive, what will it be and will the incentive be provided on the spot or will names be put into a drawing?
    5. Will you randomly select people to be asked or will you leave it up to the questioning person?
    6. Will you be documenting the process and placing proof of the contacts into a training file?
    7. Do you want to add the element of employees submitting their own creative slogans for additional recognition?
    8. Should you make this a competition between departments/shifts/locations by rewarding based on which group is more successful?  This can lead to more interaction between employees as it would be in everyone’s best interest to make sure their coworkers know the slogan.

    We will be posting more blogs in the future about behavior-based incentive programs, so stay tuned!


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Don’t Let Spring Be a Roadblock on Your Travels

    With winter fading away, we experience the start of a new season – road construction season. This is usually designated by the sudden emergence of orange barrels that appear overnight out of nowhere. These barrels are usually accompanied by signs directing us to “Slow Down,” “Right Lane Closed,” or “Speed Limit Reduced Ahead” (just to mention a few). We may also find ourselves out on the road more often with weather permitting to visit, customers and clients without worrying so much about harsh winter weather conditions.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2003-2010 there were more than 7,000 deaths were reported at road construction sites, with 962 being workers. Nearly half of the workers killed were due to being struck by a vehicle or piece of mobile equipment. By using common sense, courtesy, and modern technology it is quite easy to avoid adding to, or being one of these numbers.

    Here are some safety tips to take under consideration:

    Do you have any safety driving tips to share? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Spring Cleaning – How is your PPE?

    Regardless of what your company does, summer is normally a very busy time of year. Things such as inventory, scheduled maintenance and updating equipment are best done before the busy season starts. Often personal protective equipment (PPE) isn’t figured into the equation. When was the last time your PPE has been inspected and/or evaluated? I say “often times it isn’t” because it seems like we take for granted it’s in good condition (i.e. it’s been in the same place because we haven’t needed it in set amount of time, or it’s something we have been using for quite a while and seems to do the job).

    So, this month, whether you’re in the cleanup, maintenance, or gear up mode here are a few things to consider: (Keep in mind this list isn’t all inclusive and may vary depending on your particular PPE and your facility and work practices.)

    Hearing protection – Is it adequate? Have you had a noise survey done or just buy a box of earplugs with the highest NNR rating? As machines age they may get louder over time and we just get accustomed to the subtle shift and don’t recognize the noise difference. There are many types and styles of hearing protection available and now may be a good time to see a different NNR or a completely different type.

    Fall protection – All manufacturers put a shelf life on their safety harnesses regardless of the type of service it has (or hasn’t) seen. Even though it has only been used once in the past four years, how long have you had it? It may be past the date the manufacturer says it is safe to use.

    Hand protection – Double check the gloves to insure they are compatible with the types of chemicals you may be exposing them to.  Have you switched or are you planning on switching from chemical “A” to chemical “B” for cost health, or environmental reasons? Will the gloves you have now still be effective?

    Hand protection (again) – If your employees are exposed to sharp objects and you are using leather gloves, would it be more cost effective to switch to a cut resistant glove? Yes, they may cost a bit more but they may pay for themselves quickly as they may not have to be replaced as often and the additional potential reduction of down production and medical cost from injuries.

    Respiratory protection – Yes, we know all PPE should be inspected before use, but often times they aren’t. Inspect them and look for cracking in the face pieces or straps.  If a full face is used, is the face shield still clean and scratch free? Once again, look at the chemicals you have now and see if you have changed any and your employees are still offered the correct protection.

    Eye protection – Why not start fresh? Get samples of different styles and types, and ask your employees to try them on and see which ones they prefer. This gives them buy-in, and helps eliminate the “but they are uncomfortable” excuse.  They may also have a better idea of which type may perform better at their particular work area.

    In closing, you may go through your PPE and find that everything is in good condition and suitable for the tasks that require it. Don’t worry though; it wasn’t a waste of time. You just demonstrated to your employees that their health and working in a safe environment is a top priority.


    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Day Light Savings Time – Last Minute Training Tips

    Daylight savings time begins this weekend for much of the country. At 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 12 clocks will jump ahead one hour.

    What does that mean as an employer? In this blog, I will discuss two important safety concerns and what you should train your employees on to avoid accidents and injuries.

    Safety Concern #1: Fatigue

    Employees may be coming into work a little more tired and lethargic on Monday morning.  Employees working on Sunday might find themselves suffering even more as they run an increased risk of being late for work. Alert your supervisors to the time change and remind them to watch out for tired employees.  Remind your employees on Friday about the time change so they can plan ahead.

    Safety Concern #2: Driving

    Drivers may be driving into the rising and setting sun now. Sun blindness is a cause of many traffic accidents.  Last year in Chicago, a limo driver killed one and injured six others when he ran into a construction barrier due to sun blindness.  Older employees who have visions problems may be more affected by driving into the sun than younger employees.

    To help you train you drivers for the time change, here are few items to consider:

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    OSHA Penalties are Increasing

    The good old days of having the OSHA penalty structure set for a long period of time is officially over.  For the past 16 years, there were no changes to the OSHA penalties.  However, that is now going to change and unfortunately, on a yearly basis!

    Now, it’s more important than ever to have a safety culture within your company as the penalties for serious OSHA citations are increasing, and adjusting more quickly for inflation. Going forward, OSHA will continue to adjust its penalties for inflation each year based on the Consumer Price Index.

    What does this look like? For example, in 2016 the current maximum penalty for serious, other-than-serious and posting requirements was $7,000 per violation. Since this bill was passed by Congress, it increased by 78 percent, and went up to $12,471 per violation.  Then, in January 2017 it increased to $12,675 per violation!  You can read more about the changes due to inflation on the Department of Labor’s website.

    Unfortunately, not all state run OSHA plans have kept up with the changes.  States have various reasons for not making penalty changes yet, but the key reason is that the requirement for them to do so was not set before state legislature meetings in 2017. For example, in the State of Nevada, the legislature may not even be able to address this increase until 2019.

    In conclusion, not meeting OSHA requirements is going to cost employer’s more money than ever before, and where the ceiling goes is anybody’s guess.  If you suddenly feel the motivation to kick up your safety program a notch, please reach out to your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant directly or by clicking here.

    Guest Bloggers


    Springtime Construction Safety

    With winter slipping away and as we ease into spring, we typically see construction projects kick into high gear. Often, these projects were started during winter and delayed by weather conditions, so the change to warmer weather and increased daylight tends to put a “rush” on projects so new ones may begin. What can (and often does) happen is an increase in weather-related construction site incidents. Rain, mud, freezing and thawing ground can be a cause of slips, trips and falls.

    Let’s say the ground is frozen in the morning when a contractor erects scaffolding or moves a scissor lift next to the building to do some elevated exterior work. As the temperature rises throughout the day, the ground can thaw on the outermost side of the building leaving the two base plates or tires next to the building on frozen (solid) ground since it can still be shaded and not exposed to the sun. However, the two furthest base plates from the building are now on exposed, thawed and unstable ground. A shift in employee movement or an addition load placed on the outer part of the scaffold or lift can cause it to tip and/or collapse due to the changing ground conditions. If the ground has been back-filled and not compacted properly this can be a contributing factor as well.

    Another likely scenario is when an employee enters the building in the morning while the ground is frozen. Then as the day goes on, the ground thaws and becomes slick due to mud. When the employee leaves to go to lunch, break, or the restroom, she or he steps outside then slips and hurts their back, knee or ankle as they didn’t realize the ground conditions have changed.  Or, when the employee enters the building with muddy boots they step onto the concrete floor and slip and fall.

    Anticipating and planning for the changing weather conditions can help offset these types of incidents from occurring. Several methods to help mitigate these include:

    Being aware of changing conditions around your site(s) and not just having plans in place but actually addressing these issues can save you time and money not only by reducing lost time incidents but increasing employee morale by making sure they know their safety is a high priority.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Get Your Green On: St. Patrick’s Day Safety Tips

    With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to dressing up head to toe in all things green (and pinching those who are not). After all, it’s a holiday where everyone is Irish for a day. Since March 17 falls on a Friday this year, it’s likely there will be even more people celebrating.

    While the parades and festivities are always a good time, drunk driving poses as a major concern during all holidays, including St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were 252 fatal auto accidents involving drunk drivers from 2011 through 2015.

    To help you and your employees stay safe, we’ve compiled some simple tips to help ensure a safe and festive holiday. They include:

    There are plenty of fun things to do on St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s important to be mindful when it comes to safety. Whether you are celebrating at home or heading out the local pub, tap into the ‘luck o’ the Irish’ and remember these St. Patrick’s Day safety tips.

    Guest Bloggers


    OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule – Part 2

    In January, I blogged about OSHA’s new recordingkeeping rule. Today, I’d like to expand on that blog. OSHA’s new rule does come with concerns from both employers and employees. The agency has taken steps to address these concerns before implementing the new rule, but that has not satisfied all industries. OSHA hopes that employers will be able to use this information to benchmark their own safety performance. Employers will now be able to compare injury rates at their establishments to those at comparable establishments.


    Some employers feel that making this information public could be detrimental to their business. They argue that the reported information will lack pertinent information surrounding the circumstances of the injury or illness circumstances. For example, the size of the company will not be a part of the public data; therefore, simply publishing number of injuries is not representing employers with a large number of employees in a fair way.

    Other concerns include:


    The rule does prohibit employers from discouraging employees from reporting an injury or illness. It requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation. The rule does not prohibit incentive programs; however, it states “employers must not create incentive programs that deter or discourage an employee from reporting an injury or illness.

    OSHA will remove any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) that could be used to identify individual employees. OSHA will not collect employee names, employee addresses, names of physicians or other health care professional. All case specific narrative information in the employer reports will be scrubbed for personal information using software that will search for PII before the data is posted.


    Under this new rule, OSHA will be able to cite an employer for retaliation, even if the employee did not file a complaint. They can also cite them if the employer has a program that deters or discourages reporting through the threat of retaliation. Within six months after publication, state plans will have to include requirements that “are substantially identical to the requirements in the final rule.”

    For more information on OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting requirements, visit here.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Safety Sound Off Podcast – Laptop Ergonomics

    In the modern business world, people are not always working in the comfort of an office. Oftentimes they are on the road, at a coffee shop, with a customer, or at a job site. With so many people working in various places, it’s important that they minimize the stress and strain they put on their bodies when using a laptop. In this edition of Safety Sound Off, Andy and Gio complete our ergonomics series with a discussion on proper ergonomics when using a laptop.

    Click Here to Listen

    For more insights, be sure to check out our on-demand ergonomics webinar by clicking here: “The Ergo Zone: Get In It and Stay In It!”

    Giovanni Tejada


    Thar She Blows! How to Drive Safely Under Windy Conditions

    Recently, I was driving back from a meeting and got to encounter the “thrill” of not only rain, fog and traffic, but high cross winds. I’m not going to dive into detail about what high winds are since there is plenty of information on the internet (its due to change from a high to low-pressure systems or vice versa, BTW). However, it got me thinking that as the seasons change this is going to be more of an occurrence (along with thunderstorms, hail, etc.).

    We often think of high wind damage as downed power lines, overturned trees, and damage to homes and businesses. However, the hazards while driving can and are often just as prevalent and damaging. We might not think of them as much because we may be more used to it. Gusty winds can pose even more of a hazard since you can’t react until after you encounter it.

    When driving in windy condition how you drive depends on not only the type of vehicle but the type of road as well. A flat interstate with a strong side wind poses a different hazard than a hilly area or a mountainous area with canyons.

    When driving during a windy time take these things into consideration:

    Stay alert and focus on the task at hand – getting from point “A” to point “B” safe!

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Safety Sound Off Podcast – Contact Stress

    In this edition of Safety Sound off, Andy and Gio discuss another ergonomic concern – contact stress . If you’re looking for practical solutions and ways to minimize ergonomic injuries,  you’ve come to the right place. Click below to listen.

    For more ergonomic insights, be sure to check out our FREE, hour-long recorded webinar, “The Ergo Zone: Get In It and Stay In It!

    Click here to listen.

    Giovanni Tejada


    Resolution #1: View Safety as Equal to Production, Not as a Government Compliance Item

    In January, I wrote a blog about 2017 safety resolutions. Today, I’d like to expand on resolution #1, view safety as equal to production, not as a government compliance item. Production is what makes your company money, whether you make a product or provide a service; you have to “produce” a commodity to make money. But when safety takes a back seat to production, trouble can arise.

    Importance of Tracking Safety

    What message are you sending your employees when it comes to your company’s profitability? How do you measure success? Some companies track inventory, raw materials and waste. Other companies track the number of clients, hours billed and customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, safety is rarely tracked. This can cause your employees to work unsafely. They are trying to make their supervisors happy and help meet those tracked goals. When you raise your safety performance to the same level as production, there is much less motivation to work unsafely.

    Case in Point

    Let’s look at an example; Don runs a pallet manufacturing company where the primary piece of machinery is always jamming. To unjam the equipment properly, the machine must be shut down using lockout/tagout procedures. Don’s staff has been trained on lockout/tagout because it is a government compliance item. Don also understands that OSHA fines can be costly so he was sure to put the procedures in place. Unfortunately, that’s where Don’s commitment to safety stopped. On the morning of the accident, Don spent most of the daily production meeting focused on lost production on that machine. He reviewed downtime reports and focused on how unacceptable the downtime rate on that machine was. Hearing this, his employee, only wanting to help the company make more money, decided to skip the lockout/tagout shut down procedure the next time the machine jammed. As a result, the employee’s arm was caught in the machine when the other operator started it up.

    What was the cause of this accident? Was it the employee’s inability to following procedures? I think the cause of this accident was Don’s insistence at the production meeting that the company reduce downtime on machinery.

    Finding a Better Solution 

    No one can argue that reducing downtime isn’t a great idea, but the fact that the message was given without any mention of safety is the problem. Had Don’s message at the daily meeting included safety, his employee would have made a different decision that day.

    Since downtime is an issue, Don should put together a team to investigate why the machine is always jamming up. Perhaps a scheduled preventative maintenance program would be a better solution. In this case, I’m sure Don will have plenty of time think about solutions when he’s reviewing the amputation injury with his local OSHA Compliance officer.

    If I still haven’t convinced you that safety and production go hand in hand, please check out my blog, A Culture of Safety Comes From the Heart, Not From OSHA Standards.

    Coming up, I’ll be digging into resolution #2, Discipline safety violators even for near misses (when they don’t get injured). Stay tuned!

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Safety Sound Off Podcast – High-Hand Arm Vibration Using Electrical Tools

    In this edition of Safety Sound off, Andy and Gio discuss high-hand arm vibration using electrical tools. If you’re looking for practical solutions and ways to minimize ergonomic injuries, you’ve come to the right place. Click below to listen.

    For more ergonomic insights, be sure to check out our recorded hour-long webinar, “The Ergo Zone: Get In It and Stay In It!

    Click Here to Listen

    Giovanni Tejada


    Don’t be Caught in a Pinch – Grip!

    We take so many things for granted each day. However, the ability to grasp and handle objects is something we rarely ever consider. We hardly take the time to think about how we are gripping an object. Until one day, when we experience an ache that gradually increases and then realize the importance of a pain-free grip.

    Pinch Grips – What are they?

    Pinch grips are a stressful way to hold objects that can lead to hand problems over time such as tendon and nerve damage, tennis elbow, tendinitis of hand and fingers and the most common workplace hand injury – carpal tunnel syndrome. A pinching motion uses much smaller muscles in your hands – so picking up a two pound weight can be considered a high force. You see pinching when using small tools, handling flat objects (carrying drywall, handles on buckets).

    The Preferred Grip

    The preferred grip is the power grip. A power grip uses the muscles of the hand and forearm effectively and is less stressful than a pinch grasp. Consequently, a one- or two-handed power grip should be used whenever possible. A power grip can be described as wrapping all the fingers and the thumb around the object that is being gripped. It is sometimes described as making a fist around the object being gripped.

    A major cause of lost time from work and worker disability continues to be musculoskeletal disorders, and they are one of the most rapidly growing health problems today. As employers, we can reduce the likelihood of injury by the choices we make in how employees do their jobs.  Almost every job requires a tool – from a pencil to a drill. When purchasing a tool or evaluating a job consider the grip!

    Helpful Tips

    We can reduce the likelihood of injury by the choices we make in how employees do their jobsTool design is important in reducing work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The greater the effort to maintain control of the tool, the higher potential for injury. Be sure to use tools with handles designed for power grip or increase the size of handles to reduce grip force.

    By changing the way we think about jobs and ultimately the way we grasp objects, we can limit pinch grips and hopefully eliminate future injuries.

    Paula Tetrault


    Not so Good Vibrations: Reducing Your Risk of Developing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

    Vibration is an oft forgotten ergonomic risk factor, but one that should not be ignored. Repeated exposure can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), a painful and costly injury to joints, muscles nerves and blood vessels. Vibration exposure is found in a variety of industries including construction, maintenance, mining and forestry. Chainsaws, jackhammers, grinders, drills and asphalt plate compactors are typical tools that can contribute to the development of HAVS. In this blog post I will review signs and symptoms of HAVS and actions you can take to reduce the risk of an injury.  

    The good news about HAVS is that it develops over time, leaving an opportunity for intervention before the condition worsens or becomes permanent. Tingling and numbness of the fingers are the earliest indications of onset. Continued exposure can lead to pain, reduced grip strength and loss of dexterity. Ignoring these warning signs can cause the fingers to blanch, or lose color, indicating that the condition has become permanent. Once HAVS has done irreparable damage to the hands, symptoms will be experienced regardless of whether the individual is exposed to vibration; limiting an individual’s ability to write, grip tools or engage in other manual tasks requiring fine dexterity.  

    Once you have identified vibration exposures in your work environment, we recommend that you consider some of the following actions to reduce the risk of injury.

    If you suspect that you have symptoms of HAVS then see your medical provider. Contact your ICW Group Risk Management Consultant for more resources on how to prevent HAVS.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Put Some Backbone into Your Safe Lifting Program: The Value of a Safety Lifting Policy

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics report that back injuries account for more than 40% of all musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. Back injuries are also some of the costliest types of claims accounting for significant increases in workers’ compensation premiums and lost work days. A good way to decrease the likelihood of back injuries is to incorporate a written safe lifting policy into your company’s safe lifting program.  Your safe lifting policy should state and outline the company’s commitment and requirements for using safe lifting techniques.


    Develop, distribute and enforce policies that support your commitment to safe lifting practices. A good rule of thumb is to have new hires read and sign your safe lifting policy and question or quiz them on the information to ensure retention and documentation of your training. 

    Lead by Example

    When managers and supervisors consistently highlight the importance of safety it becomes captivating. Ensure your management team makes safety an effective part of your company culture by demonstrating safe attitudes and leading by example; providing sufficient staff, funds, time and equipment so employees can work safely and efficiently; and make it a goal to involve every employee with safety.

    Increase Awareness

    A safe lifting policy is a great way to increase awareness and promote an ongoing culture of safety with your employees! Revisit those rules frequently to ensure they remain top-of-mind with your workforce and regularly promote your safe lifting program throughout the year!

    Have you implemented a safe lifting policy at work? Let us know what your best practices are by dropping a note below. 

    Terio Duran


    Contact Stress: What It Is and What Can You Do About It

    There is one type of stress that many employers may not even think about in their workplace – contact stress. This type of stress needs to be addressed as part of your overall safety program to keep workers’ healthy and productive.

    In this blog post, we’ll identify possible injuries and provide easy, practical tips you can apply to your workplace to prevent contact stress!

    How Contract Stress Occurs

    Contact stress occurs when there is an aspect of force applied, against the skin by an external force. This is usually produced when parts of the body come in contact with hard, sharp objects and the force is transmitted to tendons and nerves. This creates pressure over one area of the body such as the forearm or side of the fingers that inhibits nerve function and blood flow.

    Effects of Contact Stress

    This can lead to debilitating injuries. This can occur by the following:

    The effects of contact stress include:

    Preventative Tips

    Now that we know what contact stress is and what it can do to your employees’, what can you do about it?  Here are some practical solutions:

    1. Employees’ should not rest their hands on sharp objects.
    2. Place a pad or round the desk edges.
    3. Select hand tools that conform to the geometry of the hands.  For example: When using pistol grip-in-line tools, the handle should have at least a 5” handle length and diameter of 1-5”. When using pliers and crimping tools, the handle length should be at least 4” with a span of 2.5”. Tools with handles that end in the palm of the hand should be avoided whenever possible.
    4. Rotate frequently employees’ jobs.
    5. When computers are being used, avoid poor body postures and keep in a neutral position.
    6. Take micro-breaks.
    7. Initiate daily stretching.

    If you need further help and guidance, please contact ICW Group’s Risk Management services department.


    Guest Bloggers


    Preventing Accidents in Non-Routine Tasks

    Nearly all organizations must occasionally have non-routine tasks performed. In this case, a “non-routine task” is a task that is performed no more than once per year. These tasks can include specialized maintenance of equipment or storage vessels (tanks, silos, etc.) and repair of equipment and/or building services that have stopped functioning due to damage and/or breakdown.

    Adverse events have the potential to occur during the performance of non-routine tasks including sudden and accidental release of substances and/or injury or illness to personnel performing the tasks and to others in the general area. The very fact that the activities are non-routine makes the potential for an adverse incident more likely.

    Why? Here are a few reasons:

    Before performing a non-routine task, you should conduct the following steps:

    Non-routine tasks present many challenges, including the potential for an adverse event.  Proper planning and preparation, including the identification and control of the anticipated hazards, can help reduce risk.

    What techniques have you used? We’d love to hear how you prevent accidents in non-routine tasks. Just drop us a note below.

    Glen O'Rourke, ALCM


    Who Has to Provide the Personal Protective Equipment for Employees?

    I had just completed the Intro to OSHA class for a company when the employees notified me that they must pay for their own hardhats and safety glasses. I approached the general manager of the company I was doing the class for, and he acknowledged that the business does not provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees, but yet, they do require everyone to use them.

    I provided the manager a copy of the OSHA pamphlet that states which PPE must be provided the employer versus by the employee. He was not aware of this requirement and quickly purchased enough hardhats and safety glasses for his entire company.

    So, which PPE is the responsibility of the employer to provide?

    On May 15, 2008, a new rule about employer payment for PPE went into effect. With few exceptions, OSHA now requires employers to pay for PPE used to comply with OSHA standards. The standard makes clear that employers cannot require workers to provide their PPE and the worker’s use of PPE they already own must be entirely voluntary. Even if a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the employee from hazards at the workplace.

    Some examples of PPE that is to be provided by the company are:

    Some examples of PPE that employers do not need to pay for are:

    In conclusion, make sure you know are familiar with OSHA standards to ensure you are following the rules regarding PPE. Visit here to learn more.

    Guest Bloggers


    How to Implement a Near Miss Reporting Program

    Events are happening every day at facilities throughout the US that employers are not aware of. These events are close calls where something occurs and almost causes an accident, injury, property damage, or could have caused a fatality. Another term for the close call is a “near miss.”


    OSHA’s New Recordkeeping Rule Part 1

    Did you know the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule that calls for some employers to electronically submit their injury and illness data?  The rule was created in efforts to   improve the safety of US workers by ‘nudging’ employers to prevent work injuries to show investors, job seekers, customers and the public they operate safe and well-managed facilities. OSHA believes the more attention to safety will not only save the lives of workers but also ultimately improve the bottom line for employers. Accuracy of the data will also be improved as workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries and illnesses.


    The new rule took effect on January 1, 2017.  OSHA plans to analyze the data collected and use it to improve its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently. OSHA also plans to post some of the data on their website. The data amount that is required to be submitted will vary of the size of the company and the type of industry.


    OSHA will provide a secure website that offers three data submission options: manually enter data into a webform; upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time; or transmit data electronically via an API (application programming interface) if using an automated recordkeeping systems. The site is scheduled to go live in February.


    The timeframe for implementation for this new rule will be phased in over two years. Companies with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017.  These same employers will be required to submit information from all 2017 forms (300A, 300, and 301) by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.

    Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.

    For more information on OSHA’s injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting requirements, visit here.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    What You Cared About in 2016

    As we jump into January, we can’t help but reflect. So, we take a look back at our most popular blog posts from 2016. During the last 12 months, ICW Group’s mySafetynews blog published articles on topics ranging from sit-stand desks to technology distractions. If you missed them the first time around, don’t worry.

    Without further ado, here are your most popular mySafetynews posts from 2016. Stay tuned for more tips and resources!

    1. Techniques in Training – 20 Minutes of Blindness = A Lifetime Worth of Lessons Most people take for granted having two functional eyes, but most have never experienced what life would be like without their vision.  Read how to employ blindness simulation technique in your next safety meeting.
    2. Is Sit-Stand Right for Your Workspace? The sit-stand work surface trend is not a new idea, but it has become an increasingly popular  topic in offices around the country. Read this to find out if its right for you.
    3. Staying Safe Through the “Pokémon Go” Craze In the midst of the latest Pokémon Go craze, we thought it appropriate to share a post from 2014 about technology distractions.
    4. Techniques in Trainings – Eye Saving Blindness Drill When seconds mean the difference between blindness and normal vision, it can be permanently disastrous when an employee wastes time scrambling around in a darkened panic for the eyewash station. Read this to learn effective way of training employees to blindly locate first aid equipment during an emergency.
    5. Winter is Here – Preventing Slips & Falls in Cold, Wet Conditions We provide you where slips and falls usually occur, and some actionable preventative steps to take.
    6. Techniques in Training: Enforcing Ladder Safety Rules Ladders are found in nearly every workplace and are consistently a leading cause of workplace injuries. Learn best practices to enforce safety rules on your jobsite.
    7. A Culture of Safety Comes From the Heart, Not From OSHA Standards OSHA standards vs. employee’s well-being. Read this to learn how to give employee’s peace of mind regardless of enforceable OSHA standards for a better workplace.
    8. Work Desk Assessment Podcast – Part 2 Do you know to properly set up computer monitors, keyboards and lighting at the work station? This podcast discusses how to recognize when employees are uncomfortable at their workstation, and when to step in with an ergonomics assessment.
    9. Respirator Mastery: Voluntary vs. Required Use Learn more about the critical decision point in respirator use that gets many employers in trouble with OSHA. Beware that making the wrong decision can result in employee injury or illness!
    10. Prescription Eyeglasses and Sunglasses vs. Safety Glasses and Goggles – Are your Employees Getting a False Sense of Safety Do you notice employees wearing prescription eyewear or sunglasses? While these employees may think their eyes are protected from flying wood chips or other dangerous debris—they’re not. Read this to learn more.

    Like what you see? Stay up-to-date on the latest in mySafetynews by subscribing to our monthly email here. If you have ideas for articles you’d like to see here in the following year, reach out to us on Twitter (@ICW_Group) or send us a note right here on our website.

    Trisha Rule


    Risk Management Consulting: Making it Work for You

    Operational risks are among the most significant dangers companies face. While risk is inherent to any business, there are ways to proactively mitigate and manage them. In this post, I’ll discuss the benefits of partnering with an ICW Group risk management consultant and making it work for you and your business.

    Risk Managers vs. Compliance Officers – What’s the Difference?

    ICW Group risk management consultants are different than compliance officers (safety directors/managers) that are usually employed by private companies. The internal safety manager may be focused on internal company goals and initiatives such as accident/injury numbers, compliance regulations (federal, state, local, DOT, ISO, etc.), accident investigations and reporting processes. Whereas a risk management consultant’s priorities are identifying, assessing and prioritizing risks. The risk manager then evaluates these components concerning monetary amounts that the organization can expect to lose. A plan of action is then developed that works toward reducing the potential of these losses, thus strengthening the profitability of the company.


    ICW Group consultants can benefit clients by providing access to a deeper level of expertise than would normally be financially feasible for them to retain in house on a long term basis.  Many ICW Group consultants are viewed as experts in a specific field(s) and as having a wide knowledge of many subjects as they pertain to loss.  There aren’t any additional costs for the services provided by your consultant so feel free to utilize them as much as much as possible.

    What You Can Do

    When preparing to meet with your consultant, keep in mind the following:

    Ultimately, your risk manager has the same goal as you – reduce/eliminate losses and improve your bottom line. For more information about ICW Group safety & risk management services, contact your local Risk Management consultant.

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Top 10 Safety Resolutions for 2017

    It’s a New Year, which means it’s time for some New Year’s resolutions.  Check out my suggestions below to help make 2017 a safe year:

    1. View safety as equal to production, not as a government compliance item.

    There is a lot more to safety than OSHA compliance.  Some companies have a policy in place so employees can halt production due to quality issues; the same should be true for safety issues.  Just because a company is in OSHA compliance doesn’t guarantee that they will be injury free but creating a culture where safety and product go hand in hand can impact injury rates. 

    2. Discipline safety violators even for near misses (when they don’t get injured).

    OSHA is taking a strong stance against employers who retaliate against employees for getting injured on the job.  Employers with safety policies are in their right to discipline for violating a safety policy, but if you are only disciplining after an injury, you are potentially looking at an OSHA violation.  Discipline needs to be consistent for all safety violators not just for those who report an injury.

    3. Empower your supervisors.

    You can’t manage safety from your office, and you can’t be every place all the time. You need to empower your supervisors to correct unsafe conditions and unsafe acts on the spot. 

    4. Learn everyone’s name.

    How can you expect your machine operator to feel comfortable expressing their safety concerns if you don’t even know their name?  Get to know people and let them get to know you and you will be surprised how much more effort they put into their job.

    5. Include safety at production meetings.

    When you include safety in production meetings, your production supervisors can be held more accountable for being proactive in their department.  They will also be more likely to address safety before making changes or starting non-routine tasks. 

    6. Allow your employees to participate in and lead safety training.

    There is nothing less effective than a boring safety meeting taught off a pre-written safety bulletin.  Make your safety meetings more exciting by asking employees to participate and share stories.  This will not only improve your meetings but your safety culture as well.

    7. Investigate for root cause and making changes to stop re-occurrences.

    Accident investigations are not just for documenting an injury; they are for developing countermeasures to prevent future incidents.  Teach your supervisors to investigate down to the root cause and not to stop at the quick fix.

    8. Use your monthly audit forms as a catalyst for change.

    No one is benefiting when the same items repeatedly noted on the monthly safety inspections.  Start developing a process to correct the root cause of the repeat items.

    9. Track something other than injuries for your incentive.

    When you reward your employees for not having an injury; employees are incentivized to not report their injuries– it doesn’t mean they didn’t get hurt, it just means they aren’t telling you.  Develop a new incentive that improves safety such as participation in a safety meeting, improving audit scores, or making a safety suggestion.

    10. Track safety successes – Find the Positive.

    Good things are happening in safety every day if you just start looking.  2017 should be a year to celebrate the safety successes.  Set a goal; find five positive things to highlight every month.  It could be that your forklift driver stopped at the intersection or that an accountant put on this steel toe shoes before walking into the plant.  Whatever the successes are, find a way to acknowledge them in 2017.

    We will be hitting on all of the above resolutions in more detail throughout the year.  Which ones sound like good resolutions for you?  Reply below and let us know.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Winter is Here – Preventing Slips & Falls in Cold, Wet Conditions

    In addition to cold stress, such as hypothermia, many people are seriously injured each year as a result of slips and falls in cold, wet conditions – now is the time to start thinking about preventative measures to keep your Team Members safe this winter season.

    For this post, I’ll review where slips and falls usually occur, and some actionable preventative steps to take.

    Where Slips and Falls Usually Occur

    Common locations for falls include driveways and sidewalks, stairs, ramps, and doorways, which are where most pedestrian traffic is experienced – it is also due to the difference in temperatures between the solid surfaces and wet elements, which can create an icing effect.

    Preventative Tips

    During cold, wet conditions, best practices to prevent slips and falls in the workplace include:

    1 – Perform an assessment of the walking areas to identify potential hazards such as the build-up of snow/ice and, once identified, take corrective measures to eliminate or mitigate the risks (be sure to wear the appropriate shoes and place the snow/ice where it will not create an additional risk)

    2 – When necessary, perform deicing efforts in all outdoor walking areas, and consistent efforts should be maintained to remove ice and water from indoor walking areas

    3 – Try to avoid slippery surfaces when walking, such as those covered in ice and those not having non-slip surfaces, and take an alternate route

    4 – Remind your employees to focus on the travel path – refrain from reading, texting, etc.

    5 – Wear the appropriate footwear – wear shoes with slip-resistant soles or over-shoes with good treads

    6 – Use handrails wherever they are available such as while using stairs and ramps

    7 – At the entrance, consider installing a mounted shoe scraper or a mat with a “scraper surface,” each of which can assist in removing excess snow and ice

    8 – Once inside, clean your shoes again or wear different shoes

    In the event you begin to experience a slip and fall, do not try to fight the fall as this can increase the risk of injury – the result of twisting or bending can be more severe than the fall itself.

    If you start to slip and fall forward, you should try to roll with the fall. If you start to fall backward, you should try to sit down.

    For more prevention tips, check out our blog on selecting the right mat for your entry ways.

    Mike Pettit


    Carbon Monoxide – An Invisible Danger

    Winter is here and in much of the country that means cold weather.

    Often, this also means that doors will be closed to conserve heat while gasoline and diesel-powered motor vehicles, forklift trucks, air compressors, space heaters and pressure washers are operating. Any of these petroleum fired engines can produce carbon monoxide (CO) as part of incomplete combustion. Additionally, the replacement of fresh air from the outside, into the workplace, is restricted when doors are shut. The result of these two factors could lead to what is commonly known as carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Carbon monoxide is a clear and odorless gas. It kills by binding the hemoglobin in the blood. A small amount of carbon monoxide (200,000 parts per million) is all that is needed to begin the effects by reducing the level of oxygen delivered to the body though the flow of blood.

    So, how can you recognize the presence of carbon monoxide?

    Some of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning (in order of severity) include:  headaches and dizziness, nausea, drowsiness or disorientation, unconsciousness and eventually death.

    These are a few suggestions to detect and reduce CO exposure

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    The Loophole In Driving Records

    With Sunday football gatherings underway and the big game only weeks away, your employees will be at a higher risk of driving while under the influence of alcohol as they commute to and from various events.  Sure, you remind your drivers to make safe choices, and yes, the public service announcements are abundant at this time of year, but is it enough?  In this blog, I will be discussing how to avoid the loopholes in the driving records system.

    Let’s assume that you are already checking the driving records of all of your employees annually.  Let’s also assume that your insurance policies renew on January 1st and every employee has a good driving record at that time. Then, on the night of the big game, one of the drivers (Joe), gets a drunk driving ticket (in his personal vehicle) and has his license revoked.  Even though Joe is a good employee, he doesn’t tell you about the revocation because he can’t afford to lose his job.  Now your company is exposed to a wider scope of problems!

    How can you avoid these loopholes in an employee’s driving record?  California employers can enroll into the California Employer Pull Notice Program (EPN). This program will notify an employer immediately if any of the company’s drivers receive a moving violation.  For organizations outside of California, you should establish a procedure that requires a driver to inform you about any and all citations that he/she receives.  With this process in place, you will be able to discipline someone who does not report a violation to you.

    You should inform your drivers that they should immediately report to their supervisor any suspensions, restrictions, limitations, revocations or restrictions of the driver’s license or any other changes in their driving status, regardless of the actions that brought about the changes.

    If you need assistance creating a driver policy, please contact your risk manager or log onto ICW Group’s RMRx Safety Advisor.

    Tom Keel


    Preparing your Equipment for Winter

    With the first snow storms starting to show up across the country, thoughts of winter preparation should become part of your maintenance processes—this will help reduce loss time due to equipment malfunction.  For this post, I’ll be sharing a few simple and relatively inexpensive things you can do or have done—depending on whether you perform your equipment service in-house, or have an outside vendor manage it, and your service team’s level of expertise.

    Tune Up

    Making sure the equipment is up to its optimal performance level can help it start and run smoother in harsh conditions. If it’s older equipment, new plugs, points, and condenser may be in order. Check spark plug wires and replace them if needed.


    Most times all that is needed is to check the protection level. Make sure it is set for the most common type of weather you can expect to have. Anti-freeze raises the boiling point and lowers the freezing point of water and also provides corrosion protection. Not enough can allow the water to freeze potentially cracking the block and too much doesn’t allow the engine to cool properly.

    Change the oil to a lower viscosity

    Thinner oil flows better in colder weather allowing essential lubrication to reach the critical components faster thus reducing wear on equipment. Look into purchasing and having an oil or block heater installed. Several types of these are readily available for most types of engines both vehicular and on equipment. These vary from simple magnet type that you place on the oil pan or engine block, heated dipsticks or ones you install in a freeze plug. One thing they have in common is plug into a standard 120volt receptacle.


    Check the condition and tread depth of the tires. 3/32 is the standard “replacement depth of tire treads. Easy way to check it is with a penny. If you can see all of Lincolns head when placed head down in the grooves of your tires, it’s time for new ones. This may not be as critical if the equipment is just on a jobsite and not moved much. Look for weather cracking, bulges or exposed cords. Any signs of those and new tires should be a must.

    From a piece of equipment breaking down to an employee stranded at home or away from the office, these simple preventive steps can help minimize the potential of down time and production. Check out these other winter-themed posts.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Inspiring Safety Leadership in Frontline Supervisors: Part Two

    In part-one of this blog series, I made the point that one cannot effectively manage a risk they do not understand. Once supervisors are made aware of the risk, they are in a better position to guide workers in changing their behavior and elevate the culture of safety within your organization. However, there is still one more obstacle to inspiring safety leadership from your frontline supervisors: Leaders will not lead unless they believe they personally can make an impact.

    In this blog, I will address why, and how, your supervisors can have an impact on your culture of safety.

    Accidents happen, right? How much influence and control do your supervisors really have? Studies indicate that upwards of 80% of workplace injuries are caused ultimately by unsafe behaviors. It then follows that the vast majority of occupational accidents are preventable – and that there is clearly an extraordinary opportunity to reduce injury rates by positively influencing employee behaviors. Do your supervisors know this?

    As I mentioned in part-one of this blog series, due to their frequency of interaction with workers and the authority they have been given, there is no one else in a more strategic position to influence worker behaviors and drive culture change.

    Leaders Need to Understand Not Only That They Are Capable of Having an Impact; They Must Also Understand HOW They Can Have an Impact.

    I will now identify and review two key safety leadership activities that your front-line supervisors should be engaged in. Think about whether these below tools/opportunities are effectively being utilized by your supervisors. If you identify an area you would like to focus on, I would encourage you to use the linked resources to learn more and facilitate dialogue with your leadership team.


    Great leaders primarily influence others by inspiring commitment to their vision. This vision must first be communicated and that’s what we call training. Too often safety training is used to merely disseminate information that most workers already know, which explains why most workers view safety training as boring. 

    Safety training that truly impacts worker behaviors inspires them to see and feel, in a real way, why the training topic is important and encourages them to come up with their own personal reason for following safe work practices. If you want an in-depth discussion of how to apply this principle to your safety training program, with concrete examples, read a recent blog I wrote entitled “Training Techniques: Inspiring Commitment Rather than Compliance”.

    Coaching and Recognition

    While the ideal would be for workers to be personally committed to all safe work practices, the reality is that supervisors need to actively manage employee behaviors through coaching and recognition. If frontline supervisors are not expected to manage safety behaviors, they usually won’t. They typically already have plenty of production concerns to focus on – and who actually enjoys calling someone out on something they did wrong?

    Is this a basic expectation for your supervisors? Is their job performance in this area evaluated in their annual review? Stay tuned to our blog for future posts about managing supervisor expectations.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Inspiring Safety Leadership in Frontline Supervisors: Part One

    One of the most impactful things a business owner can do to elevate their culture of safety is to inspire safety leadership from their frontline supervisors. The value your supervisors bring to the business is their ability to lead others in achieving productivity. Most often this skill set is focused primarily on production, as it should be.

    However, when managing safety is not a priority for a leader, it affects the culture of all those who work under their leadership. Due to their frequency of interaction with workers and the authority they have been given, there is no one else in a more strategic position to influence worker behaviors and drive culture change. In this two-part blog series I will discuss strategies for inspiring front line managers to make safety a priority and effectively manage your risk.

    You Cannot Effectively Manage a Risk You Do Not Understand

    Far too often I find that supervisors do not have a comprehensive understanding of how workplace injuries impact the business. Many believe that workers’ comp insurance takes care of injury costs, leaving the business minimally affected. 

    Do your supervisors understand the actual costs of lost productivity, or how the frequency and severity of workers’ comp claims can drastically affect premium rates? Training your supervisors on the reality of the direct and indirect costs associated with an accident, will give them a greater appreciation for your risk.

    Empowering Action with Awareness

    In addition to cost, it is vital that supervisors have a clear understanding of the key injury risk factors within the operation. This can be achieved by having a routine meeting to review and discuss injury trends and possible causes. It is also of great value to review injury data for your industry; which your ICW Risk Management Consultant can help you with.

    Understanding where and how accidents are tending to occur will enable supervisors to identify and address root causes. For example, I recently reviewed a claims analysis with a customer, and we discovered that 60% of their claims were for workers with less than 6 months on the job. After thinking about it, my client was not shocked by this number. Having never been presented with the information, they had never made a conscious effort to address the issue. Awareness must come before action. 

    Unfortunately, a mere awareness of the risk is not enough to inspire safety leadership. There is one more obstacle that must be overcome:

    Leaders will not lead unless they believe they personally can make an impact.

    This will be the focus of part two in this blog series on inspiring safety leadership from your frontline supervisors.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Driving Risk During the Fall Harvest

    Summer has gone, and around here we have gotten into harvest season. This means large slow equipment for the next several months on most of the secondary roads often times with minimal lighting (usually the SMV triangle or just flashing hazards) and we can come upon them much faster than we realize. This can potentially create several issues we need to be aware of ourselves while driving.

    Let’s go back to the word problems from math class. Driver “A” is traveling down the road at 60 mph and driver “B” is five miles ahead of him traveling at 18 mph, how long will it take driver “A” to catch up to driver “B”?

    Remember, the men and women of the farming community are trying to make a living as well and have a small window to get a lot done with a small window to accomplish it. Weather, long hours, lines at the grain elevators, trying to get equipment from field “A” to field ”B” all at the same time can create a stressful work environment.

    Getting “stuck” behind equipment for a couple of miles isn’t much different than sitting at stoplights in town. If you know you will be traveling down secondary roads leave a little early to allow yourself extra time or much like avoiding a construction zone take an alternative route if possible. Let’s not add to the stress and cause an incident by being impatient

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Vehicle Safety – Tire Talk

    Now that football season is well underway many of us have strong opinions on “deflategate,” Tom Brady, and the proper inflation point of footballs.  Since that subject has been covered over and over and over, let’s talk Tire Pressure – an under discussed, but important safety topic.  Also important is having a procedure in place in the event that a company vehicle gets a flat tire while on the road.

    First let’s look at tire pressure.   Many of us only look at the tread on our tires and have them rotated when we get an oil change. However, incorrect tire pressure will compromise cornering, braking and stability.  Under inflated tires produce heat, increase roll resistance causing drivers to waste fuel.  Under and over inflated tires can also cause uneven wear and shorten the life of the tire or even worse they may cause a serious accident.

    The correct air pressure may be found in the vehicle owner’s manual or on the tire placard (attached to the vehicle door edge, doorpost, glove box door or fuel door). The placard tells you the maximum vehicle load, the cold tire pressures and the tire size recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.  Always check tire pressure when the tires are cold for the correct tire pressure.

    Monthly pressure checks are recommended even if your tires look fine.  Especially radial tires – they may look fine even when they’re down 10 pounds of air — or overinflated by 10 pounds. So don’t trust your eyes — use your gauge.

    Next, let’s talk about spare tires.  In years past a spare tire was standard equipment – either a full size tire or a donut.  Many new models do not have a spare tire and only come with an inflator kit.  If your employees are driving a vehicle, and get a flat, have you explained to them what to do? Do not assume that they know. Serious accidents occur when motorists are changing tires on busy highways or looking for a spare that is not there.  I recommend to my friends that they never change a tire on any roadway with traffic – always call a professional unless in a parking lot.  However, as an employer, I suggest that you never allow an untrained employee to change a tire anywhere – there is too much risk involved even if there is not a traffic risk.  A back injury from lifting the tire is likely to be much more expensive than a call to your local road side service provider.

    If you already have driver safety rules, make sure that emergency situations are addressed and that employees are trained on proper protocol.

    Paula Tetrault


    Updating Your Vehicles Part 2 Educating Your Drivers On the Risks of Hybrid/Electric Car Batteries

    In my last blog, about updating your vehicles, I discussed considerations to make when buying or leasing new fleet vehicles. For part two of this series, I will be addressing safety hazards associated with an electric or a gas/electric hybrid vehicle.  While energy and cost efficient, these newer type of autos come with unique electrical safety hazards that employers should be aware of.

    Electricity and Gasoline Area a Deadly Combination

    These vehicles are propelled by either gas/electric motors, or battery operated electric motors. Since batteries store electricity, combining electricity and gasoline can be a bad combination. If batteries are damaged, they may also give off toxic, flammable fumes.

    The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a general interim guide for electric and hybrid electric vehicles with high voltage batteries for vehicle owners/general public titled, “Interim Guidance for Electric and Hybrid-Electric Vehicles Equipped with High-Voltage Batteries (Vehicle Owner/General Public).”

    This interim guide covers the basics and is designed to supplement—NOT replace the information in your owner’s manual. Below are some of the key items the guide references that employers, fleet vehicle managers and drivers should know:

    Choosing an electric or electric hybrid may be a good investment for your company, but getting familiar with the vehicle is very important. I recommend against just handing over the keys to a new driver. Adopt safety policies that require new employees be trained to:

    Additionally, I recommend that employees follow a set route for all routine driving, or preplan trips to know how far the car can travel before having to be recharged. Knowing exactly the location of charging stations throughout the  driving area is important. Trying to save money on fuel costs may be lost if an employee(s) are stranded with a dead battery or damaged vehicle because they weren’t shown proper operating procedures.

    As a separate, but related topic, my next post will focus on how first responders can work safely when a collision involves a hybrid or electric vehicle.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Chemical Inventory: An essential tool in your hazard control toolbox!

    An accurate chemical inventory is an essential part of preventing chemical-related mishaps that can result in illness and injury, as well as property loss. To prevent injury and loss, the storage, use, and proper disposal of Hazardous chemicals must be properly managed.  Proper chemical management starts with creating and maintaining a Chemical Inventory.

    Below is a list of data points that should be included in a chemical inventory.  Be sure to check with your local Fire Department to determine if additional information is needed.

    1. Product Name
      1. The name on the container (and Safety Data Sheet) of the product that contains the chemical of concern;
      2. A product containing a chemical such as Acetone may be labeled as “Grease Away” or “Metal Brite” which is the name that should be listed here;
    2. Common Chemical Name
      1. This is the common name of the chemical of concern in the product.  In the above example, the common chemical name would be “Acetone” even though Acetone is also known by other chemical names such as Dimethyl ketone, Ketone propane, and 2-Propanone;
    3. Primary Hazard
      1. List the common hazard or hazards associated with this chemical such as Flammable, Toxic, Acid, Base, Oxidizer, Water Reactive, etc.;
      2. This information is essential to ensuring that chemical hazards are properly stored and handled.  For example, flammable liquids should be stored in an approved Fire Safe cabinet, while incompatible liquids such as acids and bases should be segregated from each other;
      3. Some chemicals such as Nitric Acid (Acid & Oxidizer), or Hydrofluoric Acid (Acid & Toxic) may have more than one hazard.  All significant hazards should be listed;
      4. This hazard information is helpful for Safety Committees and emergency responders (local Fire Dept.);
    4. Typical Quantity
      1. This section is not intended to describe the actual volume on hand, just the volume typically expected;
      2. Be sure to list the units such as 500 ml bottle, 55-gallon drum, or 7,000 gallon tank;
    5. Storage Location
      1. This is the room where the chemical is expected to be stored such as C4 Lab, or the warehouse, as well as the specific location in that room such as ‘Chemical Storage Locker’ or ‘Fume Hood 1D Cabinet’;
    6. Current SDS on File
      1. Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) should be no more than 5 years old;
      2. Every chemical on the list should have an SDS on file;
    7. Expiration Date
      1. Many chemicals should be properly disposed of within a set period of time due to the properties of the chemical which can change with age;
      2. Chemicals such as ethers can form peroxides in partially used containers when stored for long periods of time.  These peroxides are shock-sensitive and explosive, and can pose a serious risk of personal injury and property damage when handled;
      3. An Expiration Date is especially important for seldom used chemicals.

    Data Points such as the Manufacturer’s Name and the Manufacturer’s Phone Number are typically found on the SDS so do not need to be included on the inventory.  It is also recommended that a Chemical Inventory defines who is responsible for reviewing the list and how often that review is expected (OSHA requires this to be a recurring/periodic process).  Check out our Inventory Template and start your list today.

    Guest Bloggers


    Smoke in the Field – Drivers in Rural Areas Need to be Aware

    As I watch the news, I see and hear about the dry conditions and wildfires out west and think, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about that.” Then I heard the sirens, saw the fire trucks and smelled the smoke from the other side of the road.

    It’s harvest time across the country, farmers hope for dry conditions, so they may have an uninterrupted harvest. They pick corn, cut beans, disc-chisel, and plow throughout the season. But with these dry conditions comes a hazard—the potential for a field fire. Which according to a study by the University of Minnesota causes over $20 million of dollars in property losses, millions more in down time and crop damage as well 40-50 serious injuries each year.

    A farmer during harvest notices smoke. As they realize it is the field burning and not equipment they call in the fire and they move equipment to safety.  Due to vehicles try to maneuver through the smoke and a lack of traffic control (police presence), driving becomes a mess as the volunteer fire department arrives to assess and control the situation. Neighbors are driving up to see what is going on.  Farm equipment is brought in to create a fire break.

    As I watched the response vehicles arrive, and traffic trying to go up and down this 1 ½ lane country road it had me thinking about potential issues.

    So what should you or one of your drivers do if in a situation like this? If you are the first to notice, and can do so safely move your vehicle off the road, get the farmers attention to the situation, and call 911.  If you see it ahead of you, and if it is possible, turn around and avoid the area all together. If you cannot avoid it proceed with caution. Slow down, slow WAY down, as response vehicles may be approaching from the other direction. Move over and allow fire and farm equipment to pass as that tractor with implements may be coming to assist.

    Don’t be a gawker, we are all curious by nature but it is much better to find out what happened by watching the local newscast then to get to close to the fire.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    A Fall Protection Scenario

    I am walking a jobsite to conduct a Risk Assessment for a contractor when I come up to a excavation of 10-feet that is in plain sight and not protected from falling in to it.  First question, that enters my mind is, do I need fall protection to be near the excavation?  It’s 10 feet in depth and so the fall potential is there.  It is a construction site, so fall protection is required at 6 feet , or is it?  Would OSHA have a citation, and if so, what is it?

    The answer is No.  Excavations do not need protection, unless there are other hazards, such as impaling hazards of unprotected rebar, or an auger machine, etc.  Why?  See 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(7)

    1. Each employee at the edge of an excavation 6 feet (1.8) or more in depth shall be protected from by guardrails systems, fences or barricades WHEN the excavations are not readily seen because of plant growth or other visual barrier;
    2. Each Employee at the edge of a well, pit, shaft and similar excavation 6 feet (1.8m) or more shall be protected from falling by guardrail systems, fences, barricades, or covers.

    Per the letter of interpretation, dated December 05, 2012:  Under these provisions, if the trench is not readily visible because of plant growth or other visual barrier, fall protection is required.  Thus, unless the trench you are describing is obscured from view, THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT FOR FALL PROTECTION to be provided.

    So, if the excavation has other hazards inside the excavation, they would likely cite the following: 

    Dangerous Equipment – 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(8)  When working 6 feet or more above dangerous equipment, each worker must be protected by guardrail systems, safety net systems, or personal fall arrest systems. 29 CFR 1926.502(b)(8)(ii).

    When working less than 6 feet above dangerous equipment, each worker must be protected from falling into or onto the dangerous equipment by a guardrail system or equipment guards. 29 CFR 1926.502(b)(8)(i).

    Best Practices would be to protect the excavations and to provide fall protection, barriers, fencing to protect workers from open excavations.

    Sometimes, worrying about enforcement standards can lead people to overthink safety, but there are other times when being overly focused on the standards can lead to a company missing out on an opportunity to improve safety.  Check out Leslie Stoll’s posts on a situation where looking at a scenario from only a compliance angle is not the best idea.

    Guest Bloggers


    Field and Equipment Fires During Harvest

    During harvest, Farmers hope for dry weather conditions to help insure a quick and timely harvest. But with dry conditions the chance of fire also greatly increases. Stalks, leaves and grain dust can build up and with a heat source ignite and you have a fire. The National Ag Safety Database, (NASD) and several midwestern universities, including the University of Nebraska, have information on prevention to help avoid this situation as well as reactions if this situation arises.

    Prevention: Keep your machine clean. With the guarding of belts pulleys and other moving parts it is easy for debris to become built up. You maybe be able to use a leaf blower, compressed air or a pressure washer to remove material. It might be better to do this at the end of the day since a heavy dew in the morning could make this task more difficult to accomplish.

    Maintenance: Check fluid levels daily, inspect your machine for worn bushing, bearing, belts that may create a “hot spot” and provide an ignition source. Examine the exhaust and other hot surfaces.

    Fire extinguishers: keep one in the cab and one accessible at ground level. 10 lbs. ABC type is the best for this situation.

    Keep a cell phone (or two way radio) handy and charged up so you can quickly call for help

    If you do have a fire: Exit the equipment and call 911. If it is the field and not the machinery, AND it is safe to do so try and move the machine out of harm’s way.

    If you can do so safely, and have been trained in the use of a fire extinguisher attempt to put the fire out. Remember A fire can double in size in less than a minute and you don’t want to get into a situation where you are trapped.

    Develop an emergency action plan so employees know the proper steps to take (and avoid) ahead of time. While developing your plan, take into consideration more of the areas where these fires can occur are dependent on a volunteer fire department so response times may be longer.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    A Culture of Safety Comes From the Heart, Not From OSHA Standards

    Recently, a customer came to me with a situation—their welder, who has his work area situated in a back corner of the manufacturing facility, came to them with a concern.  He was worried that if he got sick or injured, that no one would find him and help him.  He requested that someone check on him throughout the day; if he could have a “buddy” at work.  My customer wanted to know if that was a legitimate concern, and if OSHA could give them a citation.

    My initial thought was: Why are they so concerned about OSHA standards—and not just their employee’s well-being?

    Rather than tackling their safety culture, I discussed OSHA’s General Duty Clause with them.  I told them that, technically, anything is enforceable by OSHA. The general duty clause requires employers to provide a workplace that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”

    So I asked: “Do you recognize this concern as a hazard?” If yes, then it’s possible that OSHA could issue a citation.

    My customer admitted that this was a legitimate concern so I explained that cameras, scheduled supervisor check-in, emergency alarms, putting a phone in the area are all reasonable solutions.  I would not expect them to place a full-time “buddy” in this area, but occasional checks certainly shouldn’t be hard. 

    In my example, giving this employee peace of mind is easy.  If that employee is stressed about his currently situation, his mind is not 100% on his job task; therefore, he is more likely to be injured. 

    Regardless of related OSHA standards, a simple concern like this one should always be addressed.   Chances are, this welder doesn’t actually want someone watching him work for 8 hours a day.  He most likely just wants to know that someone cares. 

    Do you have any examples of changes that you made at your facility that were made regardless of enforceable OSHA standards?  Please comment below, we’d love to hear about them.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Beyond Ear Plugs—Plugging Gaps in your Hearing Safety Net

    Posting signs reminding team members that ear plugs are required on the site, having boxes of them handy are good first steps toward protecting your employees from hearing damage caused by workplace noise.  But, that’s only a first step.  Hearing loss, workers’ comp claims, and OSHA citations can still occur if you’re not calculating the level noise blasting into your workers’ ears. For this post, I’ll be focusing on how employers can ensure they are providing the right amount of hearing protection for their team. 

    What Noise Protections Exist in your Company?

    Before I jump into the physics of noise protection, I’d like you to keep the following questions in mind when thinking about your jobsite:

    How loud is the noise?

    1. Has the company had noise monitoring done by a qualified professional, using professional instruments?
    2. Do any of my employees experience average noise levels above 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA)—the expression of relative loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear?

    Has the company made reasonable attempts to reduce noise levels? Examples include:

    1. Regulated air pressure at hand-held air nozzles to below 30 pounds per square inch (psi)
    2. Proper maintenance on equipment (i.e. pumps, motors, belts, etc.)
    3. Isolation of noise sources from employee workstations

    Are the hearing protectors rated to provide the protection your employees need?

    1. What is the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) for the protectors the company is currently using?
    2. Do the correct managers and team leaders know how to apply the NRR to the noise environment in each of the facilities?

    If workers’ exposures are above the legal limit (85 dBA), does the company have a written Hearing Conservation Program that describes how employees are protected from noise?

    1. How is the company meeting the Training requirements?
    2. Are affected employees provided hearing tests when they begin employment?
    3. Are affected employees provided hearing tests annually?

    Calculating Noise Levels to Invest in PPE

    To determine how much protection your employees are getting from your hearing protectors, take a look at the OSHA guidance.

    According to OSHA’s formula,  when calculating noise levels in dBA, subtract 7 from the NRR, and then subtract that value from the measured noise level—and presto!  The final number is the level employees are protected to.

    To make the calculation yourself, you’ll need the following:

    A sample calculation looks like this:

    OSHA regulations say that Hearing Protectors must protect employees’ hearing to 90 dBA, or lower.  However, if that employee has suffered a noise induced hearing loss (a Standard Threshold Shift, or STS) then the employee must be provided protection to 85 dBA or lower.

    In closing, I’d like to leave you with one simple, yet powerful final tip: Doubling up on hearing protection will give team members—more protection.  By follow up proper fitting spongy ear plugs with ear muffs,  you can add 5 dBA of protection to your calculation.  In the above example, doubling up with earmuffs would extend employee protection down to 85 dBA.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Offsite Safety – Workplace Violence Self Defense

    In my previous blog on workplace safety, I discussed how to reduce the likelihood of one of your employees becoming a victim of a crime by being aware of their surroundings and pre-planning travels.  For this post, I will review self-defense strategies to reduce the severity of the attack if the unfortunate should occur.

    First, no matter what you have seen in the movies, there is no deadly ninja-move that can get someone out of a dangerous situation every time. There are self-defense techniques like wrist locks and escapes that can be learned over time, but like playing an instrument, self-defense takes practice.  If your employees are a likely target for workplace violence, due to working in high crime areas or working alone in homes, finding a local qualified self-defense instructor to conduct in person training is something to seriously consider. 

    In the meantime, here are some basic tips to arm your staff if they ever need to fend off an attacker. 

    1. Car keys, tools, computer bags, cell phones can all become a weapon. These items are hard and will do more damage than a fist.  Aim for the vulnerable parts of the attacker such as the eyes, face, neck, and groin.
    2. Always face the attacker. Turning you back will do no good.  If you are facing your attacker when grabbed, you can still fight back or break away.
    3. Be willing to fight for your life. If attacked, the outcome can be deadly.  Be willing to defend yourself with whatever it takes to survive.
    4. When you have a chance to run – Go! Get to a safe place and find help.  Your attacker may not be subdued for long, so get away when you can.

    Having the right mindset to survive is important, but no one can predict their reaction to an attack— which is why practicing self-defense techniques repeatedly is so important.  If your company cannot organize a self-defense class for your staff, you should encourage them to find resources on their own.  If an attack occurs, you need your staff to be prepared.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Offsite Safety – Workplace Violence Awareness

    Workplace violence for offsite employees is something that you as the employer have little control over.  Therefore, educating your offsite employees to protect themselves when working in the field, and to avoid dangerous situations, is important to keeping work comp claims from piling up.  For this installment of the Off-Site Safety series, I will discuss how you can reduce the likelihood of your employees becoming a violent crime victim.

    In addition to being a workplace safety expert, I also teach a self-defense class in my community, won Chicago Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament for my weight class, earned an amateur National Kickboxing Championship Title, and traveled to 3 countries to complete in full contact kickboxing.   In class, my primary goal is to teach my students how to avoid an attack – because despite being well qualified to fight, I know that avoiding the confrontation is my best bet.

    Please share these reminders with your team to help keep them safe in the field: 

    Remind your staff that their safety is more important than the job.

    If they feel their personal safety is at risk, they are allowed to leave the worksite and should call the office immediately.  Too many times, employees just want to get the job done and don’t think about the risks they are taking with their personal safety.  Hearing this message about personal safety from upper management is very important.

    Working in teams is always better than working alone. 

    If your company can afford the man-hours, two people are less likely to be victimized because attackers usually look for the easiest target.

    Being stationary and deep in thought makes for an easy target.

    Staff should not sit in their vehicle before or after an appointment for more than a minute or two.  The longer they linger in their vehicle, the more of a targeted they become—especially if they are not paying attention to their surroundings.

    Plan your trip in advance.

    You cannot program a GPS systems to avoid crime ridden neighborhoods.  Always use the safest roadways, even if it means going out of your way.

    Plan your rest stops.

    In some neighborhoods, it is not smart to fill up your gas tank, get fast food, or use the rest room.   If I have a long break in between an appointment in certain neighborhoods, I will drive 15 minutes out of way to take my break.  A little extra mileage on my vehicle is hardly noticed as compared to a workplace violence incident.

    Training your staff on a regular basis on awareness and prevention tactics is a key step in keeping field employee safe.   In my next blog, I will discuss how to prepare your employees to defend themselves if they are attacked.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Is Sit-Stand Right for Your Workspace?

    The sit-stand work surface trend is not a new idea, but it has become an increasingly popular  topic in offices around the country. It is one of the most common questions I get from my customers.

    The two most common inquiries, or concerns: will this reduce our exposure for cumulative trauma-related (CT) injuries, and, what are the pros and cons? These are valid questions that should be answered before deciding whether a sit-stand program is right for your workplace. So, let’s discuss.

    As with all risk, you first want to identify your exposure and quantify your findings.

    To do this, ask yourself the following:

    Frequency factors in an office setting can include repetition, awkward postures, long durations of work, and static posture.

    Factors affecting the likelihood of a CT injury include the presence, or lack, of a formal ergonomic evaluation prior to starting work, the availability of job or task rotation, training and engineering controls.

    The severity of injury can be reduced by reducing frequency and likelihood, while also implementing a strong a return to work protocol and claims management practices.

    After applying the three above questions to your office, you can now determine if a sit-stand workstation will reduce the risk of CT injuries.

    Cornell University Professor Alan Hedge is a leading authority on workplace ergonomics, and has studied the effects of sit-stand work surfaces for decades. In a technical report published in 2004, Hedge assessed the effects of an electric height adjustable work surface (EHAW) on self-assessed musculoskeletal discomfort and productivity in computer workers.

    His report concluded that there may be a number of benefits associated with using EHAWs.  Apart from some minor increases in the frequency of experiencing some musculoskeletal discomfort, there were substantial decreases in the severity of many upper body MSD symptoms after working at the EHAWs.

    These improvements occurred over a relatively short time scale of 4 to 6 weeks, which suggests that the potential benefits may be even greater after longer time periods of use. There were significant improvements in comfort ratings for all aspects of the furniture workstations with the EHAWs, and there was almost a unanimous preference for the EHAW arrangement.

    What are the pros and cons of sit-stand workstations?

    While everyone’s experiences and opinions vary, current research shows that:



    Tips for sit-stand comfort

    If you enjoyed learning about this office ergonomic solution, check out our podcasts on Office Work Desk Assessments

    Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


    Upgrading your Fleet Vehicles: Keep Terrain and Ergonomics in Mind

    Is it time to upgrade your business fleet? Times have changed and the choices available to us can seem overwhelming—from the basic model to the most loaded. Front wheel drive, all-wheel drive, four wheel drive, sedans, mini vans, SUVs…the list goes on. Before you begin looking, outline what your business and employees need, then list what other features you’d like. Compare your list to current manufacturer offerings. If your company has an existing relationship with a specific car brand, then you can begin to look at the models within that particular brand.

    Are you a sedan or SUV kind of business?

    In terms of style, which type of car best meets your business’ needs, while minimizing the risk of accidents?  SUVs are very popular, so let’s use that as a base. Do you want two, four or all-wheel drive? Think of the conditions your drivers operate in most of the time.

    Do you want an automatic or manual transmission? Automotive experts used to believe that manual transmission got better mileage than automatic transmissions.  However, with computer controlled transmissions it is the same, if not the opposite. If you plan on going with a manual transmission, make sure all driving employees know how to drive stick!

    Don’t Skimp on the Ergonomics

    On the inside look at not just vinyl, cloth, or leather seats but think of the layout of the seat and the controls.  Are they arranged in a manner that is both comfortable and easy to reach and use for your drivers? You may love the vehicle, but if your employees do a lot of driving, then ergonomic support and comfort is crucial.

    The comfort level may in fact be the most import all around aspect in choosing a new vehicle for your fleet. The ergonomic issues that may arise down the road can be particularly challenging with long distance driving, such as shoulder issues from seat and/or steering wheel placement,  as well as back issues from the seats themselves.

    Some Tips to maximize your comfort are:

    Raise your seat to a comfortable level. You should be able to see at least three inches above the steering wheel
    Adjust your lumbar support (if applicable) so you feel a firm and even pressure along your back.
    Adjust your back tilt to about 110-110 degrees (slightly reclined)—this produces the least amount of stress on you back
    Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips, and you should be able to place 2-3 fingers between your knees and the front of the seat.
    Adjust you seat forward so you can use your entire foot to operate the pedals.
    Steering wheel should be about 10-12 inches from the breast bone.

    Other useful items to consider might be remote starts, backup cameras, heated seats just to name a few. For my next post in this series, I’ll discuss alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Techniques in Training – Inspiring Commitment Rather than Compliance

    Two of my colleagues recently wrote blogs outlining creative and engaging training techniques on eye safety. Both involved having workers wear a blindfold or pair of blacked-out safety glasses to demonstrate how blinding an eye injury can be, and how it could impact the rest of their lives. (Eye Saving Blindness Drill; 20 Minutes of Blindness = A Lifetime Worth of Lessons) In this blog, I will identify the elements that make those techniques successful and show you how to easily apply them to any training topic.

    The Ultimate Goal of Safety Training is to Positively Influence Worker Behaviors.
    This tends to be challenging, as safety trainers too often neglect this principle and focus solely on giving directives on how they want the job to be done safely. The techniques my colleagues shared are effective because they go beyond disseminating information. Workers can see and feel, in a real way, why the training topic is important and encourages them to come up with their own personal reason for following safe work practices.

    Great leadership is so much more than merely forcing workers to comply with your directives; it’s about inspiring commitment to your vision. Imagine a culture in your workplace where individuals understand the “why” behind safe work practices – and adhere to them – not because you said they had to, but because they have a personal reason to.

    Reviewing “How” is Ineffective at Impacting Behavior and Puts your Employees to Sleep
    To help you incorporate this principle into your training program, let’s discuss how it can be applied to a different safety topic – safe lifting. In the course of my career, I’ve conducted dozens of safe lifting trainings. I smile a little inside when I get in front of a group and introduce the topic because I’m reminded of the couple times I’ve actually heard audible groans from audience members when they discover what we will be talking about. Why is that? Why do workers tend to groan inside when they are told they have to go through a safe lifting training? The reason is that virtually everyone in the room already knows how to lift safely. This is why merely reviewing HOW to lift safely is so ineffective at impacting behaviors and puts your workers to sleep. A few times I’ve even gotten the audience to tell me almost every point in my presentation before I even turned on my projector.

    There is certainly a place for educating workers on safe work practices, but to truly influence behaviors in a meaningful way, we need to address their internal motivations. When I conduct safe lifting training, I focus on WHY proper body mechanics should be observed. Some of the points I recommend sharing include:

    Most people don’t know this information because it is not typically included in safety training. They lift with improper mechanics because our bodies are naturally inclined to, they don’t understand how they’re actually harming their body, and they have no immediate awareness of what reality would be like with chronic back pain.

    This leads to the final training principle I would like to address. After explaining the WHY of safe work practices, make it personal to your employees. Lead them to discover their own reason for following them. I typically do this by sharing my own reasons for protecting my back:

    “I could never put a value on being able to get down on the ground and roughhouse with my kids at home. I eventually want to be able to do the same with my grandchildren. I want to hike, bike, and travel in my retirement without waking up each day with chronic back pain.”

    The next time you schedule safety training I would challenge you to ask yourself these questions:

    I’m happy to apply this training technique to a different topic. Please let me know if you have a specific topic in mind for my next post.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Respirator Mastery: Voluntary vs. Required Use

    Is there a respirator in your workplace (remember that OSHA classifies dust masks as respirators)? 

    If so, is the respirator required to be used for a specific task or operation?

    Or is it there to be used for comfort purposes only? 

    This is the critical decision point in respirator use that gets many employers in trouble with OSHA; and making the wrong decision can result in employee injury or illness. 

    Required Respirator Use

    If respirators are required to be used in your workplace because of known airborne exposure risks, then a written respiratory protection program must be established.  Some (but not all) key elements of a written program include:

    Voluntary Respirator Use

    If respirators are not required to be used in your workplace, then any respirator use is voluntary by employees seeking comfort protection against nuisance particles.  Note that it is recommended that voluntary use be limited to the use of dust masks for comfort protection against dusts.  If reusable cartridge style respirators are used voluntarily, OSHA still requires certain elements of a written program—including medical clearance exams, as well as cleaning, storage and maintenance procedures.

    When authorizing employees to voluntarily use dust masks, employers are required to provide those employees with “Appendix D” of the Respirator standard.

    Federal OSHA Appendix D 

    Cal-OSHA Appendix D

    For more information check out these guides to Respiratory Protection.

    Federal OSHA


    If you have respirators at your site, please check out my other post on pre use fit checks and stay tuned for more Respiratory Mastery blogs coming soon.

    Guest Bloggers


    Stability Balls Belong in the Gym, Not the Workplace

    The Swiss ball, stability ball or yoga ball has been introduced as an ergonomic alternative to workstation chairs.  Proponents of the fad claim the balls increase abdominal muscle activation—thus increasing core strength—while on the job. While this may be true, they are still not a suitable replacement for an ergonomic designed desk chair. Last week, we posted our podcast about office ergonomics, in which we discussed stability balls in the workplace.  In this post, I’ll be elaborating on the points we discussed with some of the potential health and safety risks of using a stability ball instead of a chair.

    Exercise Balls Are Not Comfortable to Sit On

    Several credible studies have found that sitting on an exercise ball for long periods of time is actually uncomfortable. This is due to a greater amount of spinal cord compression, than when using a chair.  In addition to the potential for injury, back pain doesn’t make for a productive work atmosphere. Can you concentrate when you’re in pain?

    Why is Lumbar Support So Important?

    Another area to consider is back support—specifically your lower back or lumbar. Studies have concluded that exercise balls offer no lumbar support—a key component is maintaining correct body posture. When seated, the lower back has to bare three-times more weight than when standing. Without proper support, the back fatigues, causing people to slouch—further adding spinal compression.

    You also need different areas of support throughout the work day, as people change posture frequently. Chairs offer the lumbar support that can be adjusted as posture changes.

    Exercise Balls Are Not Firmly Planted on the Ground

    From a pure accident standpoint, there is a chance of an exercise ball popping or shifting—causing an employee to fall and hurt themselves. A person can only focus on two things at the same time for so long, before one of them gives.  Maintaining balance is one thing, and all other work activities makes two…or three…or four things a person’s brain must keep in check.   

    If someone becomes so engrossed in working, the brain may forget to make a small balance adjustment—and BAM—a hard crash to the floor. Hello work comp claim!

    ICW Group recommends customers not use exercise balls as workstation chairs.  A chair whose height, depth, angle and back can be adjusted for optimal support is the better option. While it is your legal obligation to keep your employees safe, some employees may insist on using an exercise ball. I recommend implementing a policy that bans using exercise balls at a workstation.

    For more on ergonomics, checkout my colleagues’ posts on mySafetynews

    Robert Harrington


    Prescription Eyeglasses and Sunglasses vs. Safety Glasses and Goggles – Are your Employees Getting a False Sense of Safety

    If your facility or job site requires protective eyewear, look around. Do you notice employees wearing prescription eyewear or sunglasses? While these employees may think their eyes are protected from flying wood chips or other dangerous debris—they’re not.  Standard prescription glasses and sunglasses can provide protection from UV light, depending on the lens type, but offer minimal if any impact resistance.

    How is Eyewear Protection Different than Regular Eyeglasses?

    Both sunglasses and prescription lenses are available in safety goggles and glasses that are rated by ANSI (American National Standards Institute).  Proper eye protection will have a stamp on the arm of the frame (usually the right side) that reads “Z87” or “Z87+.” This certifies that the lens and frames meet a specified impact resistance. Ratings are either a basic, (Z87), or a high impact, (Z87+).

    For the basic rating, a “drop ball” test is performed. A one-inch diameter steel ball is dropped from a height of 50 inches. The lens must not crack, chip or break, this gives the Z87 rating.

    The high impact test is done by shooting .25-inch steel ball at the lens at 150 feet per second. To pass, the lens must not crack, chip, break or become dislodged from the frame or lens holder. This gives the Z87+ rating.

    While prescription glasses generally cost more than standard lenses and frames, it might be beneficial for employers to look for a provider that will offer a discount on prescription safety glasses for employees. Some companies will offer reimbursement if glasses are purchased through the provider. When employers add up the direct and indirect cost of an injured employee, the benefits can easily outweigh the initial out of pocket expense.  At a minimum, an employer should provide approved Over-The-Glasses (OTG) safety glasses that can be worn over standard prescription glasses.

    OSHA Takes Eye Protection VERY Seriously

    On the regulatory aspect of eye protection, while I was doing an internship with OSHA years ago, I saw firsthand how OSHA does look at eye protection and doesn’t take it for granted that “covered eyes are protected eyes.”

    While doing an inspection of a roofing contractor, the OSHA Compliance Officer asked to look at the sunglasses the employees were wearing. They turned out to be regular sunglasses and not safety rated. We did educate them on how to look for the Z87 or Z87+ designation, but unfortunately for the contractor, a citation was issued.

    By enforcing a protective eyewear standard in the workplace, whether it is by working with a provider for a reduced rate and/or a reimbursement program, offering to help offset the cost of eyewear protection reinforces that you value the safety of your employees.  Additionally, it helps ensure that your crew is safe off the jobsite as well—a critical part of a behavior-based safety program

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Respiratory Mastery – The Pre-use Fit Check

    Airborne containments can pose a serious threat to workers’ health. To prevent injury and illness from those contaminants, employers must determine the severity of the threat, and if needed, provide controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce that threat. It is estimated that five million workers throughout the U.S. are required to wear respirators at their place of work

    When selecting respirators for the workplace, OSHA requires that different sizes or types be made available to ensure that workers can select a respirator that provides them with the best fit. A Fit Test conducted by a qualified Fit Tester can confirm that an employee has chosen the right respirator. Selection and fit testing will be covered in more detail in upcoming blogs. This post will focus on the User Seal Test (the positive/ negative pressure test): a test that should be performed each time the respirator is worn to ensure that it fits properly. The guideline below is normally done when using ½ Mask or Full-face cartridge-style respirators

    Be sure to refer to the instructions provided by your respirator manufacturer for specific guidance on performing the seal test. The seal test consists of two steps: 

    The Positive Pressure Test

    1. Put on (don) the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    2. Cover the exhalation valve with the palm of your hand (be careful to avoid distorting the mask by using gentle pressure against the valve cover).
    3. Slowly exhale, which will pressurize the mask.
    4. If there are no leaks, then you will notice the mask expand away from your face BEFORE the seal is ultimately broken by the increasing pressure.

    The Negative Pressure Test

    1. Put on (don) the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    2. Cover and seal the filter cartridges using the palms of your hands. Note: if you can’t get a good seal with your hands, small sections of plastic wrap can be used on the surface of the cartridges to create a seal.
    3. Slowly inhale and hold your breath for about 10 seconds. You should notice the respirator partially collapse (slightly) against your face. While you’re holding your breath, the respirator should stay in the collapsed condition.
    4. If the respirator stays somewhat collapsed for the full 10 seconds, then a good seal has been achieved.

    Each time a respirator is used; it should be properly donned, fit-checked, and re-adjusted as needed. By following these easy steps, you will be reducing the risk of worker exposure to workplace chemicals, as well as expanding their quality of life by providing them with a safe and healthy workplace!

    Guest Bloggers


    Techniques in Trainings – Eye Saving Blindness Drill

    When seconds mean the difference between blindness and normal vision, it can be permanently disastrous when an employee wastes time scrambling around in a darkened panic for the eyewash station. The best way to avoid this is to ensure your team knows the direction and the number of paces to the nearest eyewash station.  Last week, my colleague wrote a Techniques in Training blog about the importance of wearing safety glasses.  This week, I have another eye safety “Techniques in Trainings” to share.   In this post, I’ll be reviewing an effective way of training employees to blindly locate first aid equipment during an emergency.  

    Pin the Tail on the Plumbed Eyewash Station

    To start this training exercise, situate your team between 20-35 feet away from an eyewash station and ask for a volunteer who does not wear corrective contact lenses. Blindfold your volunteer (or grab your painted glasses that you used last week) and get your stop watch or smart phone timer ready. Once their vision is blacked out, announce that their face has been splashed with a chemical and they have 30 seconds to get to the nearest eyewash station before they become permanently blind.

    The surprise won’t be as severe as a real emergency. However, it will demonstrate to the others watching that being in a panic makes it extremely difficult if one doesn’t know where the eyewash station is, or can’t remember where they were in relation to it when they came into contact with a chemical.

    While your volunteer is hurrying to find the eye wash station, watch to make sure he doesn’t walk into an unsafe area or trip on anything – injuring someone during safety training is never a good thing!   When your volunteer makes it to the eyewash station stop the timer.  Then have them remove the blindfold and proceed with flushing their eyes out (this is why you found a volunteer not wearing contact lenses). 

    Remind your audience that getting to the station is only half the battle—they also have to remember how to perform the flush. Operating the eye wash during the drill not only teaches your employee how it works but also is a great way to test that your eye wash is functioning properly.  After about a minute, tell the volunteer he/she can stop flushing, but remind everyone that most safety data sheets suggest flushing for 15 minutes.

    Drill, Baby, Drill

    Repeat the drill with several volunteers, but start each one from a different location. Use a timer to time each employee, and later discuss with the group how long it took each person to reach the eyewash station and what the dangers of taking too long are.  Practicing this drill once a month will help employees remember where the nearest eyewash station is, approximately how many paces it is to get to it, and will motivate your employees to keep their work areas clean and eye washing free of obstructions. 

    This example was specific to eyewash stations for splashes and spills, but it works equally well for any type of first aid equipment, including fire extinguishers and medical kits.  

    Have you tried this type of exercise before with your team? If so, I’d love to hear about any modifications that are specific to your worksite. Please share your feedback in the comments section.

    Tom Keel


    Work Desk Assessment Podcast – Part 2

    In part 2 of our podcast on work desk ergonomics assessment, Andy and Robert review how to properly set up computer monitors, keyboards and lighting at the work station.  They also discuss how to recognize when employees are uncomfortable at their workstation, and when to step in with an ergonomics assessment. 

    Click Here to Listen to Part 2 of the Ergonomic Work Desk Assessment Podcast

    If you missed Part 1Click Here to Listen and learn about the basics of an ergonomic work desk evaluation.

    Guest Bloggers


    Work Desk Assessment Podcast – Part 1

    Work desk ergonomics assessment can benefit both the employer and the employee. In this podcast, Andy and Rob discuss the benefits of conducting a work desk ergonomic assessment, when to conduct the assessment and what to look for when conducting the assessment. They also tackle the hot topic of using stability balls as chairs. Click below to listen to part 1 of the Podcast and check back next week for Part 2 where Andy and Robert discuss proper set up and use of computer components, the “reach zone,” and more.

    Click Here to Listen to Part 1 of the Ergonomic Work Desk Assessment Podcast

    Guest Bloggers


    Techniques in Training – 20 Minutes of Blindness = A Lifetime Worth of Lessons

    Most people take for granted having two functional eyes, but most have never experienced what life would be like without their vision. On a recent car ride, I wore safety glasses that had been covered with black paint. The purpose of the glasses was to simulate what it would feel like to not have vision. It was a daunting reminder that we rely on our eyes to provide for ourselves and our families. 

    As a new hire at ICW Group, my manager wanted to show me one of his proven training techniques to emphasize eye safety. I sat in the back seat of the vehicle, while my manager and another coworker were in front. As soon as the car started moving, I began to feel scared and uncomfortable. I never realized before how much I anticipated the movements of the vehicle by adjusting my body to curves, stops, bumps, etc. With my vision gone, I was not able to see what was coming up and my body felt like it was uncontrollably being moved. 

    Since I wasn’t able to see the people in the front of the car, I felt like I was not an active part of the conversation. They also seemed like they were further away. Nonverbal communication is a huge part of human interaction, but I couldn’t rely on that either. 

    According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), each day about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. Common workplace eye injuries include metal objects, wood chips, dust, cement chips, chemical burns and infectious diseases. Protecting your vision is not just a case of wearing safety glasses while at work. Many people have lost or damaged their vision away from work due to a number of causes: welding, mowing/trimming, shooting, illness, sports, etc.

    If you use the blindness simulation technique at your next safety meeting, ask your staff to take a few minutes to think about the five most important things or people they look at each day. Then think about how different life would be if they couldn’t see those things or people. Ask them,

    “Who would take care of you?” 

    “What burden would that put on them?”

    “What are the things you would miss doing?”

    Start today by protecting your vision at all times and the vision of those around you. 

    Philip Bivens, CSP


    Indoor Heat Illness Prevention—The Need for Acclimatization

    The Center for Disease Control completed a study of Heat Illness and Death Among workers in 2014. After reviewing every heat related fatality from 2012 and 2013, the agency focused on those that resulted in citations under the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health act of 1970.

    Researchers looked at a total of 20 heat illness incidents where citations were issued, and found that:

    Most importantly, the study revealed that no provisions for acclimatizing workers were found. Acclimatization is the result of the body adapting after gradually increased exposure to heat or a hot environment. Whenever a potential exists for workers to be exposed to heat or hot environments, employers should have acclimatization plans.

    Helping employees get acclimated to a hot indoor working condition is a topic that was discussed at ICW Group’s webinar, “Beat The Heat & Keep Your Cool: Indoors.” If you have any questions about the webinar, comment below and we will address them.

    Rick Fineman, CSP, ARM


    Engage your Workforce to Develop Workplace Safety Solutions

    Anyone who has been in a “safety” role knows that safety is not a one person job.  You need to enlist the help of many—it takes a village, or a Team. Who at your company is holding onto the best safety idea ever?  It could be one of your production line employees, it could be the front desk receptionist, maybe it’s the temp employee who just came from your competitor, or your new accountant.  Regardless of employment level, innovative, impactful and (most importantly) implementable ideas can be hiding in the minds’ of any Team Member. So how can you access them? Let’s talk about a few ways that I’ve seen work for different customers.

    Of course, the simplest way to go about getting safety ideas is to ask, but most people will not provide any feedback when using that method.  So here are a few others creative options.

    1. Create a contest
    Did you know that the U.S. government has a website called challenge.gov?   Even the United States Government gets stumped and asks the public for ideas. Take their lead and create a challenge contest.  A challenge contest can be a specific call for employees to submit ideas on improving a specific safety issue.  For example, ask for ideas on how to improve forklift and pedestrian safety, or ways to minimize lifting at the widget packaging station.  Or, a challenge can be physical, such as a department competition to improve housekeeping and organization.

    2. Create a special team
    Safety committees in some companies get a bad reputation for being the place to go to complain. If you have trouble stimulating your safety committee to take action, try creating a new team.  Give this new team the “honor” of brainstorming solutions for existing improvement opportunities.

    3. Be friendly
    Supervisors that have friendly conversations with employees are more likely to receive beneficial safety feedback. Encourage your supervisors and upper management to walk and talk the production floor or jobsite. Once your employees have a comfort level, they will be more likely to give you their ideas.

    4. Dump the suggestion box
    Unless this is still a proven winner in your facility, it’s time to retire that suggestion box.  Verbal communication is much more likely to get you the results you want.

    5. Get your clip board out
    What if you took a walk around your facility or jobsite with a clip board, but instead of a safety deficiency checklist, you only took notes on the good things and talked to people about their safety ideas.  A focus on the positive will create a proactive safety culture.

    6. Pick the brains of the new hires
    Most new employees do not walk into your door with zero work experience.  What did they do at their last company that can help you?  As part of orientation, take them on a tour of the facility, encourage them to ask questions and talk with you.  Check in with them after a week and ask them if they can think of any ways to improve their job.

    Getting your employees to share their ideas takes trust, and gaining trust takes time.  If you decide to try any of the above ideas, commit to trying one for at least 6 months. You may not get any feedback at first, but as long as you don’t give up, the ideas will start flowing.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Eyewash Stations – Where to Place Them, and How Many You Should Have

    Consider this scenario

    You are working with a harsh acid without eye protection, some splashes in your eye—all you see is blindness and all you feel is burning.    You need to get to the eye wash station ASAP.  Can you remember where its located?  Is the path to get to it clear?  Will it work when you arrive?   Eye safety is a serious matter, this blog will provide you with information on where and when eye wash stations are needed, as well as some of their basic requirements. 

    Do You Need an Eyewash Station in your Business? 

    The standard for requiring an eyewash station is found at 29 CFR 1910.151(c), and specifies that “where the eyes or body of any person may be exposed to injurious corrosive materials, suitable facilities for quick drenching or flushing of the eyes and body shall be provided within the work area for immediate emergency use”.     

    But in reality, if your imagination can picture an eye injury occurring in your workplace, then an eyewash should be available regardless of the OSHA standard.

    Eyewash Stations Should be 10 Seconds Away  

    Again, think about where the potential injuries may occur, and place an eyewash nearby.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) recommends 10 seconds of unobstructed access to an eyewash station that has 15 minutes of continuous flow of potable water at a tepid temperature.  

    Common sense is a good rule to follow here.  Place the eye wash near the hazard, make sure clean water is flowing—and that it’s not too hot or too cold.  60-100F would be a good temperature range to shoot for.

    The most common question I receive regarding eye wash stations, is whether a sink, hose and/or water faucet is sufficient for an eye wash station? 

    The short answer is yes.

    In conclusion, check your safety data sheets (SDS) to determine what chemicals are used in the workplace. If any are caustic/corrosive, you should have an eye wash station.  If you need to conduct eye wash training, check out Tom Keel’s Techniques in Training post.   If you would like more detail about installing an eye wash properly, please contact you ICW Group risk manager.

    Guest Bloggers


    When it Comes to Hurricanes— Always be Prepared

    Hurricane season for the United States is June 1st to November 30th. Many regions are in the middle of hurricane season now, but it is never too late to prepare.

    Thankfully, with the help of Doppler radar and other meteorological advances, sufficient storm notice is common.  However, experts still cannot predict the exact path or damage a storm may create. Many storms generate unpredictable strong winds and tornado activity.  When it comes to hurricanes,  hope for the best—but prepare for the worst. For this post, I’ll breakdown what you need to do prior to, and during a hurricane.  By sharing this information with your employees, they can prepare their personal lives and their homes to withstand a storm, thus allowing them to focus on their job tasks while at work.

    Your Safety Checklist BEFORE a storm hits, should include:

    DURING the storm:

    Fortunately, storms have a short “shelf life” and often leave as quickly as they arrive.  Rest assured, storms will return in the future.  It pays high dividends to plan and prepare for their eventual return.

    If you have experiences or suggestions that you would like to share, please let us hear from you.

    Guest Bloggers


    Making Assessing Risk as Simple as I.C.E.

    When you were a child, someone taught you how to cross the street. It was simple – look both ways, wait for the street to be clear and walk across. Soon, you were assessing the risk of crossing the street each time without even thinking. Your employees should be assessing their job tasks in this same fashion every time they take on a task but if you haven’t taught them to do this, then it’s probably not happening. When your staff assesses risk before taking action, they will be better prepared for the unexpected. For this post, I will discuss how to make “risk assessing” as second nature for your team as looking both ways before crossing the street—it’s really quite simple! During your next safety talk, consider reviewing the following three simple “ICE” steps:

    Step 1: “I” Imagine –  What could possibly go wrong?

    Just because its never happened before, doesn’t mean it can’t happen. What’s the worst thing that could happen? What’s the most likely thing that could go wrong?

    Step 2: “C” Change – Take the possible scenarios and determine if any changes need to be made before proceeding with a task.

    Sometimes, simply being aware of a hazard is enough; other times, a physical change might be needed; and occasionally, more training and education is necessary.

    Step 3: “E” Execute – Accomplish you task safely!

    ICE—Imagine, Change, Execute.

    By training your team members to take a few extra seconds to ICE, and consider safety for every task, they will likely end up saving time in the long run. If you decide to try this process at your company, please leave a comment below and let us know how it goes.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Working At Elevation: Securing Extension Ladders to Structures

    Falls from elevations are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries, especially in the construction industry. One reason for these injuries is because workers do not properly secure their ladder, causing the ladder to move, shift, and even slide out from under the worker. In my previous post on ladder training techniques, I explained how proper ladder setup is crucial to ladder safety. For this blog, I will share recommendations on how to properly secure an extension ladder.

    When accessing a platform, such as a roof:
    Secure and tie off the ladder at the top, middle, and bottom – this will solidify the anchoring.

    To access the side of a structure, such as during painting or window cleaning:

    As you share these recommendations with your staff, I encourage you to act out these methods.  If possible, take the time to actually secure a ladder during your training.   Visual aids will help workers fully understand and use these recommendations the next time they climb an extension ladder. Remember, taking the time to properly secure a ladder means your staff can secure their lives!



    Mike Pettit


    Avoiding the Vacation Hangover at Work—Helping Employees Stay Safe Outside of Work

    Summer has arrived in all its glory and as the season moves forward in full swing, employers should take time to remind employees of the hazards they face outside of work that can affect their work-life health and safety. While it’s true that what an employee does offsite is their business, reminding team members to be safe, is always a good thing.  Depending on your company, many of the same summer hazard situations can be found both in and out of the workplace. Let’s look at a few:


    If an employee happens to get severe sunburn over the weekend, how productive will they be when they come back to work?

    An employee’s reaction times are slower due to the pain. They may have to take more frequent breaks to apply a topical ointment on the burned areas. And can you imagine trying to wear a safety harness with sunburnt shoulders or back and legs? Ouch!

    Remind your crew to wear a wide brimmed hat, use a high sun protection factor (SPF) sunscreen—perhaps even provide some if it’s is needed at work. Let them know there is clothing out there with a built in SPF factor for added protection. This can be done with something as simple as bulletins in and around the break room, a note in the employees’ check envelope or make summer safety a topic at the next staff meeting.

    Poisonous plants, Ivy, Oak or Sumac

    These are more than just a minor itchy inconvenience – especially in a manufacturing setting, where potentially open blisters could get exposed to solvents. The rash itself isn’t contagious, but the oil may still be on boots, or inside a vehicle—spreading the distracting itchy rash to other employees. Here is an informative website that can help answer questions and dispel myths.

    Bees, Wasps and Other Biting Insects

    Most the time, these isn’t an issue. However, if a person is allergic to them, they can quickly become potentially life threatening. This is specially true for lyme disease, carditis and rocky mountain spotted fever—all spread from ticks. To read up on preventing bug bite borne diseases, please check out these other mySafetynews posts.

    So, while employers shouldn’t intrude on personal employee vacation time, reminding your workforce to drink plenty of fluids while outdoors, be aware of their surroundings, watch out for plants and animals that may be harmful, and to use plenty of sunblock will make returning to work less painful.

    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Man Lift Safety: The Hazards Lurking Overhead and Underneath

    I often encourage the use of man lifts over ladders, for the simple reason that they offer a safer work platform. However, they also present unique risks that workers don’t come across with ladders, which could put your employees at risk. As part of mySafetynews’ continued focus on fall prevention, I will be sharing the man lift hazards that lurk above, and lie below, that your team must consider when working at elevation.

    The Risks that Lurk Above a Man Lift

    When working outside, overhead electrical power lines can be deadly. If a lift contacts or comes too close to power lines, the equipment can become energized and your employee can be electrocuted. Check out my colleague, Glenn O’Rourke’s post, “Look Out (Above) for Overhead Electrical Power Lines,” for more information about power lines.

    OSHA requires that cranes not operate within 10 feet of a 50kV power line. To safely use your scissor lift, the 10 foot rule is a great guideline.  But for higher voltage, your teams should stay even further away. OSHA1926.1408 includes a Minimum Clearance Distances table that you can reference.

    Inside a building, the risks include being struck by, or pinned, between the lift and the ceiling, beams, or another fixed object. Being struck on the head can result in a minor bump or a crushing death. When working near fixed objects, operator error or control malfunction could allow the lift to rise up too close to the fixed object trapping a body part. Daily equipment inspections equipment and operator training are critical to prevent these incidents.

    The Risks That Lie Beneath a Man Lift

    Before moving a lift on to any surface other than the ground, always confirm the floor can support the weight of your man lift. In June 2016, a lift fell through a floor at a construction site, seriously injuring both employees on board. I ask myself, “did this contractor realize that he was working over a basement?” He may not have. Knowing the load rating of the floor could have prevented these injuries. When a building is in under construction, posted load limits may not be accurate.

    Always check with the general contractor, engineers, and architects for load information before bringing your lifts into a building.

    Man lifts can be great alternatives to scaffolding and ladders when working at heights—as long as you train your employees to use them safely. I’m happy to address any questions you have in a future post—please share your feedback in the comments section.

    Guest Bloggers


    Staying Safe Through the “Pokémon Go” Craze

    In the midst of the latest Pokémon Go craze, we thought it appropriate to share a post from 2014 about technology distractions.  There is nothing safe about catching little animated monsters in the middle of making a delivery and it’s really quite dangerous to go searching for a rare creature while on the construction site.  Please take a moment to review our tips on using cell phones in the workplace and remind your staff to play it safe instead of playing a game.

    For your employees not into video games or technology, this new fad will seem very unusual.  Please have a conversation with them about what’s going on.  All the distractions associated with this game are creating new hazards for your employees.  Your employees need to watch more closely for people near them who may not be paying attention to real life.

    And, don’t forget to check out our Technology Distractions blog, even if your employees are inside a building safe from the wandering distracted public, it’s still a great time to bring this up.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Summer Safety – Preventing Mosquitos Borne Diseases

    Summer is finally here! Hello heat, sunshine and….mosquitos. When it comes to summer safety, heat illness isn’t the only workplace hazard you should be aware of, as just one bite from a mosquito can result in serious infection. On top of the other diseases, this year’s mosquitos could be infected with the Zika virus. Although currently there are no outbreaks in the continental U.S., it does not mean we should ignore the virus. In fact, it should encourage you to share the risk of mosquito borne diseases, like Zika and West Nile with your employees especially to those frequently exposed–outdoor workers.

    What are the symptoms of Zika?

    Four out of five people infected with the Zika virus have no symptoms. Symptoms usually begin two to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms most commonly include:

    To verify or confirm infection, you should visit your doctor or healthcare provider and get a blood test. 

    Mosquito prevention tips: 

    Pregnancy concerns:  Zika virus infections during pregnancy have been linked to miscarriage and some neurological disorders.  Women in areas with Zika should wait at least eight weeks after Zika virus infection symptoms start before trying to get pregnant. If the male partner has Zika virus infection, they should wait at least six months after his symptoms start before trying to get pregnant.

    Do you have employees traveling out of the country?

    Make sure to share with your employees the most up-to-date travel notices and Zika alert levels for all infected countries.

    It takes one infected mosquito to spread a virus to your entire outdoor crew. Training your staff about mosquito borne diseases, like Zika, will encourage workers to take extra precautions when outdoors and help them be aware of the threat of mosquitos. For information on other insect hazards that could affect outdoor workers, read our Summer Safety Series on Insects.


    Guest Bloggers


    Techniques in Training: Enforcing Ladder Safety Rules

    Ladders are found in nearly every workplace and are consistently a leading cause of workplace injuries. How is it that such a common tool continues to drive up work comp costs for businesses—especially in the construction industry? One potential answer: workers aren’t following best safety practices. You may already know some guidelines that can help reduce the likelihood of ladder incidents. So—for this “Techniques in Training” post, I’d like to propose a solution that may help team leaders enforce these safety rules on their jobsite. I have created a fun and simple acronym that will help remind work crews of the proper rules of ladder safety—S.I.S.C.U.

    As you train your staff this acronym, explain what each letter stands for so that S.I.S.C.U. is embedded in their memory.

    To help your employees remember this acronym, I additionally recommend putting a label with S.I.S.C.U. on each ladder in your workplace. This will remind your employees the rules of ladder safety and most importantly keep them safe. And remember—keeping your employees safe means less claims, and lower ex-mods!

    Stay tuned for my next blog where I will share my recommendations how to secure extension ladders to structures.

    Mike Pettit


    Reducing Your Risk of Failure When Securing Cargo With Synthetic Slings

    Synthetic slings are trusted to withstand forces of hundreds, even thousands of pounds. Regardless of how often they are used, proper care and maintenance reduces your risk of sling failure, injury, and property damage. In this blog I will review practical steps you can take to ensure every lift is a safe one.

    Inspections: Slings and their attachments should be inspected daily prior to use, and taken out of service if damage is found that could affect the integrity of the equipment

    You should be looking for broken or worn stitching, cuts, holes, knots in the sling, burn damage from heat or chemical exposure; and warped, cracked, or pitted fittings.

    In addition to the daily pre-use inspection, more formal documented inspections should be conducted on a routine basis. The frequency of these inspections should be determined by how often the sling is used, the conditions it is used in, and manufacturer recommendations. Slings used daily, in hot environments, or in inclement weather should be inspected more often than ones used monthly and under less stressful conditions.

    Note that workers should never attempt to alter or repair slings or their attachments. This includes tying knots or using makeshift devices to shorten a sling. There is no way to determine how an alteration may affect the load capacity without having the manufacturer load test it.

    Use the right sling for the job: There are a variety of sling types and each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses

    Synthetic webbing easily forms to the shape of a load but is more susceptible to damage from corrosive chemicals and cuts from sharp edges. I advise all my clients to use sling protection pads with their synthetic slings. The pads slide over the sling and are placed at the load edges to buffer the contact point and protect against wear.

    Training: All workers expected to utilize slings should be trained on their limitations

    Workers must understand load capacities, how to conduct pre-use inspections and safe work practices specific to your operation. Hands-on training will produce a higher degree of knowledge retention over traditional verbal instruction.

    Consider having workers demonstrate safe sling use and/or have the group inspect a sling that should be taken out of service. Refresher training should be provided often enough that at any given time workers are found to be knowledgeable of hazards and safe work practices associated with sling use.

    For additional information on using slings during the unloading/loading process, checkout my colleague Glen O’Rourke’s post, “Secure Your Safety When Unsecuring Material.”

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Offsite Safety – School’s Out for Summer

    Your offsite employees will be facing an additional hazard for the next few months–-school aged children on summer break.  On top of an increase in day time vehicle and pedestrian traffic,  your employees may have curious children interfering with their job tasks or disrupting worksites.

    In this installment of “Off Site Safety,” I’ll be discussing three training tips to help keep your off site employees  safer. 

    1. Ask for the children to be kept away from the work area. In my past blog about avoiding dog bites, we discussed asking homeowners to keep dogs away from the work area.  The same is true for children.   For the safety of your employees and the child, children need to be kept away from the work area.
    2. Inspect for vandalism. Children are curious and many find construction sites and equipment very intriguing.  Hopefully you already have a process for removing tools and equipment from worksites at the end of the day, but what about lunch time?  It only takes a few minutes for a child or teen to cause havoc on your equipment or worksite.  This vandalism can lead to an injury. If your site is left unattended for any amount of time, employees should inspect equipment and grounds for hazards when returning.
    3. Drive defensively! New teenage drivers hitting the road for a summer, moms running kids to and from activities, and children bicycling and running in the streets make for a very unpredictable driving experience.  If your employees drive into residential neighborhoods, it’s very important to remind them to be extra vigilant. If you would like more information on defensive driving, please check out Nicole Eisenrich’s blog, or log onto the RMRx safety advisor.

    With a little extra caution, you employees can have a safe summer and enjoy all the fun that the warmer weather brings.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Reducing the Impact of Automobile Accidents for your Incidental Driving Exposure

    With so many external competing variables, incidental driving is one of the most hazardous tasks for employees.  Whether it be running a business errand, like going to the bank, dropping off mail at the post office or delivering a rush order to a customer, driving-for-work is an exposure that needs to be controlled.  One way to eliminate the risk—stop having all employees drive vehicles.

    However, I understand that is not practical, so managers need to consider ways to reduce the frequency of driving, likelihood of an accident and the severity if/when one occurs.  Below are some ideas that may work for reducing your company’s exposure to motor vehicle accidents when running business errands.

    Frequency: Are employees driving only when necessary?

    Likelihood:  Do vehicle conditions make it more likely to have an incident? Are driver behaviors making its more likely?  Is traffic making it more likely?

    Severity:  Since driving is unavoidable, and many accidents may not even be your team members’ fault, take actions to reduce the impact of an accident.

    Do you have an exposure your company’s struggling to get under control? Let us know, and we’ll dedicate an upcoming blog to that topic.


    Guest Bloggers


    Reducing Frequency, Likelihood, and Severity of Eye Injury Exposures for Welders

    The risk of foreign bodies in a welder’s eyes is unavoidable, but there are things that you can due to reduce this risk.  It’s critical to minimize the frequency, likelihood and/or severity of this exposures. In this blog, I will review a few ways to reduce your employee’s risks of getting a foreign body in their eyes when welding.

    Frequency: The more a welder raises and lowers their hood after the welding process to clean or examine the welded material, the more often they expose themselves to the chance of getting a foreign object in their eyes. What can you do to help minimize this?

    Likelihood:  Do working conditions make it that much easier to have an incident? Since they have to weld, what precautions can you take to lower the odds of a welder getting something in their eye?

    Severity:  Statically incidents are going to happen. What preventive steps can you make to help insure they don’t result in lost time for employees and lower productivity?

    Of course, automation can also reduce the risk of foreign body exposure, but that is not always feasible, so hopefully one of the options I mentioned above can be implemented at your facility.   The more you can reduce the frequency, likelihood and severity of exposures, the safer your workplace will be.


    Dan Heinen, ASP


    Breathe Easy: The User Seal Test

    Airborne contaminants can pose a serious threat to workers’ health.  To prevent injury and illness from those contaminants,  employers must determine the severity of the threat, and if needed, provide controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) to reduce that threat.  It is estimated that five million workers throughout the U.S. are required to wear respirators at their place of work. 

    When selecting respirators for the workplace, OSHA requires that different sizes or types be made available to ensure that workers can select a respirator that provides them with the best fit.  A Fit Test conducted by a qualified Fit Tester can confirm that an employee has chosen the right respirator.  I’ll go into selection and fit testing in more details in my upcoming blogs.

    For this post, I’ll be discussing the User Seal Test (positive/negative pressure test)—a test that should be performed each time the respirator is worn to ensure that it fits properly. 

    Be sure to refer to the instructions provided by your respirator manufacturer for  specific guidance about the seal test.  In general, there are two tests that should be done.  

    Positive Pressure Tests

    1. Put on (don) the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    2.  Cover the exhalation valve with the palm of your hand (being careful to avoid distorting the mask by using gentle pressure on the valve cover).

    3. Slowly exhale, but not to the level that you break the seal around your face.

    4. While doing this, the respirator should expand slightly away from your face.

    5. If there are no leaks or loss of pressure before the respirator expands, the seal is adequate.

    Negative Pressure Tests

    1. Put on the respirator according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

    2. Cover and seal the filter cartridges using the palms of your hands.

    3. Slowly inhale and hold your breath for about 10 seconds.  You should notice the respirator partially collapse (slightly) against your face.  While you’re holding your breath, the respirator should stay in the collapsed condition (if you can’t get a good seal with your hands, small sections of plastic wrap can be used on the surface of the cartridges).

    4. If the respirator stays somewhat collapsed for all 10 seconds, then a good seal has been achieved.

    Each time a respirator is used, it should be properly sealed, fitted and re-adjusted as needed. By following these easy steps, you will be reducing the risk of worker exposure to workplace chemicals, as well as expanding their quality of life by providing them with a safe and healthy workplace! Stay tuned for my next blog on this topic, “Breathe Easy: Fit Testing for your Employees’ Safety.”



    Guest Bloggers


    Taking Control of Frequency, Likelihood and Severity of Loss Exposures

    What’s the most effective way to prevent an injury? Stop doing the activity that contributed to the injury.

    If only it were that simple!  While eliminating the risk of injury is possible for most businesses by outsourcing, modifying or removing a process , completely wiping out an exposure is not a viable reality. So, as risk managers and team leaders, the next most effective strategy is to reduce your risk by managing the frequency, likelihood and severity of your exposures.

    This is the approach we take with our customers at ICW Group. If you asked your ICW Group risk managers for help eliminating the risk of a slip and fall, we could recommend that you prohibit walking in your facility.  However, , that’s not a reasonable recommendation for one of our risk managers to make—so we don’t. We look at your exposure another way.

    Reducing the Frequency, Likelihood and Severity Risk of Walking

    To reduce your employees’ risk of slipping and falling, we can help you minimize their frequency of exposure, likelihood of exposure, and/or severity of exposure. To better clarify what I mean by these three terms, I’ve applied them to the slip and fall example. So, let’s think about this:

    Frequency: The more often, or the longer the distance, someone walks, the higher the chances of them slipping. What can you do to change this?
    • Can you reduce the number of times your employees walks from point A to point B during a day?
    • Can you shorten the distance that employees need to walk by moving point A closer to point B?

    Likelihood: Do the working conditions make it that much easier to have an accident? If your employees have to walk, then what precautions can you take to lower the odds that someone will slip and fall?
    • Can you change the floor surface to make it less slippery?
    • Can you require non-slip shoes?
    • Should you add or revamp your floor mats?

    Severity: Statistically, accidents are going to happen. What preventive steps can you take to make sure they don’t result in catastrophes to your employees and your bottom line?
    • Can you start a wellness program to encourage physical fitness in hopes that not all falls result in injury?
    • Can you have a top-notch claims management process to make sure an injured employee receives immediate and appropriate care?

    All of the above ideas are reasonable cost-effective strategies to manage the exposure to slips-and-falls. If you have areas where eliminating a hazard or exposure is impossible, and have simply accepted this risk, give your ICW Group Risk Manager a chance to review some other options with you. You may find it’s easier than you think to reduce your exposure—and more effective than rolling the dice and clinging to poor odds.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Offsite Safety – Avoiding Dog Bites

    Dog bites are a serious exposure for many field employees, as the consequences of a dog bite can be severe.  According to a report published by dogbite.org, the average cost of a bite-related hospital stay is $18,200. While I don’t believe that most dogs are mean or aggressive, some may skittish or afraid of people and could potentially snap at you if you’re not careful.

    In this installment of “Off Site Safety,” I’ll be discussing five training tips to that can help keep your employees safe from Fido.

    1. Heed the homeowners warning  
    Always listen to the owner. My dog is afraid of everyone. If you approach her, she will run scared. If you continue to approach her she will snap. Every time a sales person or repair person enters my home, I give them a safety talk about not touching my dog. If your employees follow a dog owner’s guidance, everything will go smoothly.

    2. Ask for the dog to be removed 
    Your team doesn’t need Fido’s advice on fixing the furnace, so there is no reason for the dog to be in your employees’ work area. When the scheduler calls to make and confirm an appointment, make sure they advise the customer to keep pets out of the work areas.

    3. Understand that not all dogs want to be friends 
    There is no reason to try to calm a barking dog when the homeowner can take the dog under their control.  Before you enter a yard, make sure the coast is clear.  If you cannot locate the owner, do not enter a yard with a dog.

    4. Understand a dog’s body language
    Barred teeth, growling and hair standing up on the back are some of the more obvious signs of a dog in distress, but another is yawning. Unlike humans, yawning is not a sign of relaxation in a dog.  Yawning is a dog’s way of trying to calm himself in an anxious situation.  For more information on body language, check out this video from the Human Society’s website.

    5. Know what to do if an attack is eminent 
    Stay calm, stand tall, avoid eye contact and give the dog something else to bite like a bag or tool. If the dog appears to back down, you can yell a strong command like “No,” “Away” or “Go Home.” If the dog does not appear to back down and you are attacked and fall to the ground, curl your body up and stay on the ground covering your ears and face until the attack is over or you are able to get away. The harder you fight back, the hard the dog will attack.

    Make sure the schedulers note a customer’s account if there is a dog in the home, and have your team review the above points before visiting the job site. If you would like more information, please check out the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) website on dog bite prevention. Stay tuned for my next post on Offsite Safety.


    “Preventing Dog Bites.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 May 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/index.html>.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Safety Sound Off – Practical Solutions for Material Handling Exposures

    Manual materials handling accounts for a significant percentage of the thousands of cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported annually in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), workers’ compensation costs for an average lost-time injury for a shoulder are $20,000, and $25, 000 for a back. This podcast talks about these workplace exposures and provides practical solutions to help negate them.

    Click Here to Listen.


    Guest Bloggers


    Reducing Repetitive Motion Injuries in Your Packaging Department – Part One

    Whether it’s the manual palletizing of boxes, reaching out to remove poor quality product or guiding bags through a sealer; repetitive motion is a common risk impacting packaging departments across industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median number of days away from work due to occupational injuries was nine in 2014. In contrast, it was more than double at 23 median days for workers who suffered specifically from repetitive motion injuries!

    Given these stats, it follows that repetitive motion injuries will tend to have a greater impact on your workers and your business—compared to the average occupational injury. For part one of this series, I will be discussing how engineering controls and job rotation can help you reduce the frequency and likelihood of repetitive motion injuries in your packing department.

    Engineering Out Repetitive Motion Risks 
    Eliminating the need for manual repetitive motion should be your first consideration. This can be expensive, but many of my clients have found that less injuries and lower workers’ compensation costs over time are well worth the initial investment.

    Robotic palletizers and case packers are great examples of engineering out worker exposure to repetitive motion. If this is not feasible for your operation, engineering controls can also be used to limit, rather than eliminate, the likelihood of an injury. Primarily, this is accomplished by designing your workstations to minimize awkward postures that increase the strain on joints and muscles during repetitive job tasks.

    Whenever possible, the work should be directly in front of the employee and at their resting elbow height. Examples would be angling conveyor lines that slide product in close to where the worker can more easily reach it, adjusting the height of a conveyor line, or gradually adjusting the height of pallets as workers manually palletize product to eliminate the need for bending and stooping.

    Job Rotation
    Creating a schedule to rotate workers in and out of workstations requiring repetitive motion both reduces individual worker exposure and allows for a recovery period for muscles and joints. A rotation schedule should be developed based upon employee feedback and an assessment of the task’s bodily impact.

    In part two, I’ll discuss how training and accountability can help create a culture of safety and further reduce repetitive motion risks in your packing department. For an assessment of the repetitive motion risk within your organization, contact your ICW Risk Management Consultant.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Safe Ladder Use in the Construction Trades

    At ICW Group alone, we received 1492 reported ladder related injuries since 2010.  Nearly 42% of those came from the specialty construction trades, and cost an average of $42,000 per claim. To help our customers control these costs, and improve their overall culture of safety, we conducted a ladder safety webinar that was tailored to team leaders, safety managers and employers in the construction and property management industries.

    I want to pose the below questions/thoughts to get you thinking about this topic:

    Frequency—the more times your team uses a ladder, the higher the chances of them falling. Are there any possible alternatives to a ladder that will lower this risk?

    Likelihood—when  employees are working from ladders, what are the chances of an incident resulting in an injury? What steps can you take to lower the odds that a fall is going to occur?

    If an incident occurs, what preventive steps have you put into place to limit the severity of  a potential fall?   While not ideal, a broken ankle is light years better than a broken neck.

    In the webinar, I share solutions to the above questions and more. You can’t be expected to eliminate ladders from your industry, so learn some solutions to reduce your risk.


    Guest Bloggers


    Pallets – Are they creating a hazard in your business? Five Tips for Pallet Management

    Pallets are part of almost every business – they help us get product and supplies from one place to another quickly.  Unfortunately, poor pallet management can lead to injuries due to trips and falls, awkward postures, and sharp edges.  They can also lead to severe fires. Pallet management considerations are:

    Pallet storage areas should be designated and enforced.  A designated pallet storage location will prevent pallets from being stored in front of doorways, exit paths, or near equipment and work areas.

    Prohibit climbing and standing on pallets. Pallets should never be used in place of a step stool, work platform, or ladder—they’re usually made out of thinner wood that will break if you apply too much force. Seeing them standing upright or stacked high are tempting ladder options, but are not a safe choice!

    Set pallet stacking height limits.  Tall stacks can tip over and crush an employee and tall stacks increases fire risk. A fire within a stack of pallet can grow very quickly due to the amount of surface area to burn and air flow within the stack.  Stacking pallets within 18 inches of your building’s sprinkler system can interfere with water flow into the fire.

    Remove broken pallets from use.  A broken pallet can crush an employee because it may not support their loads adequately. They may crack under pressure while being moved by a forklift or while in storage. When pallets break, product can fall on a nearby employee.

    Create a policy for moving pallets.   Moving pallets by hand can lead to lacerations and strains. Their awkward shape, rough edges, and proximity on the ground make for a hazardous lift.  Employees should primarily move pallets with a forklift or pallet jack.  If pallets are moved by hand, gloves should be worn.

    Next time you walk your facility, keep these tips handy while you focus on pallets.

    Are they being properly managed or are creating a hazard?


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Techniques in Training: A Broken Heart is a Powerful Reminder—Building Your Safety Culture With Love

    Valentine’s Day is a great time to reflect on our personal relationships. It’s also the ideal time to remind your employees that they have many people in their lives that love them and would miss them if they were gone.  The decision to work safely belongs to your employees.  Valentine’s Day is a great reason to ask your employees to reflect on  their safety decisions.

    To celebrate Valentine’s Day, take a break from the safety lecture and give your employees a moment to think about who they love.  Have them reflect on some of the below scenarios:

    Safety is about so much more than not having an accident – it is about having a wonderful and fulfilling life.  It’s about being able to do the things you love, with the people you love, all the days of your life.

    Ten little fingers, ten little toes – two eyes, two ears, and a funny looking nose.  They are all priceless. 

    Guest Bloggers


    The Right Mat System Can Help You Avoid Slips and Falls

    Slips and falls are leading causes of workplace injuries.

    So, what is it that is causing employees to slip and fall? 

    Slips result when there is not enough friction between a person’s footwear and the floor surface—the low friction is often times a result of contaminants such as dirt, water, grease and other debris being tracked in from outside. It’s estimated that 80 percent of contaminants are tracked in through front doors, or other employee entrances. The good news is that with a proper matting system in place you can stop most of these contaminants at the door.

    It’s Kind of Like a Welcome Mat

    We have all seen them— a mat outside an entrance that prompts to wipe your feet before stepping inside.  A good matting system includes a “scraper mat” outside the door so that employees can scrape shoes clean of dirt, debris and moisture. The outdoor scraper mat should be rigid, or made of a coarse material capable of loosening dirt and debris—such as gauge lopped vinyl. In line with the Carpet & Rug Institute (CRI) recommendations, I believe the scraper mat should be between 12- to 15-feet to effectively remove 90 percent of the contaminants.

    It’s Kind of Like A Thicker Bathmat

    The interior “wiper mat” will typically have a carpet top and is capable of absorbing moisture and any remaining debris before transitioning to the actual floor surface. Wiper mats can and should be used in other high risk areas of a facility such as kitchen areas, areas around ice machines and transitional areas. Examples of a transition area would be from the restroom to the hallway, or walkways leading to and or from the kitchen or dishwashing areas.

    Mat Maintenance

    For mats to be effective they need to be cleaned and maintained. They should be slip resistant, and have no ripples or curls. Depending on your operation you may choose to maintain your mats internally, or you may decide to contract with an outside vendor, either way it is important to inspect your mats regularly to make sure they are in good condition.

    If you have further questions, or need assistance with establishing a matting system for your workplace, please contact ICW Group’s Risk Management Services, we are happy to assist you.

    Guest Bloggers


    Five Tips on What to Do To Protect your Business From the Cold and Flu

    The cold and flu season can affect your injury rates, work comp costs and erode you’re bottom line  It’s no wonder, employers lose $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity. When employees come to work under the weather, they’re fatigued and less attentive than when they’re healthy.  They often make poor choices, have slower reactions times and can be distracted from the task at hand—which can lead to an injury—and will spread it to their colleagues like a wildfire.

    There are lots of low cost things that you can do to reduce the chances of your employees spreading illnesses throughout the workplace. For this post, I’ll be focusing on five that I think are the most effective, including:

    For educational materials on flu prevention and vaccination, you can look on the RMRx Safety Advisor or www.cdc.gov/flu.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Techniques in Trainings: Making Your Hand Safety Training Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb

    Nothing paints a clearer picture than walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. This is especially true when showing employees the downfalls of not following safety procedures. For this “Techniques in Trainings” post, I’ll be sharing an eye opening tactic that is sure to capture your Team Members’ attention when discussing hand/finger injury prevention—cutting their thumbs off.


    Life Without a Thumb

    When kicking off a training on avoiding hand/finger injuries, first ask your trainees to sit down. Sitting on the floor or a chair will both work equally well.

    Next, ask them to untie their shoes.

    Then, ask them to re-tie their shoes without using either of their thumbs.

    To keep the mood on the lighter side, announce that the first person to successfully re-tie their shoes will win a prize.

    Their dexterity will be severely limited, and most will quickly get disqualified or give up. A couple of points to make while the others attempt to get their laces tied that will reinforce the reality of losing a finger, include:

    Give those that continue to try about five minutes before stopping the activity and getting the group refocused—this will be sufficient to give them a taste of being thumbless. Beginning a training with a tangible activity that reinforces the objective (avoiding hand/finger injuries) makes it personal for the audience, as they will be able to feel firsthand the impact to their lives.

    I’m always looking for creative and interactive activities that other supervisors and trainers have used to interact with their teams. Please share what you do in the comments section—I look forward to reading your ideas.

    Stay tuned for my next “Techniques in Trainings” post—finding the plumbed eye wash station.

    Tom Keel


    Off-Site Safety—5 Tips to Prevent Slips-and-Falls During the Winter

    When your employee leaves the safe environment of your facility, you lose control over the safety of their workspace—especially in the winter months when ice and snow cause unsafe working surfaces.   This can have a huge impact on your workers’ compensation costs, as one slip-and-fall can skyrocket your premium and hurt your ex.mod for years to come.

    Five actions that you can take to reduce slip-and-fall exposures for employees working off-site include:

    1.      Communicate with your customers: Home and business owners don’t want your employee to slip and fall on their property.  But some of them don’t understand the hazards confronting your employees.  Teach your sales team to educate customers on clearing snow from their property.


    2.      Give your employee salt and a shovel:  Snow and ice removal may not be in your employees’ job description, but clearing their own path may be the only way they can get their job done safely.


    3.      Give your employees a rug: Field employees who enter peoples’ homes may find that homeowners do not have a way for them to clean off their shoes.  Employees should carry a rug to place at the entrance and another for their work area to trap slushy contaminants from their shoes.


    4.      Allow employees extra time:  Many industries pride themselves on quick and timely service calls, but rushing to and from a call can lead to slips-and-falls. When conditions are poor, instruct your team to take extra trips to and from the car with tools and equipment.  Remind them to use a clear travel path, even if it’s not the shortest route.


    5.      Require proper footwear:  Winter shoes are essential for safe winter walking.  Your employees should have fully enclosed shoes with deep tread designed to extract snow, slush and other contaminants from under the sole.  Slick dress shoes and high heels should not be allowed during the winter months for employees who work outside of the office.

    Managing the safety of field personnel is no easy task.  Take every chance you can to drive home the importance of safety with them.  The more informed they are, the safer the choices they will make.  Check back soon for my next off-site safety post on avoiding dog bites.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Better Design, Performance and Experience

    Your ICW Group RMRx Safety Advisor platform has been upgraded to enhance and streamline your safety program. Features include:

    1. Fresh new look
    2. More intuitive workflow
    3. Robust and mobile-friendly software architecture
    4. Now featuring over 300 online safety videos

    Click here for details.

    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    The Injury Domino Effect – Six Accident Expenses that are Costing Your Company Money

    As alarming as the workers’ compensation expenses listed on a loss report are, these only indicate the direct cost of the employee’s injury—which can sometimes be a fraction of the total cost of an accident Alarmingly, OSHA estimates that the Uninsured (Indirect) Costs range from three to twelve times the amount of Insured (Direct) Costs of a loss.

    Six types of uninsured, or indirect expenses are:

    1. Wages paid for time lost by workers who were not injured, including employees who stopped work to watch, or who assisted after the accident, as well as employees who lost time because of the equipment they normally work on was taken out of production due to the incident.
    2. Damage to material or equipment, including. This would equipment items in a state of disorder, or out of service pending an investigation.
    3. Overtime work necessitated by the accident. The difference between normal wages and the overtime wages as well as the extra costs associated with operating equipment extra hours can add up quickly.
    4. Incident related paperwork. This could include the cost for processing workers’ compensation forms, the accident investigation and other time charges not directly linked to production.
    5. Decreased output of the injured worker after he returns to work. For instance, after an employee returns to work, if he receives a full wage but his production output may be reduced.
    6. The training time and the learning period for a new worker. Training takes time out of production that would not normally be taken and a replacement worker is not likely to produce at the same rate as the experienced employees.

    As you can imagine, a business could have additional indirect costs not been listed here. Building a culture of safety can dramatically reduce the chances that an injury will spark a domino of costs, and improve employee morale. Our risk management consultants are available for free onsite consultations to see how we can help you develop the safest workplace possible.

    To learn more, contact your local risk management consultant.

    John Virsack, ARM


    Falls From Elevation in General Industry—Are Your Employees Protected?

    Falls from elevation continue to be one of the leading causes of workplace fatalities, second only to motor vehicle crashes. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

    It’s common to presume that most falls from elevation come from the construction industry. After all, these employees work from roofs, scaffolding, boom-lifts, scissor-lifts and ladders. However, many industries or worksites are at risk of exposing employees to falls from elevation.

    If your team members ever perform work where their feet are off of the ground, you should have safeguards in place to protect them.  The General Industry has a simple rule to follow:

    If an employee is working on a surface where they can be exposed to a fall greater than four feet, or there is a risk of falling into a dangerous machine or equipment, then fall protection is required.

    An easy way to find fall hazards at your facility is to get a measuring stick that is four feet long and take a walk. Hold it against unprotected loading docks, work platforms, catwalks and any other questionable elevated worksites and see how these locations measure up.

    In my next post on this topic, I’ll review safety tips you can easily implement that will help prevent falls and enhance your overall culture of safety.

    For more information, visit OSHA’s webpage on Fall Protection in General Industry and OSHA Walking Working Surfaces standard. Keep in mind that OSHA standards are considered the minimum; you can always do more to protect employees!

    Guest Bloggers


    Taking a Step Back to Find the Right Path Toward a Culture of Safety, Building a Valuable Loss Analysis Tool with Microsoft Excel

    Edward Deming once said “Decisions made in fact tend to be better decisions.” Understanding the facts surrounding your workers’ compensation losses can help you make better risk improvement decisions for your organization.

    A comprehensive analysis of past workers’ compensation losses can provide you with a realistic overview of your organization’s recurring claim problems and trends. These trends can act as a lens to help you predict and reduce future injury claims.

    A loss analysis is one of the tools used in the process for managing a company’s risk. The basic risk management process is:

    In order to reliably predict future loss incidents, conclusive workers’ compensation loss analysis should include several years of data. While there are a variety of software programs available for sale, you can create a simple and effective loss analysis tool using Microsoft Excel. At ICW Group, we create custom loss analyses for our clients to enrich their risk improvement decisions.

    Building Your Spreadsheet

    Before setting up your spreadsheet, think about what types of reports you may want to reference during your loss analysis, and then create the appropriate fields or columns in your spreadsheet. Each field or column will be a searchable name, so use separate fields for the data you will need to analyze.

    Your insurance company’s first report of injury or the OSHA 300 & 301 forms are a good starting point to help you decide what data forms to track. For instance, analyzing the cause of an injury is usually more helpful that an analysis of the type of injury. A type of injury (strain or sprain) could occur from a variety of different injury causes—such as a slip, trip or fall, overexertion, material handling or a repetitive task.

    Two essential measurement criteria are frequency (how many times a particular cause of injury occurred) and severity (how disabling was each of the injuries that occurred).  Severity can be measured in the total incurred cost of the reported claim, as indicated on an insurance company’s loss run, or in an injured worker’s total days lost or restricted from work, as indicated on an OSHA log.

    The loss run reports provided by most insurance companies provide this claims data for a specific policy year.  Many of these are available in an Excel spreadsheet format as well as a PDF report format—your insurance broker should be able to help with this inquiry.

    Over time, your spreadsheet will paint a clear picture of where your workplace safety issues lie, and guide you as you develop targeted solutions to prevent/reduce future injury claims—think of it as a compass as you build or rebuild your culture of safety.

    How do you measure and analyze your loss data? Write us back and let us know some of your tips for better loss analysis.

    John Virsack, ARM


    You and Your Workstation: Making Good Adjustments

    In today’s fast-paced work environment, it is important that the computer at your workstation be adjusted properly to provide the most comfort and efficiency. After continuing to find the same problems in my years of conducting hundreds of ergonomic assessments across several industries, I wanted to share some quick and efficient ways to correct them.

    The Chair: The chair is a key component of the workstation. Using a seat incorrectly with bad posture puts the body out of neutral alignment. Neutral alignment is sitting straight up in the chair with the body at a 90 degree angle. The usual causes for incorrect alignment include not adjusting the chair correctly to fully support the back and allowing the feet to be flat on the floor.

    Best practices include showing employees how to adjust their chairs and providing a foot rest. Also, the armrests may need to be raised, lowered or removed to allow the employee to be close to the desk.

    The Desk: Employees may have their work surface not properly arranged with the monitor being in the wrong place, not at the correct height or with a glare on the screen. Any of these may result in discomfort in the form of neck pain and eye strain.

    Ways to correct these issues include placing the monitor directly in front of them, lowering or raising the height to allow for eye comfort, and using an anti-glare screen to diffuse light. Also, changing the font size on the screen may help with eye comfort.

    Keyboard and Mouse: When the keyboard and mouse are not properly positioned, the arms and wrists may be placed in awkward postures. The hands may either be extended or flexed improperly. Common causes of this include having the keyboard too far away and propped up on its feet, and the mouse not being close enough to the hand that is using it. Corrections include moving the keyboard and mouse closer, lowering the keyboard from its feet, using a keyboard wrist rest for support, and if needed placing the keyboard and mouse on a tray with proper height adjustments.

    For additional information on ergonomics, check out http://mysafetynews.com/category/ergonomics/

    Guest Bloggers


    Preventing Manual Material Handling Injuries In Your Workplace

    Manual material handling accounts for a significant percentage of the thousands of cases of musculoskeletal disorders reported annually in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), workers’ compensation costs for an average lost-time injury for a shoulder are $20,000, and $25, 000 for a back.

    Manual materials may include items in boxes, manufacturing components, supplies used at jobsites, etc. that are moved by employees. Injuries from handling them (lifting, pulling, pushing, holding and carrying) are prevalent in many different types of work environments. From my experience visiting and working with different types of operations, there are a number of risk factors that can increase the likelihood of an injury. These include:

    • Weight of the objects handled
    • Force required moving the objects
    • Awkward postures including bending the back and reaching to grasp, hold or lift objects
    • Sudden twisting or jerking motions
    • Frequency and duration of handling the materials

    You can reduce your team’s chance of serious injury by using safe practices and following these prevention techniques:

    • Avoid bending over by having the materials elevated 18 inches from the ground—keep the items close to your body. Make sure your hands stay above waist height

    • Do not twist, and bend while lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying the load—keep the object between the knees and shoulders during the lift

    • Ensure that you have good footing and are wearing proper footwear

    • Do not make sudden or jerking movements while lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling and carrying

    • Use mechanical aids or devices such as dollies, manual roller conveyors, etc.

    • Redesign the workflow process if needed, including duration, personnel involved, etc

    • Do some daily stretching

    • Require material vendors and suppliers to provide lighter weight packages

    • Get help, if needed, before trying to move any item—especially for anything more than 50 pounds

    Guest Bloggers


    Having an Impact with Ergonomics

    Recently, a colleague asked me what safety topic I am most passionate about and without hesitation I answered ergonomics. Applying ergonomic training and controls can provide a unique opportunity to see an immediate and tangible impact on an individual’s well-being; not to mention a lagging impact on an organization’s profitability.

    At the onset of my career in safety I took a two day course in conducting ergonomic evaluations for office workstations. Shortly thereafter, when given the opportunity to do 30 evaluations for one of my clients, I was shocked to find out how many employees reported routine discomfort or pain after a long day sitting at their desk. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help them adjust their workstation and see it click in their minds that they don’t have to end every work day suffering in silence.

    Whenever I conduct ergonomics training, I start by asking the group if they typically have discomfort at their workstation. I’ve seen up to half the room raise their hands!

    How many of your workers are uncomfortable in their workspace because it hasn’t been properly adjusted to their body? How many of these workers are at risk of developing a painful and costly musculoskeletal disorder? Here are some tips for implementing your own ergonomics program, or evaluating your current one:

    If you would like help implementing an ergonomics program for your workplace contact your ICW Risk Management Consultant.

    Brian Piñon, CSP


    Is It Time to Go Paperless?

    We are all trying to use less paper and be more tech savvy these days; however, despite our efforts, many of us are still bombarded with paper forms for accident and near miss reports.

    One of my clients is trying something new to help reduce paper waste, keep organized and get accident and near miss reports to the safety manager in a timely manner.  They have created unique email addresses for reporting near misses and accidents, and may even expand this to include reporting of maintenance issues:

    Since these email addresses are not personal addresses they are accessible to more than one person and they also don’t get lost in the hundreds of other emails in someone’s personal inbox.  My client also identified a unique subject line to help them with their tracking.  Browsing through the inbox, the safety manager is able to find what he needs quickly because of how each email is formatted: “Department Date, Name.  In practice it would appear as “Warehouse 010315, Mary Smith.”

    Most states require certain forms to be completed after an injury, and some of those forms may need to be completed by hand and/or signed.  This can be accomplished using the information provided in the electronic accident form.  A signature is also usually required for employee and witness statements.  Some companies may also have to meet legal requirements for having the original paper copies of specific forms, but there is no OSHA standard requiring “paper” forms for documentation. If OSHA were to need a hard copy, the email can simply be printed.

    That being said, if your desk is piling up with paperwork, consider befriending someone in your IT department and get a few new email addresses created.


    Leslie Stoll, CSP, ARM


    Removing the Mystique of the OSHA 300 log

    Every New Year brings resolutions, hope, anticipation… and questions about the OSHA 300 log.

    While the OSHA log is a relatively simple form to fill out, there are some nuances that sometime become barriers for employers. But don’t fret! I am here to help break down the mystique of completing your 300 log.

    The log consists of three parts:

    I have separated the explanation of each part into three posts, so check back to learn about the 300A and 301.  This post focuses on the 300 Log.

    Form 300 classifies work-related injuries and illnesses, and details the extent and severity of each case. Employers with 11 or more employees are required to use the 300 form to record information about injuries and illnesses including how it occurred and a brief description of what occurred. Your information should be entered on the 300 form within seven calendar  days of receiving information (don’t wait until the end of the year).

    What do you record on the 300 form?

    This is one of the most common questions related to completing the 300 Log.  What do you record in the form?  Let’s break it down.  You should record any work-related injuries or illnesses that result in:

    It’s important to remember that the 300 form should not be posted for employees to review.  The 300 form includes personal information from your employees and is protected by HIPAA. The form that you post is the 300A Summary, and we’ll examine that next.



    “OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements.” United States Department of Labor. OSHA.gov, n.d. Web. 13 Feb 2015.  https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/index.html

    Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


    Who has to complete a hazard assessment?

    As a prior OSHA enforcement officer I have conducted many inspections of jobsites and shops for various industries to view their operations.  Prior to commencing, I would usually ask two Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) related questions:

    I have received various correct answers to the first question, but the second question is actually far more important.  Documenting how and why certain PPE was selected shows that the exposures have been identified and assessed. Usually this question confuses the company representative because most thought the selection of PPE was common sense.  A typical response was something like, “we are a cutting operation, so flying particles are the hazard, and eye protection must be worn.”  My next request was always to see documentation of the hazard assessment.

    There is a specific standard, 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(2), that applies to general industry that requires employers to certify that a hazard assessment was performed and the certification must include the date the evaluation was performed and the name of the person who completed it.  When filling out a hazard assessment, Safety Data Sheets (SDS) are a great resource in determining whether PPE is required or recommended when dealing with chemicals.

    While OSHA regulations only specify a certified hazard assessment be completed for general industry, it is typical in the construction industry for subcontractors to be required to provide a hazard assessment, sometimes referred to as a Jobsite Safety Analysis (JSA), prior to any jobsite operations.  This practice promotes the recognition of safety hazards and encourages workers to identify procedures to address these hazards.  The general duty clause requires employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards.  The first step in making sure that, as an employer, you meet this requirement is to complete a hazard assessment.

    Guest Bloggers


    Expect the Unexpected

    “Expect the Unexpected” is a statement that I’ve started using when training managers and supervisors. Namely because I believe management teams should take a broader, 360 degree view when it comes to safety.  The gist of this is that to truly protect employees, managers have to open their eyes to opportunities for safety improvement.

    This concept is easily applied in the workplace using your management team or even safety committee members.  As your management team walks through your facility, a quick glance at certain items and processes, or a broad overview of an area can allow them to identify concerns and opportunities for improvement. Additionally, this process provides overlapping layers of protection for areas where employees and customers interact, since by protecting one you are really protecting both.

    For this process to be successful, management has to remember that anything is possible and view operations with fresh eyes. Often, when reviewing an injury with a client, I get a response that is some version of  “I never thought that could happen.” Now, I know I’m not always the fun one at the party, but I really don’t enjoy pointing out signs that if picked up on could have prevented a serious injury.

    So how do you help prepare your team and management to expect the unexpected? I recommend that clients start with the below exercises:

    Remember, you’re not only looking for typical safety concerns (that is a safety inspection), you are looking for the unexpected—an electrical cord that hangs off the side of a counter, a missing handle on a drawer, rubber mats that don’t stay in place, light fixtures that hang too low, a hard hat worn backwards.  Do you see where I am going with this?

    Keep in mind that there are also opportunities to celebrate. Recognition is a great motivator.  For my next post on this topic, I’ll focus on how to showcase and highlight the departments and teams that are truly prepared for the unexpected.

    Ken Helfrich


    New Federal OSHA Reporting Requirements took effect January 1, 2015

    Effective January 1, 2015, Federal OSHA’s reporting requirements changed for covered employers. This change impacts employers in states that fall under Federal OSHA’s jurisdiction; employers operating in states that fall under a State run OSHA program can contact their local Area office for any changes.

    Under the prior Federal standard, employers must report by phone, or in person, to the nearest OSHA Area office:

    1)      All workplace fatalities, within 8 hours, or

    2)      The in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees (from the same incident) as a result of a work-related incident (within 8 hours).

    Beginning January 1, 2015, all covered employers must report:

    1)      All work-related fatalities within 8 hours of the incident, and

    2)      All work-related in-patient hospitalizations, amputations and losses of eye within 24 hours of finding out about the incident.

    Employers may report by calling their nearest Area Office during normal business hours, OSHA’s 24-hour hotline (1-800-321-6742), or employers will be able to report on line at https://www.osha.gov/report.html.

    Here’s the information you’ll need to provide:

    To ensure your entire management team is aware of these changes, make OSHA’s New Reporting Requirements your first training session of the New Year.


    “OSHA Fact Sheet: Updates to OSHA’s Recordkeeping Rule: Reporting Fatalities and Severe Injuries.” OSHA.gov. Department of Health Occupational Safety and Health, September 2014.  Web. 21 January 2015. https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping2014/OSHA3745.pdf

    “OSHA QuickTakes: New Reporting Requirements Go into Effect January 1.” OSHA.gov. Department of Labor Occupational Health and Safety Administration, Sept. 2014. Web. 21 Jan. 2015. https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/quicktakes/qt111714.html

    Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


    Propane Tanks- Winter Preparedness

    Propane is a gas that is stored as a liquid in pressurized cylinders.  As the ambient temperature rises, the liquid propane expands and, in doing so, the pressure inside the tank increases.  Significant changes in ambient temperature can lead to significant pressure changes and the potential for serious consequences.

    In cold weather, for example, when a propane tank is brought indoors, the propane expands quickly due to the increase in temperature. Due to the rapid expansion, it is possible for a fire or even an explosion to occur when a tank is more than 80% full.  If all is as it should be, the safety relief valve should expel the excess pressure; minimizing the negative effects.   That being said, it is vital to inspect the valve and fittings for integrity before transporting a cold tank inside.

    Here are some more things that should be considered if you use propane in your operations:

    Do you know what to do if propane gas is released in a confined space?

    1. Evacuate the area.
    2. Open windows and doors to air out the building.
    3. Keep in mind that propane is heavier than air, the propane will settle near the floor.  Make sure that pilot lights or flames are extinguished.
    4. Eliminate all sources of ignition.
    5. Close off the source of the leak..
    6. Do not restart any ignition sources until after the propane odor is eliminated.

    For more on this topic, check out: www.propanecouncil.org.

    Guest Bloggers


    Laying Off or Firing an Employee? Do It With TLC.

    If we think back, way back, many of us can probably remember a time in our life when our boss called us in to tell us we were being laid off or let go from our job.  Being part of that layoff might have been one of the most devastating and shocking moments of our lives.  We might have asked:  What did I do wrong? What could have I done better? Why me?  We might have felt anger, shame, sadness and helplessness.

    Many of these questions and feelings are common reactions for an employee that is being laid off.  Most people are able to get through this difficult situation and move forward positively. Others, however, can have negative reactions which can result in lawsuits, bad company publicity, questionable workers’ compensation claims and even workplace violence.

    So how can we minimize the potential for negative reactions due to a layoff or firing?  Do it with some TLC – Tender Love and Care.   Managing layoffs with compassion, honesty, respect and dignity will go a long way with helping an employee cope through the many emotions of sadness, fear and anger he or she might experience.  Providing support and resources will give that employee hope and the ability to move forward.

    The following is a list of best practices and resources that can help manage an employee layoff and minimize the potential for negative consequences.


    Terio Duran


    Here’s Your Equipment… Now What?

    On a recent vacation in Colorado, our family practiced the age-old risk management hazard control techniques of avoidance and substitution to ensure we did not get injured skiing. In place of the slopes, we substituted snow shoeing.

    The experience was great! No one was harmed during the expedition, and we found another form of exercise that was really enjoyable and easy to do.

    As we excitedly rushed into the sporting goods shop to rent our equipment, I was reminded of a recent OSHA training I attended which covered personal protective equipment (PPE); more specifically, how to properly train employees to use PPE. The example used in the OSHA class was hearing protection (ear plugs), and the instructor demonstrated step-by-step how to properly insert the ear plugs per manufacturer’s instructions.

    In the store, the clerk eyeballed the size of our feet, picked out snow shoes that seemed about the right size, and then gave us a quick tutorial on how to strap our feet into the shoes. We were all adults but also all novice snow shoe people.   As a group of four, we came up with four different ways to get our feet into the shoes and not one of our techniques was elegant.

    Being a visual learner, I watched my family members for a few seconds to see how they were putting on their gear, then attempted to strap on my shoes.  All the while, the clerk stood watching, but offering no insight into the best practice for putting on snow shoes. As an aside, putting on snow shoes in the warmth of a store is a much different experience than putting them on in the outdoors, while standing on slippery surface and balancing on one leg…  You get the picture.

    Tying this back to risk management and the importance of training, I should have asked the clerk for more specific instructions since I was not 100% clear on how to wear the equipment, and our clerk should have explained, step-by-step, how to unhook the shoe straps, slip one foot in, secure the strap, then repeat with the other foot.

    This training scenario plays out every day in the workforce with new hires and new workplace processes and equipment. To ensure your workers understand how to correctly use their equipment, and wear their PPE, you have to show them the proper way.  Then ask them to repeat the process to show competence and understanding.  Show them again if needed, observe daily and repeat training as necessary.

    Thomas Jolliff, ARM, CEES, ALCM


    Safety Meeting Pointers

    Have you overheard your employees complaining on the way to your safety meetings, “Oh, no.  Not another safety meeting!”

    If you have heard this on a frequent basis, it might be time to switch things up.  Here are some tips that help keep everyone’s attention and make your safety meetings more meaningful and effective.