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Winter 2001 Volume 11

Feature Articles

How did companies respond to the challenge of creating safer workplaces this past year? Based on reports from EMC loss control experts, businesses implemented everything from improved training to changes in equipment. “As the medical and legal costs associated with worksite injuries continue to rise, companies are taking more proactive steps to reduce the incidence and severity of loss,” notes EMC Vice President-Risk Improvement Norm Anderson. As the following stories demonstrate, effective loss control starts by identifying a safety concern or problem, developing an appropriate solution, making the changes and monitoring the results.

  • Hazard Training Pays Off
  • Problem: A multi-state retail operation didn’t wait for accidents to get out-of-hand to do something about them.
  • Solution:Hazard recognition training was provided to managers and supervisors for all stores.
  • Success:The company reported a 49 percent drop in workers' compensation claims.
  • A Change In Equipment Changes The Risk
  • Problem: A company was using regular-sized, two-wheel carts to transport 55-gallon drums of recycled material. The small size of the cart not only made for an awkward load but required excessive force to maneuver the load.
  • Solution: The small cart was replaced with a heavy-duty hand truck that offered increased load capacity and featured an oversized base.
  • Success:The employees have a much easier, more efficient and safer method of transporting material in the plant.
  • Improving The Work Environment
  • Problem: Sanitary conditions in the bathrooms and break area of a foundry were less than positive.
  • Solution: The sink area in the bathrooms were enclosed and a door and ceiling was added to the break area.
  • Success:Employees now enjoy the benefits of bathroom and break area environments that are free from the unpleasant elements of the workplace.
  • The Value Of A Sprinkler System Inspection
  • Problem: During a routine sprinkler system inspection, an EMC loss control expert noticed that one set of gauges had less pressure than the others.
  • Solution: A recommendation was made to have all gauges examined. Upon investigation, it was discovered that a control valve was turned off at the street, and the indicator on the valve was installed incorrectly.
  • Success:Up until the inspection, the facility was operating with 25 percent of its automatic sprinkler system shut off. Today, the system is operating at 100 percent.
  • Spreading The Word About Safety
  • Problem: A city’s water department wanted to ensure that employees were safe from harm and assist the city in realizing the monetary savings resulting from less claims and lower insurance costs.
  • Solution:The water department augmented its safety program with Partnership Services and Standards Assistance from EMC’s Risk Improvement Department. The city also enhanced its safety training program with videos from EMC’s audio-visual library.
  • Success: The efforts made on the part of the city, and with the assistance of EMC, have had a positive impact on the city’s workers’ compensation mod. Their current mod is down 13 percent from five years ago. Furthermore, the city received state and national awards for its safety training efforts, including the prestigious George W. Burke Safety Award presented by the National Water Environmental Foundation. This award was last presented to a city in 1997.

Winter storms bring ice, snow, cold temperatures and often dangerous driving conditions. The threat of fire is also very strong during the winter months. Therefore, the Federal Emergency Management Administration and the U.S. Fire Administration encourage you to keep the following conditions in mind to help protect from the potential threat of fire during or after a winter storm.

  • Alternative heating devices used incorrectly create fire hazards.
  • Water damaged electrical appliances and equipment can be electrically charged.
  • Frozen water pipes can burst and cause safety hazards.
  • Leaking gas lines, damaged or leaking gas propane containers and leaking vehicle gas tanks may explode or ignite.
  • Generators often used during power outages that are not properly used and maintained may be very hazardous.
  • If there is a fire hydrant near your building, keep it clear of debris for easy access by the fire department.

You can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a winter fire casualty by being able to identify these and other potential hazards in your workplace.

When a boiler containing 500 gallons of water at a pressure of 100 pounds per square inch explodes, the expansive blast releases about 53,000,000 foot pounds of energy. This is sufficient to demolish a sizeable, substantially constructed building. Still, the misconception prevails that low pressure heating boilers are not nearly as dangerous as high pressure boilers.

A large percentage of boiler low water accidents involve failure of low water cut-offs due mainly to the lack of maintenance. So in addition to weekly draining of float chambers, all float type water cut-offs should be disassembled during routine servicing of a boiler to remove all scale and rust. The large number of accidents due to low water in the boiler also emphasizes the advisability of installing two low water cut-offs on each automatically fired boiler which is not constantly attended.

Contact your agent or visit to receive further information about protecting your property from the devastating impact of low water boiler accidents.

In the largest study of its kind ever conducted, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found no evidence that back belts reduce back injury or back pain for retail workers who lift or move merchandise.

The study surveyed 9,377 employees at 100 newly opened stores of a national retail chain over a two-year period. No statistically significant difference was found between the incidence rate of workers’ compensation claims for job-related back injuries among employees who reported using back belts every day, and the incidence rate of such claims among employees who reported never using back belts or using them no more than once or twice a month.

Similarly, no significant difference was found between the rate of back injury claims among employees required to use back belts, and the rate of such claims in stores where back belt use was voluntary.

In recent years, back belts have been widely used in numerous industries in an attempt to prevent worker injury during lifting. The results of the new study are consistent with NIOSH's previous finding, reported in 1994, that there is insufficient scientific evidence that wearing back belts protects workers from job-related back injury.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders cost the economy an estimated $13 billion every year, and a substantial proportion of these are back injuries,” said CDC Director Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H. “By taking action to reduce exposures, employers can go a long way toward keeping workers safe and reducing the costs of work-related back injury.”

Even for employees in the most strenuous types of jobs, comparisons of back injury claims and self-reported back pain failed to show any differences in rates or incidence associated with back belt use.

For assistance in reducing your employees' exposure to back injuries, contact your EMC agent.

With the assistance of its EMC loss control engineer, an Iowa foundry made the following changes to improve the safety of its facility:

  • Painted moving parts on a lift system for improved visibility.
  • Slowed down carts on a track to keep them from jumping off the track.
  • Added a belly bar to a piece of production equipment so workers are not straining their backs as much.
  • Anchored a stand to the ground to provide workers with a much more stable surface on which to stand.
  • Improved the tilt on a forklift so that stacks are not leaning or tipping when elevated.

Up to 15 percent of all work injuries and 20 percent of disabling injuries involve machines or some type of power equipment. Yet, one of the simplest and often the least expensive means of preventing an injury, is proper machine safeguarding.

While the main purpose of safeguarding production machinery is the protection of the operator, safeguarding also can increase production. Operators on unprotected machines work more slowly and fearfully. A well-guarded machine improves operator confidence and efficiency.

Remember, failure to properly guard machines can lead to serious injury as well as substantial OSHA fines.

Contact your EMC agent to receive further information about machine safeguarding.

According to the Labor Department, the much-delayed OSHA ergonomics standard designed to reduce back strains and sore muscles among 102 million of the nation’s workers will take effect on January 16, 2001.

Once implemented, employers must provide the required basic information about the ergonomics standard to employees by October 14, 2001. After that date, employers must begin receiving and responding to employee reports of musculoskeletal signs and symptoms. However, a lawsuit filed by the National Coalition on Ergonomics (NEC) is challenging the appropriateness and legitimacy of the finalized ergonomic standard. The primary grounds for the NEC lawsuit include:

  • Medical research does not adequately support the need for this OSHA regulation, which must be grounded in an evidence-based “significant risk”.
  • The standard remains too vague and incomprehensible to meet administrative law or Constitutional requirements.
  • OSHA has produced a fatally flawed economic analysis.
  • OSHA has committed serious procedural violations, including the issuance of a completely altered final standard without a new round of public comment.

Intended to reduce musculoskeletal (MSD) disorders for everyday jobs, the new regulations affect all general industry (except agriculture, maritime and construction), regardless of company size. The final rule, if implemented, outlines the following procedures:

  • Employers must inform workers about common musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), signs and symptoms of MSDs and the importance of early reporting.
  • When a worker reports a sign or symptom of MSDs, the employer must determine whether the injury meets the definition of an MSD incident — a work-related MSD that requires medical treatment beyond first-aid, assignment to a light duty job or temporary removal from work to recover, or work-related MSD signs that last for seven or more consecutive days.
  • If it is an MSD incident, the employer must check the job, using a basic screening tool (provided by OSHA), to determine whether the job exposes the worker to risk factors that could trigger MSD problems. If the risk factors meet the levels of exposure in the screening tool, the job will have met the standard’s action trigger.
  • If the job meets the action trigger, the employer must set up an MSD reporting and response system and an ergonomics program, conduct a job hazard analysis, provide training to employees in jobs that meet the trigger, provide access to a health care professional at no cost to the injured employee, provide work restriction protection (100% of earnings and full benefits) to employees who receive temporary work restrictions as a result of MSDs, evaluate the ergonomics program and complete all required paperwork.

It is estimated that the implementation of these standards will cost American businesses $18 billion! With the stakes this high, we encourage you to keep close tabs on the lawsuit and impending legislation. You can find out more about this crucial issue by visiting or talking with your EMC agent and a representative from our Risk Improvement Department.

Radial Arm Saw Recall
Emerson Tool Co. is recalling about 3.7 million Craftsman radial arm saws for repair. These saws were sold without a guard that covers the entire blade. For more information, call 1-800-511-2628.

First Alert Fire Extinguisher Recall
BRK Brands is recalling about 600,000 First Alert household fire extinguishers that fail to discharge when activated. For more information, call 1-800-638-2772.

Keep Hydrants Clear Of Snow
Now that winter has us in its icy grip, remember to advise your snow removal contractor not to push snow up around nearby fire hydrants. Covered hydrants are difficult for fire departments to locate in emergency situations. If you do notice nearby hydrants covered with snow, please take the time to dig them out!