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Summer 2003 Volume 20

Feature Articles

Today safety is a way of life. People are taking personal responsibility for their own safety and making plans to keep their families, communities and workplaces safe.

It’s part of a new “culture of preparedness” notes National Safety Council President Alan C. McMillan. With that in mind, the National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month. During the four weeks of June, the Council will provide tips, articles, and information to help businesses, organizations and individuals promote safety. Each week will be dedicated to a different aspect of safety — driving safety, home/community safety, preparedness and workplace safety.

EMC Insurance Companies is proud to celebrate safety with this edition of Loss Control Insights and encourages you to promote safety all year long. To assist you in your efforts, we are pleased to offer some basic safety tips.

Concrete worker

Driving Safety: Cell Phones And Driving
Driver distractions caused by cell phones becomes increasingly important as cell phone use becomes more prevalent. Remember, cell phones should not be used while the car is in motion. If it is unavoidable, please take these precautions:

  • Increase your following distance an additional three seconds.
  • Make it clear to the other party that you are using a cell phone and may need to interrupt the call to respond to traffic.
  • Move to the slower travel lanes and be conscious of the need to check mirrors to assess your driving situation.

Home/Community Safety: Preventing Slips And Falls
In 2000, falls in the home and community caused or led to 16,400 deaths. All age groups are vulnerable, but older adults are most at risk. Take the following actions to prevent slips and falls in homes.

  • Move telephone and electrical cords out of walkways.
  • Clean up spilled grease, water and other liquids immediately.
  • Use non-skid throw rugs on hard surfaced floors like linoleum, tile, hardwood, etc.
  • Install handrails in stairways. Have grab bars in bathrooms.
  • Use a sturdy step stool with hand rails when climbing or reaching high places.

Preparedness: Emergency Response Planning
A well-developed emergency response plan helps provide a safe environment for employees during an emergency and limits the loss of property. Your plan should spell out a course of action that notifies and directs personnel in acting immediately and correctly in all types of emergencies.

Be sure to avoid these common errors when developing and implementing your plan by establishing the following:

  • Upper management support.
  • Employee buy-in.
  • Training and practice.
  • Designated leader.
  • Keep the plan up to date.
  • Method of communication to alert employees.
  • Procedures for shutting down critical equipment.

Workplace Safety: Repetitive Motion Injuries
In 2001, nearly four million workers suffered a disabling injury on the job. The Bureau of Labor reports that 53 percent of those injuries involve cumulative trauma to the wrist. Be a “safety leader” and work to reduce the incidence and severity of cumulative trauma by taking the following steps:

  • Make sure employees are using tools, machines or equipment in a way that won’t cause strain over time.
  • Don't try to force your work patterns to fit the job.

Make Every Month Safety Month
Although the National Safety Council has designated June as National Safety Month, safety should be a top priority for your organization all year long. Be prepared, be safe, and be a leader - every day.

The National Safety Council has packed its website with various resources to support your safety efforts in June and throughout the rest of the year.


OSHA recently launched a web-based training tool to assist employers and employees in dealing with possible workplace exposures to anthrax —


IBM is voluntarily recalling 56,000 computer monitors for repair. The circuit boards can overheat and smoke, posing a fire hazard. For models affected and other details, visit


American Household Inc., formerly Sunbeam Corporation, has recalled about 60,000 Star ME-1 dry fire sprinklers which were manufactured between 1977 and 1982. In addition, 400,000 Star ME-1 Dry Fire Sprinklers made by Sprinkler Corporation of Milwaukee between 1983 and 1995 have also been recalled. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, these sprinklers are likely to fail to operate in a fire. For more details about affected sprinklers, visit

In addition to materials available from the National Safety Council, EMC can provide your organization with a wide variety of safety materials including:

  • Safety signs
  • Audio-visual materials
  • Safety tips
  • Loss Prevention Information Manual
  • A full range of loss control services.

For more information about any of these resources, call your local EMC agent or click on Policyholder Information and Resources.

Is your commercial kitchen properly protected? Nearly a decade after UL issued test standard UL300, many commercial kitchens have still not retrofit their suppression systems to meet the new fire suppression demands of deep fat frying with vegetable oils. The decreased use of animal fats and the increased use of vegetable oils have made many restaurant fire extinguishing systems inadequate.

What Was Safe In The 1960s No Longer Applies In Today’s Commercial Kitchens
Pre-engineered chemical suppression systems were originally developed in the 1960’s for the protection of commercial cooking equipment, plenums and ducts. UL developed a series of fire tests for these systems designed to duplicate the potential fire hazard found in restaurants.

At the time the original tests were developed, rendered animal fat (lard) was typically used in commercial kitchens to fry various foods. Today, however, restaurant suppliers estimate that 70 to 75 percent of commercial kitchens now use vegetable oils for frying in high-efficiency fryers.

This change has significantly altered the fire hazard in cooking areas. Today's vegetable fryers cook at much higher temperatures making fires hotter and more difficult to control.

The extinguishing agent employed in pre-1994 restaurant systems is an alkaline base. When a suppression system is discharged on a burning deep fat fryer containing rendered animal fat, a soap blanket is formed, cutting off the oxygen supply and containing the fire.

A similar fire involving vegetable oils creates a different set of circumstances. The higher temperatures of such fires, enhanced by the insulation in a high efficiency fryer, causes the soap blanket to break down. Thus, the extinguishing capability of the fire suppression system is reduced.

The Need For A New Standard
UL recognized the need for a new set of standards for pre-engineered systems and developed its new UL 300 standard. Unfortunately, UL did not require a model number change for those manufacturers who will be modifying existing system designs to comply with the new UL 300 standard. The only requirement is the issuance of a new installation and maintenance manual containing whatever changes and modifications were found necessary for compliance with the new standard, plus the effective date of the revised publication. This could lead to some confusion because of similarities between the old and new system components.

Does Your System Comply With Current Standards?
How can you determine if the system in your kitchen area complies with the new UL 300 standard? It is suggested that the contractor be required to include with the submittal package a copy of the manufacturer's installation and maintenance manual that would specifically indicate it is in compliance with the new standard and dated November 1994 or later.

UL 300 Means A Change For The Better For The Protection Of Your Property And
The Safety Of Your Employees And Customers

UL 300 addresses a problem in fire protection for commercial cooking environments which reflect changes in our diet and the way we prepare food. All of these changes have resulted in fires which are hot, stubborn and difficult to extinguish. As a result, pre-engineered systems for commercial cooking operations will become more detailed, more technical and more expensive. They will also be safer, more reliable and perform their primary function better than ever before.

Kidde? Supports UL300 — Kidde Fire Systems has ceased to install, inspect, service, recharge or repair dry chemical systems protecting kitchen appliances and ventilation. When encountering such a system, Kidde will advise customers that the only acceptable action is to upgrade to a UL 300 wet chemical system.

A comprehensive analysis of past losses can provide your operation with a realistic overview of past problems and claim trends. EMC’s risk improvement team can provide a detailed accident-by-accident report of your operation.

Additionally, use of an in-house database of approximately 500,000 claims allows EMC to develop comparative loss analysis for a wide variety of industries. These reports are essential in helping you establish and monitor a loss prevention program tailored to the needs of your specific business.

Claims coding can be established for most commercial coverage to identify from which facility, location, or department claims are originating. Output can be tailored to your needs. Our most requested formats include color bar charts and pie charts grouped by location and broken down by accident type, source, nature of injury, and body part.

Heat is a serious hazard in outdoor work. Whether they’re on roads, roofs or construction sites, outdoor workers need to be aware of the dangers of heat stress.

According to the National Safety Council, on average, 384 people die each year from heat stroke; but heat stroke is just one condition that can result from overheating. Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat rash are other painful heat-related injuries.

Iowa State University’s Department of Environmental Health & Safety offers the following tips to help reduce the likelihood of heat-related injuries.

  • Allow time for employees to adjust to hot jobs. It often takes two to three weeks for an employee to become acclimated to a hot environment.
  • Assign heavier work on cooler days or during the cooler parts of the day.
  • Increase the use of equipment on hot days to reduce physical labor.
  • Train workers to recognize the signs and symptoms of heat stress and be prepared to give them first aid if necessary.
  • Avoid placing “high risk” employees* in hot environments for extended time periods.
  • Encourage employees to wear light colored, loose clothing, keep shaded from direct heat where possible, and drink plenty of water.

With caution and common sense, you can reduce the chance of heat-related injuries and maintain job performance throughout the summer months.

* Employees with heart, lung or kidney diseases, diabetes and those on medication are more likely to experience heat stress problems.

Summer heat, stop and go traffic and dust will take a toll on your vehicles. Couple this with the effects that winter has had, and you could be poised for an unanticipated breakdown. If your business is dependent on vehicles, the following summer maintenance tips will help keep you on the road.

  • Air Conditioning — A marginally operating air conditioning system will fail during hot weather. Have the system examined by a qualified technician. Remember, discharging Freon into the air is against the law.
  • Cooling System — The greatest cause of summer breakdown is overheating. Cooling systems should be completely flushed and refilled every 24 months.
  • Engine Performance — Replace all filters (air, fuel, pvc, etc.) as recommended or more often if operating in dusty conditions.
  • Windshield Wipers - Replace worn wiper blades and be sure vehicles have an ample supply of washer fluid.
  • Lights — Inspect all lights and bulbs. Periodically clean dirt and insects from all lenses using a moist rag to prevent scratching.
  • Tires — Check tire pressures once a month. At the same time, examine tires for tread life, uneven wearing and cupping.
  • Batteries — The only accurate way to detect a weak battery is with professional equipment. Routine care includes scraping away corrosion from posts and cable connections.
  • Emergencies — Make sure vehicles have basic tools such as a first aid kit, flares, flashlight and extra water (in the event of a coolant leak).

A little preventive maintenance now will ensure safe and problem-free driving all summer long.

While some people think head restraints are there for comfort, people who have been involved in low-speed, tail-end accidents know better. They know that head restraints reduce the likelihood of neck injuries such as whiplash.

Insurance Research Council studies on injuries in auto accidents have found that soft tissue injuries such as neck and back sprains and strains constitute the greatest number of injuries sustained by auto injury victims.

Although car manufacturers continue to improve the design of head restraints, safety advocates stress that occupants must take an active role in making sure that head restraints are used properly. Often, motorists choose to leave them in the lowest position, which may provide inadequate protection against whiplash injury.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the economic cost of neck injuries is at least $7 billion per year. If your organization employs drivers, you can help control those costs by making them aware of the proper use of head restraints. Saab, who pioneered the use of head restraints in 1958, offers the following tips.

  • Sit in the seat and adjust the restraint so that it cushions the back of the middle of the head, not just the neck.
  • If the restraint allows you to adjust the angle, it should be moved as close to the head as possible.
  • Recline the front seats slightly rather than positioning them upright.
  • Properly adjusted head restraints should be used by the driver and all other passengers.

Remember, head restraints are more than head rests. They serve an important purpose and, when used properly, can protect drivers from painful neck injuries and protect your organization from costly medical claims.