Fall 2007 Volume 36

Feature Articles

Throughout his three years in the accounting department for a company, Sean Davis had been a model employee. Sean insisted on handling any problems or discrepancies personally, and made it clear that the buck stopped with him.

In fact, many bucks did stop with him — followed him home and neatly deposited themselves into his bank account. In three short years, Sean managed to use his authority to bilk the company of nearly $100,000. If janitorial workers had not discovered a suspicious amount of discarded receipts, the theft would have continued undetected.

Is your organization immune to these types of losses? Read on…

Specialists say the cost of employee theft and embezzlement adds up to billions of dollars annually. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, organizations lose 6 percent of their revenues to dishonesty from within. Security experts estimate that as many as 30 percent of all employees do steal, and that another 60 percent will steal if given sufficient motive and opportunity. With dramatic figures like these, taking steps to eliminate theft and graft within a firm are sure to yield returns. The Small Business Administration offers the following tips to reduce employee theft.

Keep a Closer Eye
Watch for the tell-tale signs of internal theft. One subtle but noticeable indication of dishonest employees may be an unexplained rise in their living standards. Pay close attention to management-level personnel who insist on handling routine clerical tasks themselves. And be on guard for clients complaining about overcharging or inconsistencies in shipping and billing practices.

Find People You Can Trust
Some employees have theft in mind from the start. You can weed out some of these people by performing thorough background checks on all new hire prospects, particularly for sensitive positions involving the flow of money.

Make It Hard to Steal
Even though delegation of tasks is unavoidable, try to have a management-level supervisor oversee inventory and bookkeeping. If this is not possible, consider dividing these tasks among several staff members so no single employee has too much authority. Occasional inspections or audits of inventory and bookkeeping help in preventing fraud and theft. It is possible to install physical obstacles to theft, such as alarm systems and secured, restricted areas. However, be aware that such obvious measures can have a negative effect on morale.

Determine Clear Policies
To reinforce these other measures, a company should distribute clear, written policies on ethical behavior to be signed by each employee-including the owner.

Work Together with Employees
Workers will be less likely to steal if you create an environment in which they think there is a good chance of being caught. Training and “employee awareness” programs can inform workers about stealing problems and keep them on the lookout for theft of any kind. To make a security program such as this effective, it is crucial employees know they can turn over incriminating information on anyone in the firm without fearing job loss or other repercussions.

Provide Alternatives to Stealing
The most troubling cases of employee theft occur when workers are in desperate financial straits. Let employees know in advance that they can come to management for assistance rather than resorting to theft. Employee substance abuse is intimately linked with financial problems and theft. If your firm does not already have a procedure for screening workers for drugs or alcohol, it may benefit from one.

Set an Example
Employees need to know that one uniform ethical standard applies to everyone in the firm. Executives and managers should be positive role models for workers.

10 Safe Hiring Tools

Almost 10 percent of job applicants have criminal convictions and up to one-third of resumes contain serious falsehoods or omissions. To promote safe hiring, Lester Rosen, president of Employment Screening Resources*, a national background screening firm, suggests the following 10 evaluation tools.

  1. Have each job applicant sign a consent form for a background check, including a check for criminal records, past employment and education.
  2. Employment applications should ask about criminal records in the broadest possible terms allowed by law, and should not be limited to felonies.
  3. Advise applicants that the firm will perform a criminal background and reference check as a standard business practice. Ask whether the applicant has any concerns to share.
  4. Applicants should be asked during an interview what they think a former employer will say about them.
  5. Applications must clearly state that any false or misleading statements or material omissions are grounds to terminate the hiring process or employment, regardless of when it is discovered.
  6. If employment begins before a background check is completed, state in writing that employment is contingent upon a satisfactory background report.
  7. Verify past employment. This is probably the single most important tool for an employer.
  8. Obtain a listing of all addresses for the past 10 years. This is also needed for a criminal search.
  9. Include future screenings in the consent language in case a future investigation is needed for a criminal search.
  10. Check for criminal records. You may consider convictions or cases currently pending, but not arrests. Also, certain cases may not legally be used for employment decisions

* For additional information about Employment Screening Resources, visit ESRcheck.com

According to loss control experts, employee theft usually occurs when three key elements exist.

  • Opportunity — Even the most honest employee can be tempted to steal when he/she sees there are vulnerabilities in your system.
  • Pressure — Drug or alcohol dependency, gambling problems, divorce, serious illness and other economic pressures can lead to employee theft.
  • Attitude — Some employees may think that the company owes them something and they have a right to take it.

Other Topics:

Safe digging is no accident. One free, easy call gets your utility lines marked and helps protect your workers from injury. Always call 811 before you dig.

safety signs

To assist in keeping your workplace safe, EMC Insurance Companies has over 240 different safety signs available free of charge to our commercial policyholders.

Whether you’re warning workers and visitors about hazardous areas, reminding employees to wear protective gear or promoting energy conservation, EMC’s online sign catalog has signs for every purpose.

Signs:

  • Warnings
  • Danger
  • Caution
  • Notices
  • Restrictions
  • Information
  • Careful/Safety First
  • Miscellaneous
  • Retail Operations

All signs are 8.5” X 11” and available laminated or on coated paper unless otherwise noted. Laminated signs are recommended for harsher environments. Custom signs are available upon request.

Count on EMC to help keep your workplace safe with free safety signs. For more information, visit the Loss Control pages of emcinsurance.com.

Icy Eaves

Preparing roofs for winter is a task often overlooked by many building owners, because they believe if the roof is not leaking, there are no problems. Benchmark, a leading roof and pavement consulting firm, recommends checking roof areas before snow, high winds and other winter weather conditions set in, to prevent costly leaks. To maintain a sound roof, follow these steps:

Active Leaks
A qualified contractor should be notified to make repairs as soon as leaks occur. If the roof system is under warranty, the manufacturer should also be notified of any leaks.

Field Membrane
Walk over the roof area to see if anything looks out of place, such as blistering, ridges in the membrane, eroded areas, misplaced ballast, or misaligned or loose pavers. If these deficiencies are occurring, they should be corrected as soon as possible by a qualified contractor.

Penetration Flashings
All penetrations should be checked to be sure they are sealed and secured.

Perimeter Flashings
The perimeter flashings should be checked for securement and any openings that could allow water to enter the building.

Roof-Related Sheet Metal
All roof-related metal should be checked for securement, sealed joint laps and missing components. These items could cause problems during winter months.

Drainage
Poor drainage is one of the most common problems during winter. The following should be done:.

  • Make sure all drains are open and allowing water to exit
  • Clean all debris in and around drains that could plug strainers and restrict water flow
  • Check gutters and downspouts to make sure they are secured and that all debris is removed
  • If heat tapes are in place in the gutters, downspouts or drains, make sure they are in working order

Miscellaneous/Adjacent Conditions
The following items are also often overlooked prior to winter, and should be checked for deficiencies — ductwork, door seals, open joints in walls, skylights and penetrations through walls.

By making sure all these items are checked prior to winter, you can save yourself some headaches and money. Remember, it’s usually more costly to hire a contractor during winter when it’s more difficult to find and repair a problem.

Most roofs are the best they are going to be at the time they are installed. Unfortunately, problems are inevitable as the roof ages. Without proper and routine maintenance, minor problems can become catastrophic. Buildings magazine identified the following top 10 problems that plague low-slope roofs.

  1. Roof leaks and moisture
  2. Blow-offs, tenting, reduced wind uplift resistance and billowing
  3. Poor installation and unsatisfactory workmanship
  4. Lack of maintenance
  5. Ponding water
  6. Punctures and the addition of penetrations post-installation
  7. Safety
  8. Improper repairs
  9. Shrinkage
  10. Blistering

Ensuring a quality installation, providing the roof with consistent maintenance and the early detection of problems through routine inspections can help maximize roof life. As the roof ages, the likelihood of problems increases; however, it is how these problems are addressed that will determine the fate and future of your roof system.

How well are employers in your state controlling the incidence of workplace injuries? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the best indicator of a state’s performance compared to other states is its injury rate. Check the map below to see how your state ranks. For more detailed information about your state, consult with your state’s Department of Labor.

Rate* of total recordable injuries, by state, 2004.

recordable injuries by state

  • Black - higher than 5.9
  • White - 5.1 to 5.9
  • Yellow - 4.3 to 5.0
  • Blue - lower than 4.3
  • Gray - Data not available

National Rate for Private Industry = 4.8

*Rate is the number of injuries per 100 full-time workers. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

FREE OSHA POSTERS
Advertisements suggesting that OSHA workplace posters must be purchased from private companies may be misleading. Official OSHA posters are available at no cost on the publications page of osha.gov or by calling 202-693-1888.

OSHA OFFERS NEW TOOLS FOR SPANISH TRAINERS
The Spanish Outreach Trainers Lists and References for Spanish Trainers are new web-based resources for Spanish-speaking trainers and students. Learn more about these tools at osha.gov.

VENTILATION STANDARDS
Two industry consensus standards on ventilation have been revised — Fundamentals Governing the Design and Operation of Local Exhaust Ventilation Systems and Recirculation of Air from Industrial Process Exhaust Systems. The revised standards are available through the American Industrial Hygiene Association at aiha.org and the American National Standards Institute at ansi.org.

Contractors

Overexertion reported by drywall installers may be responsible for a high proportion of costs for medical care, impairment and pay-loss days.

When asked what they believe is their greatest risk of physical stress, drywall installers answer lifting, carrying and holding drywall. A recent National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) study confirmed this, citing that the two main causes of injuries to drywall installers are overexertion and falls.

Installing drywall can create a number of safety risks, including falls, overexertion and muscle strains — particularly in the back. NIOSH recommends the following precautions when installing drywall.

  • Know the weight of the drywall sheet before starting the job and plan accordingly. Sheets of drywall can weigh between 55 to 120 pounds, so it is important to ensure you have adequate workers to handle the job.
  • To minimize the need for transport, have the drywall sheets delivered directly to the place where they will be installed. If transport is necessary, use forklifts, dollies or hand trucks to move the sheets.
  • If possible, do not install drywall by hand. Have a drywall lift or drywall jacks available, especially for working with heavier sheets and ceilings.
  • Be sure that all workers are familiar with proper installation and lifting techniques. Each worker should be wearing PVC-dot group gloves to make it easier to lift and hold drywall sheets.
  • When hanging vertical pieces, raise the sheet, shift grips to opposite sides of the sheet and then rotate into a vertical position to secure to the wall.
  • Use two workers to lift larger, heavier sheets and lift only one sheet at a time.
  • Be sure workers take adequate breaks to avoid overexertion, and rotate each worker’s task throughout the project.

Everyday Work. Everyday Injuries.
The following case reports demonstrate how easily and quickly injuries can happen as part of a drywall installer’s everyday work.

  • While stepping up to his drywall bench lifting a 12-foot long, 120-pound drywall sheet, a carpenter slipped and fell forward, twisting and straining his knee.
  • A drywall installer developed tendonitis after lifting and carrying twelve 10-foot sections of drywall up 20 steps.
  • A carpenter dislocated his shoulder after lifting and hanging multiple 16-foot-long, 125-pound drywall sheets on a ceiling.

Each year, about 50 construction workers are killed as a result of falls from ladders. Many of these falls can be prevented by proper planning, correct ladder selection, good work procedures and ladder maintenance. OSHA recommends the following tips for safe use of portable ladders.

  • Read all instructions and warning labels and inspect the ladder before every use.
  • When placing the ladder, look overhead to make sure there are no electrical hazards.
  • Make sure the ladder is placed on stable, level ground.
  • Do not move a ladder while a person or equipment is on it.
  • Be sure all locks are engaged.
  • Always maintain three-point contact when climbing a ladder (two hands and a foot; two feet and a hand).
  • Be sure to barricade a ladder if it is being placed in an area where it can be displaced by other work activity.
  • Do not use the top rung of the ladder as a step unless the ladder has been specifically designed for that purpose.
  • Always be aware of the ladder’s load rating and do not exceed this, also considering the weight of any equipment.

Local Governments

Firefighter

Three-quarters of firefighters who died of heart attacks — the top cause of on-duty deaths — went to work with known or detectable heart conditions, according to a recent analysis of firefighter fatalities by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Because unfit firefighters pose a danger to themselves, fellow firefighters and the public if they become incapacitated during emergency response, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health suggests the following steps to reduce on-duty heart attacks and other sudden cardiovascular events.

  • Provide medical evaluations to ensure that candidates and members of the force are capable of performing job tasks with minimal risk of incapacitation.
  • Ensure that physicians conducting medical evaluations are knowledgeable about the physical demands associated with firefighting.
  • Implement a comprehensive wellness/fitness program for firefighters to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
  • Control exposure to carbon monoxide and other fire contaminants through proper management of the fire scene and proper use of respiratory protection.
  • Provide on-scene rehabilitation to monitor vital signs for indications of excessive cardiovascular strain and to cool and hydrate firefighters.
  • Ensure adequate staffing levels for operations to prevent overexertion.

Petroleum Marketers:

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 30 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise. Are your transport drivers at risk?
Semi Cab

Truck drivers face numerous risks on the road; however, one risk that is often overlooked is the impact of noise levels on a driver’s health. Drivers with prolonged exposure to noises from the engine, exhaust system and traffic have reported higher levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue and hearing damage.

Gasoline and distillate transport drivers face unique noise exposure risks not experienced by over-the-road drivers, according to a recent study reported by the American Society of Safety Engineers. Unlike the majority of studies which focused on noise exposures for over-the-road drivers, this study was conducted specifically on gasoline and distillate transport drivers. Its goal was to determine which tasks and work conditions resulted in noise exposures above or below the 10-hour OSHA action level of 83.4 dBA.

Based on the results, the authors of this study offer the following recommendations to reduce noise exposure for drivers.

  • Drivers should stand 20 feet from the truck product pump when it is operating. Ear plugs should be worn if the driver has to stay close to the transport’s shut-off valves during pumping operations.
  • Drivers should not stand near the truck grill for any longer than it takes to complete their inspection duties.
  • The maximum amount of noise-attenuating cab insulation should be specified by each transport manufacturer when ordering the transport.
  • Additional noise monitoring should be conducted when different manufacturers and/or models of cabs are introduced to the workplace
  • Each workplace using transports should have a written policy establishing the driver’s responsibility to maintain window and radio configurations at safe levels to protect hearing.
  • AM/FM radio, company radio, CB or cell phone should not be operated at volumes greater than the appropriate action level.
  • Windows should be closed or not opened more than one inch when driving on the highway at speeds of 55 mph or greater.

TYPICAL NOISE SOURCES

Truck idling (front of cab grill)86-87 dBA
Radio on at maximum volume105 dBA
Connecting/disconnecting hoses80-94 dBA
Standing near product flow in hoses82-84 dBA
Opening/closing lid covers to underground storage tank fill caps80-98 dBA
Loading/unloading fill helmetsat cabinet86-89 dBA
Driver window down; 55 mph; no traffic86-91 dBA

An effective hearing conservation program can prevent hearing loss, improve employee morale and a general feeling of well-being, increase quality of production and reduce the incidence of stress-related disease. Minimum requirements of a hearing conservation program include:

  • Monitoring — Implement a monitoring program whenever any employee’s exposure may equal or exceed the OSHA action level.
  • Audiometric Testing — Maintain an audiometric testing program for all employees exposed at or above the action level of 85 dBA-TWA (time-weighted average).
  • Hearing Protection Devices (HPDs) — HPDs are generally used during the necessary time it takes to implement engineering or administrative controls, or when such controls are not feasible.
  • Employee Training and Education — Institute a training program for all employees and ensure employee participation.
  • Recordkeeping — OSHA recordkeeping regulations assist you in recognizing and correcting workplace hazards by tracking work-related injuries/illnesses and their causes.
clock

Most of us knew it long ago, but a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School confirms it — fatigue and stress caused by long working hours indirectly contributes to workplace accidents and mishaps.

After analyzing 5,100 work-related injuries and illnesses, researchers found that more than half occurred in jobs with extended working hours or overtime. The study noted that employees who work overtime were 61 percent more likely to suffer a work-related illness or injury than employees who didn’t work overtime. According to the study, the most common injuries were muscle and joint pain, followed by cuts and bruises.

While longer working hours were associated with an increased risk of illness and injury, there was no link between long commutes and work-related illness or injury.

Which Workers Are More At Risk?
According to a recent Gallup poll, the following types of workers tend to work more than the U.S. \ average of 42 hours a week.

  • On average, workers in households earning at least $75,000 per year spend 45 hours a week on the job.
  • Employed adults with higher education levels spend more time at work than those with less education.
  • Men spend more time at work than women, with men averaging a 46-hour workweek and women a 40-hour workweek.
  • Non labor union members, on average, work more (44 hours per week) than those who belong to a union (42 hours per week).

Schools:

Chances are a teacher or custodian at your school will slip or fall this school year. After all, those are some of the most prevalent and costly accidents, according to a recent analysis of claims reported by Iowa schools insured by EMC. “Although these figures represent our experience with Iowa schools, we would expect to see similar findings with schools in other states,” notes Kevin Clayton, EMC engineer. “Armed with this information, schools can focus their loss control efforts in the right direction.”

pie charts