Read about how to manage and reduce your workplace risk, keeping your employees safe and making your workplace compliant.

Ladder Safety: Take it 1 step at a time

Falls from elevated surfaces are listed as one of the top 10 causes of accidents in the workplace. Most of these accidents occur due to failure to follow basic ladder safety. To help prevent ladder injuries, practice the following safety tips:

Set up safely and use the right ladder

Make sure you select the correct ladder for the job – check the length and duty rating. There should always be a minimum of three feet extending over the roofline or working surface.

Inspect your ladder before each use for loose or damaged steps, rungs, spreaders, rung locks, safety feet, and other parts Clear the area where you will be working. Never place a ladder in front of a door that isn’t locked, blocked or guarded.

Because metal ladders conduct electricity, use a wooden or fiberglass ladder near power lines, electrical equipment and water.

Check that all locks on extension ladders are properly engaged before placing your ladder on a steady surface. The ground underneath the ladder should be level and firm. Large, flat wooden boards braced underneath a ladder can help level it on an uneven surface or soft ground. Straight, single or extension ladders should be set up at approximately a 75-degree angle.

Use the 1:4 ratio to ensure your safety when on a ladder. Place the base of the ladder one foot away from whatever it’s leaning against for every four feet of height up to the point of contact for the top of the ladder.

Take caution with ladder use

Always exercise caution when using a ladder and do not use it for any other purpose than intended. Other safety considerations include:

  • Making sure the weight that your ladder is supporting does not exceed its maximum load rating (user plus materials). (And only one person should be on a ladder at a time.)
  • Keeping your body centered between the rails of the ladder at all times. Do not lean too far to the side while working. Never overreach – instead, descend from the ladder and move it to a better position.
  • Not stepping on the top step, bucket shelf, or attempting to climb or stand on the rear section of a stepladder.
  • Always facing the ladder when climbing up or down. Never leave a raised ladder unattended.
  • Slowly stepping down from a ladder if you feel dizzy or tired.
  • Wearing non-slip footwear all times when on a ladder. Be sure shoes are not greasy, muddy or slippery before climbing.
  • Not using a ladder outdoors when it is windy.
  • Carrying tools on a tool belt, not in your hand.
  • Never leaning too far to the sides of the ladder. Keep your belt buckle within the side rails of the ladder.

Remember to minimize ladder accidents by adhering to these safety and prevention tips.

The experts at BCN Services are here to help you keep your workplace safe. Contact us or all 800-891-9911 if we can help answer your safety questions or concerns.

 

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Safe driving tips for employees, employers and others

The daily commute is a reality for many of us who must drive to-and-from the office. Whether it is a short trip of several minutes or a lengthy commute of many miles, getting there and back safely is an important part of our day. The winter months can be exceptionally challenging.

Losing control of a car is undoubtedly one of the most frightening experiences behind the wheel.  Unfortunately, it is a potential side effect when the temperatures turn cold and the roads get slick.

Watch out on winter roads

One of the most dangerous winter driving hazards is skidding, which, at high speeds, could result in a nasty crash.  To prevent an unnecessary skid, slip or accident, consider the following accident prevention techniques:

  • Slow down ahead of turns and curves, allowing you to prepare for potential icy spots.
  • When approaching a curve, apply power slightly to the gas and steer steadily.  Do not change direction abruptly and refrain from sudden braking.
  • Plan ahead for lane changes.
  • Check your rearview mirror and blind spot, and then use your signal to alert other motorists.
  • When changing lanes, move over in a long, gradual line with minimal steering changes.
  • Watch for ice patches, piles of wet leaves and shady areas which can be skidding hazards.
  • Anticipate stops by slowing gradually, well ahead of intersections.  These areas are generally more slick than other parts of the road because of starting and stopping traffic.
  • Drive at reduced speeds.
  • Slow your speed and increase the following distance to the vehicle in front of you.  This will allow for a larger buffer in case you lose control.
  • Avoid overpowering in deep snow.
  • Use light foot on the accelerator (rather than slamming on the gas to move forward).

If your car starts to skid, do not panic.  Steer in the direction that the vehicle is sliding until you feel the wheels regain traction.  Then slowly straighten your wheels and keep rolling.  If you need to brake before your tires regain traction, apply the brake carefully and don’t  lock your brakes.

Cell phones make driving more dangerous

As you know, using cell phones while driving is a source of distraction, and even more so during the winter months.  The National Safety Council estimates 28 percent of car crashes (or about 1.6 million per year) involve cellphone use at the time of the crash.  Drivers who use cellphones are four times as likely to be involved in a car crash.  Talking and texting on the phone when driving is dangerous and is compounded during winter.  Don’t take the chance.

Be safe on the road, whether driving for work or pleasure.

 

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Don’t let flu vaccine myths deter you from getting your shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot each year. Unfortunately, many people don’t because they believe one or more of the following myths:

Myth: The flu isn’t so bad.

Fact: The flu can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia, even for otherwise healthy people. Plus, a normal bout of the flu can keep a person out of work or school for several days.

Myth: The flu vaccine will make you sick.

Fact: The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, although you may experience side effects such as a sore arm, low fever or achiness. Side effects are generally mild and short-lived.

Myth: Healthy people don’t need a vaccine.

Fact: Anyone can become sick with the flu and experience complications, even people who are active and healthy. Plus, if you get the flu, you may endanger those around you who are at a higher risk for complications.

Myth: You can still get the flu after getting the vaccine.

Fact: This one is partially true for the following reasons:

  • You may have been exposed to a non-flu virus, such as the common cold.
  • You may have been exposed to the flu after you got vaccinated but before the vaccine took effect, which typically takes about two weeks after vaccination.
  • You may have been exposed to a flu virus that was different from the viruses included in the current year’s vaccine. The flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses expected to be most prevalent, but other flu viruses circulate as well.

Myth: It’s too late to get protection from a flu vaccine.

Fact: As long as it is still the flu season, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu seasons can begin early in fall and last until spring, so getting a vaccine can be beneficial into the spring months.

Myth: You only need to get vaccinated if family and friends get sick from the flu.

Fact: If you wait until people around you get sick, it is often too late to protect yourself, because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in.

Myth: The discomfort of getting a shot isn’t worth it.

Fact: The minor pain of a flu shot is nothing compared to getting the flu. Plus, many people can receive the nasal-spray vaccine instead of getting a shot. Talk to your doctor about which is the best choice for you.

Myth: If you got the vaccine last year, you don’t need it this year.

Fact: Research suggests that your body’s immunity from the flu vaccine declines throughout the year, so there is often not enough immunity left to protect you from getting sick for multiple seasons. This is why the CDC recommends a flu vaccine each year.

Myth: The vaccine isn’t safe.

Fact: Flu vaccines have been used for more than 50 years and have a very good safety track record. They are made the same way each year, and their safety is closely monitored by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration.

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

A strong safety culture has big impact on reducing workplace accidents

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), developing a strong safety culture has the single greatest impact on accident reduction of any workplace practice. That is why this in your workplace should always be a top priority for managers and supervisors in your organization.

What is a Safety Culture?

A safety culture consists of shared beliefs, practices and mindsets that exist at an organization and form an atmosphere of attitudes that shape behavior in a positive way. An organization’s safety culture is a direct result of the following factors:

  • Management and employee norms, assumptions and beliefs
  • Management and employee attitudes
  • Values, myths and stories
  • Policies and procedures
  • Supervisor priorities, responsibilities and accountability
  • Production and bottom-line pressure versus quality issues
  • Actions, or lack thereof, to correct unsafe behaviors
  • Employee training and motivation
  • Employee involvement and buy-in to the process

Four simple steps will ensure this type of work environment. Making these changes will save you money and increase your staff’s productivity:

  1. Total management buy-in and leadership.  Without the top brass believing in safety, there will be no employee involvement.  That’s up to you.
  2. Complete a worksite analysis.  BCN Services can perform such an analysis free of charge at your place of business that will establish a baseline and allow you to measure future improvements.
  3. Hazard prevention and control.  BCN Services will help you identify hazards that may be corrected in one of three ways:  Engineering controls, administrative controls or the use of personal protective equipment.
  4. Ongoing, individualized training.  BCN Services has more than 250 on-line safety courses available to you, covering a vast range of industries, environments, topics, and issues that are all OSHA compliant.  We will design and create a specialized library of online courses just for you at no charge.

Please contract Patrick Boeheim at 800-891-9911, ext. 108, to arrange a time for a productive and informative “safety walk-through.” We are excited to show you the special services available.  At BCN Services, we are here to support your efforts at starting and maintaining a strong safety culture.

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Survive the summer heat at work and home with these tips

Summer heat can be more than uncomfortable — it can be a threat to your health, especially for older adults and children. Whatever your age, don’t let the summer heat get the best of you.

There are two serious situations where heat can affect you and your health:

Heat exhaustion

Heat exhaustion occurs when a person cannot sweat enough to cool the body, usually the result of not drinking enough fluids during hot weather. It generally develops when a person is playing, working, or exercising outside in extreme heat.  Feeling thirsty means your body is on the road to becoming dehydrated, so don’t wait to drink until you are thirsty, especially if working (or exercising) outside in extreme heat. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Dizziness, weakness, nausea, headache and vomiting
  • Blurry vision
  • Body temperature rising to 101°F
  • Sweaty skin
  • Feeling hot and thirsty
  • Difficulty speaking

A person suffering from heat exhaustion must move to a cool place and drink plenty of water.

Heat stroke

Heat stroke is the result of untreated heat exhaustion. Symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Unawareness of heat and thirst
  • Body temperature rising rapidly to above 101°F
  • Confusion or delirium
  • Loss of consciousness or seizure

Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency that must be treated quickly by a trained professional. Until help arrives, cool the person down by placing ice on the neck, armpits and groin. If the person is awake and able to swallow, give him or her fluids.

Tips for staying cool

  • Drink plenty of water – In hot weather, drink enough to quench your thirst. The average adult needs eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day—more during heat spells.
  • Dress for the weather – When outside, wear lightweight clothing made of natural fabrics and a well-ventilated hat.
  • Stay inside if possible – Do errands and outside chores early or late in the day.
  • Eat light – Replace heavy or hot meals with lighter, refreshing foods.
  • Think cool!  After work, take a cool shower or apply a cold compress to your pulse points.

Does your workplace have first aid materials and policies in place to assist employees who may be in distress due to extreme heat? BCN Services can help you review these and make recommendations for changes. Contact us if we can help.

 

PatrickBoeheim_6705

 

Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Safe workplace boosts morale and work quality, lessens staff turnover

When employees work in a good, safe environment, they feel that they can make a difference. There are fewer staff absences, less staff turnover and an improved quality of work.

A safe environment boosts employee morale, increasing productivity, efficiency and profit margins.

There are direct costs related to a work-related accident and Workers’ Compensation claim but also indirect costs that follow workplace injury incidents. How an incident investigation is handled will determine if the employee impact is positive or negative.

Start with a solid investigation

A starting point is to implement BCN Service’s Effective Accident Investigation Program.  Proper and thorough accident investigation is required to mitigate future injuries and assure workers that you take accidents seriously.

Once the accident cause is identified, establish procedures to ensure that similar accidents don’t happen again. It also allows an employer to reestablish a productive worksite environment.

Coordinate a Return-to-Work program and policy

An effective Return-to-Work program is also an important aspect of a successful Workers’ Compensation program. Effective return-to-work includes:

  • Returning employees to work quickly
  • Providing ongoing positive communication
  • Providing assistance during the rehabilitation process

Research shows that companies offering Return-to-Work programs recover faster, and are released from medical care sooner.

No matter how safe a worksite is, accidents can still happen. With BCN Service’s trained professionals you can reduce accident costs and increase employee morale. Contact us for more information.

 

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On-the-job safety: How to reduce risks for new employees

Providing a safe working environment and ensuring a safe start when new employees begin working for you is not only the right thing to do, it’s the law.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a general provision requiring employers to ensure that workers are provided with proper information, instruction and supervision to protect their health and safety while performing their jobs.

This provision applies to all workers, whether new to their jobs or not, but offering the best possible supervision and introduction to workplace safety is critical for anyone new on the job.

What should employers consider?

The following tips can help employers ensure new employees are ready for work:

  • Always conduct new hire orientation and safety training.
  • Ask new workers about their previous safety education and work experience. Don’t assume a new employee knows the basics of workplace safety.
  • Verify that every new worker knows his/her rights and responsibilities, including the right to:
    • participate in health and safety training, and safety programs in the workplace;
    • know about hazards they may be exposed to on the job;
    • refuse unsafe work; and
  • Explain that the employee has a responsibility to follow safety procedures and wear any personal protective equipment (PPE) that may be required.

New employees have a higher injury risk

New employees are at a greater injury risk than their more experienced coworkers. As with all employees, workers new to the job must take an active role in protecting themselves. This includes:

  • Understanding all necessary safety measures before starting work. If they are unclear, instruct them to ask for clarification before they begin a task.
  • Following all safety measures at all times, avoiding shortcuts and wearing and maintaining required PPE.
  • Knowing how to operate, handle and respect all equipment that may be encountered on the job.
  • Ensuring machine guards are in place if required on equipment.
  • Following hazard warnings when using chemicals and obtaining safety data sheet (SDS) on hazardous chemicals if necessary.
  • Asking about emergency procedures and being prepared to follow them in the event of a chemical spill or fire.

Take extra steps if English is a second language

If English is a worker’s second language, it can contribute to on-the-job accidents and injuries. To promote worker safety, you should post signage and safety communication materials in the language in which your employees are fluent.  Contact BCN Services at 734-994-4100, ext. 108 or ext. 132 to order signage in Spanish.

Do you have questions about workplace safety at your business?  We have training and tools necessary to keep your workplace safe.  Contact BCN Services for assistance or call 734-994-4100.

Patrick Boeheim, Safety and Risk Manager

 

Weathering the cold: How to survive the Polar Vortex!

Protect your skin!   With temperatures at 10 degrees or below and wind chills between -10 degrees and -40 degrees, you or your child’s skin can get frostbitten in minutes.  Areas most commonly affected are the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers and toes.  Older adults with reduced blood circulation should take special precautions .

Here are some general tips for weathering the cold:

  • Limit outdoor activity to 15-20 minutes at a time
  • Dress properly : use layers, head covering, wind protection and keep dry
  • Take care to protect against injury causing falls

Orthopedic surgeons offer the following suggestions:

  • If you are crossing icy walkways or roads, shuffle your feet and bend your knees
  • Warm up indoors with light exercise and stretches before shoveling snow
  • Push the snow, don’t lift it if possible.  If you have to lift, do it the correct way:

-Squat with your legs apart, knees bent and back straight.

-Lift your legs, pushing through with your heels.

-Do not bend at the waist and do not over reach

  • Avoid twisting.  Push, small steps, toes in front of you, never twist!

These simple but effective tips can keep you and the people you care for safe.

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New OSHA system takes a global approach to classifying chemical hazards

When was the last time you saw the words “OSHA” and “harmonized” in the same sentence?  That’s what we thought too.

But as of Dec. 1, 2013, we all need to be aware of some upcoming changes about chemical hazards and OSHA’s new Globally Harmonized System, or GHS.  The changes are definitely for the better and the Dec. 1 date will not require much time or energy beyond some basic employee training.

That said, BCN Services’ clients should be aware of the following:

  • The Globally Harmonized System takes an international approach to hazard communication and provides world-wide agreement on classifying chemical hazards with a standardized approach to labeling safety data sheets.  (Material Safety Data Sheets will now be referred to as Safety Data Sheets).  The new system will provide a harmonized classification criteria for the health, physical and environmental hazards of chemicals.
  • One of the major drivers of this change has been the globalization of the world economy.  GHS establishes a standard “language” to understand the hazards of chemicals no matter where you are in the world or where the chemicals are shipped to or shipped from, which is a vast improvement towards safety.
  • You will gradually start to see new labeling.  Chemical distributors will no longer be able to ship containers that do not comply with new labeling as of Dec. 1, 2015 and chemical manufacturers, importers, distributors and employers must start using new labels and safety data sheets by June 1, 2015.  (BCN Services will provide more information as those dates approach).

Here’s what you need to do at this point

  1. OSHA requires employers to have their employees who handle hazardous chemicals and substances trained on the new label elements and safety data sheet formats by Dec. 1, 2013.  Examples of hazardous chemical and substances are:  asbestos, carcinogens, vinyl arsenic, inorganic arsenic,  lead, cadmium, benzene, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, spray finishing using flammable and combustible materials, oxidizing gases,  gases under pressure, pyrophoric liquids/solids/gases.  If you do not work with such substances, this new standard may not apply.
  2. If this new standard does apply to any of your employees, call BCN Services at 800.891-9911, ext. 108 and we can set-up a 17 minute on-line safety course entitled “Globalize Your Communication” that will take care of your training compliance.  Upon receipt of a user name and password from BCN Services, visit www.www.bcnservices.com. Just click here for the steps to get to the course once you’re at our website.
  3. BCN Services will handle all record keeping for this OSHA-compliant training.
  4. Training can be accomplished individually or in a group setting with several employee’s taking the online course  together.  It’s your choice.
  5. To receive your user name and password, contact Danielle Knuth via email at dknuth@www.bcnservices.com.
  6. To discuss any questions you may have regarding the Globally Harmonized System, please contact Patrick Boeheim at 800.897-9911, ext. 108.

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Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

Your Next Government Deadline (psssst…it’s OSHA!)

Years ago, before seat belt laws were even dreamed of, I took an insurance class as part of a fleet insurance safety program.  I remember the impact walking out of that class:  From that moment on, my routine was to get in the car, pull that strange shoulder strap (kind of a new feature in cars!) across my body, and connect that buckle.  I felt pretty unsafe—almost naked—if I discovered I hadn’t buckled up.

Fast forward a lot of years.  I just became certified by OSHA by completing my “OSHA 10-Hour”, in a class with seven of BCN’s best clients.   It is a designation which I always looked at with interest, because 10 hours of anything, particularly government regulation, seems daunting.  I can assure you, the risk management professionals that organized and taught this class needed every minute to focus the audience of owners, managers, and key administrators on learning to stay safe, and complying with the very detailed OSHA law.

In every module, we started by reviewing raw statistics on fines assessed to businesses, and what drove those amounts.  Chilling, to say the least.  Then we learned step by step,  video by video, demonstration by demonstration, situation by situation, what it takes to do it right.  The Safety Data Sheet (what used to be Material Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS), is your roadmap.  PPD’s are required by us as business owners to protect workers from untimely and serious injury (lost time, cost).  Reacting properly to an incident, from reporting, to investigating using the 5-Whys, gives you a shot to prevent the next injury and get it right going forward (lost time, cost).  Too often, we just accept that things happen in the workplace; I can confidently say that these problems can be prevented.

So you are all worried about Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), right?  How about December 1st?  What’s that, you say?  All of our worksites will have completed the initial requirement for the Globally Harmonized System for OSHA compliance by that date.  We will then work to help you through Phase II and beyond.

As a business owner, when I hire people, it is my responsibility to keep my employees safe, no matter what the environment.  OSHA always seemed like a four letter word and something to avoid.  But the truth is, the OSHA body of work provides a great framework to keep employees productive, creating your products and delivering your services, and making you more profitable.  I couldn’t recommend this  OSHA 10-hour workshop enough for creating a great business environment and culture of success.

Thank you to Amerisure, Wells Fargo, attending clients, and the entire Risk Management team of BCN Services.  The next “Certified OSHA-10 Hour” is scheduled for February 6 & 7, 2014.  I would highly recommend this to our clients.  Please contact us to reserve your spot in this workshop.

 

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Andrew (Andy) C. Hans, CEO