Preventing Cold Weather Slip & Fall Injuries

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

Slips and falls are among the most common hazards in the property management business, especially during colder weather.

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) analysis conducted using 2014 data, Michigan ranked #3 in the nation (behind #1 New York and #2 Pennsylvania) in the number of lost time, slip and fall injuries resulting from snow and ice. Additionally, the National Floor Safety Institute (www.nfsi.org) reports the following facts:

  • Annually, slips and falls account for over 1 million hospital emergency room visits.
  • Slips and falls do not constitute a primary cause of fatal occupational injuries, but represent the primary cause of lost days from work.
  • Fractures rank as the most serious consequences of falls and occur in 5 percent of all people who fall.

No matter how often snow and ice is removed from walking surfaces, you will still likely encounter slippery surfaces this winter. Walking to and from parking lots, on sidewalks and between buildings during the winter months requires special attention to avoid slipping and falling. Often, we forget how dangerous slipping and falling can be for our health.

Use the following suggestions to help stay slip-and-fall-free this winter.

  • Don’t get caught by surprise. Monitor the weather and changing conditions.
  • Contract with a snow removal company to help keep parking lots clear of snow and ice.
  • Keep adequate supplies of snow and ice removal tools in accessible areas. Assign responsibilities and review the plan for using these tools.
  • Shovel and apply ice melt as necessary to keep walking areas clean and dry.
  • Watch for areas where ice tends to form. Remove ice accumulations promptly and apply additional ice melt to prevent buildup during freeze-thaw cycles.
  • Beware of black ice—a thin, nearly invisible coating of ice caused when temperatures rise above freezing and quickly drop below freezing.
  • Provide good lighting and clear path markings in parking lots and walkways.
  • Clearly identify steps, ramps and other elevation changes that might not be visible in snowy conditions.
  • Walk in designated walkways as much as possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas will greatly increase the chances of injury.
  • Look ahead when walking; a snow or ice-covered sidewalk may require travel along its grassy edge for traction.
  • Do the “penguin shuffle.” Walking like a penguin can reduce your chances of slipping and falling. Here’s how:
    – Point your feet out.
    – Keep your head up.
    – Slowly take short steps or shuffle
    – Extend your arms out to your sides for balance and walk flatfooted.
  • Wear shoes or boots that provide traction on snow and ice. Avoid boots or shoes with smooth soles and heels.
  • Consider foot traction products such as Yaktrax® that may be worn over existing shoes or boots. These products have helped athletes, construction crews, public service workers, soldiers, outdoorsmen, and many more walk, run and work on packed snow and ice.
  • Place high quality, beveled edge mats in walking areas subject to water or snow accumulation. Change mats regularly to ensure those in place are dry.
  • Apply a slip-resistant floor treatment in areas that tend to become wet and slippery. Clean and maintain these floors according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Use vehicles for support when getting in and out from a parking location.
  • Get help with carrying packages that are large or heavy so as not to affect balance and obstruct view
  • Lastly, in the event you start falling, try to avoid landing on your knees, wrists, or spine; relax your muscles and fall onto your side.

Should you require additional assistance with preventing cold weather slips and falls in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

  1. National Floor Safety Institute Slip & Fall Facts: https://nfsi.org/nfsi-research/quick-facts/
  2. OSHA Winter Weather Resources: https://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/winter_weather/
  3. Yaktrax® FAQ: https://www.yaktrax.com/faq

 

Posted in 2017, DECEMBER 2017 | Leave a comment

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President, and Industry Relations

Apartment Inspection Reform Bill Passes Legislature

In a major victory for the rental property industry, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 102-6 in favor of Senate Bill 107. This bill is AAM’s effort to reform the Housing Law of Michigan to provide that the lessee’s permission is needed prior to local government entry to inspect. Current state law allows a local government to compel an apartment owner, regardless of the resident’s wishes, to provide unit access if the lease allows the owner right of entry at any time. AAM has stated its concern that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and lawsuits in other parts of the country support this position. The Michigan Senate already approved the bill, on a 37-0 vote, on the final day of Senate session prior to its summer recess. As of this writing, Governor Snyder had not acted on the bill, but we will advise you when that occurs.

Detroit City Council Enacts Changes to Rental Property Ordinance

On October 31, the Detroit City Council passed a set of amendments to the city’s rental property ordinance. These changes begin a two year effort by the Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) to get all rental properties registered and inspected. BSEED will divide the city up in five zones, and phase in compliance via inspections in each zone. Ordinance amendments include:

  • The ability for the city to withhold certificates of compliance to landlords who are more than six months delinquent on their property taxes and owe more than $1000.
  • Provide landlords with an expedited process (between 7 and 30 days) for appealing the denial or suspension of a certificate of compliance.
  • Less frequent inspections for landlords who, for at least one year, have remained current on their taxes and received no blight violations. Certifications would extend from one year to two years for multi-family properties and to three years for one- and two-family properties.
  • Continue annual lead hazard inspections (except for those properties where long-term or permanent abatement measures were made) even if there are less frequent property inspections.
  • Allow the city to accept inspections of multifamily property conducted by HUD under the real estate assessment center inspection process, or by other government agencies.

Landlords who fail to have their property inspected during their compliance period will not be able to legally collect rent nor evict any tenant for withholding rent.

 

Posted in 2017, DECEMBER 2017 | Leave a comment

Advocacy Update

Forrest WallWritten by Forrest Wall, CAE, Staff Vice President and Industry Relations

Apartment Inspection Reform Bill Moves Forward In House

AAM’s efforts to reform the current apartment inspection law took another step forward with the recent approval of the Local Government Committee in the Michigan House of Representatives. Senate Bill 107 was approved by the committee unanimously, on an 11-0 vote, and now goes to the full House for a vote. As you may recall, this legislation amends the Housing Law of Michigan to provide that the lessee’s permission is needed prior to local government entry to inspect. Current state law allows a local government to compel an apartment owner, regardless of the resident’s wishes, to provide unit access if the lease allows the owner right of entry at any time. AAM has stated its concern that this is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Michigan Senate already approved the bill, on a 37-0 vote, on the final day of Senate session prior to its summer recess. We appreciate the leadership of the bill’s sponsor, Senator Rick Jones (R–Grand Ledge).

MCRC Will Not Reinterpret Civil Rights Act

An effort to reinterpret Michigan’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity has failed in the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC). MCRC was petitioned by Equality Michigan to provide an interpretive statement to clarify the Elliott Larsen Act’s definition of sex discrimination. The interpretive statement would have included protections for the LGBT community. However, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office testified that only the Michigan Legislature could reinterpret the act, and if the commission issued such a rule it could be subject to a lawsuit. This latest action comes after multiple legislative attempts to expand the civil rights act have failed.

On a federal level, legislation has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes currently identified in the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act. The legislation, called the Equality Act of 2017, would explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in housing, employment, credit, public education, and other areas covered by anti-discrimination laws.

Fair Housing Seminar Set for November 15

If you have staff in need of a Fair Housing seminar, AAM has scheduled a program for Wednesday, November 15 from 9:00 am – Noon. The instructor will be Kathleen Mabie of Success OnSite. Please visit http://www.apartments.organd click the link at the top of the page for details and registration.

 

Posted in 2017, November 2017 | Leave a comment

Safety Committees To Improve Your Safety Program

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

Employee involvement provides the means through which workers develop and express their own commitment to safety. Employees are often those closest to the hazard and have first-hand knowledge of workplace hazards. The best safety programs, which consistently decrease their workplace accidents and injuries, involve employees at every level regardless of the organization’s size. One of the most effective methods to involve employees and to improve your safety program is through the active efforts of a safety committee.

A well-run safety committee is effective because it utilizes employees’ knowledge and experiences to help identify and resolve problems. Safety committees provide employees the opportunity to be involved in the planning and implementation of safety program efforts. A committee with clear objectives can help get your front-line employees buy-in to safety efforts, which can create a positive safety culture and drive safe behaviors.1 Also, they can directly contribute to higher employee job satisfaction by fostering respectful treatment of all employees at all levels (the #1 job satisfaction contributor) according to the Society for Human Resources Management.2

If you’ve declined starting a safety committee for one reason or another, then reconsider that decision now. To be certain, there is no replacement for a well-run safety committee and the benefit it brings to your workplace.

To ensure a great start in your workplace, consider that healthy and effective safety committees will:

  • Require the support of top management. Also, the top decision-maker at your facility should attend the committee meetings to demonstrate that safety is a priority.
  • Include representatives from various departments and levels in the organization. Remember that volunteers are the best option versus forcing employees to participate.
  • Define their primary responsibilities, function, and extent of authority. Consider having the team focus on preventing the top injury types in your workplace.
  • Engage in numerous activities such as procedure development; review of accidents; identify accident trends; assist with incident investigations; identify, evaluate, and resolve safety and health issues; review safety suggestions; and conduct training.
  • Promote safety and health involvement with other employees by acting as a communication link between employees and management, which is helpful in larger organizations.
  • Hold regular meetings that start and stop on-time. Typically, a monthly meeting will be adequate for most safety committees.
  • Set clear meeting agendas, publish them in advance, and follow them.
  • Take meeting minutes that summarize the issues discussed, the proposed actions and the people responsible for following up on each item. Minutes should be published and provided to each committee member, as well as made available to all employees.
  • Set both short-term (30 to 90 day) goals and long-term (1 year or beyond), which are SMART3 goals.

Consider using one of the many online safety committee resources such as Best Practices for Workplace Safety Committees from WorkSafeMT.com, which contain templates with all that is necessary to get your committee started. Get started today and together your team will improve its’ safety program!

Should you require additional assistance with starting and running a safety committee in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

  1. ‘Culture Drives Behavior’ Effective safety committees build a strong safety culture; National Safety Council Knowledge Center Safety Article published 2007.
  2. 2016 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: Revitalizing a Changing Workforce; Society for Human Resource Management research published April 18, 2016.
  3. SMART goal criteria at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMART_criteria.

 

Posted in 2017, November 2017 | Leave a comment

Preventing Injuries With Ergonomics

WRITTEN BY GARY SMITH, APARTMENT BUILDING MANAGEMENT WORKERS COMPENSATION SELF INSURED FUND

Ergonomics is the science and practice of designing jobs and workplaces to match the capabilities and limitations of the human body or, more simply, fitting the job to the worker.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015, musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) accounted for 31 percent of total injury and illness cases for all workers. Work-related MSDs are among the most frequently reported causes of lost or restricted work time cases. These injuries occur gradually and involve muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, and joints of the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and back, which are often referred to as soft tissue injuries.

Ergonomics may be used in all workplaces to prevent MSDs. Workers will experience improved quality of work, improved quality of life, and reduced fatigue and discomfort.

In order to apply ergonomic practices in your workplace, let’s review some basic principles:

Identify Workers with Risk Factors

Evaluate workers performing custodial/janitorial, maintenance/service, and administrative activities to identify those with the common risk factors:

  • Exerting force to perform a task or to use a tool (e.g., lifting tables/chairs or scrubbing with a brush).
  • Working in awkward postures (e.g., bending or twisting the back, overhead reaching for dusting or painting, or mopping with elbows away from the body).
  • Remaining in the same position for a long time with little or no movement (e.g., sitting at desk).
  • Continuous pressure from a hard surface or edge on any part of the body (e.g., improperly adjusted chair and desk height).
  • Working in hot or cold temperatures.
  • Holding equipment that vibrates (e.g., the handle of a pressure washer).

If risk factors are present, then they need to be assessed to determine the significance of the risk.

Assess Significance of Risk Factors

Assess each risk factor to determine if they are likely hazards for MSDs by considering the following three things:

  • Duration (how long) – Usually, duration involves hours of exposure and not just minutes. But, exposure can be cumulative over the day and not just all at one time.
  • Frequency (how often) – Frequency addresses the speed of the work. Lifting
    30 lb boxes more than 5 times per minute can be considered frequent.
  • Intensity (how much) – Refers to force, such as weight in pounds lifted/carried, grip or pinch force, vibration level, and force on keys when typing.

The longer exposure to risk factors and a combination of risk factors will greatly increase the chance for injury. Symptoms such as discomfort, pain, numbness, tingling/burning, swelling/inflammation, changes in skin color and loss of flexibility may likely indicate a MSD. If no changes are made, then symptoms may get worse and result in lost work days.

Methods of Preventing MSDs

These are common methods for controlling MSDs, and rank in their order of effectiveness with the first (i.e., engineering controls) being the most effective.

  • Engineering controls (e.g., redesign work areas to eliminate reaching, bending, or other awkward postures and providing carts for transporting materials)
  • Administrative controls (e.g., providing sufficient breaks, since adequate recovery time can reduce fatigue, and employee training on safe lifting)
  • Safe work practices (e.g. stretching and safe lifting)
  • Personal protective equipment (e.g., knee pads for kneeling and gloves to protect against cold, vibration and rough surfaces). Note: NIOSH recommends that employers do not rely on back belts to protect workers as studies have shown they are not effective in preventing back injuries.

For detailed information on methods of preventing MSDs in your workplace, see the resources provided below.

Should you require additional assistance with ergonomic assessments or training in your workplace, please contact Gary Smith, CRM, at (517) 338-3367 or gary.smith@yorkrsg.com.

Resources:

Working Safer and Easier for Janitors, Custodians and Housekeepers; published 2005 by the California Department of Industrial Relations at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/dosh_publications/Janitors.pdf

A Clean Sweep: Safe Work Practices for Custodians; published June 2006 by WorkSafeBC at https://www.worksafebc.com/en/resources/health-safety/books-guides/a-clean-sweep?lang=en

Office Ergonomics Resources including setting up a workstations and self-assessment forms at SAIF Corporation: https://www.saif.com/safetyandhealth/topics/prevent-injuries/ergonomics.html

Ergonomics Resources from OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/

 

Posted in 2017, OCTOBER 2017 | Comments Off on Preventing Injuries With Ergonomics