December 2007
N.C. Industrial Commission
Safety Bulletin

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"


Please join us in wishing our Program Assistant, Ginny Schwartzer, the very best as she will be leaving the Safety Section December 20th. She will be moving into the private sector to further expand her horizons. Good Luck Ginny!

The Program Assistant position will be posted at
htt p:// if you know someone who might be interested in this position. Click on Dept. of Commerce and submit an application.

We all have 24 hours in a day, or 8,760 hours in every year. What we do with those hours can make all the difference between achieving what we need to, and failing to do so. It's easy to waste time and not even realize we're doing it.

There are some things you can do to manage your time better. If you aren't sure how you are wasting time, try keeping a time diary for a week. Write down everything you do - everything - and how long it took. Make sure you include anything that takes one minute or more. This would include phone calls, having conversations with coworkers unrelated to work, writing or responding to personal emails, taking breaks, and so on. After a few days, you should be able to see where you can make changes in how you use your time.

One way to keep on top of things is to create a to- do list. (My wife is really good at helping me to do this!) Work from the list, putting high priority items at the top. Try to work on the main priority for the day first; to get as much done as you can before the interruptions start or your day's plan gets revised. It's better to accomplish only a little and to at least make a head start, than to have worked hard all day but accomplished nothing on the priority list.

It seems obvious, but often we decide to take care of a few low priority "quick" items before we tackle a big job. We end up spending so much time working on the "quick" things that by the time we're done, there is no time left for that big project that was a priority. To make matters worse, we can't avoid or predict interruptions, or the need to handle emergencies as they arise, and these things will also prevent us from getting our priorities accomplished.

If you work from a list, be sure to check off items as they are completed to give yourself a sense of accomplishment, and to show that progress is being made.

Always keep SAFETY at the top of that list! Your REGIONAL SAFETY COUNCILS are continuing to work for you, so please refer to the calendar section of our Safety Bulletin for more information. Please support YOUR councils!

As always, we thank you for your support and we pledge to continue to serve your needs. We promise to continue to provide quality ACCIDENT PREVENTION training programs.

Don't forget to get your Flu Shot to minimize your chances of getting the flu!
Dealing with Winter Road Rage

As we head into winter, dealing with snow, ice, and slippery conditions on a daily basis can be stressful and frustrating to the point where you just get tired of coping. The time is ripe for road rage, particularly when every day seems to present a new driving challenge. If you find yourself easily angered or at the end of your rope, take a minute to review these tips:

Allow enough time. Get used to allowing extra time to get where you need to go, especially if you know road conditions may not be good. Also allow some extra time for the driver who drives extra slowly when conditions are marginal. Everyone's comfort level is different when they're driving in poor conditions, and what seems like easy driving to you may be hair-raising for someone else. If you allow extra time, you won't have the added worry of being late to your destination because of a slow driver.

Don't try to "teach" other drivers. Like it or not, you can't teach other drivers how to drive, no matter how poorly they are doing it. While you may want to lob a few choice words their way, it's better to treat others as you would like to be treated: with courtesy and respect.

Watch your own road rage. If someone cuts you off or is driving in an unsafe manner during slippery conditions, put some distance between yourself and that driver. Responding angrily will only make matters worse. If you inadvertently cut someone off, a gesture of apology, like a friendly wave and a look that says "I'm sorry" might diffuse potential trouble. Everyone makes a stupid driving mistake every once in a while. If you stop to remember mistakes that you have made, you can be more tolerant of others' mistakes.

Eliminate anxiety. Being prepared eliminates some of the anxiety of traveling in poor conditions. Have a cell phone with you, and keep emergency equipment in the vehicle such as a shovel, blankets, first aid kit, battery cables, sand or salt, and flares.
Overview of Healthcare-Associated MRSA

Go to Community-Associated MRSA Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of bacteria that is resistant to certain antibiotics. These antibiotics include methicillin and other more common antibiotics such as oxacillin, penicillin and amoxicillin. Staph infections, including MRSA, occur most frequently among persons in hospitals and healthcare facilities (such as nursing homes and dialysis centers) who have weakened immune systems.

MRSA infections that occur in otherwise healthy people who have not been recently (within the past year) hospitalized or had a medical procedure (such as dialysis, surgery, catheters) are known as community-associated (CA)-MRSA infections. These infections are usually skin infections, such as abscesses, boils, and other pus-filled lesions. (see Community-associated MRSA. )

What are the signs and symptoms of MRSA infection? Most MRSA infections are skin infections that produce the following signs and symptoms:

  • cellulitis (infection of the skin or the fat and tissues that lie immediately beneath the skin, usually starting as small red bumps in the skin),
  • b oils (pus-filled infections of hair follicles),
  • abscesses (collections of pus in under the skin),
  • sty (infection of eyelid gland),
  • carbuncles (infections larger than an abscess, usually with several openings to the skin),
  • impetigo (a skin infection with pus-filled blisters).

What does MRSA look like?

One major problem with MRSA is that occasionally the skin infection can spread to almost any other organ in the body. When this happens, more severe symptoms develop. MRSA that spreads to internal organs can become life-threatening. Fever, chills, low blood pressure, joint pains, severe headaches, shortness of breath, and "rash over most of the body" are symptoms that need immediate medical attention, especially when associated with skin infections.

How can people avoid getting MRSA infection?

Not making direct contact with skin, clothing, and any items that come in contact with either MRSA patients or MRSA carriers is the best way to avoid MRSA infection. In many instances, this situation is simply not practical because such infected individuals or carriers are not immediately identifiable. What people can do is to treat and cover (for example, antiseptic cream and a Band-Aid) any skin breaks and use excellent hygiene practices (for example, hand washing with soap after personal contact or toilet use, washing clothes potentially in contact with MRSA patients or carriers, using disposable items when treating MRSA patients). Also available at most stores are antiseptic solutions and wipes to both clean hands and surfaces that may contact MRSA. Pregnant individuals need to consult with their doctors if they are infected or are carriers of MRSA. Although MRSA is not transmitted to infants by breastfeeding, there are a few reports that infants can be infected by their mothers who have MRSA, but this seems to be an infrequent situation. Some pregnant MRSA carriers have been successfully treated with the antibiotic mupirocin cream.

If MRSA is so resistant to many antibiotics, how is it treated or cured?
Fortunately, most MRSA still can be treated by certain specific antibiotics (for example, vancomycin (Vancocin), linezolid (Zyvox), and others). For MRSA carriers, mupirocin antibiotic cream can potentially eliminate MRSA from mucous membrane colonization. A good medical practice is to determine, by microbiological techniques done in a lab, which antibiotic(s) can kill the MRSA and use it alone or, more often, in combination with additional antibiotics to treat the infected patient. Since resistance can change quickly, antibiotic treatments may need to change also. Many people think they are "cured" after a few antibiotic doses and stop taking the medicine. This is a bad decision because the MRSA may still be viable in or on the person and reinfect the person. Also, the surviving MRSA may be exposed to low antibiotic doses when the medicine is stopped too soon; this low dose may allow MRSA enough time to become resistant to the medicine. Consequently, MRSA patients (in fact, all patients) treated with appropriate antibiotics should take the entire course of the antibiotic as directed by their doctor. A note of caution is that, in the last few years, there are reports that a new strain of MRSA has evolved that are resistant to vancomycin (VRSA or vancomycin resistant S. aureus) and other antibiotics. Currently, VRSA is not widespread, but it could be the next "superbug."

Where are other MRSA information sources? 4-0831.htm ports/rep_index.cfm

Winter Celebrations Safety Tips

In the winter, a number of celebrations are observed. While we are probably most familiar with the Christian religious holiday of Christmas, it is also the time when Jews celebrate Hanukkah, and African- Americans celebrate Kwanzaa. Celebrating these holidays can bring joy to our lives, but also safety concerns. Below are some important safety tips to follow.


If you decide to have a live tree to celebrate Christmas, buy a tree that is fresh. A fresh tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree. To check for freshness, examine the needles - they should bend, not break. Also, if you tap the tree on the ground, falling needles indicate the tree is too dry.

After buying the tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood that will better soak up water. Place your tree in a sturdy base so the tree won't tip over easily. Place your tree away from sources of heat like fireplaces, wood burning stoves, candles, and radiators. One of the most important tasks is to make certain it has plenty of water. Live trees dry out very quickly. Check the tree daily, and water as often as necessary.


Candles are used in both Kwanzaa and Hanukkah celebrations. In fact, Hanukkah is also called the "Festival of Lights," because it is celebrated with the lighting of the candles of the menorah, which holds eight candles. To celebrate Kwanzaa, a Kinara is used, which holds seven candles.

Whether burning candles in a menorah, a Kinara, or simply using them throughout the home for ambience, be sure candles are not placed near articles that can catch on fire, like curtains, drapes, papers, pictures, knickknacks, and so on. Be sure candles are placed in a sturdy base so they won't tip over. Watch them to make sure the wax doesn't deposit on a table or other furniture where the candles are located. Do not leave candles unattended for any length of time, and don't leave small children unattended in a room with burning candles.


Fireplaces are often used during the holiday season. But even before the holiday season begins, you should have your chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional, if necessary. Burning wood causes creosote to coat the walls of chimneys which could potentially cause a fire. Before lighting any fire, check to see that the flue is open. Always use a fireplace screen to protect your home and family from dangerous sparks and burning embers.

These simple tips will help keep your holiday season free of accidents and injuries.
How Can We Lower Our Heating Bills?

Winter is upon us, which means "high heating bill" season is also. Of course, you can turn the heat down to save money and walk around the house freezing. Fortunately, there are other ways you can lower your heating costs!

Keep the draft out. Use caulk, weather stripping, or plastic over windows to keep drafts out. You can also caulk around other areas that may be drafty, such as fireplaces, and put a plastic strip below doors that open to the outside to help keep the cold air out.

Use a programmable thermostat. If no one is home during the day, you can program it to turn the heat down while you're gone, and have it start heating up before you get home. You can do the same thing at night.

Change your furnace filter regularly. A dirty furnace filter prevents your furnace from running efficiently.

Have your furnace checked annually. It's best to do this in the Fall, before it gets too cold, to make sure it's running at peak performance and not about to break down. The middle of a -20 degree day is not the time to find out there's a problem!

Close off rooms that aren't used. If there are areas of your home that are used only infrequently (such as guest bedrooms), close the heating vents in those rooms and close the door. Also, interior rooms tend to stay warmer than those that are more exposed, so you may be able to close off some heating vents in those rooms as well. Instead of heating the basement, use space heaters while you're down there.

Let the sun in. Open the blinds and curtains on sunny days to help warm up the house.
The Safety Toolbox
by Mike Bingham  

Take a look around you sometime and just think about all the tools you have. At work in your office you have everything from pens and staplers to computers. Even your office chair is a tool, and as such it should effectively perform the work you want it to do which is support you comfortably in the proper position. As such it needs to be adjustable in as many directions as possible.

On the shop floor there are even greater numbers of even more diverse tools. Hand tools, power tools, lifting devices, grinders, welders, work positioning tables, forklifts, pallet jacks and the list goes on. If we need a tool badly enough we will usually find a way to get it.

The safety world is also full of tools. If we think about it we can see that there are durable tools in safety like personal protective equipment, guard rails, machine guards, safety glasses, hearing protection, respirators, gloves, hard hats, written plans, and so on.

A second type of tool in the safety world includes the various techniques we use to manage and improve our own safety world. Things like job hazard analysis (JHA), preventive maintenance (PM), behavior-based safety (BBS), safe operating procedures (SOP), emergency action plans (EAP), (we safety geeks seem to like abbreviations (Abbr.), acronyms and parenthesis) I once read that safety people can write a 10,000 word document and call it a brief. Then there are hazard reporting methods, incident investigations, hot work permits, worksite inspections, forklift checklists, and safety committees.

If all the above looks like a series of lists, the all is as it should be. The lists are by no means complete - they are there just to illustrate that in the safety world there are many, many tools already available. There should be very few times in which we have to invent a new safety tool. The existing safety tools can be used across a wide range of industries or businesses. Just modify them to be site-specific to your facility and you have something for your safety toolbox.

How about looking at your safety management system, which, by the way (btw) management systems are made up of a standard list of tools and techniques and out together or improve your own tool box. Imagine the perfect toolbox that has all the perfect tools. Look at your current tool inventory and see what is missing. If the missing tool is one you need, go shopping for it. Do a thorough inspection of the tools you currently have in your safety toolbox. Look at each JSA, for example. Give them a good review, clean them up, polish them as needed, and use them to write SOPs. Tools have to be used in order to accomplish work. Fill your safety toolbox with high quality tools that are easy to use. Dump them out once in a while and see if you can replace some with nicer tools. If the box fills up, get a bigger box!!! Borrow more tools from other safety geeks through networking, another fine tool in itself.

Contact the North Carolina Industrial Commission at 919-807-2603 for access to the safety toolboxes of 10 safety professionals in the Safety Education Section.

Shoot me an email at for more info or if you are looking for a particular safety tool.

Editor's Note: Mike Bingham is the Western Area Safety Representative for the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Mike is one of the 10 members of the North Carolina Industrial Commission's Safety Department who are out there Working for You! to make our workplaces safer and better for each and every worker by reducing injuries to employees and saving money for employers through education and training. You can contact Mike at: or call: 919.218.9045

Are you engaged in your work?

It is estimated that 25 to 30 percent of employees are fully engaged in their work, 55 percent are somewhat engaged, and a full 19 percent are disengaged. If you are in the last group, you may not be in the right job or work environment for you (and chances are you already know that). If you are in the first group, good for you! But most of us probably fall somewhere in the middle group.

What is "engaged?" We can be happy in our jobs but not be fully engaged in our work. For example, you can like coming to work because you don't have to work too hard. You're not encouraged to get involved in projects over and above your daily work, or initiate new ideas. You can show up, do your job and go home. In contrast, the fully engaged employee will become involved, initiate new ideas, and generally look for ways to make the company better. Becoming an engaged employee depends on you.

Get involved! If you want to become more involved, you could join a team or committee. Talk to your supervisor about ideas you have to improve the company. It could be a suggestion to change procedures to increase efficiency. Remember, your supervisor doesn't do what you do day in and day out, and no one is as familiar with your job as you are. If you see ways to make improvements, it pays to speak up. Your willingness to take initiative will be noted.

You might also want to improve your value to the company by increasing your knowledge about other departments you interact with, or by taking on more responsibility in your own job. Talk to your supervisor about this. Cross training is valuable in almost any organization.

Being engaged in your work can make you a happier, safer and more valuable employee. Now that sells!

  • A barber is not to advertise prices in the State of Georgia.
  • In Tennessee, it is against the law to drive a car while sleeping.
  • Honeybees have a type of hair on their eyes!
  • More Monopoly money is printed in a year, than real money printed throughout the world!
  • Like fingerprints, everyone's tongue print is different!
  • America once issued a 5-cent bill!
  • You'll eat about 35,000 cookies in a lifetime! Wow!
  • The Value of Mentoring

    Anyone can be a mentor. A mentor is simply someone who knows the ropes and helps a new person learn his or her job. Mentoring is usually used for new employees, but can also be used when a current employee transfers to a new area or is learning new job duties. Mentoring can be formal or informal, though usually it is formal, because the mentor is expected to take extra time out of his or her duties to help the new person. The mentor will also be available to answer questions as they come up.

    What are the benefits?

    It's obvious that the new employee gets the benefit of an experienced employee's expertise and knowledge as part of their training. But what does the mentor get out of the arrangement? The mentor serves as a leader, so mentoring enhances his or her leadership skills. In addition, by answering the new employee's questions, the mentor may also uncover areas where more training is needed, or might be able to identify procedures that are in need of a change. Mentoring can be a win-win situation for everybody.
    Is Your Safety Committee Sold?
    by Michael Nance  

    Not far from my house there are two new subdivisions. One of them is almost complete and sold out. The other, well they constructed twelve homes, one of which has sold and the other has been vacant for about eight months now. Both subdivisions are fairly nice and in the same price range, so why do you think one is sold out while the other is on the verge of bankruptcy? There are a number of factors; one of which is marketing. Seems that one group of folks got the word out, promoted their talents and built quality homes. It took time for them to get a plan of action together and attract people from all over the region. The other neighborhood? Those twelve homes are pretty close together, and I never saw much advertising except for a small one at the entrance. It also appears that they had several different things going on at once, spreading out thin and not doing too much to the common areas in the way of beauty.

    The same could be said for a safety program. How is it marketed to the employees? Is it attractive to encourage participation? Does everyone know about short and long term plans? Was it planned or simply something thrown together to give a good appearance? Is there a safety committee or simply one person designated to hold an umbrella over all safety-related issues? With budgets and sometimes upper management issues, it can be hard to start and maintain a successful safety program. Employees that have been around a while might balk at the idea that change is needed. Some may feel that safety is the responsibility of the safety committee, not them. The problem can be a lack of teamwork. Safety teamwork can be an innovative program to accident prevention development and training. How many times do you hear that the safety committee missed a meeting this month because everyone said they were too busy? Or that the Safety Committee hasn't met for the last three months because a key member was reassigned, left the company or whatever. This generally happens because employers inadvertently set up safety committees in ways that fail. A safety or risk manager should say, "I don't need four, eight or ten chosen individuals focusing on safety one day a month. I need the whole team focusing on safety, hazard recognition and accident prevention as part of every job, every hour of the day, on each and every shift." The employer has to establish meaningful team concept motives and ideals among all employees. Co-workers must encourage co- workers. Supervisors must be point persons and attitude leaders regarding safety and accident prevention. This is why safety committees must act as safety team, and why safety teamwork should go beyond any single safety committee's activities or agenda.

    Safety is the key word, pure and simple. Safety results can be predicted by the obvious. For example, when employees consistently wear safety glasses to protect their eyesight. Some may be less obvious; the consequences of an employee's poor attitude overall, or a supervisor's misunderstanding of proper incident response procedures. Whatever the issue, one of the safety committee's roles is to help identify specific hazards, situations and needs, and then recommend practical steps toward solution. A major part of the job is to support the in-house activities for ongoing implementation and constant improvement in the workplace safety environment. Using the NCIC Accident Prevention training can help limit the company's potential costs, losses and liability exposure to on-the-job accidents. Getting across to individual workers on a personal level is perhaps the greatest challenge. But significant safety results will not happen until you have management "buy-in". That is why having a plan of action, or in other words a "marketing strategy" is vital. So, think about your company's "safety committee". Is it marketed in a way to promote a sell out or is it sliding into bankruptcy? I've heard it said before, "Don't complain if you don't vote". If you feel there is a need to have a safety revival, start with your safety committee and promoting teamwork. Put the sold sign out for everyone to see.

    Editor's note: Michael Nance is the NCIC Blue Ridge, Southern & Western Piedmont areas Safety Representative. If you are interested in having one of our programs in your area, please give Michael a call at 919-218-9047 or email him at

    From the Desk of Dennis Parnell, Director Safety Education

    Sitting at a desk using a computer should be an easy, stress-free way to work, but that may not be the case. In fact, after sitting at a desk all day, you might feel like you've been working at a physically demanding job (my wife laughs at me when I tell her this!). Poor ergonomics in an office work area can cause musculoskeletal disorders characterized by pain, numbness, burning, swelling, or stiffness. Many people are familiar with these symptoms in the form of carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis.

    Good ergonomics involves setting up the computer workstation to let you work in the most comfortable position. Hands, wrists, and forearms should be straight and roughly parallel to the floor. Adjust the tilt of your keyboard to keep your wrists and forearms in a neutral position. The top of the computer monitor should be at or just below eye level.

    When you're sitting at your desk, adjust your chair so your thighs are generally parallel to the floor with your knees at about the same height as your hips. You should not have to constantly reach or lean to do your work. Your feet should be flat on the floor or supported by a footrest. Your back should be fully supported when you sit up straight or lean back slightly.

    A variety of keyboard and mouse designs are available. If you are having problems with your arms and wrists, you might want to try an ergonomic keyboard instead of a basic keyboard, or use a joystick instead of a mouse.

    Even if your work station is set up correctly, it's still a good idea to take short breaks to move around, and even do some stretching exercises occasionally.

    There is no one set-up that is safe and comfortable for everyone. Make little adjustments until you find the right combination that is most comfortable for you.

    Now you know. Dennis :)
    NC Industrial Commission Safety Education Section

    The NC Industrial Commission Safety Education Section stands ready to assist you with your Safety training needs. We offer a variety of courses, designed to suit your needs. Please give one of our Industrial Safety Representatives a call.

    Director Safety Education
    APCAP & APW Coordinator
    Southeastern Region & HAZWOPER Trainer
    Western Carolina Area
    Defensive Driving & Work Zone Traffic Instructor
    Mid-State Area & Water/Wastewater Coordinator
    Blue Ridge & Southern/Western Piedmont Areas
    Central Piedmont Area
    Eastern & Northeastern Areas, Eastern Defensive Driving Instructor

    We Are Working for You!
    NC Industrial Commission


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