Stay Safe At Work

Grinnell Mutual workplace safety

Not everyone has a 9-to-5 desk job — a lot of jobs require hard physical labor — lifting, standing, bending, and climbing. And it’s not just manual labor that can result in injuries on the job — working with heavy machinery or dangerous materials like chemicals and hot oil can also be hazardous to your health. Learn how to protect yourself if you’re doing more than shuffling paperwork.

Avoiding workplace injury is within your reach

Most jobs have their share of paperwork, but lots of jobs also have you and your employees on the go all shift long. From stocking shelves to lugging heavy boxes to operating machinery, you know the risk that comes with a highly physical job. Luckily, if you take a spill, we can offer a helping hand.

Slippery when wet

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), slips, trips, and falls are the second leading cause of death in the workplace — only motor vehicles cause more worker fatalities. One bad fall can result in lost workdays, reduced productivity, expensive worker compensation claims, or even a lawsuit. Luckily they’re often preventable.

  • Clean up spills immediately and stay off freshly mopped floors. Cordon off the area until it’s completely dry.
  • Secure electrical and phone cords out of high traffic areas.
  • Use non-skid mats under rugs.
  • Install handrails in restrooms and on staircases.
  • Regularly check and maintain walkways, steps, and sidewalks.
  • Make slip-resistant shoes part of your employees’ uniform.
  • Train employees on ladder safety rules.

Push, pull, lift…ouch!

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons, and if you’re lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures, or performing the same task repetitively, you’re at risk. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were almost 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2015 alone. The good news is, they’re often preventable. Here’s how to implement a sound ergonomic plan for your employees.

  1. Offer support. It’s important to take stock of the tasks you assign and understand the physical toll they can take on your employees. Before a valuable worker gets injured, make sure they’re in good enough physical condition to take on the task. Encourage a buddy system — no employee should be moving heavy machinery or lifting large items without help. And always ensure that safety precautions — like using dollies and ratchet straps correctly and wearing the proper protective gear — are enforced. 
  2. Provide education. When you’re fitting a job to a person, training is an important first step. Getting your employees informed about the how and why of ergonomics can help discourage overexertion and bad decision-making later. It’s not only important to post proper lifting technique, ladder, and other equipment safety rules and emergency evacuation plans. You need a training plan, too.
  3. Promote wellness. Physical laborers are often on their feet for their entire shift. Help foster mental and physical well-being by offering regular break times. Consider providing a basket of nutritious snacks in the break room.
  4. If an injury happens anyway… Be proactive. OSHA’s injury and illness recording and reporting regulation requires employees to keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses, and federal and state laws prohibit discriminating against employees who report these kinds of problems. Encourage medical intervention, restrict work duties as necessary, and make sure you have comprehensive business insurance coverage to help cushion the blow.

If you’re brave enough to be a business owner, we salute you. But when the going gets tough, you need to know you’re not alone. Grinnell Mutual provides peace of mind to thousands of small business owners every day — our Target Market coverage packages and Preventing Losses program provide comprehensive solutions for every situation, from a workers’ compensation claim to a cyber attack. Plus, you can file a claim 24/7.

Trust in your business’s tomorrow and call an agent today.


One to build on: Contractor safety

If you’re a contractor, you know a thing or two about hard physical work. Even if you have an exemplary safety record, it’s still a good idea to brush up on the basics and know what happens next if you or an employee have a workplace injury.

Laws of the ladder

It’s not the most exciting topic on Earth, but we need to talk about it: ladder safety. If you’re a builder, you use one. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites the following as ladder fall culprits:

  1. Incorrect extension ladder setup angle. Forty percent of ladder-related injuries happen because the ladder slides off its base because it’s placed at an unsafe angle. Experts say the ideal angle is 75 degrees. Anything less can result in an accident, and we don’t just mean spilled paint.
  2. Inappropriate ladder selection. You’re a professional, so you likely already know how to buy the proper tool for the job. Nevertheless, here’s a refresher: To avoid a structural failure, find a ladder with the proper duty rating, which is the maximum weight capacity (a fully clothed adult, plus added tools and materials).
  3. Insufficient ladder inspection. Give that ladder a once-over before you climb it. Check for loose rungs, damaged or worn non-slip feet, loose spreaders (or other metal parts in poor shape), corrosion, and rough or splintered surfaces before using your ladder. And always train your employees on ladder inspection.
  4. Improper use. Well, of course. Be mindful of applying excessive force, overreaching, and carrying objects while using a ladder.
  5. Lack of safety tools and information. Small companies — which make up 80 percent of all construction companies — rarely receive the required training for safe ladder use. If you’re a small business owner, download the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Small Business Handbook, which helps employers provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. 
Ladder safety is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to workplace safety. Grinnell Mutual’s Loss Control Program offers training geared to educate both business owners and their employees on everything from fire protection to fleet safety. Trust that we’re looking out for your biggest asset: people. Talk to your agent today about our Target Markets program which will help you get on your feet and stay on your feet.

Tools of your trade

As a contractor, you likely work with some pretty powerful tools and danger comes with the territory. Workers who use hand and power tools are exposed to a variety of on-the-job risks, including falling, chemical burns, harmful fumes, and electrocution. Here are five basic safety rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that can help prevent you and your employees from workplace accidents:

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. You’re a professional, you know how to operate your equipment. But when you’ve been doing it for years, it’s easy to get a little lax. Handle your tools as if it was your first day on the job. Don’t carry them around by the cord or hose, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, and disconnect them when they’re not in use. And make sure all your power tools are equipped with guards and safety switches.
  2. Protect yourself. Always wear safety goggles, masks, and gloves no matter how small or “business as usual” the task is. If you’re an employer, make sure your employees have access to high-quality safety gear and offer emergency drills and workplace safety training regularly.
  3. Avoid a hair-raising situation. Electrical shocks can lead to heart failure, falls from ladders or rooftops, and burns. They’re the biggest hazard associated with power tools. To safeguard yourself, make sure your electric tools have a three-wire cord plugged into a grounded receptacle, and are double insulated or powered by a low-voltage isolation transformer. And if you’re inexperienced or unfamiliar with the tool, find an expert to handle the task.
  4. Maintenance matters. Keep your tools clean, sharp, and free of cracks. And keep in mind that iron or steel hand tools can produce sparks that can ignite around flammable substances. Spark-resistant tools made of non-ferrous materials should be used where volatile liquids or other explosive substances are stored or used.
  5. Don’t forget to rest. Heavy jackhammers and other pneumatic tools can cause fatigue and strain. If you’re feeling pain or become overheated or exhausted, take a break.
The good news is, if you’ve got a MasterTrades policy — Grinnell Mutual’s commercial program for contractors built to protect business owners — you’ve already got loss prevention and safety training at your fingertips and 24/7 claims reporting. If you don’t, call an agent today for a healthy and safe tomorrow.


Balancing act: Food service safety 101

If you’ve ever been a server, you know how physically taxing it can be. From lifting heavy trays to limited rest breaks to prolonged standing, the occupational hazards are numerous. In turn, workers’ compensation costs, both direct and indirect, are skyrocketing. So how does a small business owner limit risks for employees?

  1. Watch your step. Making nonslip footwear part of a food service uniform can help reduce injury, especially in work areas where wet floors are commonplace. Providing protective hats, gloves, and aprons also helps shield employees from burns, cuts, and food-borne pathogens.
  2. Use ergonomics. Good ergonomic design helps reduce muscle fatigue and job-related musculoskeletal disorders that can occur from lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures, and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. Defining goals, discussing them with workers, and assigning responsibilities accordingly can help employees avoid injury and ongoing medical issues.
  3. Know your chemistry. Chemical hazards and toxic substances can contribute to workplace accidents. Every employee should understand the potential hazards of cleaning supplies and should be aware of how to use and store them properly.

Risky business: How to keep your employees within the law

Today, food service goes above and beyond hamburgers and French fries. Many restaurants have full-service bars or home-delivery options. How do you keep your employees safe and within the law?

  1. Know and teach state law. The legal drinking age in all 50 states is 21. Every state has its own statutes and regulations, so it’s important to educate your employees not only to protect your liquor license and insurance rates, but to keep community members and employees safe.
  2. Deliberate delivery. If you offer home delivery, you'll need commercial auto insurance and to make sure your driver is trained on the protocol for accidents or robberies. Offer to ride with your worker a few times to familiarize them with common routes and neighborhoods.
  3. Minimize potential workplace violence. Restaurants and bars tend to be open long after dark, sometimes into the wee hours. Potentially intoxicated patrons and on-site sexual harassment or assault are very real possibilities. Consider video surveillance and train employees in reporting and logging incidents of threats or violence. Encourage employees to use the “buddy system” — if an employee is required to be outside after dark, provide an escort from the building to the safety of his or her car.
It doesn’t matter if you’re serving filet mignon on a silver platter or delivering a large pie with extra pepperoni, if you’re a restaurant owner, you’ve got your hands full. Let Grinnell Mutual take a little bit of worry off your plate with our comprehensive Restaurant insurance policy. It offers a menu of coverage options for your business, from workers’ compensation to cyber liability. And to keep you and your employees out of harm’s way, we offer a Loss Prevention program designed to keep your business percolating efficiently and 24/7 claims reporting. Contact your local agent today for a quote.


When your shift isn’t 9 to 5: Convenience store safety

If you’re a convenience store owner, you know your job is often unpredictable. From odd hours to intense physical demands to equipment breakdown, not every shift is smooth sailing. Luckily, you don’t have to navigate alone. Grinnell Mutual’s Convenience Store Target Market offers buckets of great safety and insurance tips to make sure that if a mishap occurs, you’ve got a plan of action.

In the line of fire: Convenience store employees are at risk

Security is paramount. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), convenience store owners, operators, and workers are at the highest risk for workplace homicide. A posted emergency plan is helpful, but it’s only part of ensuring you and your staff remain safe on the job.

Survey the property. Preventative measures, from security to safety, is paramount when you own any kind of business, but they’re especially important when your operation has late night or early morning shifts. Why? Criminals are more likely to attack when they assume you or your employees will be suffering from fatigue or might be alone. Limit the number of entrances and exits to the store and the parking lot, update or maintain your surveillance equipment regularly, close off some of the parking and door access at night, and consider installing fences, gates, locks, or turnstiles.

Educate your employees. Training is your best first defense. Posting emergency exit and protocol information is great, but it’s important to take it a few steps further by having regular drills and group safety classes to ensure your employees have a fighting chance in case of a robbery. Welcome and encourage local law enforcement to make regular check-ins. Keep cash in registers minimal and post signs stating that the amount of cash on-site is limited.

Be on display. Limited visibility is a criminal’s best friend. You want your employees to be visible from the outside, so law enforcement and onlookers know if there’s a problem. Keep the windows clear of signs and merchandise, and always maintain adequate lighting inside and outside the store.

A big part of our job at Grinnell Mutual is to keep our customers safe. We provide 24/7 claims reporting and a comprehensive Convenience Store insurance package that offers you a variety of tools to help keep your workplace as safe as it can be. And our Preventing Losses program is chock-full of valuable resources that’ll help keep your most valuable assets intact and operating smoothly.