3 cheap ways to reduce utility bills without reducing comfort

Too often, energy-saving tips call for sacrifices in comfort or home upgrades that involve a large investment. But here are three suggestions that cost little more than your time:

1. Keep it clean
Nearly every appliance runs more efficiently if it’s clean. Dishwashers, furnaces, air conditioners, kitchen fans, and dehumidifiers all have filters that should be cleaned or replaced regularly so they don’t have to work so hard. Bathroom exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and their vents should be vacuumed so they will run better, too.

Flush the water heater once a year to remove mineral buildup and improve heating. Clean dust off your refrigerator’s condenser coils, and wash the stove’s reflector pans so heat is more efficiently aimed back at your cooking.

2. Go natural
Save on your utility bills during the summer by harnessing the power of nature. Open windows in the morning to take advantage of the cooler air, but make sure to shut them before outdoor temperatures rise above indoor temperatures. Close blinds or shades on sunny windows and avoid using lights that will add heat to the house unnecessarily.

Disable the dishwasher’s heated drying cycle, and hang laundry on the line. Reduce outdoor water use by installing rain barrels. Instead of a really short lawn, cut your grass to three inches with a mulching mower to keep moisture in the soil and reduce the need to water. This also helps reduce weeds by shading out weed seeds and will reduce your need for chemical applications.

3. Stop the leaks

Leaks add up to losses. The U.S. Geological Survey has a tool for calculating the gallons of water wasted each year based on the number and speed of dripping faucets. So if you were ever looking for motivation to stop those drops, this is it.

Air leaks around windows and doors increase summertime cooling costs too, so plug them with caulk or weather stripping.

Making these small energy-saving changes can reap big rewards.

Farming safety: Anhydrous ammonia fertilizer


Although anhydrous ammonia is readily available, fairly easy to apply, and one of the most efficient agricultural fertilizers available, it also is one of the most potentially dangerous chemicals for farm workers. Because of this, it is illegal to hire someone under age 16 to work with anhydrous ammonia, and workers need training in the safe use of this chemical.

“Anhydrous” means “without water,” so this fertilizer is always “thirsty.” Given the chance, it will rapidly mix with any moisture — in the air, soil, or in people. Contact with skin can cause severe chemical burns, cellular destruction, frostbite, and dehydration. Contact with mucus membranes is especially dangerous and could quickly result in blindness, respiratory damage, or death.

Anhydrous ammonia must be stored and used under high pressure in well-maintained specially made equipment that resists corrosion, chemical reactions, and pressures up to 250 psi. Most accidents happen when transferring ammonia from a storage tank to the applicator tank, so special care must be taken during this process.

Accidents also occur because of overfilling tanks, inadvertently knocking open hose valves, venting pressure release valves too closely to a person, using old or damaged equipment, and overturning tanks while driving.

To help reduce the severity of injuries if an accident does happen, workers should wear proper personal protective equipment:
  • Non-vented goggles at a minimum, but preferably a full-face shield
  • Long, heavy rubber gloves
  • Heavy long-sleeved shirt and pants
  • Chemical-resistant boots
  • Respirator with ammonia cartridges

First aid for exposure to anhydrous ammonia is water — and lots of it. Get away from the source of the ammonia, remove contaminated clothing, and flush skin or eyes for at least 20 minutes. Do not cover injuries with ointments because these will seal in the caustic chemical. Seek medical attention and call 911 for emergencies.

How to safely store gasoline and LP cylinder tanks

It’s the time of year when the use of barbecue grills, lawnmowers, tractors, utility vehicles, generators, and recreational equipment is in full swing, and they all need a power source. Whether a homeowner or commercial business that stores flammable materials, make sure you follow these safety tips.

GASOLINE
Home use
  • Store gas in approved containers only — usually less than 5 gallons.
  • Do not overfill — allow some room for expansion.
  • Keep container caps tight and keep out of direct sunlight.
  • Store at least 50 feet away from pilot lights and ignition sources.
  • Keep out of reach of children.
Commercial use
  • Whenever possible, fuel oil, including diesel fuel, should be stored outside of buildings. If buildings are used for storage, they should have cross-ventilation.
  • Above-ground tanks should be kept outside and at least 40 feet from buildings.
  • Gas storage tanks that are above ground should have “FLAMMABLE – KEEP FIRE AND FLAME AWAY” printed on the tank in red.
  • Vent pipes from underground storage tanks should be at least 12 feet above ground level.
  • Fill openings should be equipped with a cover, which can be locked.

LP GAS CYLINDERS
Home use
  • Store LP gas cylinders upright and outside on a flat, level surface.
  • Keep any source of fire or ignition away from cylinders.
  • If an LP cylinder is connected to a grill, it must be kept outside in a well-ventilated space.
  • Never attach or disconnect an LP cylinder when a grill is in operation or is still hot.
  • When not in use, turn the LP cylinder valve to the OFF position (clockwise).
  • Replace or recycle corroded or rusty cylinders.

Commercial use
  • Locate cylinders so that safety-relief valves are at least three feet from any building.
  • Provide a concrete or other firm, nonflammable foundation for cylinders.
  • Provide a cover for regulating equipment to keep out rain or sleet.
  • Gas-supply lines should be protected from damage and corrosion.

Common sources of heat are flame, friction, electric sparks, spontaneous ignition, chemical reaction, static sparks, lightning, hot motors, or hot mufflers. Remember that a heat source does not have to be visible to ignite gasoline and other flammable vapors.

Top 3 event planning must-haves

It’s happened. You spoke up at a meeting and somehow ended up as the head of the committee for an annual fundraising event for your favorite nonprofit. Now comes the planning, promotion, recruiting of volunteers, set-up, and all the other details that need to happen.

Before you order that giant striped tent and cotton candy machine, take a step back and make sure the organization you love so much is protected with the following three must-haves:

1. A safety checklist
Your number one priority as an event organizer is not only getting people to show up, but making sure they’re safe while attending your event.

The most common cause of injury at special events is trip hazards. Power cables and extension cords are among the worst offenders.
  • Cover or tape all cords, cables, etc. Mark their positions so your guests can see and avoid them.
  • Keep all walkways clear of cords and debris.
During your event, make sure safety remains a top priority.
  • Maintain sufficient lighting throughout the event.
  • Section off areas where you don’t want people to walk or gather.
  • Monitor your event for any unsafe or suspicious activities.

Download a sample event checklist and incorporate a few simple considerations to make sure your event is successful.

2. Volunteer waivers
Volunteers are not covered under a company’s workers’ compensation policy. This is one reason all volunteers should undergo safety and procedure training. A volunteer waiver will help:
  • Reinforce job expectations and risks.
  • Reinforce that workers’ compensation does not cover volunteers.
  • Volunteers gain a sense of ownership while working for you.
Have volunteers sign waivers before they start working. Find a sample volunteer waiver here.

3. Participant liability waivers
Some events like races or sporting events also should require a participant waiver. A liability waiver serves two purposes: it can prevent lawsuits and protect an organization from the actions of the participant.

To provide the greatest protection, a waiver should include a hold harmless agreement and an indemnification agreement.
Make the waiver is clear and easy to understand, and have an attorney review all waivers prior to use. You should also keep the following in mind:
  • Plan your event prior to creating the waiver. This reduces the possibility that last-minute changes may not be reflected in the document.
  • Each person who participates in the event should sign the waiver.
  • When an activity involves children, both parents/guardians must sign the waiver.
Be aware that local jurisdictions vary with respect to rights that may not be waived. Have your attorney confirm that your waiver meets with all legal requirements.

Planning an event can be fun and very rewarding when all the details are covered. Take advantage of additional nonprofit safety and procedure resources on our Prevention ConnectionSM website.

How to prepare for medical emergencies at work

Emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere…including your workplace. Do employees know how to respond if someone has chest pains or suddenly becomes disoriented?

Confusion over roles and responsibilities can delay critical medical care. Take steps to craft a policy and prepare your team for the unexpected.

Consider these recommendations when creating your emergency medical action plan:
  1. If a person is seriously ill or injured, call 911. Make sure employees know that 911 should always be the first call in a life-threatening situation.
  2. Train a team of first responders. Ask for volunteers and provide in-depth training, available from the Red Cross, the National Safety Council, or local healthcare providers. Training may include CPR, use of AED devices, and first aid.
  3. Next, put a system in place so employees can quickly identify and locate the nearest first responder. These people can provide immediate care until emergency medical crews arrive.
  4. Have a designated person in charge of calling a victim’s emergency contact person.
Injuries and non-emergencies
Develop a response plan for injuries that are non-life-threatening as well. If your company has SECURA Insurance as its workers’ compensation insurance provider, the injured employee along with their supervisor should call the 24-hour Nurse Hotline first. A registered nurse will help determine if the injury can be self-treated or if medical attention should be sought. If so, the injured worker will be referred to the nearest medical clinic.

Nurse Hotline is offered as a free benefit for SECURA policyholders and provides fast, expert guidance. It also can help eliminate the hassle of unnecessary and costly visits to the emergency room.

Communicate your emergency response plan several times a year. Make sure any emergency equipment at your facility is in good working order, and build a team of employee volunteers located throughout your facilities who are ready to respond in a crisis.

As always, prevention of injuries should be the main goal. To help, we've provided several free safety program samples on our website here.