We just made it through a December where we saw some colder
than average temperatures, with some northern parts of the state seeing record
lows. As January, our typically coldest month, is just getting started we thought
it might be a good idea to remind you of some of our previous cold weather blogs
related to Frozen Water Lines as this may be an issue some of you may see this
goodbye to cages and wells. Kind of. Over the next 20 years (based
on whether a ladder is existing, is being repaired or replaced, or is a new
installation), fixed ladders that are over 24’ in length will need to be
equipped with ladder safety devices or personal fall arrest systems.
Cages and wells will no longer be acceptable as they have not proven to prevent
If you’ve ever climbed in a caged ladder, it’s likely that at some point during
your ascent you thought, “How is this round metal cage supposed to protect me
from violently crashing to the ground?” Well, it looks like you weren’t
the only one. In fact, it was widely recognized that ladder cages did nothing
in terms of worker safety and fall prevention. So, as of the release of the new
Walking/Working Surface standard, ladder cages are being phased out.
Now, don’t panic if you’ve got a facility full of these. OSHA has various dates
for compliance to allow for a gradual transition and to ease the financial
burden on property owners/employers who find themselves needing to make a
change. For now, existing ladder cages are grandfathered in, but that
will change eventually.
The first compliance date comes late next year and is the deadline for when
employers must ensure that all fixed ladders have some type of safety
system. The deadline, November 19, 2018, still allows employers to select
wells as their fall protection option as long as the ladder already existed.
Technically, that means that a newly installed ladder between now and then
could still have a cage installed because it will have been “existing” on
November 19, 2018. Of course, to make things easier going forward,
employers could simply opt to install a ladder safety system or personal fall
arrest system, as well, or as their main fall protection solution. On that same date, all new fixed ladders (as well as any replacement ladders or
ladder sections) will be required to be installed with either a ladder safety
system or a personal fall arrest system. No new installations will be
allowed with cages or wells. For the most part, that takes care of the near-future deadlines. But,
OSHA is phasing wells and cages out altogether, so while you may try squeezing
new installations in before the deadline, keep in mind that in 20 years’ time
(November 18, 2036 to be exact) all fixed ladders greater than 24’ in length
will be required to have fall arrest systems or ladder safety systems. This
means that your existing ladders with cages and wells will need to be
retrofitted because there will no longer be any grandfathering allowed.
This is quite a way down the road, but there’s no sense in waiting 19.5 years
and scrambling at the last minute to change everything in your
So, as mentioned above, this leaves you with a choice between two remaining
acceptable solutions: ladder safety systems and personal fall arrest.
Most people are familiar with personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) – a harness,
lanyard, and suitable anchor point. The requirements here are no
different than the requirements elsewhere: fall clearance, freefall distance,
proper inspection and maintenance of equipment, anchor point capacities and
training in the equipment’s use must all be taken into account just as if you
were using this equipment to keep somebody from falling off the edge of a
building. Ladder safety systems, though, may be a little bit less
familiar. While ladder safety systems still require a
harness, ladder safety systems are rails or cables that run the length of the
ladder vertically. An employee “ties-off” by hooking the D-Ring of his or
her harness to the trolley or rope grab and proceeds to climb. Certain
systems will require some manual action by the user while others will simply
allow them to climb, locking into place only in the event of a fall. Keep
in mind that employees will need to be able to transition from the ladder to
the level to which they are climbing without exposing themselves to a fall, so
the ladder safety device may need to extend farther than the ladder. Whichever method you choose – PFAS or Ladder Safety System – employees will be
safer when climbing your fixed ladders than they were while relying on a cage
or well. Make sure you train them so they can properly use the equipment
and are safe. Improperly worn/used fall protection equipment may be offering
nothing more than a false sense of security. And false senses of security
make people take unnecessary risks that could lead to disaster. Make sure
to review your facility and start taking the necessary precautions now. For more information
regarding the new Walking-Working Surfaces Rule please see our previous blog
OSHA Adopts Walking-Working Surfaces Federal Regulations.
Minnesota has adopted the final rule from federal OSHA
about walking-working surfaces and personal fall-protection systems. The new
rule updates and clarifies standards, and adds training and inspection
requirements. MN OSHA's final rule became effective Sept. 19, 2017.
Falls from heights and on the same level (a
working surface) are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries
and deaths. From 2012 through 2016, Minnesota OSHA Compliance investigated 26
fatalities and 78 serious injuries due to falls.
Some requirements in the new rule have compliance dates after the
effective date including:
Ensuring exposed workers
are trained on fall hazards and the use of fall protection equipment (6
Inspecting and certifying
permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (1 year),
Installing personal fall
arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on
replacement ladders/ladder sections, including fixed ladders on outdoor
advertising structures (2 years),
Ensuring existing fixed
ladders over 24 feet, including those on outdoor advertising structures,
are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder
safety system (2 years), and
Replacing cages and wells
(used as fall protection) with ladder safety or personal fall arrest
systems on all fixed ladders over 24 feet (20 years).
During these colder months, you may have staff that feel the
extra draft and request a Space Heater for their office. Adding a Space Heater
can add some comfort to those feeling the chill in the air, or the draft along
the floor. One of the issues with use of Space Heaters is that they come from a
home or purchased at a retail store. The problem with these are they are not
intended for commercial use. Commercial use Space Heaters need to UL Listed for
Below are a few additional hazards associated with consumer
1.They are not commercial grade Space Heaters and
can increase the fire hazards in the commercial/city buildings.
2.The Space Heaters tend to remain plugged in at
night and unattended during off hours.
3.There are typically multiple heaters plugged in
a single circuit which can, and often does, over load the circuit, causing the
electrical wires to overheat and may lead to a fire.
4.Some Space Heaters that are brought in are older
units of dubious origin and could have damage or wear. This leads to an
increased chance for fire due to electrical shorts and overheating.
There are some simple solutions to these issues, without an
all-out ban on their use. There are low voltage commercial panel heaters
designed for use in offices and cubicles. There are also commercial grade Space
Heaters available for purchase, which would be a more appropriate choice for
use in commercial/city office buildings. Establishing a policy regarding the
use and care of heaters, including a policy to unplug heaters while not in use,
can reduce the associated hazards tied to the non-commercial grade and consumer
grade heaters brought from home which could have damaged heating elements or
electrical cords, or have a dust bunny nest – each could contribute to the fire
Local office supply distributors can be a good source for
commercial grade Space Heaters. With any Space Heater, you want to check to
make sure it is not “for consumer use only”.
Hopefully this will start a conversation within your Office
to ensure that everyone knows the Risks, and Works together to ensure Safety
within the Workplace!
Have you ever gone out to dinner and found yourself reading
the stand-up menu that was placed on the table? Sometime these are advertisements,
or the ever so popular drink menu. What if you took this idea to your break room
or lunch table and added safety messages?
What if you changed these messages every month, or added
some simple quizzes? Could you see staff sitting at lunch discussing the day’s
work, last weekend’s fishing trip, and suddenly someone asks “How do you
overcome driver fatigue?” The other staff will then start thinking about it as
well. Naturally there are multiple answers, but the staff randomly started
This is an interesting concept that some state agencies are
doing with employee break rooms and lunch tables. There are a wide variety of
topics, as well as quizzes, that could be installed to always keep safety on
employees’ minds. Sometimes just a simple Google search for “Safety Quizzes”
will give you plenty of examples to use.
Some examples of topic to use include:
·Cold & Heat Stress
Thinking outside the box of safety training can be fun, and
trying to keep safety a Priority is Important.
Winter is just a few short months away, and that’s hard to
believe during the warm months of summer. Looking at your staff, have you moved
someone into a Single Axle Truck for plowing that has little experience
plowing? How do you prepare these employees for this type of work?
MnDOT has a Mobile Driving Simulator that can help gain some
experience for these inexperienced operators. The Driving Simulator can help
with trouble shooting some motor issues, to checking mirrors, and watching
plows. This is not actually operating out on the road, but a great starting
point to see how people can handle multi-tasking during winter weather events.
This simulator will help develop operators in things
such as: controlling speed, plowing around vehicles, and keeping control of
And don’t forget about FirstNet Learning, which you can
access through the League of Minnesota Cities for your additional training
needs. New courses have recently been added for: Snow Plow Safety, Backhoe
Safety with Trackhoe Supplement, Bulldozer Safety, Dump Truck Safety, Street
Sweeper Safety, and Road Grader Safety. FirstNet is free to members of our Regional Safety
Groups, or $19 per account for our members who are not a part of a Regional
Safety Group. More information on FirstNet Learning can be found on our website
By: Troy Walsh
Editors Note: Don't forget that the United States will experience a Solar Eclipse on Monday, August, 21st. Solar eclipses, can cause permanent eye damage if proper safety precautions are not taken. If you, or any of your staff or coworkers plan to be working outside during this event, please be mindful of the increased risk. It is never safe to look directly at the sun, even though the temptation may be to do so during the unique solar event. Anyone who plans to view the eclipse should either do so through a viewer, or only while wearing proper eye protection. You can read more about the requirements these viewers and viewing glasses on NASA's website here: https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-recommends-safety-tips-to-view-the-august-solar-eclipse
It’s that time of year when Summer Storms will build and hit
our communities quick and sometimes with force. We often rely on Public Works
to move trees, check on sanitary sewer, and ensure that the infrastructure
remains in operating condition.
How does your community respond to calls about fallen trees?
Does your city remove the tree when they fall in the street? Do they push them
to the boulevard or cut them up? Do they leave the trees to the property owner?
Having an idea and/or a response policy for your storm response will help the
community understand the priorities of the Public Works Department.
What if the tree falls into a private property from the
park? There are always a lot of questions to answer when storms hit our
communities, but somehow, we always pull together and get tasks accomplished.
Safety should always be #1 when cleaning up storm damage.
Always be on the lookout for Power Lines in trees when they fall. Ensure that the
Power Company has been notified and power has been removed.
Use extreme caution when clearing trees with chain saws and when
working around the general public. Minnesota Nice and a Bonding Community means
everyone wants to help, and that is a Great Plan. Ensure Safety to you and the
Public during these events…