Monday, July 14, 2014

It’s a Company Vehicle, Right? Wrong!

When you are hired by the City and you are given a “work” vehicle, do the same rules apply as with private industry?  No, they do not.  There are Minnesota Statutes governing the use of municipally owned vehicles.  The statute outlines the use of these vehicles for personal reasons.  What considerations need to be made and what policies should the City adopt regarding use of city-owned vehicles?

The Statute and What it Means:
MN Statute 471.666 sets forth the restrictions on the use of municipal vehicles.  Subdivision 2 of the statute outlines the restrictions on use of municipal vehicles.  It is indicated that a local government vehicle can only be used for local government business, including personal use that is clearly incidental for local government business.  It also states that the vehicle cannot be used as a vehicle to commute to and from work for the employee. 

Example:  A city employee uses the city vehicle to get to a work related seminar.  On the return trip from the seminar, the employee takes a detour to a shopping mall to make some non-work related purchases.  If the employee is in an accident in the mall parking lot, there may be coverage questions that may result in the city’s coverage not applying to a portion or portions of the loss.

Exceptions to the Statute:
Exceptions to the statute regarding to and from an employee’s residence are outlined in Subdivision 3 of the statute.  These exceptions include when the vehicle is used in connection with work-related activities outside of the employee’s scheduled work hours.  Another exception is if the employee has been assigned the use of the vehicle on an extended basis and their primary place of work is not the local government work station where they are permanently assigned.  This would apply to field employees.  The third exception is if the number of miles traveled or the time needed to conduct the business will be minimized if the employee uses the municipal vehicle to travel to their residence before or after traveling to the place of local government business.  The last exception is those public safety vehicles that are owned or leased by the local government entity.  

Why Is This Important?
If an employee has an accident and it is determined that their personal use of the vehicle falls outside of the statute and/or the City’s fleet policy, the employee assumes significant personal risk.  The risk could be financial in nature and depending on the City’s policy, there may be disciplinary action for the lapse in policy adherence. 
What Can We Do?
  • Regularly review employee use of city-owned vehicles with special attention to personal use of the vehicles.
  • Consider adopting a policy that prohibits the personal use of city-owned vehicles.
  • Train employees on the policy and develop a form to clearly show when use of city-owned vehicles is “authorized”.
  • Require employees to use their personal auto if there is a possibility of personal use or if the employee would like to have their spouse or family member accompany them.

The bottom line is city/municipally owned vehicles must adhere to a different set of rules governed by MN Statute 471.666.  This differs greatly from the private industry’s guidelines on company vehicles, which are determined by each individual company and are not subject to the statute above.

By Tara Bursey

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rain! Rain! Go away! Come again some other day!

There’s a bright side to all the rain we’ve received across the state.  Less time spent watering those pesky flower pots and hanging baskets!  

Here’s a common hazard found in many public work shops in Minnesota.  Summer weather brings with it a need to water all those plantings.  Traditional hoses pose a slip, trip and fall hazard if they are not stored neatly off the floor. 
Lugging long and heavy garden hoses around also poses an ergonomic risk.  Here is one city’s solution.  They picked up some expandable, lightweight hoses – as seen on TV!  Here is 300 feet of hose in a 5 gallon bucket.  The Garden Club recently received a donation from the city of (you guessed it) traditional garden hose!  

By Cheryl Brennan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Job Hazard Analyses: Examples and a tool to get you started!

Let’s get you started on developing JHA’s for your operations.  LMCIT Loss Control consultants have many examples of JHA’s for public works tasks such as Pothole Filling , Sewer TelevisingSkin PatchingTree Trimming From Bucket, and Water Hydrant Flushing Valve Operation to name a few.  Also check out this information memo, Conducting a Job Hazard AnalysisA Proactive Approach to Safety, on the League of Minnesota Cities’ website for step by step instructions.  At the bottom of page 4 you will see a link to a blank document that you can use to customize JHA’s for your city. 

A Job Hazard Analysis, (JHA), also called a Job Safety Analysis, is a proven analytical tool that examines the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.  Ideally, after uncontrolled hazards are identified, a city will take steps to eliminate or reduce the hazards to an acceptable risk level. 

Understand how to conduct, review and document a job hazard analysis.  Use this proactive tool to establish proper work procedures and address on-the-job hazards before an injury or costly claim occurs. 


By Cheryl Brennan
    

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Financial Assistance for Safety Related Projects that Reduce Employee Risk for Injury

Did you know LMCIT Loss Control professionals can help your city apply to the Safety Grant Program through the MN Department of Workplace Safety Consultation?  The Safety Grant Program awards funds, with a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10,000, to qualifying employers for projects designed to reduce the risk of injury or illness to their employees. 

MN OSHA's current primary inspection emphasis industries include public entities and utilities which means cities are a priority in terms of receiving the grant.  Cities may apply for the grant by each city department if they wish.  This way, each department can try to obtain equipment and/or training that is specific to improving safety in their own department. 
Make Plans for a Grant

LMCIT Loss Control finds that many cities are having success in getting their grant application approved.    LMCIT members can use the recommendation letter from their Loss Control Consultant to help the city qualify for the grant.  Work with your loss control consultant to submit your request to LMCIT and Underwriting staff will sign the grant application. 

Grant money can be used for:
  • All or part of the cost of purchasing and/or installing recommended safety equipment;
  • The cost of operating or maintaining such equipment;
  • The cost of property, if the property is necessary to meet the safety inspection recommendations;
  • The cost of training tied to equipment; and
  • Tuition reimbursement

If you have an interest in applying for the Safety Grant, you should complete and send an application to Workplace Safety Consultation (WSC) - applications can be written or completed online.  Applications are accepted continuously, and grants are awarded monthly.  You can re-apply for the grant multiple times if you are not initially approved, so keep trying!

Information, applications and other useful forms for the Safety Grant Program can be obtained at the following link:Minnesota Safety Grant

Back in 1993, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry started this program to assist employers in making their workplaces safer and healthier.  Since budgets are tight, some cities are struggling to get the safety equipment and tools that are needed.  This grant program can help with that, and many Minnesota cities are making use of it.

Grant money is possible as the result of funds that are deposited in the Safety Grant account from fines levied against employers.  As such, the amount of grant money available can fluctuate over time.  The number of grants awarded varies depending on available funding, but can range from 150 to more than 200 grants awarded each year


by Cheryl Brennan 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring is here! Just ask the snowman!

Snow in Brooklyn Park on Wednesday afternoon changed to rain as we approached Rochester to finish, on Thursday, yet another week of Spring Loss Control Workshops.

With spring weather comes anticipation of summer fun for winter weary Minnesotans.  Now is the time to brush up on inspection skills designed to keep park patrons and city employees safe at play and on the job. Need a quick refresher?  LMCIT Loss Control puts the training and tools at your finger tips.

Visit the League of Minnesota Cities website at www.lmc.org for valuable tools and  information on:  Mock OSHA Inspections, Aquatic Facility Risk Management and Playground Safety  .

Next week we "hop" on down the road to St. Cloud and St. Paul for the wrap up of the 2014 workshop season.  See you on the trail!

by Cheryl Brennan

Monday, April 14, 2014

What’s all the buzz about?

LMCIT’s spring safety and loss control workshops are in full swing all around the state of Minnesota.  The hotel’s complimentary morning newspaper and a cup of coffee greet us as we groggily prepare for the day…..What?! Man survives after chainsaw slips .   The saw blade and chain are graphically clear against the bones in a chest x-ray photo that accompanies the article. 

Did you know that the federal OSHA logging and operations standard applies to any tree felling done by city employees?  Did you know that the LMCIT loss control consultants can provide guidance if you need to develop your employee safety program?  Well it does and they can.

The logging operations standard includes various requirements for the provision, inspection and maintenance of equipment (e.g., personal protective equipment, tools, vehicles, and machines) used in performing logging operations.  It also requires first aid training.  

The standard incorporates performance requirements that provide flexibility to employers in developing safety and health programs to suit logging operations in all regions of the country. The standard also requires employers to provide training for each employee who has not been trained previously.

For free chainsaw safety training  contact Ed LaFavor at MN OSHA  by:
  • phone at (218) 362-5915;
  • fax at (218) 362-5916; or
  • e-mail at ed.lafavor@state.mn.us.

     
Let's keep the buzzin' for the bees!    

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Contractors – Do Your Homework Before You Hire

Have you ever hired a contractor only to witness them doing unsafe acts while doing work for the city?  Many of you have probably had these types of experiences, and can think of several examples when this happened to you.  What did you do about it? 


Although it may not happen that often, there are times when OSHA can hold the city responsible for safety violations committed by the contractor.  This can happen when the city hires a contractor, but doesn’t do their homework before they hire.  Whether or not your own employees are put at risk by these unsafe acts or conditions, the city can still be held liable in some situations.

In order to make sure you are hiring quality contractors (and reducing city liability), you should consider having a written contractor safety program.  The program may include some of the following:  
  • Contractor safety records
  • Insurance requirements
  • Indemnification
  • Unsafe Acts
  • Written safety programs and training
  • Supervision
  • Use of equipment




Contractors should be thoroughly screened before hiring.  If you don’t already have one, you may wish to consider using a checklist or form to gather contractor data before signing the contract for the work to be done.  The checklist may look something like the following:

_____   Contract bid specifications include a requirement of workers’ compensation modifier of 1.1 or                      below, OR include language that weighs the contractors’ safety records.

_____   [ENTITY] is named on the contractor’s policy as an “Additional Insured”.  List coverage periods:

_____   The contractor has provided a certificate of insurance to [ENTITY] for both liability and workers’                compensation.  List coverage periods:

_____   Contractor agrees to defend and indemnify [ENTITY], and the employees, officers and agents of                  the entity for any claims filed against the entity arising from the contractor’s actions.

_____  The contractor has provided [ENTITY] with the following written safety programs:

_____  The contractor has provided [ENTITY] with the following safety training records:

_____   The contractor has attended an orientation session for working with [ENTITY].  List date:

 If your city has questions about contractor safety and liability, please be certain to contact your assigned loss control consultant.  They can help answer your questions and provide you with additional resources.

LMCIT Loss Control Staff