Wednesday, September 10, 2014

OEM—Should You Manufacture Your Own Devices?


During our Spring Workshop presentation on ergonomic changes, we had a number of questions regarding the feasibility of manufacturing your own devices or modifying current devices to suit your purposes.  The questions ranged from increased liability to OSHA treatment to legal implications.  With these questions in mind, we have contacted OSHA and legal counsel to clarify and provide direction when manufacturing or modifying tools. 

OSHA Compliance

MN OSHA Consultation indicated that manufacturing or modifying tools can be acceptable; however it would depend on each specific instance.   When discussing this issue with OSHA, they indicated that you would need to be certain that the modified/manufactured tool or device meets the capacity that it is intended to perform.  A general rule of thumb would be that if you would not allow someone else to use it due to safety concerns, do not use it. 

When considering manufacturing or modifying devices or tools you should ask the following questions:

·         What is the worst case scenario if the device/tool failed?

·         How much pressure or force can the tool/device withstand?

·         What are the qualifications of the person making the modifications or fabricating the tool/device? (i.e. welders)

·         Does the modification alter the tool/device beyond the manufacturer specifications?

When looking at hoists or lifts, you would want an engineer to review the device to give a rating capacity based on the nature of these devices.  Also, keep in mind that any modified attachments, tools, or devices should be used in the manner for with they were intended. 

An example of a modified device would be using floor jacks to change wear blades on plow trucks.  When discussing with OSHA, they indicated that since the floor jack is originally intended to be used to lift objects there would be no issue with that specific use. 

Modified Floor Jack

 
 
 
 
Another example would be a drill attachment to open and close valves. 

Modified Drill Bit
This would be an acceptable device to manufacture or modify as the drill would continue to be used for the intended purpose. 
Legal Counsel Opinion

There is some increased risk of liability when a city creates its own tools or devices.

 If a city purchases a tool and it is defective, and an employee or third party is injured, the city may have a claim against the manufacturer, i.e., it can transfer liability to a third party.

 If the city creates the tool there is no way to transfer liability.  That doesn’t mean a city should not create its own tools but if it does, it should be very careful.

If an employee were injured, he or she would have a workers’ compensation claim which would likely preclude the employee from bringing a negligence action against the city.

 If a third party was injured, that third party would likely be able to bring a negligence claim against the city.

Ultimately, the city needs to assess the risk of injury (and likely seriousness of an injury) versus the problem that is being solved.  That assessment would include the city’s expertise to craft the tool, the cost, and whether a similar tool is available for purchase.

 All things being equal, it would be better that the city buys the tool or device if it can be purchased rather than have the city create its own tool.

 
Recommendation

When looking at the options for purchasing, modifying, or manufacturing tools and devices, you should look closely at what you would like the item to do and what the implications of each option would be.  This being said, you need to look at the cost of each option both upfront and potential costs due to the increased liability.

If you look at these costs and you are not certain which option would work best, you can contact OSHA Consultation 651-284-5060 to ask these questions and get their advice for your specific situation.  Another option would be to contact your LMCIT Loss Control Consultant to discuss your options. 

The bottom line is that your answer is going to be on a case by case basis and there is no right answer for all situations.   
 
By Tara Bursey

Monday, September 8, 2014

Low! Low! Low! Cost On-line Safety Training

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) invites you to attend a free webinar about on-line employee safety training.  Members have requested this kind of offering for a few years.  We're pleased to announce our partnership with First Net Learning,  Learn more and get your questions answered during a webinar created specifically for League members.  Head to our website and read more about FirstNetSafetyTraining .  Upcoming webinar dates are September 25th, October 8th and 22nd.

by Cheryl Brennan

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Accessing Vehicle for Repairs or Inspection



A previous blog focused on safety as it relates to getting in and out of equipment that is being operated, and reviewed the importance of using the “three points of contact” when entering and exiting the cab. Another area where cities experience slip/fall injuries is when equipment is being repaired or inspected.


You’ve probable done it yourself, climbed up on the dump box to see if the box is empty, or stood on a wheel to clean the windshield, both of these scenarios can and have led to slip/fall injuries. 

Whether it’s in the shop, or in the street, climbing on and around equipment can be dangerous. Fortunately, improvements have been made by manufactures, designing better steps and walkways on equipment, and by cities that utilize portable steps, wheel steps, built in steps or ladders to access equipment.        Joe Ingebrand






















Friday, August 15, 2014

There’s an App for That!

Ever wonder if there was an easier way to find those pesky problem areas in your city?  There’s an app for that.  There are a number of apps designed to aid Public Works in tracking the areas that need repairs and/or attention. 

How does it work?
The most popular app is SeeClickFix.   The city would need to establish a portal with SeeClickFix, and then notify their residents of the availability.  The residents would have to download the app on their smart phone and report any issues to the Public Works Department.

What do the citizens report?
The citizens can report anything from downed trees or graffiti to potholes or sidewalk cracks via this app. 

Why do we need this?
With the diminishing resources we all deal with as a public entity, it is more important than ever to do more with less.  This creates more tasks for fewer people in less time, which then makes it more difficult for the Public Works Departments to identify all of the problem areas throughout the city.  The app can make the citizens their “eyes and ears”. 

Not a fan of the app?
There are a number of additional apps available that provide the same service as SeeClickFix.  Here is a short, but certainly not comprehensive list of the available apps:


By: Tara A. Bursey

Monday, August 4, 2014

City Employee Injured After Fall


Here is a headline no one wants to read....“A City of Watertown, SD, employee is in intensive care after falling off a piece of city equipment last week. The employee fell off a street sweeper on April 2, 2013 and fractured his skull. Initially, he was conscious and responsive, but due to the severe trauma, he was air-lifted to Avera Mckennan Hospital in Sioux Falls.”     (The Public Opinion .Com, Watertown, South Dakota)
No matter what type of equipment employees are operating, safety precautions need to be taken when it comes to climbing in and out of the equipment, or performing maintenance activities on the equipment.
Three-Point Contact Every Time
 
DO
Keeps steps and standing surfaces free of snow, mud and debris.
Wear shoes with good support and tread.
Exit and enter facing the cab.
Slow down and use extra caution in bad weather.
Get a firm grip on rails or handles with your hands.
Look for obstacles on the ground below before exiting.
DON’T
Don't climb down with something in your free hand. Put it on the vehicle floor and reach up for it when you get down on the ground.
Don't rush to climb out after a long run. Descend slowly, to avoid straining a muscle.
Never jump!  You may land off balance, on an uneven surface and fall.
Don't use tires or wheel hubs as a step surface.
Don't use the doorframe or door edge as a handhold.
Don't get complacent and become an injury statistic!
by Joe Ingebrand

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FREE OSHA Log recordkeeping training for state and local governments


Basics of OSHA log recordkeeping for state and local governments
This half-day session is directed to new OSHA log recordkeepers at state and local government establishments, although more experienced government recordkeepers are welcome to attend. Topics will include a review of the fundamental requirements of OSHA recordkeeping and will expose the most common OSHA log errors. Participants will have time to ask questions about their own recordkeeping situations and receive tips about how to improve the accuracy and usefulness of the injury and illness log.

Monday, July 28, 2014

OSHA Training

Employee health and safety is not just about plugging in a video and calling it good.  While a considerable amount of relevant (and quite frankly unchanging) information can be conveyed through the use of videos an employer also must make sure to deliver training that is specific to the hazards, environment, equipment and conditions employees face in their everyday work. 

 For example, to provide training on confined space hazards and cover all required OSHA training elements for your city you might choose to use the FirstNet online training offering.  Next you might supplement that information with a free video/DVD from LMCIT’s lending library, and finally you would go over the specifics of confined space situations in your operations.  Using a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) would be an effective tool.

Using the LMCIT low cost online training classes and free DVD library can enhance your employee health and training program.  You can also secure some water and wastewater operator credits at the same time.  Look for the LMCIT postcard and email coming your way soon about the FirstNet Learning product. 

by Cheryl Brennan, Manager Loss Control Field Services