Friday, January 20, 2017

Winter Safety Tips

It’s January, and that means we are in the thick of our Minnesota winter (even if it is a temperate 38 degrees outside as I am writing this). We may be going through an unseasonably warm streak right now, but looking ahead in the weather forecast the cold and snow we are more accustomed to will be back soon, so here are some winter safety tips.

Cold Weather
When working outdoors or in unheated areas this time of year, it is important to be mindful of the dangers of cold stress. This includes Frostbite and Hypothermia which we have previously written a blog about here.
Two things that you can do to protect yourself from the cold are wear appropriate clothing and be mindful of how your body is reacting to the cold. When it’s cold out, wear plenty of layers and limit the amount of skin you have that is exposed to the cold and wind by wearing gloves, knit hats, etc. When it’s sub-zero out, you should ideally have no skin exposed and should be limiting the amount of time you are spending outdoors. The next thing you can do is be mindful of how your body is reacting to the cold. When it is cold and your body temperature starts to drop, your body will start to focus its blood flow on your core as a way of protecting your vital organs. This means that blood flow to your extremities such as arms and legs will be decreased. An early warning sign of this decreased circulation will be numbness in your fingers and toes, so if you start to feel this numbness despite wearing gloves, heavy socks and insulated boots, you need to get out of the cold immediately.

The Minnesota Department of Labor has some additional information that can be found here:

Look on the bottom of that article for additional links and resources from federal OSHA and NIOSH that can also help you be safe in the cold. 

Frozen Pipes
During the winter months, especially January when it is not uncommon for us to go a full week with temperatures only in the negative digits, you should be very mindful of the risks of frozen water and sewer lines. This is a topic that we have covered extensively in other blogs, for easy access, we compiled links to all of them into a single post last year that you can find here.
The risk of water line freeze-ups is one of the reasons why it is important to make sure the water is shut off in any vacant buildings unless of course, the city wishes to keep any sprinkler systems in those buildings active. If the city does decide to keep the sprinkler or water system in a vacant building active the heat should remain on as well, and the building should be inspected frequently during cold snaps to ensure not pipes have frozen and burst.
Did you know that the Minnesota Department of Transportation has a website that allows you to track road conditions? allows you to track road conditions of all roads maintained by the state DOT. You can see how the roads rate after snow storms between “normal”, “partially covered”, “completely covered” and “travel not advised”. The website also allows you to track traffic speeds, see where any accidents have occurred, and look at photos taken by state traffic cameras. Aside from the website, there is also an app that you can download to your phone.
As Public Works employees you are usually the ones clearing the roads of snow for the rest of us, so this may not be as useful to you, but informing your citizens about this useful tool could help prepare them for the snowy roads and prevent accidents. As someone who has to travel a lot for work, I know the app has been extremely helpful to me on more than one occasion.

By: Cody Tuttle

Friday, January 6, 2017

Building a Better Mouse Trap

Have you ever completed a job and thought, “there has got to a better way to complete these tasks”? Thinking outside the box with your normal everyday operations could help in making the job easier and/or safer!

Did you know that the Minnesota Local Transportation Agencies (LTAP) has a Grant Program for ideas such as this?  Local Operational Research Assistance Program (OPERA) is a Grant Program that could help some of these ideas come true! The below link will guide you to past projects that have been completed as well as some video’s on these completed projects.

National LTAP also has Archives of not only the Minnesota projects, but the national project competition, called the “Build a Better Mousetrap”, winners. Build a Better Mousetrap will review the 2015 National Entry’s as well as entries back to 2009. These inventions and ideas could be applied to your organization to help make the Job Easier and Possible Safer!

 Previous Entries


Underbody Truck Wash - Mt. Sterling, KY

Milling Scoop - Englewood, CO

By: Troy Walsh


Friday, December 16, 2016

Vacant and Infrequently Used Buildings: Things you should watch out for!

It’s not uncommon for cities to end up with vacant buildings. Sometimes they pick them up due to foreclosure with plans to do something to them, or the property that they reside on, and other times they build newer facilities and are unable to sell or find another use for the older ones. Whatever the reasoning for the city owning them, these vacant properties do come with their own unique set of challenges as far as keeping them secure and maintained. Infrequently used buildings, such as fire halls and community centers that can go days between use, will also contain many of these challenges. 

The first of the unique hazards present in vacant and infrequently used buildings can be caused by individuals trespassing on the property. Many vacant properties, due to their very nature of being unused buildings, contain hazards that would be unacceptable in a building that is in use. These hazards could be things such as loose or missing floorboards, missing steps, poor wiring, and exposed insulation. All of these could cause risk of injury to someone trespassing who is unfamiliar with the property and doesn’t know to avoid them.
Did you know that the city could still be held liable if someone injures themselves while trespassing on city property? That is why it is important to make sure that all vacant buildings are property secured. This means ensuring that all doors and windows are locked and in good repair. Any broken doors or windows should be boarded up. Each entrance should also have a “No Trespassing” sign or something similar to warn potential trespassers that the property is unsafe for them to enter.
Due to a lack of regular attention and maintenance, as well as the risk of intruders breaking in and starting one, vacant buildings are at a higher risk of fire. Further increasing the risk should one occur, is that many do not have operational sprinkler systems, even if one is installed.
To save on utility costs, many vacant buildings have the power and gas turned off. If the building is not heated, then the water should also be turned off and the sprinkler system (if present) should be drained as well to prevent frozen pipes from bursting. This leads to a decrease in controls should a fire break out, but may be considered a necessity as maintaining utility systems for a building that isn’t being used can be costly and time consuming. It is something that each individual city will need to weigh the risks for and decide what they feel comfortable with.
If the city wishes to keep the sprinkler system operational, the building should remain heated, and regular inspections of the system should occur as they would for any other building.

Infrequently used buildings
Infrequently used buildings, such as community centers or fire halls, that may be used as little as once a week or less can often times run these risks of trespass and fire as well. Though they most likely will not also suffer from the same maintenance issues as a vacant building may have, they do have these risks due to their infrequent use. With individuals not frequenting the buildings on a daily basis, a fire hazard is more likely to not be corrected as no one is there to notice it, and when people are in the building, they are usually just there for a meeting, event, etc. and then on their way without inspecting the entirety of the building. If these infrequently used buildings are also not monitored between uses, they also run the risk of trespass as they are typically well maintained buildings that people know they can get into and use without being noticed.

What Can You Do?
The best practice for vacant and infrequently used buildings is to implement a regular inspection schedule to ensure that no conditions exist which could lead to fires or individuals easily being able to gain access to the building.

Regular inspections of the building should include:
·         Inspection of roof for leaks and stability (check roof in spring and fall, as well as after any severe winter event)
·         Look for new holes or loose boards in flooring and mark them appropriately so others less familiar with the building know that they are there
·         Check to make sure any operational utility systems such as boilers are in proper working condition
·         Premise is free of insect or vermin infestations
·         Exterior walls are still structurally sound
·         All exterior warning signs are maintained
·         All doors, windows, etc. are secured to deter trespassers
·         Sprinkler system, if operational, is following a regular inspection process (if it is not operational, or if heating is turned off, it should be drained)
·         Electrical fixtures, devices, and wiring systems maintained

Drive-by inspections should also be completed to check for tampering of locks or entry ways into the building.



By; Cody Tuttle


Friday, December 2, 2016

Part-Time Snow Plow Drivers

Smaller Cities have a limited budget. This means limited employees for certain operations which can be difficult when it comes to snow plowing season. The streets need to be plowed and the limited staff have difficulty keeping up with the snowfall.

Did you know there is an exemption to a CDL Rule for municipalities during snow operations? State Statute 171.02 subd 5 (Exemption for backup snowplow drivers) allows for part-time snow plow drivers who can plow, salt, or sand without a MN Commercial CDL License. Please be aware that hauling snow does not fall under this exemption, and the operator must have a CDL to haul snow.

Subd. 5.Exemption for certain backup snowplow drivers.

Pursuant to the waiver authorization set forth in Public Law 104-59, section 345, subsection (a), paragraph (5), a person who operates a commercial motor vehicle for the purpose of removing snow or ice from a roadway by plowing, salting, or sanding is not required to hold a commercial driver's license if the person:

(1)    is an employee of a local unit of government with a population of 3,000 or less;

(2)    is operating within the boundaries of the local unit of government;

(3)    holds a valid class D driver's license; and

(4)    except in the event of a lawful strike, is temporarily replacing the employee who normally operates the vehicle but either is unable to operate the vehicle or is in need of additional assistance due to a snow emergency as determined by the local unit of government.

A few things you should know:
1)      Recommend following up with your City's Insurance Agent to confirm that the Part-Time employees will be covered with how your City Policy is currently written.

2)      Recommend developing a Part-Time Employee Job Description that includes "Backup" Snowplow Operators. This should include desired applicants to have a CDL, but not required for Backup Operations.

3)      Medical Health Cards are also not required for Local Governments subdivisions of the State. It is a Best Practice to have a DOT Health Card, but it is not required for city CDL use.

By: Troy Walsh

Friday, November 18, 2016

New OSHA Incident Reporting Rule and Post-Incident Drug Testing

Some of you may remember a Blog we posted in June regarding the new Federal OSHA incident reporting rule. Minnesota OSHA has yet to determine if or when it will be adopting the new recordkeeping rule, however we wanted to keep you informed of some changes taking place with the federal rule.

Federal OSHA has delayed enforcement of the new recordkeeping rule until Dec 1st as there has been some confusion regarding  post-incident drug testing of employees that was incorporated into it. The Federal rule offers employees protection against “retaliatory drug testing” from employers as a result of an employee reporting an incident. The wording of the rule however left some confused as to whether post-incident testing was allowed at all now. Federal OSHA’s latest guidance clarifies that it still allows employers to implement post-incident drug testing when there is “an objectively reasonable basis for testing”, or if the testing is unrelated to incident reporting.

Again we want to clarify that these changes will not currently affect Minnesota Cities as MN OSHA has not released its version of the new rule as of yet, but wanted to keep you updated as we had previously informed you of the federal rule change.

For more information, as well as some tips on how to properly implement a post-incident drug testing program you can visit this blog:

By: Cody Tuttle

Friday, November 4, 2016

Exposure and blood borne pathogens in the workplace

Exposures to blood-borne pathogens (BBP) in construction have continued to increase in recent years, and OSHA issued It’s Blood borne Pathogen Standard 29CFR 1910.1030 to protect workers from diseases associated with these infectious microorganisms. These can include but are not limited to:
  • Hepatitis B (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C (HCV)
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
One of the most effective ways to protect employees in the event of an incident leading to exposure, is to have a Blood Borne Pathogen Kit. These kits include essentials such as:
  • Personal Protective Apparel
  • Spill Clean-Up Provisions in Compliance with OSHA Standard 1090.1030
  • Weatherproof Outer Shell to Properly Protect Contents

OSHA definition of occupational exposure:
 “Reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or other
potentially infectious materials that may result from the performance of an employee’s duties.”
What to do if someone has a significant exposure to infected b (HIV/Hep) and the protocols for administering anti-viral?
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that Post Exposure Prophylaxis or PEP is a way to prevent HIV infection after a possible recent occupational exposure. It involves taking HIV medications as soon as possible within 3 days after a single high risk event to stop HIV from making copies of itself and spreading throughout human body. The sooner, the better; every hour counts.
What to do if workers exposed to the blood?
  • Report all exposures promptly to ensure that you receive appropriate follow up care.
  • Flush splashes to nose, mouth, or skin with water.
  • Wash needlesticks and cuts with soap and water.
  • Irrigate eyes with clean water, saline, or sterile wash.
Prevention of Exposure.
  • Employers must establish and educate workers about an exposure control program
  • Determination and use of engineering controls, which includes containers and self-sheathing needles for safely disposing blood-borne pathogen hazards from the workplace.
  • Observation of work practice controls.
  • Provision of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Make sure the company you work for is prepared in the event of an emergency. For more information on blood-borne pathogens, see OSHA's website at:

Friday, October 14, 2016

When are employers required to provide hearing exams?

The OSHA Hearing Conservation Program requires employers to monitor hearing for all employees whose noise exposure levels over 8 working hours average out to be at or above 85 decibels. 

OSHA rule on hearing loss:

• The occupational safety and health administration issued a final rule on July 1, 2002 that revised the criteria for recording work-related hearing loss.
• Beginning Jan. 1, 2003, employers will be required to record work-related hearing loss cases when an employee's hearing test shows a marked decrease in overall hearing. For more information please see the links at the bottom of this article.

Why it may be beneficial to provide hearing exams for employees?

• The employee would be able to communicate effectively with managers, supervisors, and co-workers without any hearing difficulties.
• Awareness that hearing impaired workers may have special needs to protect their hearing
• To prevent hearing loss.
• Referral for further evaluation as appropriate.
• The earlier you know about hearing loss, the sooner you can get medical help.
• Exposure to dangerous noise levels can cause permanent hearing loss and other health problems.
• Improve productivities.
• For the purpose of employee safety and effectiveness.
• Decrease the accident rate in work place.

The results of not testing hearing loss:

• Decreased Wellness
• Poor monitoring function
• Increase hearing loss
• Workers compensation

For more information click one of this links and you should be able to get all the information you needed.

By: Liz Tadsse, Loss Control Representative