Friday, May 27, 2016

Minnesota LTAP Operational Research Assistance Program (OPERA)

Have you ever had an idea how to make your job easier or, to develop and build something to make tasks simpler?  Do you like tinkering and found something to improve road work? There is a program from Minnesota Local Road Research Board called the OPERA Program, and it could help fund these ideas! OPERA funds projects up to $10,000 through an annual request-for-proposal process.

Visit the Minnesota LTAP Link below to learn more about the OPERA Program.


Here are a few links from past projects:
 
 

By: Troy Walsh



Friday, May 20, 2016

Minnesota Rural Water Tracer Wire Specification

The League of Minnesota Cities Spring Loss Controls Workshops are officially complete! We thank each of your for working us into your busy schedule to attend.  These workshops are always as much of a chance for us to learn as they are for you, and this year one of our more popular presentations was shared by our friends at the Minnesota Rural Water Association (MRWA) who taught us all about their trace wire specifications.

MRWA’s trace wire specification has been nationally praised and has even been used by companies such as Google in their utility projects. Here is a link to this specification for all of you that were unable to attend a workshop and for those of you that did but didn’t get the link. 

 

By: Cody Tuttle


 

 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Youth Employment - Summer help is on the Way

Each year about this time we in loss control get the question as to whether or not a 17 year old can operate a mower.  The answer to this question is yes; however, there are other restrictions related to youth employment cities should be aware of.

Lifeguards
·         15, 16 and 17 year olds can work as lifeguards in pools, but only with uninterrupted adult supervision.
·         16 and 17 year olds can work as lifeguards at lakes and rivers, but only with uninterrupted adult supervision.

Machinery
·         Youth ages 16 to 18 are restricted from driving certain power-drive machinery.  (They can operate riding/push mowers and weed whips.)
·         Minors cannot operate motor vehicle on streets as part of their normal job. (There is an exception for incidental and occasional driving by licensed drivers.)

Liquor
·         No individual under the age of 18 can serve, dispense, or handle intoxicating liquors that are consumed on premises.
·         Minors are prohibited from working in rooms where liquor is served or consumed. (There is an except for the job of busing dishes and providing musical entertainment.)

Other Regulations:
·         Minors cannot work where hazardous material exists.

 
For additional questions on this issue please contact your loss control consultant or LMC HR Department: jhottinger@lmc.org.


By: Joe Ingebrand



Monday, May 9, 2016

Air Advisory in State Take Two – What This Means When Working Outdoors

Last year we had a number of Air Quality Advisories in the state due to a number of wildfires in Canada and the wind shifting the smoke to our areas.  This year we are seeing much of the same type of issue in many parts of the state.  As such, we thought it would be beneficial to re-publish the information on Air Quality Advisories that we shared last year. Please take a moment to review the information and remember to stay informed on the air quality issues that may impact you or your workers.

 
We have all noticed the haze and gloomy air in the past week hanging around.  This haze was caused by over 180 fires blazing in British Columbia, Canada.

There are over 2 million acres of wildfires raging across Canada and into Alaska currently with no real end in sight.  The smoke from these fires has risen to over 20,000 feet which then allows the jet stream to act as a highway, transporting the smoke across the country. 

The state that has felt the largest impact is Minnesota, however there have been health advisories issued across the Western and Midwestern parts of the United States.  The reason that Minnesota is so heavily impacted is due to the East/Southeast direction of wind movement, which has put us directly in the line of “fire”, so to speak. 

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a statewide Air Advisory on Monday, which indicated that the northern two-thirds of the state should take extra precautions due to the reduced air quality from the smoke infiltration. What does this mean?

  1. Exposure to the high level of fine particles has previously been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.  There is a risk of exacerbation with pre-existing health conditions, which can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue.
  2. The level of fine particulate in the air on Monday was unhealthy for anyone.
  3. Those individuals that are sensitive to fine particles (pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, elderly, children, and individuals who are under heavy or extended exertion are advised to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and reduce exposure to air pollution (heavy duty vehicle exhaust, wood fires, candles)
  4. Those in the at risk or higher risk groups should check the Air Quality Index prior to vigorous activity being resumed.

As many of our Public Works and Parks Departments work the majority of their days outside participating in activities that require extended or heavy exertion, these employees are considered an “at risk population”.  As such, the MPCA does recommend limiting or avoiding those activities until the risk is reduced.

For current air quality conditions visit the Air Quality Index page

 


By: Tara Bursey, Loss Control Consultant

 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Summer is Coming - Does your City Restrict Water Usage?


With the summer months coming, public works watch the water levels closely to ensure there is enough in the system for everyone. This also includes ensuring there is an adequate supply in case of a fire.
When the summer heat comes, we want our yards to look green and beautiful. Does your community have an ordinance on watering restrictions? If you do, how do you notify your community of these watering restrictions? Some communities add the ordinance to their web-site or attach it to water bills, send out fliers, or post signs in developments with specific information on restrictions.
The City of Edina has a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on Watering Restrictions. Their PSA includes days allowed to water, offense warnings & fines, how to test your yard for water needs, best time of day to water, and cost savings for proper watering!
 

By: Troy Walsh

Friday, April 29, 2016

Training through MN LTAP


The Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (MN LTAP) is a great training resource for road crews. Here a couple of their upcoming courses.

Traffic Sign Maintenance Training Program
This is a free course and lunch is provided.
 
Minnesota Roadway Maintenance Training and Demo Day
The cost is $125 and includes parking, refreshments, lunch, and program materials.


By: Troy Walsh

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ransomware

Imagine a criminal breaking into your home, but instead of taking anything, they change the locks and tell you to pay them or they will not give you the new keys. This is what Ransomware does, though instead of your home, it is all of the files on your computer. Files you need to access in order to do your job. These criminals plan on using that need for their own profit.
 
Here is an article from The Washington Post that demonstrates just how bad this type of malware can be for your city.

What it is?

Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to restrict access either by locking files or by inhibiting entry into the system altogether. Once the system is encrypted, it is very difficult, or impossible, to gain access again on your own. The malware operators then require payment before they unlock the system (which they may not do even if they are paid).
The pop up message requesting payment may be disguised as a fake warning pretending to be from a law enforcement agency locking your system claiming that it has been used for illegal purposes, or even Microsoft stating the version of windows you are running is pirated. Do not be fooled by this, call an IT professional and the police immediately. Do not turn any infected systems off either, doing so may actually make the IT pro’s job more difficult.

What you can do to protect yourself?

The typical method malware, such as ransomware, gets on your system is through some form of download.  It may be hidden in something you download, so be sure to only download files or programs from trusted sites.
Another method used to infect your computer is phishing emails. These are spam emails used to trick you into clicking a link that will take you to a fraudulent site that will download the malware to your system. Make sure you’re using some form of anti-virus software that includes email checking. The best practice is to delete any emails from sources you don’t know. Never click any links in emails unless they are from a trusted source. Also be wary of emails that appear to be from trusted sources that contain just links or a simple phrase such as, “check out this video!” or “this site is so great!” The trusted source may have gotten a virus, and that virus is sending those emails, or the email may contain a spoofed address.
For other ways to protect yourself, you can also check out our On the Line blog on this topic by LMC’s Greg Van Wormer.

Backup you system regularly!

It may be impossible to recover your files once they have been encrypted by ransomware; however, if you have your data backed up, you can limit the how much information you lose.
Cities should be backing up their systems, at least weekly (nightly is better!), and storing backups in a place safely offline and away from any computers that may become infected. Consider using a rotating backup schedule, allowing for multiple backups to be retained.  If you do use such a schedule please consult with your city’s Responsible Authority to ensure your backup schedule meets your city’s records retention schedule.   

What should you do if you get it?

Despite your best efforts, you may still find yourself the victim of ransomware. Should this be the case, call the police, an IT professional (if you have one in house), and LMCIT right away, as mitigation may be covered under your Property/Casualty insurance.  Whatever you do, Do Not Pay the Ransom, there is no guarantee they will actually remove the ransomware should you pay it.

Computers and the internet are a great resource, please remember to use them safely.



By: Cody Tuttle