Friday, January 12, 2018

Maybe Snowbirds have the right idea…

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 winter.

Lastly, I also wanted to remind you of a couple other previous blogs to help you stay warm and safe this winter:
·         Baby, it’s Cold out There!
·         Winter Safety Tips

Now remember, stay warm, be safe, and GO VIKINGS!


By: Cody Tuttle

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Fixed Ladders – New Walking-Working Surfaces OSHA Requirements

Say 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 falls.

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 facility.  

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 post: MN OSHA Adopts Walking-Working Surfaces Federal Regulations.

By: Julie Jelen


Friday, October 6, 2017

MN 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 months),
  • 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).

For more information on the changes, visit the OSHA Fact Sheet.

Up next…some more information about fixed ladder safety and compliance.


By: Julie Jelen



Friday, September 29, 2017

Sorry to Say, Winter is around the Corner and so is the Cold…

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 commercial use. 

Below are a few additional hazards associated with consumer use heaters:
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 hazards.
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!


By: Troy Walsh

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Table Menu – Safety Message

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 discussing safety!

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:
·         Driver Fatigue  
·         Aerial Lifts
·         Cold & Heat Stress
·         Fall Protection
·         Overexertion Injuries
·         Work-Zone Safety
·         Ladders
·         Lifting Techniques
·         Equipment Hand-Signals
·         Confined Space

Thinking outside the box of safety training can be fun, and trying to keep safety a Priority is Important.

By: Troy Walsh


Friday, August 18, 2017

Driving Takes Time, but How do you Train for Plowing?

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 their equipment.
Simulator Fact Sheet:

MnDOT Simulator Brochure:

Training Simulator Schedule:

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 here:  

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:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Storm Damage Cleanup

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…

By: Troy Walsh