Friday, March 22, 2019

Volunteers, Communications, Liability and Insurance Coverage with Flooding

Spring in Minnesota typically means flooding. With our record-breaking snowfall this year, water levels are expected to be especially high. Cities may seek the assistance of volunteers to manage flooding issues, so it is important to be aware of any liability and insurance concerns.  

County Emergency Management
City’s should contact their County Emergency Management Manager. The County EM should be able to give them some guidance on what to do, when to do it, and information on equipment and resources.

MnWARN - Utilities Helping Utilities 
Mission: To promote and support a statewide response to utility emergencies and disasters through mutual assistance for water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities in Minnesota.

MnWARN's Informational Video
LMCIT: Coverage, Volunteers, and Communication
Minn. Stat. § 12.22, subd. 2a, provides as follows:
Subd. 2a. Volunteer protections. (a) Individuals who volunteer to assist a local political subdivision during an emergency or disaster, who register with that subdivision, and who are under the direction and control of that subdivision are considered an employee of that subdivision for purposes of workers' compensation and tort claim defense and indemnification.

It is likely volunteers assisting the city with flood protection would be covered by the abovementioned statute. Accordingly, a flood volunteer would also be covered by the city's LMCIT liability and workers' compensation coverage. Cities should understand they are liable if their flood volunteers are negligent or if they are injured while assisting the city.

The abovementioned law also provides that a city volunteer assisting a city in a disaster or emergency is considered a city employee, if the volunteer is registered with and working under the direction and control of the city. Therefore, cities should likely have some type of sign-in process to meet this registration requirement and maintain a record of the individuals volunteering. Cities should also provide some direction and control over volunteers.

Liability coverage for volunteers is discussed beginning on page 47 of our LMCIT Liability Coverage Guide

For more information, please see page 3 of our Providing Assistance in Emergencies: Coverage and Liability Issues information memo:

Chapter 12 of the League's Handbook for Minnesota Cities, Public Safety and Emergency Management, also includes a model proclamation declaring a local emergency on the left side of page 5: 

For more information on communicating to your residents and other stakeholders during a city crisis, please see our Guide for Communication During a City Crisis:  

 By: Joe Ingebrand, Sr. Loss Control Consultant

Monday, March 18, 2019

Floodwater Risk -- Protect Yourself!

  • Floodwaters can cause serious harm to your health and safety. The best way to protect yourself is to stay out of the water.
  • Exposure to contaminated floodwater can cause wound infections, skin rashes, gastrointestinal illness, tetanus and many other injuries and illnesses.
  • If you come in to contact with floodwater, make sure to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Wash any clothes contaminated in hot water with detergent before wearing them again.

Health and Safety Risks when Dealing with Floodwater

Sharp Debris
Exposure: Cuts from nails, screws, glass, and/or metal pieces. This will not only cause injury, but also exposure to infections through the open wound.
Protection: Wear heavy duty long clothing and thick shoes if you must go through water. Otherwise stay away.

Structural Damage

Exposure: Serious injuries from the collapsing of buildings and homes.
Protection: Stay away from any homes or buildings with severe structural damage.

Electrical Damage

Exposure: Electrical shock from fallen power lines.
Protection: If you see power lines down, be sure to report them to local electric company. If for any reason you must enter water, make sure all power in area has been shut off.

Open wounds

Exposure: Open wounds exposed to harmful substances in the water.
Protection: If you must enter the water ensure wounds are properly protected before entering. Otherwise avoid going into the water. Seek medical attention if there is a foreign object embedded in the wound.

Toxic Chemicals and Substance

Exposure: Exposure to gas, oil, pesticides and other chemicals and substances.
Symptoms that could occur if affected: muscle twitches, difficulty breathing, headaches, diarrhea, skin rashes, and/or disorientation.
Protection: Avoid areas that you know, or suspect are contaminated with chemicals. Practice good personal hygiene practices.

Fecal Matter Contamination

Exposure: Exposed to sewage waste, organic waste, and animal feces.
Symptoms that could occur if affected: Vomiting, Nausea, Diarrhea, and Gastroenteritis. Protection: Wear protective gear. If you know certain areas are affected by sewage, stay out of the flood water. Seek medical attention if a wound becomes contaminated with feces to determine if you need a tetanus booster.

Insects and Animals
to bugs that carry harmful diseases and wild animals such as snakes, alligators, or raccoons that pose a threat to personal safety.
Protection: Look out for animals and do your best to stay away. 
If you do end up working in flood water, here are some safety hygiene tips from the CDC: 

By: Kate Connell, Loss Control Representative

Turn Around, Don't Drown -- What to do During a Flood

Floodwater Facts

  • Six inches of water can reach the bottom of most cars, causing you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • A foot of water will float many vehicles.
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles.
  • Six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet.

Turn Around, Don’t Drown!

  • Floodwater can pose a drowning risk. Do not attempt to walk, swim or drive through flooded waters.
  • Avoid areas that are already flooded. Seek higher ground. Even if the water may appear shallow, you can’t be sure of the condition of the road beneath it, which may be broken up or washed away.
  • If the road is flooded, find another route. It could save your life.
  • Never ignore signs and barriers that warn of flooded and dangerous roads.
  • If floodwaters start rising around your car, if possible, abandon car and get to a higher ground.
  • If driving at night, be careful, as flooding is more difficult to recognize.
  • Floodwater may be carrying debris that could injure you. 
  • Keep children away from floodwater. Prevent them from playing near or in drainage outlets and storm water retention basins.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water. Stay away from power lines that are down.

Check out these videos on what could happen if you don't turn around:

By: Kate Connell, Loss Control Representative

Friday, March 15, 2019

Safety Tips for Filling, Moving, and Placement of Sandbags

Record snowfall, warmer temperatures, and rain has led to an increased risk of flooding across Minnesota communities. As cities prepare, remember that sandbagging is extremely hard work and requires heavy lifting.

First and foremost, when sandbagging, your safety is the most important. Any medical conditions that could have adverse effects on your health, do not be involved in the filling or handling of sandbags. If you are not feeling well, seek medical attention immediately.

It is also important to wear proper clothing and personal protective equipment. Depending on the conditions and your task, you may need to wear safety glasses, closed toe and heel shoes, work gloves, proper head gear, and reflective gear if working at night.

When beginning work, always stretch before lifting and use proper lifting techniques, remembering to keep the lift between knee and waist height. Do not reach out, bend over, of twist when lifting. Do not lift with your back, use your legs. Be aware of your physical conditions and what your limits are.

Filling the sandbags is a two-person task. There should be one person holding the sandbag and another person shoveling and releasing the sand into the bag. Sandbags should only be filled one-half to two-thirds full. Make sure when you are holding the bag to stand feet shoulder width apart and one foot forward in a power stance, with knees slightly bent.

If you are shoveling, it's important to keep your feet wide apart with your front foot close to the shovel. Again, bend your knees and not your back, and keep the shovel close to body. Do not twist your body, instead turn your feet when putting sand into the bag.

Once you start moving and placing of sandbags, carry it in front of you at waist height and close to your body. If passing bags, do not throw them.

Be aware of your surroundings. There will be multiple different tasks going on. Watch for heavy equipment. Check the ground conditions. Watch for other people working. 

While you're filling and placing sandbags, be sure to avoid touching your eyes and mouth because there may be bacteria in the sand, flood water, and other materials and equipment you come in contact with. Always wash your hands before eating and drinking. 

Take frequent breaks and rotate positions. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Here are some helpful resources:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It's about that time of year again! OSHA Reporting Rule reminder

OSHA 300A Logs need to be posted in your city/utility offices from February 1st through April 30th. Complete instructional packet for Forms 300, 300A, 301 and instructions (PDF (XLS).
Last year, MNOSHA adopted the federal rule requiring annual reporting of injury and illness data. All high-hazard Minnesota industries with 20 or more employees are required to electronically submit their data to federal OSHA by March 2, 2019. When counting employees, include total number of employees your establishment paid during the year. Also include those not on your payroll if the establishment supervised these employees on a day-to-day basis. Include all employees: full-time, part-time, temporary, seasonal, volunteers, salaried, and hourly.

So, how do I do this?
Have a copy of your city/utility 2018 300A Summary in front of you.
You’ll be inputting the data in the Injury Tracking Application (ITA)
             Click on create an account, fill in your name, title, phone, email, and create a username.
             You will be sent a link to change password to one of your choosing.
             Use the “Manual Data Entry” choice to create an establishment.
             Use NAICS code of 921190, “Other General Government Support”.
             Select “General Public Administration”.
             Click the “Yes – Local Government” button and choose the total employee count.
             After completing establishment details, continue to enter 300A Summary data.
             Submit to OSHA when complete.

What if I don’t submit electronically?
Great question! There’s a chance you could be selected for a site-specific inspection. OSHA has announced three groups of employers they’ll target for upcoming inspections. One of the three groups are those who were SUPPOSED to file Form 300A last year but didn’t.
Now, you’re probably wondering what the other two are. They are employers with high injury & illness rates. In particular, those with high Days Away, Restricted or Transferred (DART) rates. The third target are those with low injury & illness rates.
Your League Loss Control Consultant is available for assistance or contact MNOSHA Compliance (651) 284-5050.

By: Julie Jelen, Loss Control Consultant

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Stretch for Safety

In our last blog we showed you a video from the City of Maplewood that discussed some of the things that the city has done to improve employee safety. As part of their wellness program Maplewood has also created a video to walk you through some stretches that can help reduce muscle soreness and your risk of injury.

Stretching has been shown to greatly reduce the occurrence of sprain and strain injuries by lengthening the muscles making them less prone to trauma and tears. This means you are less likely to suffer an injury if you accidently overextend your muscles while performing a task, or if you were to slip on ice and fall into an awkward position. Your body would be better prepared to absorb the shock and protect itself.

Another benefit of stretching is that it helps muscles and tendons recover from job fatigue more quickly by reducing muscle tension and soreness. Anecdotally, individuals who take part in a stretching program report being less sore at the end of the work day.
And lastly, stretching can also help you warm-up your muscles and prepare them for work. Muscles that haven’t been appropriately prepared for a strenuous activity have an increased risk of injury.
So give stretching a chance, your body will thank you for it!

By: Cody Tuttle, Loss Control Representative 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Safety Takes Center Stage

How does your City promote safety within the community and/or with staff? The City of Maplewood has developed a safety video highlighting some tools & equipment certain departments have acquired to simplify the job and make staff and the public safer.

The Public Safety Departments are working on physical and mental training. They are working to reduce not only muscle and soft tissue injuries, but also training to deal with difficult situations on the job. Physical and mental training is only part of the solution, embracing new equipment and safer tools are also helping Maplewood reduce staff injuries.

The Public Works staff have upgraded the way they shovel and apply asphalt. Sometimes getting your hands dirty and shoveling asphalt is still what needs to be done, but can we make the job easier on staff? Sometimes additional warning lights can provide a better warning to the passing public, and adding some mechanical advantage to the asphalt trailer can make it easier for staff!

When looking on how to make the workplace safer, ask the staff what are your concerns and what potential injury could you have on-the-job? This could give you a guide on what to improve and make the job safer and easier!

Check out Maplewood’s YouTube video Safer Workers Stronger City:

By: Troy Walsh, Loss Control Consultant