Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Safety tips for horseback riding programs

When we think about summer parks and recreation programs we often think about soccer, softball/baseball, swimming, and sometimes arts and crafts.  

But could your city programs also include horseback riding? The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) loss control team receives questions every year about liability related to horseback riding lessons or “saddle clubs” in their parks and rec programs.

Safety tips for horseback riding programs 

Riding horses could be an exciting parks & rec program that many residents may look forward to and enjoy. When considering whether to have these types of programs, also consider the safety of the program and the dangers. A few safety measures and good training can ensure that horseback riding is fun and safe for all!

  • Inspect the riding area for each event. Ensure that the area is clear of any obstructions and limit any dangerous terrain. This makes it safe for both the rider and the horse.
  • Ensure that all riders are wearing proper attire.
    • Shoes should be closed toe to protect your feet in case a horse should step on them. Shoes should also have a heel to prevent your foot from going through the stirrup.
    • Pants should always be worn, absolutely no shorts.
    • Shirts should always be tucked in.
    • Gloves are good for preventing hand injuries and can also prevent the reins from slipping if hands become sweaty.
  • Saddles should fit the rider, so having a variety of different-sized saddles is helpful.
  • Make sure all riders are always being supervised. Staff should be trained on safe horseback riding, all the safety rules, and should make sure that all riders are comfortable.
  • Riding staff should be comfortable and experienced around horses, be trained to watch for signs of discomfort in the horse, and be able to train all riders effectively.
  • Ensure that all riders have reviewed and signed liability waivers. If participants are under the age of 18 make sure a parent/guardian signature is obtained.
  • Post signage of what riders should and should not do to help educate riders and make them more aware anytime they are around horses.

Horseback riding can be an exciting program to offer, so let’s also make sure it’s safe! After all, ensuring a safe and fun environment is what every parks and recreation program is all about.

For additional information, this link to the Department of Natural Resources site on horseback riding is a good source.

Submitted by: Troy Walsh, Loss Control Consultant

Friday, April 16, 2021

Make a Plan for Cleaning and Disinfecting Workplace Surfaces

Keeping workplace surfaces clean is a very important aspect that sometimes get forgotten about along with all the other protocols used to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Disinfecting surfaces around the workplace goes hand in hand with regularly using soap or sanitizer to prevent the spread of the virus through touch.                                                            

When to clean & disinfect

When there are no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the building, then a thorough cleaning once a day is usually enough to remove viruses from surfaces. Disinfecting after cleaning to kill any remaining germs can further reduce the risk of spread around the office too.

It may be worth cleaning and disinfecting more often if the workplace has:

             High traffic areas.

             Low number of people wearing masks/disinfecting hands.

             Higher COVID-19 case rates in the area.

             Individuals with higher risk factors (age, health conditions, etc.).

             Areas containing young children or others who do not wear masks/wash hands sufficiently.

Implement a plan

There is almost no limit to what surfaces can be potentially touched by multiple people in your space. Pens, keyboards, coffee maker/mugs, tables, doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, etc. are just some of the places not always considered when disinfecting.

Ideally, when disinfecting after cleaning, using a product approved by EPA List N will be the most effective and trustworthy. Remember to refer to the label for proper directions on disinfecting.

Lastly, make sure all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) is provided for those cleaning the workspace.

If someone turns out to be infected in your workplace, there are some extra measures to take when cleaning and disinfecting the area afterward. Temporarily close off the area where the infected person occupied and wait several hours to a day before going in. Properly ventilate the area by having windows open or use a fan/HVAC system to increase the air circulation. Enter the area with proper PPE once it is ready, vacuum the space if necessary, and finish by cleaning then disinfecting the needed surfaces.

Educate all employees to identify the early symptoms of COVID-19, and develop policies that will train and protect workers who clean and are potentially exposed to the virus. Ensure these workers are educated on the hazards of improperly handling disinfectants and compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards on hazard communication and bloodborne pathogens.

The link below provides the most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on cleaning and disinfecting your facilities. 

Submitted by: Michael Neff, Loss Control Consultant

Friday, February 12, 2021

How to Beat the Cold While Working Outdoors in Minnesota

We live in Minnesota and the fact is that our winters are cold. Those of us that work outdoors   in extreme temperatures for extended periods of time need to pay attention to our bodies and keep an eye on our co-workers for potential symptoms of cold stress.

Extremely cold or wet weather can cause hypothermia or frostbite at a much more rapid pace than we would expect.

Symptoms to watch out for

Someone with hypothermia, a condition in which the body uses up its stored energy and can no longer produce heat, may exhibit shivering, confusion, and blue skin. If you or a co-worker are suffering from hypothermia:

  • Request immediate medical assistance.
  • Move into a warm room or shelter.
  • Remove wet clothing.
  • If conscious, warm beverages may help increase the body temperature.
  • Once the person’s temperature has increased, keep the person dry and wrapped in a warm blanket, including the head and neck.

Frostbite is indicated by tingling or stinging hands; numbness; or bluish or pale, waxy skin. If you or a co-worker is suffering from frostbite:

  • Get into a warm room as soon as possible.
  • Unless necessary, do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes.
  • Immerse the affected area in warm (not hot) water, or warm the affected area using body heat. Do not use a heating pad, fireplace, or radiator for warming.
  • Do not massage the frostbitten area – this may cause more damage.

Top 10 cold weather precautions to take
The best protection against cold-related health risks is to be aware, prepared, and implement engineering controls to protect workers. Consider the Top 10 Cold Weather Precautions:

  1. Have sufficient clothing, including face/head protection, gloves, and waterproof, insulated footwear. Loose multi-layered clothing provides the best protection, because air trapped between layers of clothing provides an additional thermal insulation. Tight clothing reduces blood circulation and can restrict movement, which can be hazardous.
  2. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably warm sweet beverages. Cold weather suppresses thirst, and dehydration can occur without proper fluid intake.
  3. Increase caloric intake. Working in heavy protective clothing expends more heat, so 10-15% more calories are required.
  4. Take periodic breaks as wind velocity increases or the temperature drops.
  5. Avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and medications that inhibit the body’s response to cold or impair judgment.
  6. Avoid the cold if you are becoming exhausted or immobilized, conditions that can accelerate the effects of cold weather. Never touch cold metal with bare skin.
  7. Shield work areas from drafty or windy conditions. Seek a heated shelter if you have prolonged exposure to a wind chill of 20 degrees or less. Include chemical hot packs in your first aid kit.
  8. Work during the warmest hours of the day and minimize activities that decrease circulation.
  9. Learn the symptoms of cold-related stresses: heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness, and euphoria.
  10. Work in pairs so partners can monitor one another and obtain help quickly in an emergency.

Staying warm and safe while on the job can become a challenge at times. Are your workers trained in working in cold weather?

More resources:

Submitted by: Julie Jelen, Loss Control Consultant

Friday, January 22, 2021

OSHA 300A Logs Reporting Reminder

OSHA 300A Logs need to be posted in your city/utility offices from Feb. 1 through April 30

March 2, 2021 is the deadline for electronically reporting your OSHA Form 300A data for calendar year 2020. All high-hazard Minnesota industries with 20 or more employees are required to electronically submit their data to federal OSHA. 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. 

Log into the Injury Tracking Application.


Submitted by: Julie Jelen, Loss Control Consultant

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Winter Driving Training Opportunities in December - Free Training Through MN Safety Council

Photo credit: City of Keewatin
There was no easing into the first severe winter storm this year as heavy snow measuring 6 to 9 inches blanketed most of southern and central Minnesota on Oct. 20. This storm was by far the heaviest recorded snowfall in Minnesota so early in a season.

While your public works department has had a reprieve from winter storms since then, it is inevitable that the white stuff will make a return soon.

It is not too late to take advantage of some upcoming free winter driving training opportunities for your employees. The MN Safety Council has the following two (did I mention free?) seminars coming soon:

Fatigued at Work and Behind the Wheel?

Virtual Session
Dec. 18 | 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Free
Register here: Registration Link

Course Description: Fatigue is having an impact on portions of every organization's workforce. Worker fatigue can result from prolonged mental or physical work, extended periods of stress, and even increased participation in virtual meetings. This free, one-hour session will review the causes and consequences of worker fatigue and help employers and employees recognize and mitigate fatigue risks at work and on the road.

Before the Snow Flies, Are You Ready for the Road?

Virtual Session
Dec. 22 | 8:30 - 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Free
Register here: Registration Link

Course Description: Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge, even for the most experienced driver. Safe winter driving requires preparation and special care. This free, one-hour session will review steps to ready your vehicle and simple safe driving reminders so you can face winter roads with confidence.

Hopefully, you and your staff can take advantage of these timely driver safety seminars.

Submitted by: Joe Gehrts, Senior Loss Control Consultant

Friday, November 6, 2020

Avoiding Driver Fatigue

While driving, have you ever experienced a lack of concentration, difficulty making decisions, lane drifting, reduced alertness, or tired and blinking eyes?

These are just some of the warning signs when sleep deprivation is starting to kick in, and most of us will answer yes to at least one at some point.  Sleep deprivation can occur at any time of day but is most common during early morning hours or late nights. How can you avoid sleep deprivation and stay energized during long shifts of vehicle operation?

First, and arguably most important, is getting enough rest prior to the start of a shift. If you know you are going to be working extended shifts the next day or night, try to get a healthy sleep. Consider these tips:

  • Have a consistent routine each night with the same bedtime and wake up time and a relax period or nice bath/shower right before.
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and late naps before bed.
  • Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but not ideally within 3 hours of your bedtime.

Another important facet of preparation is nutrition, which includes:

  • Making sure to keep hydrated with water and sports drinks constantly throughout the day.
  • If you are a caffeine drinker (tea/coffee/energy drinks), being aware of your limitations and not to go overboard. Make sure to mix in plenty of water with these types of drinks.
  • Large meals will cause drowsiness to follow, but eating smaller portions of healthier meals throughout the shift will help avoid after-meal sleepiness.

As far as resting goes, there are no hard and fast rules or regulations in place here. Emergency vehicles are not subject to Department of Transportation regulations for hours of service. If so, there would be 14 hours on and 11 hours off. Your body will tell you when you need to take a break and if you also need to take a nap, but a rule of thumb approach is to take some type of break every two hours.  Depending on where you are on your own fatigue cycle, this could mean you are functioning normally for six hours or fatigue could set in within an hour of when your shift begins.

Exercise and stretching can also be a way of combating fatigue. When you’re starting to feel fatigue, drowsiness, or stiffness set in, take short walks round your vehicle. Something as simple as basic neck or arm stretches gets the blood flowing and can be done inside the vehicle itself. 

Lastly, keep your vehicle well ventilated. A warm and stuffy vehicle promotes drowsiness.

Check out these resources to learn more about driver fatigue:

SAFE-D Part 1 of 2: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Educationfor Drivers

SAFE-D Part 2 of 2: Sleep, Alertness and Fatigue Education for Drivers

Submitted by: Michael Neff, Loss Control Consultant