Thursday, December 27, 2012

Trash and Garbage Collection in Winter

In some cities collecting garbage is a very simple task because the city has the public trained to make it that way. In others cities it is quite the opposite. Winter can make this simple task a much more difficult one in both cases if your public education and your policies on work practices let it.
Some things I would like you to consider are as follows:
  1. Do you require bags or barrels of standard size only and dumpsters of a specific type (rear cable, front load) only?

  2. Do you require specific placement of receptacles, cans and bins (i.e on a hard surface, curbside, facing the street, etc.)? Does this change in snow conditions?

  3. Do you manually handle any receptacles and cans? How do you get the public to help with the placement of the receptacle in winter conditions?

  4. What winter conditions prompt you to utilize a refusal to pick-up notice?

  5. Do you have a snow policy that delays pick-up by a day to allow for snow removal first?

  6. How are you informing the public of all of these items above?
What’s your city’s policy? Let us know.
By Andy Miller

Friday, December 14, 2012


Did you know that the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) Loss Control now produces webinars on topics that are timely and important for Public Works employees?  You can attend these interactive webinars live on the date and time they are produced.  You can also go to the LMC website and view these webinars at any time it is convenient for you and your colleagues.   Check out  for the first few offerings. 
While you are there search for other valuable loss control information and watch for notices of future webinars.  Join other Public Works employees around the state for interactive polling and learn from content using photographs of actual Public Works environments and operations.  Submit questions for the Loss Control specialist to answer during the webinar or send us your questions on a topic ahead of time.  We’ll be sure it gets addressed.  Head to the website now to view:
1.    Find it and Fix it…Getting Started on Mock OSHA Inspections
2.    In the Drivers Seat: Beating Driver Fatigue
3.    Developing an Effective Playground Safety Program

What topics would you like to see covered in a webinar format? 
by Cheryl Brennan

Friday, December 7, 2012

 “How to Beat the Cold While Working Outdoors in Minnesota”

Staying warm and safe while on the job can become a challenge at times.  This is especially true when a great deal of the public works job tasks are done outdoors. When temperatures drop the risk of a cold-related illness increases.

To prevent cold weather exposures, you should consider the Top 10 Cold Weather Precautions:

1.    Have sufficient clothing, including face/head protection, gloves and footwear.  Loose multi-layered clothing provides the best protection, because air trapped between layers of clothing provides an additional thermal insulation.

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.

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.

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.

The best protection against cold-related health risks is to be aware and prepared.  Are your employees trained in this area?  If not, we hope that you consider doing so.

Most often, cold-related illnesses are preventable conditions, but if left untreated, could have significant consequences, including death.  Major disorders related to cold exposure include:

Hypothermia:  This occurs when the body temperature drops due to excessive loss of body heat.  It can be fatal unless the person is moved to a warm shelter and receives timely medical attention.  Many times, a person who is suffering from hypothermia is unable to recognize their own signs and symptoms of hypothermia, and their treatment and survival is dependent on a co-worker’s ability to help them.  Using a “buddy system” is a great way to help detect signs of cold injury in co-workers.

Frostbite: This condition occurs when body parts are frozen due to exposure to severe cold or by contact with extremely cold objects (such as metal).  It most often afftcts the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, and toes due to their poor blood supply.  Frostbite can cause permanent damage, and the most severe cases can result in amputation. 


By Jackie Torgerson




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

“Is it cold enough for you now, Ole?” “Yah sure, you bettcha, Sven!”

…."The high today was 95; overnight the words ‘frost’ and ‘snow’ creep into the forecast for northern Minnesota….."

One day the skies are a bright blue and the temps are crisp and invigorating. Then overnight Minnesota can be plunged into the depths of a long winter that will hold tight until spring. Now is the time to get prepared for outdoor work in cold weather with ice and snow conditions. Part of that preparation is footwear.

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust has launched a slip/trip/fall prevention campaign in Public Works. One component is the demonstration and discussion of traction devices that fit over your work boot. "It’s like having four-wheel drive on your feet!" said a couple members. "I wear them when I work on the skating rink," says another. Whether you are going out to check on the ice rink or you get called out for a water main break, keep in mind that slips and falls are no laughing matter.

Now is the time to make plans to "test drive" different brands and styles for when the snow starts flying. Make it a project for the safety committee. These devices are inexpensive, quick and easy to use, and easy to find. Winter weather brings an increase in slip and fall incidents. Many incidents don’t cause an injury—merely a sheepish look around to see if anyone saw you land on your backside. Several slips and falls do cause injury to varying degrees, from minor contusions to significant or severe sprains, strains, and fractures. Every slip and fall has the potential to be a fatality due to a head injury.

If you use or if you have tried traction devices for your footwear, let all of us know what you think. What did you like best about them and what were any draw backs? What situations would you use these in?

by Cheryl Brennan

Monday, November 19, 2012

Can a Shoe Prevent a Fall?

Proper footwear is a critical component in preventing slips, trips, and falls. Footwear needs to be appropriate for the task. Someone working in the dirt will benefit from wearing a shoe or boot with deeper tread and larger cleats. Others that work on hard surfaces (and need less of a cleat for traction) should be looking at slip-resistant footwear. 

So the answer to the question, “Can a shoe prevent a fall?” is yes! Slip-resistant footwear works. While many shoe manufacturers provide good slip-resistant products, researchers indicate three shoes seem to be leading performers: Red Wing Shoes with the StarGrip outsole, Shoes-for-Crews, and Lehigh Safety Shoes with the Spider Grip outsole.  

It is important to replace footwear when it becomes worn or damaged—and since most slips occur when the heel slides forward, it is especially important to have traction on the heel of the shoe. The two-penny method is an easy assessment to check for shoe wear: if the worn area is larger than two pennies, the shoe will not produce the slip-resistant qualities desired.   

Some things I would like you to consider are:

  • Do you have a written footwear policy?
  • Is footwear replaced on a routine basis? (How often? What time of year?)
  • Do employees wear appropriate footwear for the conditions both inside and outside? 
  • Do employees wear footwear with slip-resistant soles in smooth or wet conditions? 
  • Do your employees check their footwear periodically (like a Personal Protective Equipment inspection)? How often? 

What’s your city’s footwear policy? Let us know.

by Andy Miller

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Electrical Safety and Arc Flash Hazard Standard NFPA 70E

Cities as employers must be in compliance with NFPA 70E and have an up-to-date electrical safety program in place. Affected workers must be trained on the hazards, procedures, and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE). Hazard evaluations and risk assessments must be done and compliant labels placed on all affected electrical equipment.

Compliance can be done either in-house or with the assistance of an outside contractor. There are several contractors and electrical engineering firms that can assist with compliance. Whether done in-house or by an outside contractor, cities should be completely familiar with the NFPA 70E standard in order to be able to make changes as they grow, change, or add new services, equipment and employees. Retraining of employees and auditing the program on a regular basis are also part of compliance.

The Minnesota Safety Council has upcoming training programs for Electrical Safety in the Workplace: NFPA 70E starting in November 30, 2012, and in March and April of 2013. The course details, dates and times can be viewed at the Minnesota Safety Council website at

If an outside contractor is used for assistance in development of programs, compliance, and hazard assessment and risk evaluations, a qualified person should be used to oversee the work and implementation of the program. Multiple detailed bids for the work should be obtained. The proposed work should be reviewed to ensure that the work complies with and meets all aspects of the standard. The person heading up the implementation or updating of the Electrical Safety Policy and program should be trained and familiar with the entire NFPA 70E standard to ensure that the finished programs and policies are in compliance with the current version of the standard. In the end, the city is responsible for the program to ensure that they are in compliance and that employees are properly trained and protected.

Employees who work on—or perform work or maintenance on—electrical equipment must be adequately trained and knowledgeable on the construction and operation of the equipment, and be trained to recognize and avoid electrical hazards. They must be trained on the proper selection and use of personal protective equipment needed for each task to protect themselves from the associated hazards. Initial training must be done for all affected employees. Retraining must be done at least every three years, or after any major renovation or change in equipment or procedures.

Is your electrical safety program in compliance and up to date? In the period from 2004 to 2007, there were 13,150 serious injuries and 1,212 fatal workplace accidents related to electrical contact or burns including arc flash burns.

OSHA requires all employers to provide their employees with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that may cause death or serious injury. OSHA outlines Electrical Safety-related workplace practices in CFR 1910 Subpart S, specifically in 1910.301 to 1910.399. The OSHA regulations are written in general terms and don’t give specific rules or procedures on how one meets those requirements. OSHA refers to NFPA 70E as an acceptable national consensus standard to be used to meet the OSHA regulations. NFPA 70E electrical standard was developed to address the OSHA safety requirements and covers how to develop and implement an electrical safety program. OSHA uses NFPA 70E as a guide for enforcing their electrical safety rules when conducting compliance inspections.

The NFPA 70E standard has undergone many revisions over the years in an effort to keep up with changing technologies, practices, and the safety needs of employers and employees. The most recent changes (2012 revision) were made to make the standard easier to use and more aligned with the National Electric Code.

The standard consists of three main chapters and 16 informational annexes. Chapter 1, Safety-Related Work Practices, deals with electrical safety requirements in the workplace. Chapter 2, Safety-Related Maintenance requirements, deals with safety requirements as they relate to maintenance activities on electrical equipment and installations. Chapter 3, Safety Requirements for Special Equipment, is a supplement to chapter 1 and deals with safety requirements for special equipment such as battery rooms, power electronic equipment, lasers, R&D laboratories, etc. The 16 informational annexes in the standard give informational support to the standard and its users.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Entering & Exiting a Vehicle: The Importance of the Three Points of Contact Rule

When do you think a driver is at greatest risk of being injured? The answer to this question might surprise you. Most people would think that a motor vehicle accident would be the biggest hazard for drivers, but research shows that most drivers are at the greatest risk when they are entering or exiting the cab of the vehicle or piece of equipment they are operating.

Who would think that so many injuries would take place as a result of an employee simply entering or exiting a vehicle or piece of equipment? Well, the numbers might surprise you! From 2002 to 2007, the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance trust recorded 73 public works claims related to employees getting in or out of a vehicle. This amounted to almost $2 million in loss costs with an average cost per claim of $27,000!

When entering or exiting the cab of a truck or a piece of equipment, drivers need to use “Three Points of Contact.” This means that a driver who is entering or exiting a truck needs to have three of their limbs in contact with the truck or ground at all times. Essentially, the driver must have two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand in contact with the steps, rails, handles or ground at all times.

There are other important steps that can be taken to prevent mounting/dismounting injuries with use of the Three Points of Contact Rule being most important. 

The following are some driver do’s and don’ts for injury prevention:


-Keep steps and standing surfaces free of snow, mud, and debris.

-Wear shoes with good support and tread.

-Exit and enter facing the cab.

-Slow down and use extra caution in bad weather.

-Get a firm grip on rails or handles with your hands.

-Look for obstacles on the ground below exiting.


-Don't climb down with something in your free hand. Put it on the vehicle floor and reach up for it when you get down on the ground.

-Don't rush to climb out after a long run. Descend slowly to avoid straining a muscle.

-Never jump! You may land off balance, on an uneven surface, or fall.

-Don't use tires or wheel hubs as a step surface.

-Don't use the doorframe or door edge as a handhold.

-Don't get complacent and become an injury statistic!

Do your employees know about the Three Points of Contact Rule? Train staff on this rule and demonstrate by mounting and dismounting from a truck or other piece of heavy equipment—and ask your crew to try out the Three Points of Contact as well!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Lifting Tables Can Be a Pain in the ______

During the 2012 Loss Control workshop sessions, we asked participants: “What is one of your tough, physically demanding job tasks—and how do you avoid manual material handling and still accomplish the task?”

Often this question was answered with: moving picnic tables. Sometimes this is an ongoing task (moving them out of the way for mowing), and other times it’s for special events (like a street dance), while still other times it’s a seasonal process (moving them into storage facilities or shelters for the winter).

Consideration should be given to the options and methods other cities are already using to accomplish this task in a way that minimizes manual material handling and the risk for employee sprains and strains:

The City of Detroit Lakes installed rubber bumpers on the mower to push the table out of the area to be mowed.

The City of Sauk Centre built an attachment that goes on a front deck mower in place of a deck...

...and uses it to lift tables and move them to an off-season storage building.
The City of Red Wing uses a set of jigs they made and attached to a Cushman power dump box to lift and transport tables.

The City of Clara City built a picnic table mover/cart with wheels to move tables.

Other cities use forks on a loader or skid-steer to lift, move and load tables to a trailer. Some add extended forks.

Commercially built products are also available to move tables: 

The Table Mover -

(Used by the City of Moorhead, Park Maintenance Department)

The Picnic Table Transporter -

Ergonomics in public works is very important. (Ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than having the worker adjust to the physical demands of the job.)

Recent LMCIT research shows that Public Works has the largest amount of loss costs among member city job classes: roughly thirty-five percent (35 %). And the most frequent and costly injuries in public works are: sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries.

Changes in tools, equipment, or procedures are some of the ways to improve ergonomics and reduce the potential for future injuries. 

What’s your city’s method? Let us know.

By Joe Ingebrand

Please note: The referenced products and/or services are provided solely as a source of general assistance and should not be taken as the League’s endorsement of the product or service, or a recommendation that it will meet your unique needs.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How Well Do You Handle the Change of Seasons?

The change of seasons means significant changes to your equipment. Lawnmowers, loaders, tractors, and dump trucks alike all have a changing role. To get them functional for the new season, you have a lot of accessories that need to be changed out.

How you handle this changeover is either exposing workers to some serious material handing exposures and awkward body postures, or it can be a non-event.   

Some things I would like you to consider are as follows: 

  1. Are storage areas clear of other equipment and items, or does it take days of clearing paths through a bunch of “stuff” to get to the equipment?
  2. Are you manhandling the equipment manually, or moving it mechanically?
  3. Do you have to manually push/pull or lift/lower this equipment at all, or can you do it totally hands-free? 
  4. Do you have a formal plan to make sure the needed equipment is operating correctly prior to the start of the changeover? 
  5. Have you identified your greatest exposure(s) for completing all these tasks, and do you have a plan in place to reduce this exposure with a planned equipment purchase (overhead hoist, forks for the loader, etc.)?
If you think you have a good method for the changeover madness, share your thoughts or your plan of attack.

What’s your city’s method? Let us know.

by Andy Miller

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This One's For You!

This blog truly is for you—it’s your turn. This is the place where the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) will offer tools to help you do your job safely while faced with budget cuts, fewer hands to help, and rising service demands.

This is the place to see what other Minnesota city public works departments are field- and road-testing. When possible, when we hear about something great, we’ll put it up here. (And by the way, if you’re doing something great—let us know).

From my years of working in parks departments, I know that blogs aren’t the usual way we get things done in public works. But interesting times call for interesting measures. This format allows us to focus on you—just you—to get right to the point and share things as they happen.

I hope you’ll join us. I hope you’ll help us make this blog a success. You can subscribe on this page to get updates. So here we go—welcome!

Rachel Carlson, Loss Control Manager