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 http://www.minnesotasafetycouncil.org/courses/course.cfm

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!