Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Changing Plow Wear Blades/Cutting Edge

City of Staples pallet jack/jig
The plowing season has just begun.  The community counts on city staff to make roads safe and passable for day-to-day commerce, holiday travel, emergency response and more.  Losing a co-worker to injury means longer hours for those still on the clock and, at times, delays getting the job done. 

City of Pelican Rapids floor jack/jig
Plow blades weigh from approximately 40 to 125 pounds, depending on the type and length of the blade used.  Minimizing risk factors now is a pro-active way to reduce back and other injuries throughout the season.  Check out what some cities in Minnesota are doing to protect their employees.  If you've got an idea to share please let us know and we'll post it here for everyone to see!

Many cities have successfully developed a system to move the replacement blade into position and lift it using some type of jacking device. Most often this is a floor jack with a jig inserted in the jack that holds the blade in an upright position.  Other types of jack devices include:  motorcycle lift, transmission jack, pallet jack, or a device specially designed for this purpose.

Moving new and old wear blades around the shop can be accomplished by the using a cart like this made by the City of Crosby.

City of Crosby
Manually lifting the blade into place can contribute to sprain/strain injuries, and even amputations. Using equipment to lift and support the blade can reduce the ergonomic risk factors which include: excessive weight, excessive force, contact stress, and awkward postures.

By Joe Ingebrand

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Safety Footwear in Public Works: Protecting Your “Wheels”

Who pays for it?.................Federal OSHA is somewhat clear in that steel toed footwear and prescription eye wear can be exempt items that the employer may not need to pay for.  However, MN OSHA takes a more stringent approach in that they require employers to pay for all necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), including safety shoes (Minnesota Statutes 182.655 subd. 10a).  So, if safety or steel toed boots are part of the employee's personal protective equipment, then the employer would need to pay the minimal cost of PPE that is of a type necessary for the job being performed.  If employees want a more expensive PPE, the employer has the option to pay the entire cost or have the employee pay the difference between the minimum type necessary to provide the protection and the option the employee is selecting.    The employee should not have to pay 100% on their own, and if they do, this could be a non-serious citation by an OSHA inspector.

Who needs it?..............OSHA 29CFR 1910.136 addresses foot protection as part of personal protective equipment.  The general requirement is that the employer must ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when working in areas where there is a danger of foot injuries due to falling or rolling objects, or objects piercing the sole, and where such employee's feet are exposed to electrical hazards.  Whether full time, part time or seasonal, public works employees who encounter these types of hazards need protective footwear.  Generally these hazards are found in a large portion of the work public works employees do, so it is important to make sure their feet are well protected.

No “blue suede shoes” allowed………It is also important to note that safety footwear must meet ANSI minimum compression and impact performance standards in ANSI Z41-1991 (American National Standard for Personal Protection-Protective Footwear) or provide equivalent protection.  All ANSI approved footwear has a protective toe and offers impact and compression protection, but that doesn't mean that the type and amount of protection is the same.  Different footwear protects in different ways, so it is important to check the product’s labeling or consult the manufacturer to make sure the footwear will protect the user from the hazards they face.

What we’ve seen…………..One common trend that I see in public works as I travel around the state is that many cities are allowing public works employees to wear inappropriate footwear while on the job.  Often times, I see employees wearing tennis shoes instead of steel toed work boots.  This is not considered a best practice based upon the type of work that public works employees do.  A work boot would certainly offer greater protection of the feet and toes, and typically provides greater traction to help reduce slips and falls.  It’s important to make sure that proper footwear is being worn for the work being done, and a simple footwear policy would take care of this.  So, if you don’t already have a policy in place that addresses proper footwear, I would encourage you to consider developing one.

Do you ever really think about your feet on the job in public works?  Well, each year at least 120,000 workers certainly do.  That’s because each of them suffered an accidental foot injury while on the job.  And what are most of them thinking about?  Chances are it’s the realization that their accident could have been prevented by using common safety sense and wearing the appropriate protective footwear.

Give us a call or drop an email…………..If you have questions related to protective footwear, don’t hesitate to contact the loss control consultant assigned to your city.

By Jackie Torgerson

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Walk in the Park

(c)emt1804.jpgFor many years the annual Safety and Loss Control Workshops have been a harbinger of spring for Minnesota municipalities.  Over the years a wealth of information has been developed for members in the form of risk management memos on a wide range of park and recreation topics.  These memos have been available on the LMC website and from the League's Loss Control Consultants.  Now they are available in one handy guide.  Park and Recreational Loss Control Guide 

Parks and recreational facilities can be one of your city’s most visible assets.  Learn how to protect your parks and prevent injuries among park and recreation employees with LMCIT’s all new and comprehensive Parks & Recreational Loss Control Guide.  The Guide contains an overview of key risk management concepts and specific advice for managing many common programs and events such as snow hills, ice skating or swimming facilities, trails, skateparks, parades, sports leagues, and more. It also contains links to sample policies, checklists, and forms to make your life easier.

by Cheryl Brennan

Monday, September 23, 2013

There’s an App for That!

Ever wonder if there was an easier way to find those pesky problem areas in your city?  There’s an app for that.  There are a number of apps designed to aid Public Works in tracking the areas that need repairs and/or attention.

How does it work?
The most popular app is SeeClickFix  The city would need to establish a portal with SeeClickFix, and then notify their residents of the availability.  The residents would have to download the app on their smart phone and report any issues to the Public Works Department.

What do the citizens report?
The citizens can report anything from downed trees or graffiti to potholes or sidewalk cracks via this app.

Why do we need this?
With the diminishing resources we all deal with as a public entity, it is more important than ever to do more with less.  This creates more tasks for fewer people in less time, which then makes it more difficult for the Public Works Departments to identify all of the problem areas throughout the city.  The app can make the citizens their “eyes and ears”.

Not a fan of the app?
There are a number of additional apps available that provide the same service as SeeClickFix.  Here is a short, but certainly not comprehensive list of the available apps:

By: Tara A. Bursey

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Accessing vehicle for repairs or inspection - by Joe Ingebrand

 A previous blog focused on safety as it relates to getting in and out of equipment that is being operated, and reviewed the importance of using the “three points of contact” when entering and exiting the cab.

 Another area where cities experience slip/fall injuries is when equipment is being repaired or inspected.

You’ve probable done it yourself, climbed up on the dump box to see if the box is empty, or stood on a wheel to clean the windshield, both of these scenarios can and have led to slip/fall injuries.

Whether it’s in the shop, or in the street, climbing on and around equipment can be dangerous. Fortunately, improvements have been made by manufactures, designing better steps and walkways on equipment, and by cities utilize portable steps, wheel steps, built-in steps or ladders to access equipment.   

Here are a few ideas utilized by other Minnesota cities we have seen used throughout the state of Minnesota.  See if you can find any ideas that might work for you on existing equipment, or to consider when purchasing                                       equipment in the future. 


Below: Step added to specialty equipment where needed: belly plow, snow blower attachment, or anti-slip material on a surface that is slippery. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The ABC’s of Heatstroke/Heat Exhaustion (Part II – Field Treatment)

Go to the LMCIT’s free video loan library to borrow these three titles for employee training:

 #261 Heat Stress
#262 Beat the Heat: Preventing & Treating…
#284 Heat Stress: Code Red 

Heat Exhaustion Treatment: Heat Exhaustion does not normally require a physician visit, however if you or a co-worker are experiencing severe symptoms or have a heart condition or high blood pressure, you should seek treatment immediately.
  • Move to a shaded area
  • Drink cool, nonalcoholic/decaffeinated beverages
  • Rest
  • If possible take a cool shower, bath, or sponge bath
  • Move to an air-conditioned environment
  • Plan to wear lightweight clothing on hot days

Heat Stroke Treatment: Heat stroke is a medical emergency.  Get medical assistance as soon as possible.
  • Get the victim to a shady area.
  • Cool the victim rapidly using whatever methods you can. For example, get the person into an air conditioned vehicle if working out in the field, immerse the victim in a tub of cool water; place the person in a cool shower; spray the victim with cool water from a garden hose; sponge the person with cool water; or if the humidity is low, wrap the victim in a cool, wet sheet and fan him or her vigorously.
  • Monitor body temperature, and continue cooling efforts until the body temperature drops to 101-102°F.
  • If emergency medical personnel are delayed, call the hospital emergency room for further instructions.
  • Do not give the victim fluids to drink.

There are times that a person with heat stroke will experience uncontrollable muscle twitching.  If this occurs, you need to keep the person from hurting themselves, however do NOT place any object in the person’s mouth or give them fluids.  If the person is vomiting, turn them on their side to ensure that the airway remains open.

In Minnesota, we experience a full range of temperature extremes and conditions that we need to be prepared to deal with them as they occur.  There are a number of free weather applications for your smart phone that you can download to ensure you have the current weather conditions available to keep yourself and your co-workers safe in all weather conditions.  OSHA has also created an app for smart phones to track the heat index for those hot summer days to ensure that you can be aware of when you need to take extra precautions.  The app, Heat Safety Tool, is compatible with android, iPhone, and Windows based technologies.

As we look ahead toward colder temperatures, please refer back to last year’s blog post about staying safe in the extreme cold.  

By Tara Bursey

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The ABC’s of Heatstroke (Part I – Prevention)

What is Heatstroke or Heat Exhaustion?  With the warm weather season upon us, we need to focus more on our bodies and how to stay healthy in the heat.  Heatstroke is one of the greatest risks when working outdoors in the high temperatures of summer.  Heatstroke can occur within 10 to 15 minutes of the body’s sweating mechanism failing and the body temperature rising. 
Heat exhaustion is a less intense form of heatstroke that can occur after prolonged exposure to high temperatures over a period of time.  People most prone to heat exhaustion include those that work outdoors in high temperatures. 
Signs and Symptoms of Heatstroke:
  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees orally)
  • Lack of sweating
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness

Signs and Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:
  • Heavy sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Dizziness, headaches, fainting
  • Nausea, vomiting

How do you Prevent Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion?
  • Wear loose fitting, light weight, light colored clothing
  • Wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn with reapplication intermittently
  • Take breaks in air conditioning (either indoors or in an air conditioned vehicle)
  • Drink plenty of fluids (16-32 ounces per hour)
  • Replace salt and minerals with sports drinks
  • Schedule outdoor work early in the day to avoid prolonged exposure during the hottest periods of the day
  • Use Buddy System to monitor condition of your co-workers
  • Use cooling towels to help regulate your body temperature  cooling towels
  • cooling headbands  cooling head bands

By Tara Bursey

Thursday, July 18, 2013

“Out With the Old and In With the New - Understanding GHS Requirements”

Did you know that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1010.1200) was revised in 2012?  This was the first major change to this standard in nearly 30 years!  Minnesota has its own version of Hazard Communication, which is known as the Employee Right to Know law, and on September 10, 2012, MNOSHA adopted the new federal standard to comply with the new requirements.
With the revisions come several changes, including the new Globally Harmonized System (GHS) of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals.  This system uses a common, consistent approach to labeling, classifying chemical hazards and safety data sheets (SDS’s – no more Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS’s)).   Federal OSHA states the changes are expected to prevent over 500 workplace injuries and illnesses and 43 fatalities annually, along with many other benefits.  The end goal is to ensure optimal environmental health and workplace safety around the world.
So, what does this mean for your city?  The major changes will be around training and container labeling.  According to OSHA, these are the major changes to the Hazard Communication Standard:
  • Hazard classification: Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to determine the hazards of the chemicals they produce or import. Hazard classification under the new, updated standard provides specific criteria to address health and physical hazards as well as classification of chemical mixtures. 
  • Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers must provide a label that includes a signal word, pictogram, hazard statement, and precautionary statement for each hazard class and category. 
  • Safety Data Sheets: The new format requires 16 specific sections, ensuring consistency in presentation of important protection information. 
  • Information and training: To facilitate understanding of the new system, the new standard requires that workers be trained by December 1, 2013 on the new label elements and safety data sheet format, in addition to the current training requirements. 
More, links and information, including an easy-to-read hazard communication standard pictograms guide, is available at the League of Minnesota Cities website.  Click here GHS at a glance to find out what you need to do and when.  

Of course, you can always contact your LMCIT loss control consultant with questions as well.  

by Jackie Torgerson

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Hitching" a lift

The City of Lexington built their own truck mounted hoist for lifting manhole covers and for pulling pumps from lift stations.  The hoist mounts into the hitch and can easily be mounted or removed by two people.  It is powered by the truck battery.  

The League of Minnesota Insurance Trust has 
determined that lifting manhole covers, pumps, and things weighing over 51 lbs, especially repeatedly and from awkward positions, place an employee at high risk for a workers' compensation injury.  Help prevent those injuries from happening by purchasing or building and using the right equipment for the job.                                                                                     
by Jackie Torgerson

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Financial Assistance for Safety Related Projects that Reduce Employee Risk for Injury

Did you know there is a Safety Grant Program through the MN Department of Workplace Safety Consultation?
The Safety Grant Program awards funds, with a dollar-for-dollar match up to $10,000, to qualifying employers for projects designed to reduce the risk of injury or illness to their employees.
Cities may apply for the grant by each city department if they wish. This way, each department can try to obtain equipment and/or training that is specific to improving safety in their own department.
Grant money can be used for:
  • All or part of the cost of purchasing and/or installing recommended safety equipment;
  • The cost of operating or maintaining such equipment;
  • The cost of property, if the property is necessary to meet the safety inspection recommendations;
  • The cost of training tied to equipment; and
  • Tuition reimbursement
To apply for the grant, you must:
  • Have workers’ compensation insurance
  • Be an employer with at least one employee
  • Have an on-site safety survey completed which results in recommended equipment or practices that will reduce the risk of injury or illness to employees
LMCIT Loss Control finds that many cities are having success in getting their grant application approved by having their internal Safety Committee conduct the on-site survey and make recommendations for improvement. However, there are other people that can conduct the survey for you (this is outlined on the website and in the application).
If you have an interest in applying for the Safety Grant, you should:
  • Complete and send an application to Workplace Safety Consultation (WSC) - applications can be written or completed online
  • If additional information is needed, the employer will be notified.
  • Applications are accepted continuously, and grants are awarded monthly.
  • WSC reviews the applications; the WSC director recommends approval or denial.
If recommended for approval, the employer will receive contracts in the mail for signature.
The signed contracts are sent back to WSC for the commissioner’s signature. Upon receipt of the fully executed contract, signed by the commissioner, the application is approved and the contract is effective. (Note: Do not purchase equipment or provide training prior to the commissioner signing the contract or those items will be voided from the contract.)
Information, applications and other useful forms for the Safety Grant Program can be obtained at the following link: Safety Grant Program
Back in 1993, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry started this program to assist employers in making their workplaces safer and healthier.  Since budgets are tight, some cities are struggling to get the safety equipment and tools that are needed.  This grant program can help with that, and many Minnesota cities are making use of it.
Grant money is possible as the result of funds that are deposited in the Safety Grant account from fines levied against employers.  As such, the amount of grant money available can fluctuate over time.  The number of grants awarded varies depending on available funding, but can range from 150 to more than 200 grants awarded each year.

by Jackie Torgerson

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Trash talking" from the City of Burnsville

The City of Burnsville has a lot of trash barrels in their park system. In fact, they have 442 barrels that need changing on a regular basis during the season! To reduce the risk of manually lifting these barrels the City obtained a new garbage truck built by Wayne Engineering. The new truck is capable of handling a Perkins dump system so the City elected to go with that option to eliminate the risk of manually handling the barrels. The Perkins barrel grabber/cart tipper (model D-6098-27K) lifts 55gal drums and regular trash carts. According to Tom Busse at the City, "It has been working very well for us." The local dealer the City engaged is ABM Equipment and Supply Co. in Hopkins (Bill Dietrich PH# 952-938-5085). Thanks to Tom Busse, Fleet Superintendent at the City of Burnsville, for sharing this information. Tom can be reached at tom.busse@ci.burnsville.mn.us 
by Matt Columbus

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

West St. Paul features manhole cover lifter

Everyone knows lifting manhole covers can be a risky job. Many cities have purchased a Big’s Easy Lift with a magnet or a long-handled extractor to get away from the old “pick and maul” method.

But one City did something very unique. With a little engineering know-how and a lot of ingenuity, the City of West St. Paul built their own truck-mounted manhole cover lifter!

This innovative system uses their existing snowplow rig on a pickup truck with a fabricated arm that quickly attaches to the rig.

With a combination of mirrors and a spotter, manhole covers are lifted with almost zero manual effort (only what it takes to crank the magnet locked).
 Thanks to Mike Salmanowicz, Street & Utility Superintendent at West St. Paul, for sharing this information. Mike can be contacted at

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mowers-“To Replace or Not”

Many cities are stretching their budgets by holding onto equipment longer these days. While this may be prudent, and even necessary, maintaining safe equipment also needs to be a consideration. If the city decides to buy a new mower, this is a good time to include new and improved safety items.
Either way, remember to restore, or consider upgrading safety features that can affect the operator, mechanic, and general public.
Staying with the old:
Safety and Ergonomic Considerations-
  • Is the seat still supportive? Can it be replaced or upgraded?
  • Are the muffler, anti-vibration padding, and anti-slip steps working as originally designed, or do they need replacing?
  • Are wheel hubs, critical steering linkage, tires, and related items structurally sound?
  • Are the discharge shuts, deflectors, and guards in place and functioning?
Going with the new:
  • Safety and Ergonomic Considerations-
  • Is an adjustable or premium seat upgrade available?
  • Do controls and foot pads have anti-vibration qualities?
  • How easy is it to change attachments?
  • How easy is it to remove the cab?
  • Is the mower designed to operate on surfaces the city has to deal with including: hills, ditches, wet areas, etc.?
  • How are blades changed? Does the deck lift-up or roll-out?
Employees spend a considerable amount of time on these mowers, ensuring that all safety and comfort features are working for them can make a big difference over the long run.
by Joe Ingebrand

Evaluations and comments referenced herein are provided for loss control purposes only in conjunction with the LMCIT insurance program. They are not made for the purpose of complying with the requirements of any law, rule or regulation. We do not infer or imply in the making of these evaluations and comments that all material facts were reviewed or that all possible hazards were noted. The final responsibility for conducting safety, loss control and risk management programs must rest with the insured.
© Berkley Risk Administrators Company, LLC

Monday, May 20, 2013

Skid-Steer Safety

As cities look for ways to improve efficiencies, and reduce sprain and strain injuries associated with manual material handling, a skid-steer is one piece of equipment they often turn to.  But as with any equipment operation safety needs to be paramount. And while OSHA does not have a specific standard on skid-steers, employers have received citations for a serious violation under the General Duty Clause of the OSHA Standard (Section 5(a)(1)).

OSHA Citations related to Skid-Steers:
  • Improper employee training on the safety features associated with the skid-steer loader
  • Disabling of the interlock control system caused it to not function properly.
  • Backup alarms did not function properly.
  • Seatbelts had been removed from the skid-steer loaders.
  • Failure to use an approved lift arm to support device during servicing.
  • Not properly maintaining the skid-steer loader according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Employees intentionally bypassing of the safety systems of the skid-steer loader.
Skid-Steer General Safety Practices:
  • Always read and understand the operator's manual before using the piece of equipment.
  • Always lower the bucket or attachment so that it is flat on the ground.
  • Do not attempt to activate the skid-steer loader’s controls from outside the operator's compartment.
  • Do not leave the operator's seat while the engine is on. Never attempt to activate the controls unless properly seated with the seatbelt fastened and the seat bar (if equipped) lowered.
  • Keep all body parts inside the cab while operating a skid-steer loader.
  • Never modify, bypass, disable, or override safety systems.
  • Never permit riders on the skid-steer loader, in the bucket or attachment, or in the operator's compartment unless the compartment is designed to accommodate a second rider.
  • Establish a routine maintenance and inspection program in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations, and use approved lift arm support device.
  • Train personnel on the proper inspection, use, maintenance, and repair of skid-steer loaders.

Getting On/Off Equipment:
§  Use three points of contact when getting in and out of skid steer. If using snow bucket or other large attachments, consider a side step for getting in and out of unit.

By Joe Ingebrand

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Flushing out resources!

Do you recall a time when you felt foolish for not using something that made your work life so much easier? Then you tried it and wondered why in the world you didn’t use it sooner? Well…. this may be another one of those opportunities for you.
I was a speaker at a Rural Water training event and boy I wish I could have had on film a conversation that took place so I could share it with you here- the video would have said it all but the conversation was not caught on tape. What you would have seen is one Public Works Director’s shock and amazement that everyone else in the room was not utilizing the documents and resources available to them in LMCIT’s Sanitary Sewer Toolkit. It saved him numerous hours of time and was essentially a "plug and play" program for his city.
You can find links to all the helpful documents and guides at the following web address: LMCIT Sewer Tool Kit .

What’s your opinion of the tools available there?
by Andy Miller

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

City Employee Injured After Fall

"A City of Watertown, SD, employee is in intensive care after falling off a piece of city equipment last week. The employee fell off a street sweeper on April 2, 2013 and fractured his skull. Initially, he was conscious and responsive, but due to the severe trauma, he was air-lifted to Avera Mckennan Hospital in Sioux Falls." (The Public Opinion .Com, Watertown, South Dakota)
(3-point contact)

(Portable steps)

No matter what type of equipment employees are operating, safety precautions need to be taken when it comes to climbing in and out of the equipment, or performing maintenance activities on the equipment.
(Built in steps)

 Three-Point Contact Every Time

  • Keeps 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 before 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 and 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!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hot Fun In The Summer Time! Free Webinar

Summer is here!—which means that municipalities need to begin preparing their pools and aquatic facilities for kids and families who will soon be trying to escape the heat. While swimming pools can be relaxing, great exercise, and a lot of fun, they can also cause a significant amount of trouble if not cared for properly. Performing routine inspections of your aquatic facilities can help keep your citizens safe and decrease your city’s potential for claims.
Participate in this live webinar to:
  • Learn about the rules and regulations as enforced by the Minnesota Department of Health – Minnesota Pool Code
  • Discover the primary areas of liability with public pools and aquatic facilities (including slips/falls, drowning, and electrocution)
  • Find out about some common pool and aquatic facility exposures, including: unprotected drains, poorly installed/maintained electrical equipment, inadequate warnings, lack of fencing, lack of emergency equipment, slippery surfaces, and improper design
  • Learn about exposure controls and how to protect your city from pool-related claims
  • Understand the importance of inspections and receive a safety checklist to ensure you have everything in place
  • Get your questions answered. (Submit questions to lmcwebinar@lmc.org.)

  • Jackie Torgerson, Sr. Loss Control Consultant, League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust

Monday, April 29, 2013

How'd They Do That?

The City of Ely built these special drum dollies so they could ealily transport used oil around the shop. They cut the base off of a plastic drum and installed handles on the sides for easier lifting. The drum dolly has a handle welded to it so that the employee can move (by pushing or pulling) them around in an upright position. The handle also folds down so they can be positioned under the vehciles while remaining on the dolly.

By Jackie Torgerson

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

“Hand Injuries: Protecting Your Valuable Tools”

Have you asked yourself what it would be like to lose a finger, a thumb or a hand?  Your hands are one of the most valuable “tools” that you use (both on the job and off), and injuries to the hands and fingers can make everyday tasks very difficult or even impossible. 
There is no standard for hand injury prevention, but hand protection is addressed in OSHA Regulation 29 CFR 1910.138 which relates to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  It states, “Employers shall select and require employees to use appropriate hand protection when employees' hands are exposed to hazards such as those from skin absorption of harmful substances; severe cuts or lacerations; severe abrasions; punctures; chemical burns; thermal burns; and harmful temperature extremes.”  OSHA’s General Duty Clause would also apply to situations that may cause injury to the hands.  The General Duty Clause states, “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees."

Coming up with a list of situations that could cause hand injuries can be difficult, but following these basic steps will help keep hands safe.  They include:
  1. Be aware of and respect the potential hazards on the job, which includes knowing the possible dangers to your hands
    • Pinch points
    • Temperature extremes
    • Sharp objects
    • Rotating or moving parts
    • Toxic or corrosive chemicals
    • Insect bites and stings
    • Electrical burns or shock
    • Excessive force or repetition
    • Vibrating equipment
  2. Focus your attention on the task you are doing and don’t let your attention wander
  3. Be familiar with your PPE policy and use the correct gloves and safety equipment provided
  4. Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry while operating tools and machinery
  5. When working with chemicals, consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
  6. Ensure that proper guards are in place on tools and machinery
  7. When using knives, cut away from you and use a retractable blade if possible
  8. Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of disease and infection
  9. Keep in touch with safety by following safe work practices such as good housekeeping and using the right tools or PPE in the correct manner for the job
Before assuming that PPE is needed to control an identified hazard, you should investigate possible engineering and work practice controls to remove or isolate the hazards.  With engineering controls, it is possible to physically change the machine or work environment to prevent exposure to hazards altogether.  If engineering or work practice controls are not feasible or cannot eliminate or adequately control potential hazards, then you may need to look at PPE.  The most common PPE for hand protection is gloves.  Of course there are many types of gloves on the market, so it is important to select one with performance characteristics needed in relation to the task being performed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are about 250,000 serious injuries to fingers, hands, and wrists every year.  It is believed that as much as 90% of hand injuries are caused by human error.  Distractions, stress, exhaustion and overexertion can sometimes lead to unsafe work practices that may cause hand injuries.  The first step you need to take to prevent hand injuries from happening is to be aware of and respect the potential hazards on the job.
Remember that it’s very important to control or provide good protection from hazards that present a threat to hands and fingers, because it only takes a split second for a life-changing event to occur.
By Jackie Torgerson

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How'd They Do That? Creative solutions from Public Works employees

By Joe Ingebrand: 

There are lots of creative safety solutions we see on our field site visits.  I thought I'd share a couple with you in this blog.  Both of these are ergonomic interventions designed to minimize lifting, bending and reaching.  If you've got something you'd  like to share contact your Loss Control Consultant (see our profiles) and we'll get it posted for others to see.  The more we share these kinds of ideas the safer our Public Works employees will be on the job. 

Wastewater aerator cover lifted with electric winch.

The Pine River Area Sanitary District installed an electric winch to lift the heavy insulated hinged cover on an aerator used in their waste water treatment operation.


Zamboni cutting edge lifter

The City of Fergus Falls uses a floor jack adapted to remove and reinstall the cutting edge ice scrapper for the Zamboni.

They attached a jig, which holds the cutting edge, allowing the employee to remove fasteners and replace the cutting edge blade.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Climb on Board with Ladder Safety.

ANSI and OSHA Have Ladder Inspection Requirements

OSHA has separate regulations for portable wood ladders and portable metal ladders.
According to ANSI A14.1-2000, a ladder should be thoroughly inspected each time it is used. Rungs should be firm and unbroken, braces fastened securely, and ropes, pulleys and other moving parts in good working order. If an inspection reveals damage, the ladder should be repaired. If repairs are not feasible, the defective ladder should be taken out of service. To ensure that ladders are being inspected, ladder tags should be filled out and attached to the ladder.  Here’s what you need to know:

Portable Wood Ladders  29 CFR 1910.25
 Portable wood ladders addresses wood ladders including construction, care and usage.  Wood ladders should be constructed of a high-density wood that is free of sharp edges and splinters.  Visual inspection should reveal no decay, or irregularities including shake, wane and compression failures or other weaknesses.  Construction requirements include ladder length restrictions and step spacing where uniform step spacing must not exceed 12".
Care and usage requirements ensure the serviceability and safety of portable wood ladders. Ladders should be maintained in good condition by keeping all joints tight; lubricating all wheels, locks and pulleys; replacing worn rope; and routine cleaning. Those that are defective must be destroyed or withdrawn from service.

Portable Metal Ladders  29 CFR 1910.26
Portable metal ladders addresses metal ladders, and is divided into general requirements, and care and maintenance. The general requirements call for ladders that are free of sharp edges and are structurally sound. Metal ladders must have rungs that are knurled, dimpled or treated to improve slip resistance.
Proper care and maintenance of portable metal ladders extends ladder life and improves user safety. If a ladder tips over, it must be inspected for damage (bends or dents, loose rivets or joints, etc.) and if defective, must be marked and taken out of service for repair. Ladders must be kept clean so they do not become slippery.

Fiberglass Ladders
OSHA does not address fiberglass ladders. ANSI has guidelines for choosing fiberglass ladders.
Ladders must be marked with ladder size, type, maximum length, number of sections (if appropriate), highest standing level, total length of sections (if applicable), model number, manufacturer's name, manufacturer's location, and date of manufacture. Usage guidelines and other warning statements must also be placed on the ladders in specific locations depending on ladder type.

What are you doing to make your ladder inspections count?

By Andy Miller