Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sidewalk Snow Removal: “New technology for an old problem”

Cities are faced with the challenge of doing more with less. Often this is accomplished by operating equipment faster, but as we know, this can sometimes lead to more problems.
It goes something like this; an employee operating the snow blower is blowing snow from a sidewalk when the unit catches a water valve, sidewalk edge, or other hidden obstruction.  This causes the operator to lunge forward, into the cab, windshield, steering wheel, etc., causing pain and injury, along with damaging the equipment and infrastructure; all costing time and money.
Snowalker is a trip system for snow blowers and front-end loaders. This system allows a snow blower or loader bucket to continually scrape along rugged surfaces without stopping the machine/vehicle. Users could potentially experience increases in productivity of each machine with this system because they can often reduce the need for another pass with a power broom and also reduce down time associated with mechanical breakdowns.

Take a look at the website below which includes a 5 minute video.


By Joe Ingebrand

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Safe Building PART II

Ergonomics and Walking/Working Surfaces for a new facility
It’s not unusual after you build a new facility to realize that you had not considered some important items during construction, including those which can prevent an injury.  In Part I of this article, we provided some things to keep in mind as you plan the construction of a new facility. 
Here are some additional, important considerations specifically for employee health and safety.   Now, we offer some ideas for “ergonomic” improvements in your facility, as well as some suggestions for preventing slips and falls.  If you are fortunate enough to be designing a new Public Works facility, here are a few items to keep in mind. 
  • Stairways and ladders – Consider how employees will reach overhead storage and other hard to reach areas.  Is a fixed ladder an option?  Using a fixed ladder will reduce the chance of inappropriate ladder or equipment use.
  • Railings – Remember that standard railings should be installed on mezzanines, catwalks, or overhead storage areas over 30 inches. 
  • Vehicle lifts – Raising trucks and mowers off the shop floor to conduct repairs and maintenance such as tire rotation, change oil, removing mower blades, etc. minimizes awkward postures and reduces the potential for sprain and strain injuries. In the design and construction of the new facility, consider equipment lifting devices such as a vehicle lift, mobile ceiling lift, and/or a mower lift.
  • Pallet rack storage - An orderly and efficient pallet racking system can help reduce manual handling and injuries by encouraging safe storage and mechanical handling.  Consider available options with the design and construction of the new facility including a forklift truck or fork attachments for other equipment.
  • Hoist and chain systems - Hoist and chain systems help to reduce manual handling of snowplow blades and other heavy tools and equipment around the facility. 
  • Wash bays – A catwalk or platform can help with hard to reach areas while minimizing overextending the body.  A long handled, lightweight spray wand, used in conjunction with a 360 ceiling boom can help to minimize muscle fatigue, while preventing trip hazards from hoses on the floor.
  • Lift tables and multiple height work benches – Elevating/adjustable work benches or scissor lift tables allows the employee to perform work on smaller projects from an elevated position minimizing awkward postures and preventing kneeling and bending.
  • Hose reels – Air, water, electrical, or fuel hoses on the ground can lead to serious and costly injuries.  Consider elevated hose reels or retractable hose systems to organize hoses and eliminate the hazards.
  • Changing light bulbs – Something as simple as changing a light bulb can pose a serious hazard if you haven’t thought out how this process will take place.  Is a personnel lift available in the area where light bulbs will need to be changed?  If a ladder will be used, is it the appropriate type?
  • Handling chemical containers – Eliminate barrel handling by installing an automatic oil/fluids dispensing system, or by contracting out the handling of larger containers to a vendor. 
  • Plumbed eyewash stations – these should be located near areas where chemicals are handled and be located in such a way that an injured employee will have a clear path of travel to the eyewash station. 
  • Anti-slip – For wet environments, consider anti-slip floor treatment or placement of anti-slip mats.
  • Icy areas outside – Roof rainwater down spouts can pose a problem if not directed away from pedestrian areas.  Consider pointing downspouts away from sidewalks, entry and traffic areas, including dumpster, loading, and delivery areas.
  • Automatic lighting – Automatically functioning lighting systems can help prevent trips and falls by illuminating storage and stairway areas as an employee enters the area. 
Following these simple steps can help you establish a safer, more efficient shop, and can help protect you and your workforce from the risks of manual handling and slips and falls.  Contact your city’s LMCIT loss control staff for further help or to discuss a Public Works Ergonomic or Slip, Trip, and Fall survey. 
by Matt Columbus

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thought I was gonna die...

Have you had the flu yet this year?  Given my experience with it I highly recommend not getting it if at all possible. Mom used to say “wash your hands” and “don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where that’s been!” Sage advice, after all she got us this far.  As I pick up the sandwich I just dropped on the floor and eat it I think, even as the cases of flu have stabilized we are not out of the woods yet.
Public work employees are out in the community where they have higher chance of contacting the influenza virus. Workers share things on a daily basis such as vehicles, tools and equipment and are working in close proximity to one another every day. Their activities increase the chance of being exposed to the flu virus.
The virus can survive for 1-2 days on hard non-porous surfaces such as metal and plastic. Think steering wheels, tool handles, door knobs, computer keys. About 15 minutes on dry paper, kleenex, reports, paper money. About 5 minutes on your skin and up to 17 days in mucus on things.
OK so now you’re standing in the middle of the room looking suspiciously at the people around you and trying not to touch anything. Take heart, there is something we can do to greatly reduce our chance of getting sick.
Avoid people who are sick. People are contagious approximately one day before symptoms develop and then for 5-7 days. Children, the petri dishes that they are, can spread the virus for up to two weeks.
Avoid touching surfaces and then touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
Above all the best defense is washing your hands. Ideally to mid forearm. In order to decrease the chance of infecting yourself the CDC suggests washing our hands vigorously with warm water and lots of soap for at least 20 seconds or about the time it takes to sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday twice.
The flu can be spread in three ways. First, direct contact meaning someone coughs or sneezes directly on you. Not good. One droplet can potentially infect a person. One sneeze can produce about 40,000 droplets the smallest of which hang in the air as an aerosol. Secondly, airborne transmissions meaning you breathe in an aerosol or droplets in the air from an infected person who has sneezed or coughed in the recent past.  Thirdly, direct contact with the virus on a surface such as a steering wheel, door knob, handshake and then touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
Of the three ways the third, direct contact with a contaminated surface, has the highest probability of infecting you.  If someone is coughing or sneezing you are not likely to stand near them and most people are good about covering their cough or sneeze. However those coughing, sneezing people still touch things afterword.
So remember. Wash your hands and don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where that’s been!
by Paul Gladen

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Safe Building PART I

Planning a New Facility
It’s not unusual in the years following the construction of a new facility, to think of all the changes you would have made had you done things differently.  Wouldn’t it be easier if these things had come up before construction?  If you are fortunate enough to be planning for a new Public Works facility, here are a few Loss Control related items to keep in mind during the planning phase.
             Building Materials – Consider life expectancy, fire resistance, and long term projected insurance costs.  Discuss with your insurance agent.
             Sprinkler Systems – Consider the benefits of adding an automatic sprinkler system in structures, even when they are not required.
             Fire doors – Electro-magnetic door catches allow the doors to be open during working hours; in the event of fire alarm system activation, they automatically swing closed.
               Fire extinguishers - Consider built-in cabinets to reduce the potential for fire extinguisher theft and keep them available when needed.
             Life safety – Emergency exit signs, emergency lights, and panic hardware on exit doors must be incorporated. Consider what type of backup will be in place for emergency lighting.  Will the backup be a generator or individual battery backups?
             Flammable liquid storage  - If storing flammables, at minimum you will need UL-listed flammable cabinets designed for this purpose.  For large quantities, you may need a flammable liquid storage room, which will include a raised threshold, explosion-resistant wiring, an explosion-resistant door, a blow-out wall, and electrical grounding/bonding.
             Carbon Monoxide/Ventilation (Mn State Rule)
             Alarm systems – You might include fire detection, smoke detection, sound detection, light beam and perimeter protection systems.  A good alarm system can mean all the difference in protecting your property from fire, vandalism, or burglary.
             ADA requirements. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and updates should be strictly followed. The act covers all aspects of building accessibility for disabled persons.
             Interior windows – The placement of windows in interior office walls can reduce the potential for sexual harassment allegations.
             Documentation – documentation involves certificates of insurance, endorsements naming the city as an “additional insured,” and legal contracts. Your city attorney should be involved in drafting and reviewing contract language.
There are numerous resources your city can reach out to for assistance in planning a new Public Works building from a Loss Control perspective. Contact your city's insurance agent, city attorney, building official or LMCIT loss control staff for further help. 
Following these steps can save your city time and money in the future, as well as help protect our most valuable resource:  the employee.  Part of II will include tips for ergonomics-related tools and equipment, as well as the prevention of slips, trips, and falls.
by Matt Columbus