Thursday, November 20, 2014

Meet our new Safety Specialists!

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust recently welcomed two new members to the Loss Control team.  Both bring several years of experience in their respective specialties; Troy Walsh from Public Works and the Fire Service, and Tracy Stille from Law Enforcement.
Troy Walsh

For the past 14 years Troy worked in the Public Works Department in Victoria, Minnesota.  He most recently oversaw the Streets and Storm Water Divisions.  He was a member of the city safety committee and oversaw the safety training and safety policies for the City of Victoria.  He holds a Class-D Water License from Minnesota Department of Health and a Class-SC Wastewater License from Minnesota Pollution Control.  He will receive his Road Scholar Certification from Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program or MnLTAP in May of 2015. 

Troy is a state certified Firefighter 1 & 2 with sixteen years of service in the City of Victoria Fire Department and is the current Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshall.  He is also state certified as a Fire Instructor, Fire Officer, and a Public Fire Educator.  He is a past member of the Minnesota Board of Fire Training and Education 2010-2012.  Troy holds an Associate’s Degree in Fire Science Technology from Hennepin Technical College.  He is also a Hazardous Materials Technician and a member of the Carver County Hazardous Materials Group.  Troy is a National Registry Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). 

Troy was born, raised and still resides in the southwest metro community of Victoria. He has a long history with the community and its city departments.  In high school Troy worked as a part time seasonal employee for the public works department.

Troy started with the League of Minnesota Cities on November 17th and will be working as a Loss Control Consultant covering the Southwest Region of Minnesota.


Tracy Stille
Tracy recently retired from the Maple Grove Police Department where he served in a variety of positions that included patrol officer, drug education officer, investigator, field training officer, patrol sergeant, emergency response unit team leader, sergeant of investigations, services captain and patrol captain.  Previously he served with several rural police departments in McLeod and Sibley Counties and was employed as a special deputy with the Sibley County Sheriff’s Office.  

Tracy also has experience working in the fields of public works for the City of Brownton and vehicle fleet management for the City of Maple Grove. 

Tracy’s education includes a Master of Science degree in criminal justice from St. Cloud State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in law enforcement from Mankato State University.  His training also includes several executive level management and leadership development courses that include the FBI’s Law Enforcement and Executive Development Seminar #14, the MN Chiefs of Police CLEO and Command Academy, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Police Management and Supervision certification program, and the School of Police Staff and Command #212 thru Northwestern University.  He is also a certified emergency manager thru the MN Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. 

Tracy Stille grew up on a rural farm in McLeod County, MN.  He attended Hibbing Community College and became licensed as a peace officer in 1983 after being hired by the Brownton Police Department. 

Tracy started with the League of Minnesota Cities on November 17th and will be working as a Loss Control Consultant covering the Northeast Region of Minnesota.

By Cheryl Brennan

Monday, November 17, 2014

Link on Frozen Water Lines - Minnesota Rural Water

Two heads are better than one!  Minnesota Rural Water shared some materials on their website including a sample notification to the public and a sample media kit for utilities.  Minnesota Rural Website  Thanks! 

by LMC Loss Control

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Frozen Water Lines - Educate the Public

As a Public Works employee you know the value of preplanning for any job you do in the city.  One of the most important things you can do is educate your city residents before the cold weather hits.  Get something posted on your web site and/or printed for your utility bills to help people prepare.

In the midst of the 2014 cold wave I woke up to a frozen water pipe in my own downstairs bathroom.  For weeks I’d been blogging about, and keeping my eyes open, for news about frozen water lines.  On the day of our freeze up I just happened across a list of some very good tips. 

Of course the below grade bathroom had a vanity but if you recall the frost was 7-8 feet down in some parts of the state.  And the closed doors of the vanity, along with the contents of the vanity, kept the water pipe insulated from the warm air in the lower level.  Taking the contents out of the vanity, leaving the vanity doors open, using a space heater and applying heat tape slowly thawed the line. 

I've listed some tips that you may want to post on your city website.  If you include the space heater or heat tape options in your list of things residents can do to thaw their lines, I recommend running a link to precautions from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Underwriters Laboratory – see below.  If the city suggests residents run a pencil-thin trickle of water make sure your city has discussed and determined what, if anything, will be done to adjust water bills or sanitary sewer flow – see previous blogs. 

By Cheryl Brennan

Your water lines may be at risk of freezing during prolonged periods of bitter cold if you had issues with frozen water lines last winter.  Here’s what you can do to prepare:
  • Monitor the weather reports for extended periods of severe cold; then take action.
  • Allow warm air to circulate in the area where the water comes in to the house.
  • Leave utility room doors open and clear space around the waterline.
  • Remove contents of vanity cupboards and leave the doors open.
  • If possible/practical leave snow cover over the area where your lateral water line runs from the curb stop to the house.
  • Put a fresh battery in the thermostat if the thermostat is not hard wired in to the home.
  • Run your cold water closest to the water line entry point for a couple minutes and then take the temperature of the water. 
    • If it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit it is recommended that you let your cold water run from this faucet at a pencil thickness. 
    • You should run it non-stop when there is no one home, overnight when temperatures typically dip lower, or no water is being used for a period of time.
    • Notify the city/utility if this method is chosen.

If your water line freezes:
  • Use heat tape, a space heater (don’t leave it unattended) or a warm hair dryer on the pipe.  Follow all safety precautions recommended by Consumer Product Safety Commission   and  Underwriters Laboratory .
  • Watch for unintended consequences of sewer or septic backups if running water continuously.
  • If a contractor is needed to thaw the line be aware of unintended consequences of contractors thawing water lines, particularly if using an electrical welder. 
    • Namely fire, explosion, damage to appliances and electronics, and the possibility of damage to other property owners in the case of stray electrical current. 
    • Determine if the contractor is using a commercial device manufactured specifically to thaw frozen water lines.  
    • Determine if the contractor is insured. 

Sanitary sewer freeze up considerations:

Make sure the roof vent is not covered with snow or is otherwise blocked.  Snow build up over the vent will cause the sewer drain to slow down.  This prevents the warmer air in the sewer system from venting up the house line and keeping the line above freezing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Frozen Water Lines....A "golden opportunity" to plan

On our last post we shared some information including sample policy language and a waiver on thawing frozen lateral lines.
 In the depths of the cold last year many cities felt pressured to make a decision on thawing lateral lines.  Some cities, and some contractors that a city might have recommended, used electric welders.  Some of the claims that came into the League specifically from using electric welders included:

* Fire damage to the home
* Damage to electrical appliances
* Stray current causing electrical equipment damage to neighboring properties
* A power surge that damaged radio systems equipment on the water tower
* Stray current that damaged phone lines

Here’s some comments from the head of the League of Minnesota Cities' property / casualty department.

Brian Pulczinski…… The P & C claims department received several frozen water/sewer line claims this past winter.  A city is obligated to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the construction, maintenance and inspection of all utilities, including its water distribution system.  If the city fails to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in this area, OR if they respond to an occurrence inappropriately, the city could be found negligent and a third party may be able to recover damages. 

In the vast majority of these frozen water/sewer line cases, we found that most of the frozen lines were caused by an Act of God/Nature – unprecedented and unrelenting cold weather that caused frost to go deeper into the ground than ever before and deeper than the city could reasonably have anticipated occurring.  Generally speaking, the city is not negligent in these situations and not responsible for damages to a third party.  For the few cases we found negligence, most of these involved some type of action the city took when responding to the frozen lines (i.e. – using a welder to thaw out a frozen water line, causing a fire at a residence home).  

Here in the Loss Control department at the League we’ve identified two pieces of equipment that are specifically marketed to thaw frozen lines if your city/entity makes the decision to attempt to thaw frozen laterals (see previous post for some guidelines).  The “Hot Shot” The Hot Shot  distributed by General Pipe Cleaners and The Magikist Pulse De-icer.

Last year retailers ran out of equipment to sell due to the heavy demand across a wide section of the country.  Now is the time to make purchases and/or make arrangements with neighboring cities to share this equipment. Keeping in mind that it is just as cold for people in the neighboring city as it is in your own!  For that reason it is important to make note of where there were freeze ups in the past.   

Next up we’ll talk about some helpful hints to post on your city web page. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Frozen Water Lines....... Take 2 ???

Last winter brought unprecedented cold deep into the mid-west causing water line, sewer line and water tower freeze ups.  While the trees are still a blaze of red, orange and gold now is the time to consider some “golden rules” about informing your residents and business owners on what they can do to lower the possibility of a freeze up in their lateral water lines. 

It’s also a good time for policy makers to contemplate what another hard winter might bring.  In the next 3 blogs I’ll share comments from our Property/Casualty Claims department and the head of the League’s Research department.  I’ll share a sample waiver and ordinance for water line thawing from our Loss Control Risk Management Attorney and provide links to a couple equipment resources with which we at the League are familiar. 

Now is the time for policy makers and department heads to make some decisions about how the city will address such things as letting water run to prevent freeze ups, or having city employees thaw lateral lines.  Here are some considerations from the head of the League of Minnesota Cities’ Research department.

Jeanette Behr….
Reducing utility bills due to constantly running water:
If your city is again faced with residents having frozen water lines and asks residents to run water, please consider adopting a policy before reducing utility bills. Decisions made pursuant to a policy protect the city. Tax dollars must only be spent for public purposes. In theory, if a city asks some residents to run water to protect city infrastructure, the city may be able to reduce the charges accordingly and still meet the legal test that tax dollars be spent for a public purpose even if there is some private benefit to the individual resident.

Consider noting in the policy and council meeting minutes that running water in residences or businesses in certain parts of the city protects city infrastructure from expensive freezing and breaking. (It's best to target those areas of the city that have a history of freezing lines to limit the amount of water and tax dollars used.)

As a counterargument, many cities do not reduce utility bills for residents. Last winter, many cities chose this approach.  Still, these cities provided helpful information on city websites about ways residents could prevent frozen water lines and noted that the cost to run a small amount of water is much lower than paying to thaw out frozen lines

Thawing resident's lines (lateral lines)
The same questions come up if a city is thawing lines that are a customer's responsibility. (Let’s call these lateral lines.) If a city council decides to provide line thawing services, again, consider adopting a policy.  (See sample waiver and policy below.)

For example, if it's hard for your city to identify where lines are freezing, it may justify using tax dollars to help residents thaw out their lines. Document these concerns in meeting minutes and provide some evidence of frozen city water mainlines resulting from lateral line freeze ups if you can. 

Also, if the city is looking at multiple frozen lines in numerous houses there may be a general health, safety, welfare concern in having so many residents without drinkable water. It's best to work with the city attorney and get a written waiver from the property owner if your council feels it's necessary to send public workers onto private property to thaw frozen lateral lines.

Next up we’ll discuss claims caused last winter due to the use of electric welders.  

by Cheryl Brennan


(Frozen Water Laterals)


I, ____________________________________ (“Owner), am the owner of the residence located at _________________________________________ (Property Address),  ___________(City)  Minnesota (the “Property”).

As a result of cold weather conditions, the lateral water lines (the “Lines”) located on the Property have frozen.  I have requested the City of __________________________________(the “City”) for help in thawing the Lines.  I understand that the repair or thawing of the Lines is NOT the responsibility or obligation of the City of ______________________________________(the “City”).    I have, however, requested help from the City to thaw the Lines.  THE PURPOSE OF THIS WAIVER OF LIABILITY AND HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT IS TO ASSURE THE CITY THAT IT WILL NOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGE, DIRECT OR INDIRECT, THAT I, THE PROPERTY OR ITS CONTENTS MAY INCUR, NOW OR IN THE FUTURE AS A RESULT OF THE WORK THE CITY PERFORMS ON THE PROPERTY IN THE COURSE OF ATTEMPTING TO THAW THE LINES.

I ACKNOWLEDGE that the process or procedure to be used by the City to attempt to thaw the lines, which may include the use of_________________________(name of equipment used), involves risk of damage to the Property, and that the City does not assure me or make any representations to me that damage will not occur to the Property or its contents as a result of the process or procedure used to attempt to thaw the lines.  The risks involved in the process or procedures that the City may use to attempt to thaw the lines include, but are not limited to, fire losses and claims for damage of any kind to buildings, appliances, electronics, etc.  I hereby represent that I am willing to accept all such risks, and to protect the City from such claims that may be made by me or others.

 I FURTHER ACKNOWLEDGE that the City will not assist in the thawing of the Lines unless this WAIVER OF LIABILITY AND HOLD HARMLESS AGREEMENT is signed by me and delivered to the City prior to the City performing any such work on the Property. 

IN CONSIDERATION for help from the City to thaw the lines on the Property, I agree as follows:

I HEREBY RELEASE the City, it’s employees, officials and agents from any and all claims for damages that I or the Property or its contents may sustain or incur now or in the future as a direct or indirect result of the City’s attempt to thaw the lines, and I hereby waive any right of claim I may have, now or in the future, against the City, its employees, officials and agents as a result of any such damage that may result from that attempt.

I AGREE that neither I nor any other owner of the Property or its contents will make a claim, sue, or otherwise assert rights against the City, its employees, officials or agents for damages claimed to have resulted from the City’s attempt to thaw the lines.

I AGREE TO DEFEND AND HOLD HARMLESS the City, its employees, officials and agents from all claims, suits, judgments, damages, losses and expenses, including reasonable legal fees and costs arising in whole or in part from the work performed by the City in its attempt to thaw the lines. This waiver of liability does not waive liability for any injuries that I obtain as the result of willful, wanton or intentional misconduct by the City or any person acting on behalf of the City.



SIGNATURE OF OWNER:_____________________________________ Date of Signature ______



Sample Policy Statement


1. The City will provide a service of thawing frozen service laterals to owner occupied residences, owner-occupied residential condominiums and owner-occupied co-operative housing. Except as outlined elsewhere in this Policy for City-owned rental or non-profit housing, the City will not provide a thawing service for any other class of property.

 2. The City will thaw external water service laterals only, not frozen plumbing inside the residence.

 3. The City will respond to calls in order of complaints received.

4. Calls received during regular working hours shall be responded to as resources permit. Calls received after regular working hours will be responded to within sixteen hours of receipt of the call, or as soon as possible after sixteen hours of receipt of the call in the event that other emergencies tie up resources and make it impossible to deal with the thawing request.

5. If a crew is already out on overtime basis when a request to thaw a service lateral is received, the crew will respond prior to going home, unless it is likely that the work will keep the crew out past midnight.

6. There will be no charge to the resident if the property can be thawed without digging, and if it is the first occurrence of the season for the property. A charge of a fee as set by Council, payable in advance, will be made for subsequent thawing services within a single season.

7. City-owned rental or non-profit housing units will be afforded the same thawing service as ‘owner occupied residences’, except that the Department of Building and Property Management will be charged for the full cost of the service. The Department of Building and Property Management are free to employ the services of an outside contractor, if they view the wait is too long for their tenants.

8. [OPTIONAL] The City will use hot water or steam in its thawing operations. The use of electric pipe thawing machines or welding machines is strictly prohibited, and persons using same will be held liable for any damage caused

9. The City reserves the right to deviate from this policy at any time if deemed to be in the best interests of the City and its residents based on safety, political and economic considerations.  Any deviation and the reason for the deviation shall be documented in writing.



Monday, September 29, 2014

Buidling Apps on your Smart Phone

Smart phones.  You love them, you hate them, or you love to hate them.  I tend to fall in to the “love to hate them” category most of the time. Seems like the longer you have one the more attached you get to the darn things. You feel naked if you forget to grab it when you leave the house. You are also always connected and accessible so you can never get away anymore.  Although, they sure can be handy once in a while. 

For example I have three Apps on my phone that I found are kind of cool in a nerdy sort of way. One is the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook. I used to carry around the actual guidebook in my car but could never find it when I wanted it. The App, which is free, has more information than the book and it is always with me as long as I have my phone. The App is good for the fact that in an emergency situation you have fast access to information on hazardous chemicals and how to deal with them.

The second App is a sound level meter app; there are several free ones out there, which is nice to have for checking noise levels on jobsites, in buildings, (concerts, parties etc….). It is admittedly not as accurate as a real sound level meter but is close enough to get an idea if the levels are high enough to require PPE. Also it is kind of fun to see how loud your kids can be and to show your spouse how ear splitting their rants can be during a heated debate/argument. Although, I don’t recommend the latter I found it only made things worse around my house, but I digress. Anyway, the sound level meter can be useful to spot check areas for noise levels as most people don’t have sound level meters readily available to them. And the App is free and I find myself using it more and more just to spot check areas.

The third App I have that I find the useful is the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) ladder safety App that has an incline meter built in. The application from NIOSH is also:-)  free. The ladder safety application only covers straight/extension ladders and doesn’t relate to self-supporting step ladders but has good information on ladder safety and the incline meter is handy not only for ladders but other uses as well.  The app also has ladder safety topics on it such as selection, set up, proper use and accessories safety so it can be a good tool for that as well.

None of these apps are used every day but I use them often enough that I’m finding I’m liking my smart phone more than hating it these days. Oh and did I mention they are all free. They are available for both Apple and Non-Apple phones.

Emergency Response Guidebook
NIOSH's web site has a link to both Apple and Android versions at

Sound Level Meter
There are a bunch of apps for free sound level meters one is Sound Meter Pro by Mobile Essentials and another is Sound Meter by Smart Tools Co.
By Paul Gladen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

OEM—Should You Manufacture Your Own Devices?

During our Spring Workshop presentation on ergonomic changes, we had a number of questions regarding the feasibility of manufacturing your own devices or modifying current devices to suit your purposes.  The questions ranged from increased liability to OSHA treatment to legal implications.  With these questions in mind, we have contacted OSHA and legal counsel to clarify and provide direction when manufacturing or modifying tools. 

OSHA Compliance

MN OSHA Consultation indicated that manufacturing or modifying tools can be acceptable; however it would depend on each specific instance.   When discussing this issue with OSHA, they indicated that you would need to be certain that the modified/manufactured tool or device meets the capacity that it is intended to perform.  A general rule of thumb would be that if you would not allow someone else to use it due to safety concerns, do not use it. 

When considering manufacturing or modifying devices or tools you should ask the following questions:

·         What is the worst case scenario if the device/tool failed?

·         How much pressure or force can the tool/device withstand?

·         What are the qualifications of the person making the modifications or fabricating the tool/device? (i.e. welders)

·         Does the modification alter the tool/device beyond the manufacturer specifications?

When looking at hoists or lifts, you would want an engineer to review the device to give a rating capacity based on the nature of these devices.  Also, keep in mind that any modified attachments, tools, or devices should be used in the manner for with they were intended. 

An example of a modified device would be using floor jacks to change wear blades on plow trucks.  When discussing with OSHA, they indicated that since the floor jack is originally intended to be used to lift objects there would be no issue with that specific use. 

Modified Floor Jack

Another example would be a drill attachment to open and close valves. 

Modified Drill Bit
This would be an acceptable device to manufacture or modify as the drill would continue to be used for the intended purpose. 
Legal Counsel Opinion

There is some increased risk of liability when a city creates its own tools or devices.

 If a city purchases a tool and it is defective, and an employee or third party is injured, the city may have a claim against the manufacturer, i.e., it can transfer liability to a third party.

 If the city creates the tool there is no way to transfer liability.  That doesn’t mean a city should not create its own tools but if it does, it should be very careful.

If an employee were injured, he or she would have a workers’ compensation claim which would likely preclude the employee from bringing a negligence action against the city.

 If a third party was injured, that third party would likely be able to bring a negligence claim against the city.

Ultimately, the city needs to assess the risk of injury (and likely seriousness of an injury) versus the problem that is being solved.  That assessment would include the city’s expertise to craft the tool, the cost, and whether a similar tool is available for purchase.

 All things being equal, it would be better that the city buys the tool or device if it can be purchased rather than have the city create its own tool.


When looking at the options for purchasing, modifying, or manufacturing tools and devices, you should look closely at what you would like the item to do and what the implications of each option would be.  This being said, you need to look at the cost of each option both upfront and potential costs due to the increased liability.

If you look at these costs and you are not certain which option would work best, you can contact OSHA Consultation 651-284-5060 to ask these questions and get their advice for your specific situation.  Another option would be to contact your LMCIT Loss Control Consultant to discuss your options. 

The bottom line is that your answer is going to be on a case by case basis and there is no right answer for all situations.   
By Tara Bursey

Monday, September 8, 2014

Low! Low! Low! Cost On-line Safety Training

The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust (LMCIT) invites you to attend a free webinar about on-line employee safety training.  Members have requested this kind of offering for a few years.  We're pleased to announce our partnership with First Net Learning,  Learn more and get your questions answered during a webinar created specifically for League members.  Head to our website and read more about FirstNetSafetyTraining .  Upcoming webinar dates are September 25th, October 8th and 22nd.

by Cheryl Brennan

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Accessing Vehicle for Repairs or Inspection

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 that utilize portable steps, wheel steps, built in steps or ladders to access equipment.        Joe Ingebrand

Friday, August 15, 2014

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

Monday, August 4, 2014

City Employee Injured After Fall

Here is a headline no one wants to read....“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)
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.
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!
by Joe Ingebrand

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FREE OSHA Log recordkeeping training for state and local governments

Basics of OSHA log recordkeeping for state and local governments
This half-day session is directed to new OSHA log recordkeepers at state and local government establishments, although more experienced government recordkeepers are welcome to attend. Topics will include a review of the fundamental requirements of OSHA recordkeeping and will expose the most common OSHA log errors. Participants will have time to ask questions about their own recordkeeping situations and receive tips about how to improve the accuracy and usefulness of the injury and illness log.

Monday, July 28, 2014

OSHA Training

Employee health and safety is not just about plugging in a video and calling it good.  While a considerable amount of relevant (and quite frankly unchanging) information can be conveyed through the use of videos an employer also must make sure to deliver training that is specific to the hazards, environment, equipment and conditions employees face in their everyday work. 

 For example, to provide training on confined space hazards and cover all required OSHA training elements for your city you might choose to use the FirstNet online training offering.  Next you might supplement that information with a free video/DVD from LMCIT’s lending library, and finally you would go over the specifics of confined space situations in your operations.  Using a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) would be an effective tool.

Using the LMCIT low cost online training classes and free DVD library can enhance your employee health and training program.  You can also secure some water and wastewater operator credits at the same time.  Look for the LMCIT postcard and email coming your way soon about the FirstNet Learning product. 

by Cheryl Brennan, Manager Loss Control Field Services 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Online Training from LMCIT is Here!

What does a Minnesota city such as yours have in common with cities in Vermont, Iowa, Kentucky, Colorado and even Alaska?  Good question!  Here’s the even greater answer.  They incorporate online training from FirstNet Learning as part of their employee health and safety training program. 

 And now you can too!  On August 4th the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust will kick off a low cost online training program now available to all LMCIT members.  “We’ve offered this training since 2005 to our members in the Regional Safety Groups (RSG”S) and the response has been very positive.”  “A few cities particularly rely on the online training to supplement the training they must give new and seasonal employees,” says Chris White, the Loss Control Program Coordinator.  The New Employee Safety Orientation and Safety Awareness for Seasonal Employees are offerings that get used a considerable amount. 

An email and post card announcing the program will be on its way to you soon.  First Net Learning will host a series of free webinars to introduce the program on August 21st from 1:00-2:00, August 26th from 10:30-11:30 and September 9th from 1:00-2:00.  The webinars will give municipalities even more information on how to incorporate online training into the overall employee safety program for the low, low price of $14/employee and a course offering of more than 30 titles each year!  Starting this fall LMCIT will add a new course every month for a total of 42 course offerings. 

Many OSHA Standards require very specific health and safety training content for employees exposed to typical, municipal workplace hazards such as bloodborne pathogens, confined space entry, lock-out / tag-out, and much more.  The required training is specific to the tasks employees perform, the exposures in the work environment and the equipment or PPE employee’s use, such as forklifts or respirators.  In addition, the city needs to discern that the employee actually understood the training and the city must maintain training records in the event of an OSHA investigation into an accident or injury.  FirstNet Learning will help you track participation and learning outcomes.  Stand by for more information coming with my next post...... 

By Cheryl Brennan, LMCIT Loss Control Field Services Manager

Monday, July 14, 2014

It’s a Company Vehicle, Right? Wrong!

When you are hired by the City and you are given a “work” vehicle, do the same rules apply as with private industry?  No, they do not.  There are Minnesota Statutes governing the use of municipally owned vehicles.  The statute outlines the use of these vehicles for personal reasons.  What considerations need to be made and what policies should the City adopt regarding use of city-owned vehicles?

The Statute and What it Means:
MN Statute 471.666 sets forth the restrictions on the use of municipal vehicles.  Subdivision 2 of the statute outlines the restrictions on use of municipal vehicles.  It is indicated that a local government vehicle can only be used for local government business, including personal use that is clearly incidental for local government business.  It also states that the vehicle cannot be used as a vehicle to commute to and from work for the employee. 

Example:  A city employee uses the city vehicle to get to a work related seminar.  On the return trip from the seminar, the employee takes a detour to a shopping mall to make some non-work related purchases.  If the employee is in an accident in the mall parking lot, there may be coverage questions that may result in the city’s coverage not applying to a portion or portions of the loss.

Exceptions to the Statute:
Exceptions to the statute regarding to and from an employee’s residence are outlined in Subdivision 3 of the statute.  These exceptions include when the vehicle is used in connection with work-related activities outside of the employee’s scheduled work hours.  Another exception is if the employee has been assigned the use of the vehicle on an extended basis and their primary place of work is not the local government work station where they are permanently assigned.  This would apply to field employees.  The third exception is if the number of miles traveled or the time needed to conduct the business will be minimized if the employee uses the municipal vehicle to travel to their residence before or after traveling to the place of local government business.  The last exception is those public safety vehicles that are owned or leased by the local government entity.  

Why Is This Important?
If an employee has an accident and it is determined that their personal use of the vehicle falls outside of the statute and/or the City’s fleet policy, the employee assumes significant personal risk.  The risk could be financial in nature and depending on the City’s policy, there may be disciplinary action for the lapse in policy adherence. 
What Can We Do?
  • Regularly review employee use of city-owned vehicles with special attention to personal use of the vehicles.
  • Consider adopting a policy that prohibits the personal use of city-owned vehicles.
  • Train employees on the policy and develop a form to clearly show when use of city-owned vehicles is “authorized”.
  • Require employees to use their personal auto if there is a possibility of personal use or if the employee would like to have their spouse or family member accompany them.

The bottom line is city/municipally owned vehicles must adhere to a different set of rules governed by MN Statute 471.666.  This differs greatly from the private industry’s guidelines on company vehicles, which are determined by each individual company and are not subject to the statute above.

By Tara Bursey

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Rain! Rain! Go away! Come again some other day!

There’s a bright side to all the rain we’ve received across the state.  Less time spent watering those pesky flower pots and hanging baskets!  

Here’s a common hazard found in many public work shops in Minnesota.  Summer weather brings with it a need to water all those plantings.  Traditional hoses pose a slip, trip and fall hazard if they are not stored neatly off the floor. 
Lugging long and heavy garden hoses around also poses an ergonomic risk.  Here is one city’s solution.  They picked up some expandable, lightweight hoses – as seen on TV!  Here is 300 feet of hose in a 5 gallon bucket.  The Garden Club recently received a donation from the city of (you guessed it) traditional garden hose!  

By Cheryl Brennan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Job Hazard Analyses: Examples and a tool to get you started!

Let’s get you started on developing JHA’s for your operations.  LMCIT Loss Control consultants have many examples of JHA’s for public works tasks such as Pothole Filling , Sewer TelevisingSkin PatchingTree Trimming From Bucket, and Water Hydrant Flushing Valve Operation to name a few.  Also check out this information memo, Conducting a Job Hazard AnalysisA Proactive Approach to Safety, on the League of Minnesota Cities’ website for step by step instructions.  At the bottom of page 4 you will see a link to a blank document that you can use to customize JHA’s for your city. 

A Job Hazard Analysis, (JHA), also called a Job Safety Analysis, is a proven analytical tool that examines the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment.  Ideally, after uncontrolled hazards are identified, a city will take steps to eliminate or reduce the hazards to an acceptable risk level. 

Understand how to conduct, review and document a job hazard analysis.  Use this proactive tool to establish proper work procedures and address on-the-job hazards before an injury or costly claim occurs. 

By Cheryl Brennan

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

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

Did you know LMCIT Loss Control professionals can help your city apply to the 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. 

MN OSHA's current primary inspection emphasis industries include public entities and utilities which means cities are a priority in terms of receiving the grant.  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. 
Make Plans for a Grant

LMCIT Loss Control finds that many cities are having success in getting their grant application approved.    LMCIT members can use the recommendation letter from their Loss Control Consultant to help the city qualify for the grant.  Work with your loss control consultant to submit your request to LMCIT and Underwriting staff will sign the grant application. 

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

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.  Applications are accepted continuously, and grants are awarded monthly.  You can re-apply for the grant multiple times if you are not initially approved, so keep trying!

Information, applications and other useful forms for the Safety Grant Program can be obtained at the following link:Minnesota Safety Grant

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 Cheryl Brennan