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