Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace

The League of Minnesota Cities posted information on its website that includes a model DOT Drug and Alcohol testing policy.  DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing

The League received several questions regarding medical marijuana and its impact on a city’s DOT policy.  As the linked memo notes on page 8, federal DOT laws do not recognize any legitimate medical use of marijuana.   Further, even if marijuana is legally prescribed, DOT regulations treat its use like that of any other illicit drug.

 From time to time the League has received calls asking whether DOT medical cards are mandated for municipal employees who are required to possess a valid CDL.  Page 25 of the memo notes, at this time generally a DOT medical card is not mandated for municipal employees who are required to possess a CDL. While such a health card is not required presently, it may be in the future, and some cities presently choose to require employees to have one as a best practices approach for liability reasons only.
By Joyce P. Hottinger, SPHR | Assistant Human Resources Director League of Minnesota Cities

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Safety Incentive Program Trap

OSHA tends to frown on Safety incentive programs for various reasons. They are often fraught with problems in that they can create a disincentive to report injuries or near miss incidents which can lead to unsafe conditions not being reported and corrected. The suppression of accidents skews the city’s safety statistics leading to problems and safety issues not getting fixed or addressed. The incentive programs also have a tendency to get stale and lead to a reduction in participation by the employees. In the case of a program which has a monetary bonus or incentive tied to it, it can create of sense of entitlement over time which leads to pressure from co-workers on other employees to suppress accidents and the reporting of unsafe conditions.

Most of the incentive programs are based on “lagging indicators”. Lagging indicator programs tally up the past accidents, incidents and near misses and reward employees if the accidents are reduced in the future. The programs can be structured several ways such as total number of employees, separate departments or teams. If the accident rate lowers over time the employees are rewarded in various ways such as cash bonuses, prizes, lunches, etc.

These lagging indicator programs based on teams or departments can put pressure on employees to not report accidents, injuries and near misses for fear of causing the team or department to not get the incentive. This failure to report injuries and accidents defeats the purpose of a pro-active safety program.  It can mask accident data and unsafe conditions which would normally lead to improvements in the safety programs and a safer workplace.

The alternative to lagging indicator programs is leading indicator programs. Leading indicator programs are put in place to promote safety and safe work practices by rewarding employees for safety related behaviors and activities rather than for results. These incentive programs are set up for employees to be rewarded for things such as reporting safety violations, making safety suggestions, taking steps to correct unsafe situations and conditions, participating in safety training programs and volunteering for and participating on safety committees. The purpose of these program is to change the safety culture among employees so that over time the increased safety awareness and practice will lead to lower accident and injury rates through more pro-active safety program and culture.

Participation by employees can be a challenge for any incentive program. Administration of the program takes concerted effort by management and requires full participation, commitment and support from administration by improving safety programs, supporting changes in the operations, improving unsafe conditions where suggestions are made, and supporting the adoption and purchase of safety tools and equipment where needed.

By Paul Gladen

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's hot for winter?

Getting plugged in, that’s what’s hot!  There are now options for battery-powered heated clothing to wear on those extremely cold days that will help protect you against the threat of hypothermia and frostbite.  The options include gloves, socks, jackets, and pants.   
The concept is fairly new and ever expanding.  The widest variety I found was with First Gear and the apparel was available on  There are also options available through or any outdoor sporting goods store. 

Yes, we all live in Minnesota and we all know that cold weather is part of the deal.  When you spend most of your workday outdoors in the Minnesota winters, you need to leverage any possible advantage to ward off that bone-chilling cold.  You need to take care to protect your extremities and appendages from frostbite and your body from hypothermia.  While you may think this is being dramatic, frostbite can occur very quickly in the arctic weather that we experience. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the risk of frostbite is less than 5 percent when the air temperature is above 5 F, the risk increases as the wind chill falls. At wind chill levels below -18 F, frostbite can occur on exposed skin in 30 minutes or less.

Hypothermia is abnormally low body temperature and occurs when the body temperature drops below 95 degrees. When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Being active in cold, rainy weather increases the risk of hypothermia, as does being an older adult.

Hypothermia signs and symptoms include intense shivering, slurred speech, loss of coordination and fatigue. Seek emergency help right away for possible hypothermia.

Does that mean that you have to just accept the cold and shiver your way through the longest season of the year?  It used to be that you just added another layer or stayed inside when possible to stay warm.  Thanks to some great innovative minds, we no longer have to make that choice or bulk up to go outside in the frigid temperatures. 

Here’s to keeping warm and staying safe this winter! 

By Tara Bursey