Monday, August 17, 2015

Water Utility- Help During Emergencies

The US Environmental Protection Agency has just released the Water Utility Response On-the-Go mobile website.  It is a web-based tool that helps utility and public works employees complete a wide range of critical activities during all stages of a water emergency.  Various expandable tabs allow employees to complete the following tasks on their mobile devices:
  • Track Severe Weather
  • Contact Response Partners
  • Respond to Incidents
  • Take Notes and Record Damage
  • Inform Incident Command
  • Additional Planning
You never know when a drinking water emergency or natural disaster affecting your city will knock at your door.  Now there is an on-the-go application to help guide the utility or city through the response.  EPA Water Utility Emergency Response On-the-Go
By Joe Ingebrand

Monday, August 3, 2015

Best Practices for Safety Committees

Did you attend the annual Loss Control workshops this spring?  Perhaps you attended the afternoon session on safety committees.  The League received a LOT of positive feedback on that session, along with requests to repeat the training in a local venue so more employees could attend. 

Those attendees that went on the off-site portion of the training said it was “a valuable learning experience”.  The league responded by adding four sessions to the fall workshop schedule and is in the process of applying for credits.  We've also included a hands-on session on Job Hazard AnalysisLunch is included.  Find out more and register online.  Class sizes are limited so hurry or all the seats will be taken! 

The role of a safety committee is vital—but can also be complex. Let us help you simplify it. Much like an apple is easier to eat when it is sliced into sections, so too is a safety committee easier to develop (and operate!) once it is broken down into its parts.
- See more at Best Practices for Safety Committees 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sewer Check Valves- Another Tool in Your Sewer Tool Kit

Joe Ingebrand 
From time to time we in loss control get questions as to how a city can install a lateral sewer line check-valve in cooperation with a home owner without increasing liability in future. Check valves have long been used in communities where flooding is common, where sanitary sewer systems become overwhelmed with storm water causing sewer back-ups. They are also a tool used as a temporary fix for property’s with a history of sewer back-ups, or those that are particularly vulnerable due to current infrastructure problems that are years away from being replaced.

In order to reduce liability associated with ownership and maintenance of sewer check valves, the city should consider the following:
  • Consult the city engineer for location and installation guidance,
  • Use a written agreement between the property owner and the city, and 
  • Work with the City Attorney to develop a policy and an agreement defining when, where, and how they can be used and who is responsible for them after installation.
See a Model Policy and Model Agreement below.  For an electronic copy of these documents please contact  your loss control consultant or Joe Ingebrand at . 


Sewer Backflow Check Valves

On occasion the City may purchase and install a sewer backflow check valve (“check valve”) at certain properties for the purpose of preventing sanitary sewer backups.  In general, this action will be reserved for properties that have had multiple and/or severe sanitary sewer backups.

The City may recommend this action to a property owner or the request for a check valve may come from a property owner.  The determination of which properties qualify for a City-provided check valve will be made by the City on a case-by-case basis.  Items to be considered include, but are not limited to:
  • The number and severity of sanitary sewer backups that have occurred at the property.
  • The cause of the sewer back up and the location of any blockages.
  • The type of building and contents of the building located on the property.
  • Pending sanitary sewer system improvements that would improve service to the property.
  • Sanitary sewer system improvements that have already taken place to improve service to the property.
  • Before a check valve will be provided, both the City and the property owner must enter into an agreement regarding the purchase, installation and follow up care for a check valve.

The City may hire a contractor to carry out the installation of a check valve.

The purchase and installation of a check valve for one property does not entitle another property owner to the same service.  Neither this policy nor the practice described herein confers rights on another property owner.

The City will evaluate this policy and practice on an ongoing basis and may discontinue the provision of check valves to property owners at any time.
             THIS AGREEMENT is made this _____ day of                               , 20___, by and between the City of ________________, a Minnesota municipal corporation (the “City”) and ___________________________________________________, owner(s) of the property located at __________________________________________ (the “Property Owner”) (collectively referred to as the Parties”).
WHEREAS, one or more sanitary sewer backups have occurred at this property; and
WHEREAS, the Parties want to take reasonable action to prevent future sanitary sewer backups at this property; and
NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the promises contained herein, the Parties hereby agree to the following:
Sewer backflow check valve:  A valve that isolates the property’s plumbing from the public sanitary sewer in the street.  The check valve includes a flapper that shuts when water level in the public sewer line is high enough to flow back into the house.
 1.  The City will provide a sewer backflow check valve for the property located at ____________________________________ (the “Property”).
 2.  The City will install or arrange for the installation of the sewer backflow check valve at the Property.
3.  If there is a cost to the Property Owner associated with the purchase or installation of the check valve the details should be reflected here:
4.  The Property Owner is responsible for all maintenance, inspection, repair, and replacement of the sewer backflow check valve following installation. 
5.  The Property Owner understands that while a sewer backflow check valve offers protection against sanitary sewer backups, it is not foolproof.  Even with a sewer backflow check valve, sanitary sewer backups may sometimes occur. 
6.  This Agreement will be in effect for the time Property Owner resides at the Property.  The Property Owner may not assign this Agreement to any subsequent owner of the Property.
7.  Prior to installment of the sewer backflow check valve, this Agreement may be terminated by either party by giving written notice to the other party.  
1.  City’s Insurance.  The City shall maintain property and liability coverage with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust under standard LMCIT liability coverage forms.   
 2.  Damage to Property.  The City/the City’s contractor shall be responsible for any damages to the Property occurring during the installation of the sewer backflow check valve, to the extent that the negligence of the City/the City’s contractor causes damage to the Property,  subject to any protections the City is entitled to under Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 466 or other laws.
3.  Liability of City.  Provision and installation of a sewer backup check valve at this Property is not an admission of liability on the part of the City for any past or future sewer backups.
4.  Sewer Backup Claims.  Nothing in this agreement prevents the Property Owner from filing future claims with the City in the event of a sanitary sewer backup.
1.  Entire Agreement.  This Agreement supersedes any prior or contemporaneous representations or agreements, whether written or oral, between the Parties and contains the entire agreement. 
 2.  Amendments.  Any modification or amendment to this Agreement shall require a written agreement signed by both Parties.
 3.  Governing Law.  This Agreement shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the State of Minnesota.
 4.  Captions.  Captions or headings contained in this Agreement are included for convenience only and form no part of the agreement between the Parties.
 5.  Waivers.  The waiver by either party of any breach or failure to comply with any provision of this Agreement by the other party shall not be construed as, or constitute a continuing waiver of such provision or a waiver of any other breach of or failure to comply with any other provision of this Agreement.
 6.  Savings Clause.  If any court finds any portion of this Agreement to be contrary to law or invalid, the remainder of the Agreement will remain in full force and effect.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the Parties caused this Agreement to be approved.

CITY OF _______________, MINNESOTA           PROPERTY OWNER(S)
BY:    __________________           BY:  _________________                                                             
            Its Mayor                                                                   
AND:___________________         AND: _________________                                                            
            Its City Clerk                         


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Air Advisory in State – What This Means When Working Outdoors

We’ve all noticed the haze and gloomy air hanging around this past week.  This haze is caused by over 180 fires blazing in British Columbia, Canada. 

There are over 2 million acres of wildfires raging across Canada and into Alaska.  Currently there is no real end in sight.  The smoke from these fires has risen to over 20,000 feet which then allows the jet stream to act as a highway, transporting the smoke across the country. 

The state that has felt the largest impact is Minnesota, however there have been health advisories issued across the Western and Midwestern parts of the United States.  The reason that Minnesota is so heavily impacted is due to the East/Southeast direction of wind movement, which has put us directly in the line of “fire”, so to speak.  

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency issued a statewide Air Advisory on Monday, which indicated that the northern two-thirds of the state should take extra precautions due to the reduced air quality from the smoke infiltration. What does this mean?
Exposure to the high level of fine particles has previously been linked with respiratory and cardiovascular health effects.  There is a risk of exacerbation with pre-existing health conditions, which can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, or fatigue.

The level of fine particulate in the air on Monday was unhealthy for anyone.  Those individuals that are sensitive to fine particles (pre-existing cardiovascular or respiratory disease, elderly, children, and individuals who are under heavy or extended exertion are advised to postpone or reduce vigorous activity and reduce exposure to air pollution (heavy duty vehicle exhaust, wood fires, candles).
Those in the “at risk” or higher risk groups should check the Air Quality Index prior to vigorous activity being resumed.  For current air quality conditions visit the Air Quality Index page.

By Tara Bursey, Loss Control Consultant

Monday, June 29, 2015

“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. 

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.

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:

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
  • Focus your attention on the task you are doing and don’t let your attention wander
  • Be familiar with your PPE policy and use the correct gloves and safety equipment provided
  • Don’t wear loose clothing or jewelry while operating tools and machinery
  • When working with chemicals, consult the Safety Data Sheet (SDS)
  • Ensure that proper guards are in place on tools and machinery
  • When using knives, cut away from you and use a retractable blade if possible
  • Wash hands often to help prevent the spread of disease and infection
  • 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.

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.

LMCIT Loss Control Staff

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tick Tock…..It’s That Time of Year Again!

Black Legged aka Deer Tick
Spring has finally sprung around MN and with spring comes a host of new concerns for employees that work outside.  Park and Recreation workers are out in full force right alongside all of the hordes of ticks and bugs we love to hate in Minnesota.  That means city employees need to take preventative measures. Why do we need preventative measures?  Those wonderful creatures carry a plethora of diseases and infections that they can transmit when biting or stinging us.

One of the most talked about diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme Disease.  Why is this of concern to us in Minnesota?  Because 95% of all reported Lyme Disease cases came from 14 states including Minnesota.   According to the CDC, there were 1,431 confirmed cases and 909 probable cases in 2013 reported in MN. With ticks being the most active from April to September, this is the time of year we need to be the most vigilant in prevention and recognizing potential issues.

Bull's-eye rash
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks (aka deer ticks). Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans or, more commonly, a bull’s-eye rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.   Most Lyme disease is treatable with a course of antibiotics, however more advanced instances of the disease may require more intensive treatment. 

Lyme disease is not a communicable disease which means that it cannot be contracted by being around an infected person.  Pets can also get Lyme disease and they are a good mode of transportation of these pesky ticks into our living spaces.  The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tick-borne diseases as well.

There is currently no vaccination available to prevent Lyme disease.  Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick
habitat.  There are also new advances in repellents available in clothing, which may be the best option in instances where you are not able to reapply spray repellent or have a prolonged exposure.  If you have been exposed to potential tick bites you should:

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within 2 hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
By Tara Bursey

Friday, May 8, 2015

Public Works to the Rescue!!

It’s common for Public Works departments to purchase new or used equipment and vehicles with multiple uses in mind.  For example, pickup trucks traditionally function to plow snow, pull trailers, haul equipment, and transport employees.  

City of Belle Plain PW
But what about re-using another city vehicle that is on the replacement list?  What in the world could a Public Works department do with a “retired” ambulance?  These multi-purpose trucks were originally designed for quick emergency response to help people that are injured or ill. What can happen to an ambulance when it is done responding to emergencies?

The City of Belle Plaine knows!  Respond to more emergencies!  I met recently with Al Fahey, the City’s Public Works Superintendent.  Al showed me how the City of Belle Plaine repurposed an ambulance for a wide variety of tasks his department performs.

Nice and cozy!
Want to work on site but in the shade?.... out of the wind?.. out of the rain?...inside where it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer?  Look no further.  There is also storage for tools and space in the back which provides better visibility when working on equipment.  These rigs come with interior lighting, exterior lighting when working on site, emergency lighting, and power generating systems.

Ambulances are designed with multiple interior and exterior storage compartments. The storage compartments hold things such as PPE for chain saw equipment, harnesses, and boots. This means equipment is not in the back of the pickup truck getting exposed to harsh weather conditions. 
And employees can don and adjust PPE in the comfort of the rig and away from the inclement weather.
I forgot to ask about the siren…

 By Troy Walsh