Municipal Workers Encouraged to Prepare for Seasonal Risks

With spring’s arrival, many municipalities turn their attention to projects and duties that have been postponed or stopped due to winter weather. These tasks are often focused on improving the quality of life for their residents and can range from road construction projects to park maintenance among others. Because it may be several months since many of these tasks have been performed on a regular basis, the risk of injury can increase as these projects and duties resume. Below are some tips and links to resources that can help municipal employees work safely in the coming months as well as information about the upcoming LWMMI Policyholder Conference at the end of the month.

UH to Present at LWMMI Policyholder Conference, April 28-29

United Heartland Loss Control Representative Twila Hurst will be speaking on the topic of aging workforces and how losses impact the workers’ compensation experience modification factor during the LWMMI Policyholder Conference on April 28 and 29. Twila will discuss strategies that policyholders can take to reduce workplace injuries through wellness programs and safety engineering controls. For more information about the conference, LWMMI policyholders can contact Sandy Hagen at Sandra@lwmmi.org or 608-833-9595, ext. 21.

Spring Training and Lawn Mower Safety

mowerParks and recreation departments often hire seasonal staff to handle warm weather tasks, such as grass cutting, tree trimming and landscaping. Regular staff may also assist with these duties as well. As such, it’s important for managers and supervisors to review the exposures present with these tasks and ensure that proper work practices are followed and personal protective equipment used, if necessary. If specialized equipment is required, procedures for safely using equipment should be included in any training.

As a common responsibility of all municipalities, lawn mowing can sometimes be seen as a simple, harmless task. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in 2010, roughly 253,000 people were treated for lawn-mower-related injuries. Helpful in eliminating these accidents is to:

  • Drive up and down slopes — never across.
  • Decrease speed when going down slopes or around sharp corners.
  • Ensure seasonal employees receive adequate training on how to properly operate the machine.
  • Avoid mowing on wet grass.
  • Survey the land before starting the mower to identify any holes, ruts, ditches or embankments. Tall grass can hide uneven terrain.
  • Always keep the machine in gear when going down slopes. Do not shift to neutral and coast downhill.

OSHA: Dangers of Roll-Overs of Riding Mowers

Work Zone Exposures

Road Construction ConesThe U.S. Department of Transportation reports that the heavy and civil engineering construction industries are losing up to $3.5 billion annually due to fatalities and injuries, including work zone crashes. In 2014, 669 fatalities occurred in work zones, the highest number since 2009 and an increase of more than 13% from the previous year. Other statistics from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System for 2014:

  • Driver and vehicle passengers accounted for 82% of work zone fatalities
  • 31,251 work zone injuries occurred (a 9 percent increase from 2013)
  • 246 large trucks and buses (235 large trucks, 11 buses) were involved in fatal crashes in work zones (a 27 percent increase from 2013).

To keep your workforce safe, ensure that basic traffic controls are implemented to warn oncoming vehicles of the hazards ahead and make sure they are properly trained to work in work zones. For Wisconsin residents, the Transportation Information Center through the University of Wisconsin-Madison is offering Work Zone and Flagger Safety courses throughout the state during the month of May. Click here to learn more and find a workshop near you.

Trenching

Trench WorkerOSHA identifies excavation work and trenching as some of the most hazardous construction operations. Cave-ins are the greatest risk and are more likely to result in worker fatalities than other excavation-related activities. Given that one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, an unprotected trench can turn into an early grave. OSHA has recently updated their Trenching and Excavation Safety publication which provides more details about these exposures and how to protect against potential fatalities.

Falls from Elevations

United Heartland recently addressed this during our WalkSafe campaign, but falls from elevation are a leading cause of death in the construction industry. OSHA is highlighting the risks from these exposures with their National Safety Stand-Down from May 2-6, 2016. OSHA encourages employers to use this week to talk directly to their employees about safety and the importance of fall prevention. You can access United Heartland’s WalkSafe materials and resources on this issue here.

Fire Departments – FEMA Grants

Advancements in fire safety often come with a high cost. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) grant programs that help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources. The application period for these grants is open through 5 p.m. ET Friday, May 6, and can be accessed on the FEMA website.

Police Departments – Crisis Intervention Training

Police LightsCrisis Intervention Training (CIT) is a relatively new type of program that promotes efforts to educate law enforcement on how to collaborate with mental health care providers, individuals with mental illness and their families. The training helps officers prepare for situations in which calming and de-escalation techniques can help to prevent physical altercations and injuries. CIT International and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have more information and resources on this important topic.

If additional assistance is needed related to any of these topics, customers may contact their designated loss control consultant, Loss Control Tech Advisor Clark MacAlpine or Loss Control Manager Jim Jones.