Municipal Workers Face Risks from Summer Tasks

slow work zoneSummer’s warmer weather provides municipalities the opportunity to work on projects aimed at improving the quality of life for their residents. However, in the course of completing these duties, work crews can face a variety of hazards. Learn more about the potential risks present during these next few months and the resources available that can help keep your employees safe.

Heat-Related Illnesses

In 2013, 38 workers died on the job as a result of prolonged exposure to extreme hot weather, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the many labor intensive tasks that municipal workers complete during the summer months, extra caution must be taken to ensure their well-being. If workers don’t take water breaks or rest in the shade or air conditioning frequently enough, heat illnesses – ranging from heat rash or cramps to heat exhaustion or heat stroke – can result. Immediate medical attention is required for heat stroke as it can result in death.

To assist work crews in assessing potentially dangerous temperature situations, OSHA has developed a new heat safety app, which allows users to calculate risk levels at a worksite and learn about the protection measures needed to prevent heat illnesses. OSHA’s Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers is an additional resource that provides a variety of helpful suggestions and resources on this topic.

Work Zone Exposures

The U.S. Department of Transportation states that vehicle collisions are the second-leading cause of death among employees working in traffic work zones. To keep your workforce safe, ensure that basic traffic controls are implemented to warn oncoming vehicles of the hazards ahead.

Traffic Control / Work Zone Handbook

Lyme Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95% of reported Lyme disease cases in 2013 occurred in 14 states throughout the Northeast and upper Midwest.  The black-legged tick (deer tick), which transmits the disease, is most active in summer months and thrives in wooded and bushy areas. Municipal employees engaging in forestry and mowing activities should be made aware of the signs and symptoms associated with Lyme disease.

These include:

  • A red, expanding rash, commonly in the form of a “bull’s-eye”
  • Fatigue, chills, fever, headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Prevention tips for Lyme disease include using insect repellent and removing ticks promptly. Click here for more information regarding Lyme disease as well as ways to better protect your workforce.

Bloodborne Pathogens

While a common concern for police and fire departments, bloodborne pathogens and needlesticks can be a hazard for any municipal employee. This is especially true during summer months when there is a greater demand for municipal cleaning operations caused by increased park use and more outdoor activities, such as village festivals, fairs and outdoor sporting events.  Employees should be made aware of hotspots for needles, such as trash receptacles and bathrooms as well as how to safely cleanup bodily fluids. To help protect your workforce, ask your United Heartland Loss Control Representative for information regarding our Bloodborne Pathogens Safety Program along with other useful resources.

Lawn Mower Safety

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 Mower

Fire Departments: FEMA Grants

While there have been many advances in the area of firefighting technology, they also come with a high cost. Consequently, many departments lack the funds needed to purchase equipment that could improve job safety and rescuing operations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) to help firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources.

Click here for more information on the Assistance to Firefighters Grant and instructions on how to apply.

Hydrant Tools

Catch Basins & Manholes

Every year, construction crew employees sustain injuries while performing work with catch basins and manholes. Limiting the forceful exertions and awkward body postures involved in these job tasks can help reduce the risk of these injuries. Power equipment with chains/slings and magnetic lifting devices, not hand tools, should also be used whenever possible. The links below are to be used only as a reference for the items listed and not as an endorsement by United Heartland of their quality.

Links to Additional Safety Resources