We’ve made it to the Fall and Winter seasons of 2020 so let us look at some safety practices to get us through this period of cold, ice, and snow, through the eyes of our Safety Culture program. By now, all of our Comp Alliance members should have a strong focus on their Culture of Safety – the attitudes, beliefs and work practices an organization maintains towards safe work conditions. It equates to the positive application of safety standards within your department. The winter months pose the usual workplace safety concerns but it’s always pertinent to review your department operations and the safety protocols in place.
The OSHA General Duty Clause relies on each employer to furnish to each of its 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 its employees. Although there are no Federal or New York State laws that specifically mandate training for your staff on winter safety, the exposures and hazards that municipal workers face during the colder months are covered by the General Duty Clause. For any employee who is required to work outdoors during the winter months, exposure to cold, foul weather and slippery conditions would be considered a “recognized hazard”. It is the employer’s duty to provide training and properly equip the staff to recognize and be protected from these winter hazards.
Slip/Fall Hazards - Your staff should be required to wear proper footwear at all times. In colder months, your staff should be reminded to check the treads of their work boots/shoes to help to prevent slips and falls on wet or icy surfaces. For work on extremely slippery surfaces, the use of cleats or slip-on grips may be needed – these are especially helpful for police officers. Your staff should also be reminded to take it slow and maintain a stable center-of-gravity when walking across slippery yards or parking lots. Office staff should be instructed to wear boots to and from their cars and change to office footwear once they arrive indoors. Slick conditions (ice, snow, leaves) should also be noted and corrected as soon as possible, and watch for areas that accumulate water and ice quickly.
Shoveling Snow – the physical demand of removing snow by hand can cause serious injury. Working out in the cold for extended periods, coupled with strenuous activities and over-exertion, especially if a person does not exercise regularly, can result in a heart attack or other serious injuries. Warm-up exercises before shoveling snow are recommended, as are frequent rest breaks to warm up and prevent dehydration. Stop shoveling if you experience shortness of breath, chest pain or any other signs of a heart attack. When manually removing snow, choose a shovel that has a comfortable grip and is the correct height and length of the user. Spacing your hands on the grip to increase leverage and pushing the snow, instead of lifting it will help to prevent back injuries.
Cold Stress - Anyone who is required to work outdoors, or in unheated or poorly heated garage bays and utility buildings, during the winter months is at risk of cold stress related injuries. Sanitation workers, highway department employees, police and fire personnel, snow clean-up and removal crews, as well as emergency medical technicians should be reminded to take proper precautions over the coming months. Proper dress (layers, avoid tight clothing), winter hats and gloves (no scarves near equipment), stay dry and hyrdrated are keys to avoiding cold stress.
Cold winter weather and wind chills force the body to work harder to maintain the core temperature. (Wind Chill is the temperature that the body feels when air temperature and wind speed are combined.) Prolonged work in cold environments may drive down skin temperature and cause serious health problems, tissue damage and even death.
When faced with prolonged exposure to cold, the body strives to maintain core internal temperature, shifting blood flow away from the outer skin and extremities,(hands, feet, arms and legs), to the chest and abdomen. This shift causes the skin and extremities to cool and may result in frostbite, hypothermia and a condition known as trench foot.
Workers who have to work outdoors for extended periods should be provided with warming stations or be allowed to take frequent breaks indoors. Warm, sweetened liquids, (non-alcoholic), should be provided, as it is easier to become dehydrated in colder weather. Working in teams is recommended so that the staff can monitor each other for signs of cold stress.
Winter Driving – A majority of deaths and serious injuries during snow and ice conditions occur from vehicle accidents! Safe driving practices should be stressed with your employees throughout the entire year. However, during the winter season, when faced with hazardous road conditions that are not under your control, your municipal drivers should be reminded of your safe driving policies regularly. Commercial Motor Vehicles require a pre-trip inspection prior to operation, and special attention to plow trucks is necessary. Drivers should be wearing proper reflective clothing in the event they have to leave their vehicle while on-route. A good vehicle maintenance program should be in place to ensure that all fluids are at proper levels, brakes and tires are in good condition and cooling, electrical and exhaust systems are functioning properly. Emergency notification equipment should also be available and maintained in the event of a vehicle breakdown.
Remember take a look at your commencing winter operations and review the safety protocols for each. Confirm that employee attitudes and values benefit your safety culture through commitment to realistic safety practices for continuous organizational learning, improving hazard awareness and management for hazards shared across the workforce.
Recently, Governor Cuomo passed legislation (S8617B/A10832) that will require all public employers to create plans to adequately protect workers in the event of another state disaster emergency involving a communicable disease. The plans would apply to both the state and localities, including school districts. Plans must be submitted to unions and labor management committees with 150 days (roughly by February 1, 2021) and plans need to be finalized on April 1, 2021.
The plans are intended to protect public workers at all levels of government, from a future pandemic and the health crisis conditions it may pose to the state. The plans will include protections for essential workers and protocols for securing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
According to the legislation, Operation Plans must include the following information, at a minimum:
The majority of these above points have, most likely, already been discussed and instituted at your municipality or school district, in which case they would have to be re-visited and placed into document-form for your plan. Although NYS has not yet produced a model template for local governments and school districts to utilize, there are some sample planning resources available to assist in this process and at a minimum, provide guidance on what to include in your Operation Plan.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) - https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/planning-preparedness/state-local-government-planning.html
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1396880633531-5405f61d483668155492a7cccd1600b/Pandemic_Influenza_Template.pdf
NYS Department of Health (DOH) - https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/NYS_BusinessReopeningSafetyPlanTemplate.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0-ccsUuOmhCm9UlQNtdz8ufxdPtQFXzKUpSiSzf9Ie9vv4hZumc-BUlyI
The Comp Alliance will keep members up-to-date on developments related to these Operation Plans from NYS – if/when sample templates are available from NYS, if any new requirements are necessary, if timelines change, etc. Our Risk Management department will provide assistance where we can, in an effort at reducing workplace injuries and exposures during a future communicable disease pandemic crisis.
In August the Comp Alliance School Advisory Council met and discussed safety topics related to the return-to-school. We understand the challenging times related to returning to operations during the COVID pandemic and found it very helpful to understand the challenges and the plans to overcome many of them. We appreciate everyone who was able to add information about their plans to restart this fall. The various topics discussed included cleaning, busing, remote learning, schedules and the various challenges associated.
Our Risk Management team has put together additional training videos and materials for the Comp Academy website that directly relate to topics we discussed.
The Comp Alliance will provide several LIVE Video-Conference Trainings via ZOOM from mid October into December. These trainings will be conducted on three PESH-mandated topics:
We are offering these on a first-come, first-serve basis as ATTENDANCE IS LIMITED.
DATES and TIMES
A seminar including the NY State Mandated Safety Training topics that are required for ALL municipal employees, administrators, board members, volunteers, and seasonal hires on an annual basis. Please note we are offering evening trainings on several of the dates and we are also offering Hazardous Waste Operations Emergency Response (HAWOPER) seminars on 10/20, 11/2, and 11/17 from 7:00-7:30 AM and 10/27 and 11/12 from 8:00-8:30 AM.
Friday, 10/16 – 10:00 – Noon
Monday, 10/19 – 10:00 - Noon
Tuesday, 10/20 – 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, 10/21 – 10:00 – Noon
Thursday, 10/22 – 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Monday, 10/26 – 10:00 - Noon
Tuesday, 10/27 – 10:00 - Noon
Wednesday, 10/28 – 10:00 - Noon
Thursday 10/29 - 10:00 - Noon
Monday, 11/2 - 10:00 - Noon
Wednesday, 11/4 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, 11/5 - 10:00 - Noon
Thursday 11/5 - 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Friday 11/6 - 10:00 - Noon
Monday 11/9 - 10:00 - Noon
Tuesday 11/10 - 10:00 - Noon
Thursday 11/12 - 10:00 - Noon
Thursday 11/12 - 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Monday 11/16 - 10:00 - Noon
Tuesday 11/17 - 10:00 - Noon
Wednesday 11/18 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday 11/18 - 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 11/19 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Monday 11/23 - 10:00 - Noon
Monday 11/30 - 10:00 - Noon
Tuesday 12/1 - 10:00 - Noon
Wednesday 12/2 - 10:00 - Noon
Wednesday 12/2 - 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday 12/3 - 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.
The New York State Municipal Workers’ Compensation Alliance (Comp Alliance) is issuing a Member Loyalty Award for its 2020-2021 fiscal year. Awards for members that renewed in June or July will be going out in the next couple of weeks.
The Comp Alliance Board of Trustees recognizes the difficulties our members are going through in this unprecedented time. In appreciation of its members that have stood by the Comp Alliance and contributed to its continued success, the Comp Alliance will again distribute a portion of its surplus to members. This special monetary award reflects a recognition by the Board of Trustees of fiscal challenges faced by municipalities and provides a tangible benefit of municipal cooperation by returning funds to local governments and schools for the betterment of their communities.
All Comp Alliance members who have agreed to continue their membership with the Comp Alliance beyond February 1, 2021 are eligible for the Loyalty Award. Members will receive their award following the commencement of its new policy period. Award amounts are based on the individual member’s longevity of membership with the Comp Alliance and its annual funding contribution.
The Comp Alliance is a not-for-profit workers’ compensation group self-insurance program for municipalities and school districts, with a focus on improving workplace safety and providing stable funding for its members. When the Alliance was formed in the early 1990’s, municipalities in New York struggled to annually budget for unpredictable workers’ compensation costs. The Comp Alliance offers its members budgetary stability and the opportunity to achieve significant savings by sharing the costs of workers’ compensation insurance. Today, the Comp Alliance has more than 300 members, $44 million in contributions and more than $39 million surplus to help maintain long-term financial stability.
With sponsorship and oversight by the Association of Towns of the State of New York and the New York State Conference of Mayors, the Comp Alliance’s mission remains the same as it was 26 years ago —ensuring members are able to meet their long-term workers’ compensation liabilities while maintaining stable funding contributions.
For more information on the Member Loyalty Award Program, please contact a Comp Alliance Marketing Manager or your insurance broker. Visit the Comp Alliance at www.compalliance.org for more information, as well as on Twitter and Facebook for additional program enhancements and announcements.
|17 May 2021|
10:00AM - 12:00PM
Live Zoom Safety Training for Comp Alliance Members
|18 May 2021|
09:00AM - 09:30AM
HAZWOPER Awareness Training Live Via Zoom
|18 May 2021|
01:00PM - 03:00PM
Live Zoom Safety Training for Comp Alliance Members