Noise Hazards

Public Works has many different hazards workers need to be aware of and the municipality must have procedures to ensure workers are protected.  One issue to consider is Noise Hazards.  Print the brochure below to share with your employees who may work around these hazards.

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OMAG Provides Up to $25,000 Defense-Only Coverage for FMLA and OADA Claims

As of June 22, 2017, OMAG is providing defense-only coverage for FMLA and OADA claims up to $25,000. As many of you are aware, prior to this, OMAG declined coverage altogether of FMLA and OADA claims because the only recoverable damages in those cases are wages and employee benefits.  

This new defense-only coverage will allow members to have expert legal counsel at OMAG legal counsel rates. Here are the highlights of the terms of coverage:
•    This coverage is not available when OMAG is providing coverage and defending any of the above causes of action under a reservation of rights. 
•    This Coverage does not and shall not be construed as an agreement by OMAG to indemnify, pursuant to this Coverage, the plan member for any sums the plan member becomes legally obligated to pay.
•    OMAG will not commit you or a plan member to any settlement under this Coverage without your consent unless OMAG at our sole discretion deems it to be in the best financial interests of OMAG. 
•    $25,000 Total Defense Allotment: The total cost of defense which OMAG will be responsible to pay shall not exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000.00). The $25,000 allotment cannot be used by you to offset any settlement or judgment.
•    Plan member will enter into an agreement with OMAG defense counsel prior to commencement of a defense under this Coverage to address the legal defense once the allotment under this Coverage has been exhausted. 
•    Any claim under this Coverage shall be defended in your name by the counsel selected by us.
•    If a plan member retains separate counsel, any charge made by separate counsel will be the plan member’s responsibility. Our counsel will cooperate with separate counsel. 
•    Plan member shall have authority to control the legal proceedings, including determining whether OMAG defense counsel has primary defense responsibility or merely provides assistance to your separate counsel. 

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Safety Considerations While Using Riding Mowers, Push Mowers and Weed Eaters

Workers operating riding mowers face serious safety issues. Their employers need to make sure the equipment in use is designed and maintained with safety in mind. Employers must make sure that workers are trained to avoid hazardous surroundings. Finally, the employer must ensure that mowing operations are performed safely. 

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7 Myths About Dehydration

Myth #1: Dehydration is uncomfortable, but not dangerous.
Fact: While most of us will only ever experience mild dehydration symptoms like headache, sluggishness, or decreased urine/sweat output, if can become severe and require medical attention. Serious complications include swelling of the brain, seizures, kidney failure, and even death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

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Petya Ransomware Helpful Tips

Petya Ransomware Helpful Tips

By now, you've probably seen the news that a new ransomware virus called Petya, similar to last month's WannaCry, has quickly overwhelmed several large organizations across multiple countries. Like last time (and all of the time's before that), OMAG Technology Services is actively monitoring the news and ready to assist any OMAG members or participants affected by this and other cyber attacks. It appears as though the primary way that Petya spreads is through infected email attachments or links, though there appear to be other, scarier methods that don't require user intervention, especially once an infection has taken hold on a computer network.

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Using Minors as Volunteers

The responsibility to respond to our members' coverage questions and provide coverage interpretation primary falls on OMAG’s Underwriting and Member Services Departments with support provided by OMAG’s Legal and Risk Management Departments. Providing a clear and consistent response to these inquiries is always our goal.

Our members occasionally ask “May we use minors on special municipal projects as volunteers?  

A person is an employee if they are authorized to act on the behalf of your municipality. It does not matter how old they are, whether they are compensated or a volunteer, or whether they are full or part time. The exception is when an independent contractor relationship exists. 

A minor who performs volunteer services for your municipality can thus create liability. As such, if your municipality is considering using minors on special projects or events or assisting with mowing, trimming or cleanup, at the very least you should be sure that all training and any certification related to the responsibilities of the task have been successfully completed. Additionally, it would be your responsibility to see that any volunteer was properly supervised in the execution of the task assigned. 

Virtually all states set the age of majority at 18, which means people 18 and older are legally considered adults and are subject to all associated rights and responsibilities. Anyone under that age exposes the city to additional risks. For minors under 16, OMAG would refer the municipality to Oklahoma State Statues, Section 72.1 of Title 40 which outlines the types of work minors under 16 may not perform and requires consent of a guardian or parent for all occupations when performed on a volunteer basis. 

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What is Wastewater?

We’ve all driven by those “wastewater treatment facilities” that are usually miles away from our city or town. You know the place even before you see it; many times in the summer you can tell where it is by following your nose. Have you ever wondered what happens at those facilities? Basically, dirty water is cleaned and returned to streams and lakes in the following methods. 

What Is Wastewater?
Many people confuse the terms wastewater and sewage. According to Wikipedia, wastewater is any water that has been corrupted by human waste, but can also include industrial pollutants, as well as surface, storm, or sewer runoff. Sewage is a specific type of wastewater from human waste.

How Is Wastewater Treated?
Municipal wastewater is treated in municipal wastewater treatment plants. Once treated, wastewater is released back into water systems. In some municipalities, storm drains run directly into moving waterways such as creeks and rivers. In other municipalities where there is a high level of chemical runoff or where the storm drains combine with sewage the wastewater is sent to sewage treatment plants.

Sewage treatment is simply the process of removing contaminants from wastewater so it can be safely released back into the environment. The solids that are removed from sewage, often referred to as sludge or slurry, often undergo further treatment before being burned or even used as fertilizer.

There are physical, chemical, and biological processes involved in wastewater treatment.

The Three Main Types of Municipal Wastewater Treatment

Physical Wastewater Treatment - Physical or mechanical treatment of municipal wastewater removes the heaviest solids from raw sewage and municipal runoff. The process includes screening, sedimentation and allowing solids to sink, and often removes as much as 50-60% of the solids.

Biological Wastewater Treatment - In this second phase, live microbes are added to consume the dissolved organic matter that escaped the physical treatment stage. Microbes consume the organic matter as food and then convert it to carbon dioxide gas, water, and other less harmful waste. Additionally, much of the remaining organic material recombines or binds together. So, an additional sedimentation and screening may occur. At this point, as much as 85% of the solid waste will be removed from the wastewater.

Chemical Wastewater Treatment - This is the final step that will ensure the removal of more than 99 percent of all the impurities from wastewater. Chlorine disinfection is the most common chemical treatment. Other processes attempt to remove levels of phosphorus and nitrogen. Additionally, carbon filtering may be used in this final stage before clean water is released back into the environment.

What About Septic Systems?
According to some estimates, as much as 20% of the United States is currently treating their own sewage using onsite septic systems. Septic systems take all the water flow out of the home including the human and household waste. The wastewater flows into a septic tank where solids sink to the bottom and oils float to the top. These solids and oils are then removed on a regular basis. The remaining water flows into a drain field where the remaining liquids dissipate into the surrounding soil.

The Importance of Good Quality Microbes in Your Treatment System and Lift Stations
There are words in our language which trigger instant, negative sensations in those that encounter them. Sometimes, these feelings are justified; other times, they are not. Words like ‘bacteria’ and ‘microbe’ fall into this latter category.

These words are often associated with disease, with decay, and with general ill-health and uncleanness, but we need bacteria and microbes to survive. Microbes help us to maintain healthy digestion, they support entire ecosystems, and they can be used to great effect in our cities and towns.

Lift stations, or pumping stations, perform vital functions in our municipalities, but they can become unpleasant and even dangerous if they are not properly maintained. Therefore, good quality microbes and bacteria are vital in a treatment system and lift stations. 

A Fresher, Cleaner Environment in the Local Community
The nature of a pumping station – and the nature of the materials such stations handle – can unfortunately render them somewhat unpleasant to the people who live and work in the surrounding area. While people understand the vital work that lift stations do in municipalities all over the world, it is still the responsibility of the public works department to safeguard the quality of life of people nearby. Using good quality bacteria can assist with this.

Bacteria and microbe products work to neutralize odors, securing a fresher and far cleaner environment for the nearby city or town. They can also be used to treat the wastewater of the lift station – usually the source of the unpleasant odor. Oil, grease, and other unclean substances are broken down by the application of bacteria, and can then be easily removed or drained from the site. A healthy balance of microbes is vital to operations of the treatment system and lift stations.

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Caring for Oklahoma Municipal Cemeteries (Part III)

As a service to our members, OMAG’s Risk Management Services department has developed a series of articles addressing various challenges and issues municipal cemetery caretakers might face.  Although tort claims generated from cemeteries aren’t at the top of the frequency or severity list, these types of claims don’t bode well for our public image and are most certainly preventable. 

In this last article of the series, municipalities are encouraged to adopt written policies, procedures, and ordinances which govern the municipal cemetery.

Successfully managing a municipal cemetery requires empathy and good customer service skills.  Organizing records, receiving payments and issuing deeds are all tasks which require excellent attention to detail. Each of our regular customers is special, but a well-organized cemetery operation will prove to that service consumer how much we truly care.  We want to ensure we project that type of caring image.

A quality operation consists of written guidelines which direct us in each action, function, and process involving the cemetery.  OMAG has identified the following typical categories which should be addressed in written guidelines.

  1. Definitions
  2. General Rules
  3. Management/Administration
  4. Municipal Responsibilities
  5. Plots and Gravesites
  6. Interments and Disinterments
  7. Funeral Services
  8. Monuments and Markers
  9. Arrangements, memorials and vegetation
  10. Cleaning
  11. Special Activities - Examples of special activities include:
    1. Holiday/memorial services
    2. Unveiling ceremonies
    3. Educational and cultural awareness programs
    4. Tourism
  12. Schedule of rates, costs and service fees
  13. Visitor Conduct and etiquette
  14. Vehicles and Traffic Regulations
  15. Identify cemetery staff and responsibilities

It is always a good idea to confer with other municipalities that operate cemeteries.  Many times we find that much of the work has already been performed by a colleague and they are happy to share.  OMAG has gathered example documents from Oklahoma and other states that you may find helpful. 

Contact OMAG for Oklahoma-specific examples of rules, regulations, policies, procedures and ordinances as well as examples of cemetery handbooks and guides from other states.

Look for future publications and training opportunities which will assist you in maintaining and managing your municipal cemetery.

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Put an End to Backing Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, one out of four vehicle accidents can be blamed on poor backing techniques.  Backing accidents cause 500 deaths and 15,000 injuries per year in the United States.  The use of safe vehicle backing techniques by municipal personnel can help reduced accidents while on the job.

·         Blind Spots:  Know where they are.  In a medium-sized truck, blind spots can extend up to 16 ft in front and 160 ft behind a vehicle. Drivers need to remember that mirrors can never give the whole picture while backing. In the photo below, the blind spot to the rear of the fire truck is 247 ft.

In this photo, the blind spot to the rear of the fire truck is 247 ft.

·         Think in advance: Don’t back your vehicle unless you must.  Plan before you park.  If possible park along a curb, in an alley, at the gas pump or pull through a park spot.

·         Back Slowly:  Back your vehicle at less than 1 mph.  If you do strike an object, driving slowly will limit damages.

·         Park Defensively:  Don’t park near high traffic areas, for example at the entries of businesses; these areas are where you are most likely to be involved in an accident.

·         First-Pull-Forward:  Back into your parking spot upon arrival.  If you have parked forward in a parking space, at the time of departure by the time you shut the door and click your seat belt a car or group of people could now be in your backing path.

·         Use Correct Backing Path:  Only back up if you must.  If you do back up, use the correct backing path: (listed from least hazardous to most hazardous) straight backing, backing using the driver's mirror (swinging to the left), backing using the passenger mirror (swinging to the right).

·         When backing, be cautious of front end swing:  When driving forward the rear wheels follow the steering axle; when backing, the front of the vehicle will swing wider than the rear axle.  This swinging could result in the vehicle striking vehicles or other objects.

In the photos above, if the sanitation truck driver were to back up and swing right, the truck would strike the silver Camaro sitting next to it.  You can see in the third photo that the car is not visible to the driver in the side-view mirror.

·         Use backing aides:  At a minimum most vehicles have a rear-view mirror and side mirrors.  Some vehicles have additional mirrors, backing sensors and/or backing cameras.  Don’t focus on just mirrors or a backing camera, use all of the tools at your disposal to back safely. 

·         Do a walk around:  Walking around a vehicle gives a driver a firsthand view of the backing area and any limitations.  They can check for children, soft or muddy areas, potholes and other dangers.  In addition, they can also check for obstructions, low-hanging trees and wires, and other potential clearance-related hazards.

·         Every backing situation is new and different:  Sometimes a driver visits the same location several times a day and should be watchful each visit for changes and any new obstacles.

·         Use a spotter:  Drivers should use another person to help them when backing.  The driver and spotter should use hand signals instead of verbal ones.  Before using a spotter, agree on the hand signals to be used prior to backing.  If you get a signal you don’t understand, stop and don’t continue until you understand the information the spotter is giving you.  In addition, don’t have spotters walking backward while giving signals and don't place them in a caught-in-between hazardous situation (i.e. a backing sanitation truck and dumpster, or backing truck and a wall).

Long-Term Solutions to Safe Backing

  • Implementing backing policies/procedures can help reduce accidents and injuries.  These are some considerations for backing policies:
    • Limit backing to a specified distance: Do not back more than 200 ft. If you must back further, pull forward to get in a better position to shorten your backing path.
    • First-Movement-Forward:  Require all vehicles to back into parking spots upon arrival.
    • Require spotters for vehicles with poor driver visibility, such as sanitation, fire and dump trucks.
    • Shorten backing path and improve visibility in areas of constant backing, such as at sanitation transfer stations.
  • Installation of backing sensors and rear-vision camera systems in vehicles assists in limiting rear blind spots.  Investing in rear-view camera systems for vehicles can put drivers in better visual control of the rear of a vehicle.
  • No amount of forward-driving experience can help a driver with backing a truck or other vehicle.  All drivers need to practice safe backing techniques and limit backing to only when absolutely necessary.
  • Creation and support of a municipal-wide training program: The program should include a driver’s course to teach and review backing techniques, and also cover equipment usage, hand signals, dangers to avoid, and other risk-lowering topics.

*Special thanks to Albert Pierce (Solid Waste Director, City of Durant) & Stephen Coy (Fire Chief, City of Warr Acres) for their contributions to this article.

For additional information on driver training or other value-added services from OMAG contact William Sheppard or Billy Carter at (800) 234-9461. 

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Storm Season and Your Municipality's Auto Exposure

The 2017 storm season is upon us. Protecting your municipality’s autos and equipment can be challenging, as most of our pool members have no means to park or store their equipment to protect it from hail or wind driven debris. During our storm seasons, we find we must dispatch our emergency vehicles to various areas within the municipality to best protect the public. When possible, when we experience this type of event, we should consider moving our autos and equipment to any covered area that we can find. Use of a covered car wash or bank could save your municipality considerable property damage. 

When damage does occur, many times estimates for repair can include a repair method known as Paintless Dent Repair. 

Paintless Dent Repair (PDR), also known as “Paintless Dent Removal” is a collection of techniques for removing minor dents and dings from the body of a motor vehicle. A wide range of damage can be repaired using PDR; however, usually if there is paint damage, PDR may be unsuitable. 

The most common practical use for PDR is the repair of hail damage, door dings, minor body creases, and minor bumper indentations. The techniques can also be applied to help prepare the damaged panel for paint. Such applications are referred to as “push to paint”, or “push for paint”. 

Limiting factors for a successful repair using PDR include the flexibility of the paint, and the amount the metal has been stretched by the damage incurred. Hence, often extremely sharp dents and creases may not be repairable – at least not without painting afterwards. 

Methods of Repair

The most common methods of PDR utilize metal rods and body picks to push the dents out from the inner side of the body panel being repaired. Also, glue may be used from the outside of the panel to pull the dents out. In either case, fine-tuning of the repair often involves “tapping” down the repair to remove small high spots, making the surface flat. PDR may be used on both aluminum and steel panels. If a technician pushes too hard when creating these high spots, the paint will split and the repair is ruined. Quality technicians can use these high spots that are barely visible to match the texture of the paint. 

The technology of PDR has been around for many years. Fluorescent lighting, or in some cases a light-reflection board, is used to see the shadows created by the deformation of the dent. This is an important aspect of the repair process. Without a PDR light board or reflector board, the fine detail of the process is unseen, and the technician cannot locate their tool specifically and cannot remove the damage accurately. The process of PDR requires a technician to specifically push exact locations of metal to precise height, which can be witnessed with use of a PDR reading instrument such as a PDR reflector board or PDR light.  

Many of the larger body shops now offer Paintless Dent Repair as an alternative to the normal body repair and paint. PDR can be done for about one third of the cost in one third of the time and can keep some vehicles from being out of service for longer than necessary or determined to be total losses. Many of these same body shops subcontract the work to shops that use the PDR method. Use of this process, when appropriate, can help the city keep their loss ratios lower with the lower damage repair costs. 
 

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