November 2018 Risk & Safety Newsletter

Print Friendly and PDF

January 2019 Risk & Safety Newsletter

Print Friendly and PDF

Cleanliness Helps Prevent Foodborne Illness

Spring has long been the time of year for annual cleaning projects around homes and offices. However, when it comes to safe food handling, everything that comes in contact with food must be kept clean all year long.

Food that is mishandled or not stored properly can lead to foodborne illness. Follow a “Be Food Safe” policy. Being food safe means preventing foodborne illness by following four easy steps:

1.      Clean – wash your hands and surfaces often and disinfect with food-safe Clorox wipes or Lysol.

2.      Separate – don’t cross contaminate. Keep food covered in airtight containers or sealants.

3.      Cook – Cook all foods to proper temperatures and don’t let them stay out in the open air too long.

4.      Chill – Refrigerate promptly.

Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. Even with food safety inspections and monitoring, the consumer’s role is to make sure food is handled safely after it is purchased. Everything that touches food should be clean. Here are some suggested steps to take to help prevent foodborne illnesses:

  •    Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds

    o   Before and after handling food

    o   After using the bathroom

    o   After changing a diaper

    o   After handling pets

    o   After tending to a sick person

    o   After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    o   After handling uncooked eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables

If your hands have any kind of skin abrasion or infection, always use clean disposable gloves. Thoroughly wash with hot soapy water any surfaces that have been in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Use disposable paper towels to clean surfaces, not dishcloths or sponges. Spray or wipe surfaces with disinfectant after cleaning them.

Keep cutting boards clean, wash them with hot soapy water after each use, and then rinse and let air dry. Don’t use the same platter or utensils that held raw meat to serve the cooked product. When using a food thermometer always thoroughly wash it after each use with hot soapy water. Remember to keep pets, household cleaners, and other chemicals away from food and food preparatory stations. Keep refrigerators clean and sanitized; remove old food frequently. When eating out, eat at reputable restaurants and establishments. Avoid eating foods openly exposed in convenience stores like hotdogs, sausages, and taquitos – there are lots of germs floating around in those places.

Taking some time to “be food safe” could keep you and your co-workers or family from experiencing a very uncomfortable foodborne illness. Bon Appetit!

Print Friendly and PDF

Bloodborne Pathogens - Protecting Workers

Every year municipalities, just like any other business, must train their employees about bloodborne pathogens. The following information can assist you in keeping your employees from contracting a bloodborne illness.

Bloodborne pathogens are infectious micro-organisms in human blood that include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. The can infect a healthy body through contact with blood and other body fluids, secretions, and excretions (except sweat). In many cases, contact with infected fluids happens via used needles or other contaminated sharp objects that have not been properly disposed of or properly cleaned and disinfected.

Exposure Control Plan

All organizations where employees could be exposed to blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) must follow the bloodborne pathogens standard. Employers are responsible for determining which jobs, tasks, and procedures involve an occupational exposure. According to OSHA standards, occupational exposure is a “reasonably anticipated skin, eye, mucous membrane, or parenteral contact with blood or OPIM that may result from performance of an employee’s duties.” If your workplace carries a risk of occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens, you are required to develop an exposure control plan to minimize or eliminate occupational exposures. Start by identifying all the hazards workers may be exposed to. This exposure determination needs to contain a list of jobs with potential exposure and list of procedures that could result in worker exposure. Based on this determination, you should design and implement adequate safety controls using training, providing PPE, and administrative or engineering controls.

Implementing Controls

Elimination of hazards is not feasible in some workplaces. In these situations, it is important to follow basic controls. These controls can include, but are not limited to, the following:

·         Use “universal precautions”; treat all blood or OPIMs as if they were infected.

·         Implement safe practice controls; update and redesign them as needed.

·         Practice safe decontamination; thoroughly wash and disinfect.

·         Provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and specialized clothing if needed.
Remember employers are responsible for repairing or replacing PPE when required.

·         Implement engineering controls such as sharps disposal containers or needleless systems.

·         Ensure that hepatitis B immunizations are available to all workers, that they have been properly
trained and understand how they could be exposed, that they know how to protect themselves from
exposure, and that they know what to do if they have potentially been exposed.

·         Use warning labels and signs on containers and in areas where contaminated materials may be

·         Keep and update worker medical and training records regularly.

·         Keep and update a sharps injury log.

Other Employer Responsibilities

After any exposure incident, arrange for a post-exposure medical evaluation and make it available to affected workers. Document the reasons for exposure and test the source individual (the person whose blood or body fluids contacted the worker) for hepatitis B or hepatitis C or HIV infections. Employers are also responsible for offering the exposed worker post-exposure prophylaxis and counseling.

The municipal exposure control plan must be reviewed and updated annually to reflect any workplace changes that might affect safe work procedures. Employers should also make changes to engineering and practice controls based on input from workers.

Workers must receive regular training that covers all aspects of the exposure control plan including who to report incidents to and how to decontaminate after a potential exposure. All new hires must be trained concerning how they could be exposed in their work environment and what to do if they think they have been exposed.

Although engineering controls are the primary method of reducing exposure, behavioral training also aims to achieve this goal by changing how workers perform tasks. When providing training, consider a program that deals with the human factors. This will increase employee self-awareness and help workers see how situations like fatigue and complacency may put them, their co-workers, or families at greater risk of contracting an illness from a bloodborne pathogen. Safety needs to be addressed from all possible angles to provide workers with the best protection available.

Print Friendly and PDF

Airborne Diseases

You can catch some diseases simply by breathing. These are called airborne diseases. Airborne diseases can spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs, or even talks, spewing nasal and throat secretions into the air in particles of moisture. These particles take flight and land on people or surfaces, contaminating them. When you breathe airborne organisms in, they take up residence inside you. You also can pick up viruses or bacteria when you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Because these diseases travel in the air, they are hard to control.

Some of the airborne diseases contracted by millions of people each year are: The Common Cold, Influenza, Chickenpox, Mumps, Measles, Whooping Cough, Tuberculosis, and Diphtheria.

Treatment for Common Airborne Diseases

For most airborne diseases the best treatment is getting plenty of rest and fluids and letting the illness run its course. Some diseases like chickenpox have no targeted treatment, but medications and other supportive care can help relieve symptoms.

Some, such as flu, can be treated with antiviral drugs. Treatment for infants with whooping cough can include antibiotics, but hospitalization is often needed. There are drugs to treat and cure tuberculosis, although some strains of TB are drug resistant. Failure to complete a course of medication can lead to drug resistance and a return of the illness. If caught early enough diphtheria can be successfully treated with antitoxins and antibiotics.

With our world being so easily accessed today with air travel, airborne disease can potentially affect everyone in a brief period of time. Diseases are spread easily in close quarters such as airplanes, schools, malls, and church gatherings. Take precautions: get plenty of rest, exercise, keep your immune system up by using supplemental vitamins, and avoid large populated areas when there is a known outbreak of disease. If you become ill, take some time off from work so you don’t spread the illness.

Print Friendly and PDF

Insect Borne Illness

What are Insect Borne Illnesses?

Insect borne diseases are viral or bacterial illnesses contracted from insect (bug) bites. The most common insects that pass on disease are mosquitos, fleas, and ticks. Some common diseases known to be transmitted by insects are Zika virus, Yellow Fever, and Malaria from mosquitos, and Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from ticks (There are approximately 10 different diseases which can be contracted from a tick bite.)

Common Symptoms of Insect Borne Illnesses:

  • Fever 

  • Sore muscles    

  • Nausea    

  • Headache

  • Chills      

  • Skin rash          

  • Stomach pain

More serious symptoms might include:

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swelling/closing of the throat     

  • Chest pain    

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling of lips, tongue, face    

  • Racing heartbeat        

  • Dizziness

How are Insect Borne Illnesses Diagnosed?

Your doctor can typically diagnose an insect borne illness with a physical exam, a review of symptoms, and checking recent travel destinations. Lab tests (blood and urine) can diagnose certain insect borne diseases.

How to Avoid or Prevent Insect-borne Illnesses

·         Stay out of tall grass and bushes

·         Dress in long pants and shirts and wear a hat; tuck pants legs into your boots or socks

·         Wear light colored clothing, which makes it easier to spot crawling insects

·         Use bug spray that contains at least 10% DEET

·         Examine your skin and scalp after being outside, checking for bugs or bites

·         Always shower using plenty of soap after being outdoors

Insect Borne Illness Treatment

As soon as you recognize a bite, clean it with soap and water. Pat it dry and apply rubbing alcohol to the bite. If bitten by a tick, remove the tick before cleaning the area. Use tweezers to slowly pull it off your skin. Be careful not to leave any part of the tick in/on your skin. Dispose of the tick. Wash your hands and the bite area with soap and water and then wipe with alcohol. Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream to the bite area.

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see a doctor. If you start having flu-like symptoms 3-10 days after being bitten see a doctor for diagnosis.

Living with Insect Borne Illnesses

Some insect borne illnesses can cause long-term chronic symptoms that affect the quality of life. Lyme disease, for example, can leave you chronically tired and sore. Zika virus can be passed on to a baby and cause microcephaly and an intellectual disability.

Print Friendly and PDF

Municipalities Must Take GHS-HazCom Training Seriously

The final GHS (Global Harmonization System) deadline is now long past. OSHA’s alignment of the HazCom (Hazardous Communication Standard) to GHS has provided a wakeup call to millions of companies across the U.S. to do a better job with their HazCom programs, especially when it comes to training. Unfortunately, not all Oklahoma municipalities have embraced this new standard. HazCom violations remain the number 2 violation on OSHA’s top 10 list of violations.

This article provides four steps employers can take to ensure employees understand the chemical hazards present in their work environments and to comply with GHS updates to HazCom.

Step One: Build a Training Program Focused on Usefulness

While OSHA, and here in Oklahoma, the Department of Labor’s PEOSH division don’t specify how to do training, they do state that training must be effective. Employees must carry their learning into the workplace and be able to put it to use. HazCom has two key components: 1) providing employees with a basic understanding of the HazCom standard (OMAG works with many of our cities and towns to provide this understanding.); and 2) training employees on the specific hazards of the chemicals to which they are exposed and providing protection through administrative controls, engineering controls, and personal protective equipment (These are the responsibility of the employer and its departmental supervisors.)

In the past, HazCom with GHS focused on training workers to understand the new SDS (safety data sheets) and labeling formats accompanied with GHS adoption. However, many employers lacked a basic level of understanding about HazCom (municipalities included), making it difficult for them to comprehend and address the changes brought by the new GHS alignment. As a result, workers were never adequately trained on HazCom in the first place or had been trained so long ago that what they learned had been forgotten. It is critical that employers continue to emphasize basic HazCom training, which now includes GHS information to ensure employees are able to use the information in their day-to-day activities.

The second component of an effective HazCom training program focuses on the individual hazards employees face. Departmental supervisors must train their employees on the specific chemicals used and their hazards. The key here is to provide employees with a deeper understanding of the dangers and emergency situations they face, and counter them by following written policies and procedures.

Step Two: Deliver Training So Employees Can Understand It

When OSHA first published the HazCom Standard in 1983, it followed the concept of the employee’s “right to know” about the hazards to which they might be exposed. A primary driver for OSHA’s adoption of the GHS has been the desire to improve employee comprehension of critical chemical safety information.

With GHS, OSHA is indicating it’s not enough for workers to just know about the hazards; instead they have the “right to understand” those hazards and know what related safety precautions to take.

The pre-GHS employee “right to know” concept often translated into giving workers access to MSDSs and labels and making sure they were aware of the hazards that existed from chemicals in their work environment. This approach didn’t always translate to employees understanding the safety and health information being conveyed on the MSDS and labels. GHS adoption helped solve this issue by bringing harmonization and consistency to the structure of the safety data sheets (formerly MSDS, now SDS) and labels. Use of standardized hazard communication elements, such as pictograms, make it possible for workers to more easily understand the hazards associated with chemicals workers use or are around. This simplified approach to communicating hazard information makes it possible to protect workers of all backgrounds. For instance, pictograms make it easier for illiterate and non-English speaking employees to understand the nature of a product’s hazardous properties.

The “right to understand” concept compliments OSHA’s rule on employee HazCom training – that it must be presented in a manner all employees can comprehend and retain. When applied to HazCom training, this means that employees who work with or around hazardous chemicals must receive training in a language they can understand, even if the documents (SDSs and labels) are only required in English.

Step Three: Provide Easy Access to SDSs

A key aspect of HazCom training is to make sure employees know how to get direct access to Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) and other hazardous chemical information. Some employers are using electronic solutions to help employees retrieve information from their inventory of SDSs. If this is true with your municipality, it is incumbent on you to make sure employees are made aware of the system, how to access it, and how to use it. Without that access, in the event of an emergency, even an employee that has received adequate training on labels and SDSs will still be at risk should a chemical event occur that requires quick action. For that reason, many employers are taking advantage of technological advancements and using mobile solutions to put SDSs in the hands of their employees. The best Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) software solutions today leverage the cloud to make critical chemical safety information available anywhere, any time. One problem with using technology solutions, however, is many municipalities don’t have the financial resources to provide such innovative techniques. Therefore, keeping updated SDSs available to workers in a binder within the work environment of the workers may still be the best way to provide them with quick environmental, safety, and health information when a chemical event occurs. These binders can be kept in trucks, shops, and offices - wherever the employee has access to them.

Step Four: Keep It Consistent

While OSHA and OK DOL-PEOSH don’t require employee training to be performed in specific intervals of time, regular training (at least annually) is a best practice to help ensure your employees better retain HazCom with GHS information. Other instances for training may include newly hired employees, temporary employees, visiting contract workers, or when a new chemical is introduced to a department. This helps ensure that employees who might work with or around a hazardous chemical understand its potential hazards.

It is vitally important to view HazCom and GHS training as an ongoing obligation. Over my years of travel around the state performing inspections and trainings for OMAG shareholders (cities and towns), I have personally noted frequent inadequacies with regard to HazCom and GHS training and information resources. The safety of your employees must be a priority in your day-to-day operations for their sake, for your municipality’s sake, and for the health and welfare of the state of Oklahoma.

Print Friendly and PDF

Sewage Lagoon Basics

sewage lagoon is a large pond into which the sewage or effluent from the sewage system flows. Sewage lagoons are also called effluent ponds.

The sewage and effluent are broken down by germs in the lagoon. The sun and wind play an important role in the working of the lagoon. They provide light, warmth and oxygen to the water. This is necessary for the growth of the bacteria in the water.

The light, warmth and oxygen also aid the growth of algae in the water. Algae give the lagoon its greenish color. Algae helps the bacteria break down the sewage and effluent.

The wind helps with the evaporation of the water and serves to get oxygen into the water. It also creates waves which help stop insects from breeding and living in the water. Disease-causing mosquitoes, for example, need still water to breed.

For a lagoon to be able to break down the sewage or effluent properly and to be a healthy place it must meet the following requirements:

·        It must not be more than 1 meter deep

·        The banks need to be sloped at approximately 15 to 20 degrees and made of concrete, gravel or rock. This stops the wave action from eroding (breaking down) the banks

·        There must be no grass, trees or other vegetation on the banks or surrounding area which would stop the sun and wind action needed by the lagoon

·        The water must be free of vegetation or objects which stop the lagoon's surface wave action or create still patches

·        It must be surrounded by a high fence with a lockable gate to keep children and animals out

Lagoon overflows

Where there is only one lagoon in the sewage disposal system, it will have an overflow situated directly opposite where the pipe carrying the sewage or effluent enters the lagoon. If there is more than one lagoon in the system, the overflow will be in the last lagoon.

The overflow releases water from the lagoon system which has not been removed by evaporation. New lagoon systems are required to be designed so disposal occurs by evaporation only. They should not rely on overflow, except during very heavy rainfall periods. However, where an existing lagoon system uses an overflow method, the overflow should not create a flooded or swampy area suitable for mosquito breeding, or where it may contaminate drinking water or the environment.

Lagoon maintenance

Lagoons which are not working properly or are poorly maintained or damaged may be dangerous to health.  Signs of a lagoon which is not working properly are heavy overflow, mosquito breeding or a bad smell.

Signs of a lagoon which is poorly maintained or damaged include broken fences and gates, trees, shrubs or grass on the banks, grass growing and other objects in the water causing still patches.

Unsafe sewage lagoon
To be properly maintained the lagoon should be checked frequently and any problems reported to the authority responsible for providing maintenance.
It is important to report any of the following:

·        eroded or broken lagoon banks

·        lagoon banks which are not angled at 15-20 degrees

·        trees and/or other vegetation growing in the lagoon, on its banks or in the area around the lagoon

·        bad smells given off by the lagoon

·        water which is not a light, flecked green color

·        still areas on the surface of the lagoon

·        signs of mosquitoes breeding in the water

·        damaged fences or gates that cannot be locked properly to keep out animals and children

·        rubbish in the water

·        a swampy situation near the lagoon (possibly caused by the overflow) which could provide mosquito breeding areas

·        grass on the banks of lagoons, particularly growing at the edge of water, which can provide ideal mosquito breeding areas

Print Friendly and PDF

Your OMAG Municipal Property Protection Plan (MPPP) - Coverage for Outdoor Property

As personnel in municipal offices change, replacing the knowledge and experience of the person that served your municipality can be difficult.  Understanding insurance coverage may not be a priority when so many other things demand your attention as a municipal employee. Please let the following serve to provide a description of the coverage for outdoor property that OMAG provides.  

Outdoor Property is sometimes referred to as property in the open and should be listed on your schedule of covered property described as such. Outdoor property does not provide coverage for buildings and is only for the named structures listed below.  

Outdoor Property means retaining walls not part of a building, lawns (including fairways, greens and tees), trees, shrubs, plants, bridges (excluding vehicular bridges), walks, roadways, patios or other paved surfaces, outdoor lighting fixtures (excluding holiday and seasonal lighting), traffic signaling devices or controls, utility poles (including transformers on the poles but not the transmission lines) or emergency communications radio towers or sirens.

Outdoor property is covered for loss or damage only by the following Covered Causes of Loss: Wind, Fire, Lightning, Explosion, Riot or Civil Commotion, Vandalism or Malicious Mischief, or Aircraft or Vehicles. This coverage also applies to the necessary and reasonable expense incurred by the plan member to remove debris of outdoor property at the plan member’s premises caused by or resulting from a covered cause of loss that occurs during the policy period. Such expenses will be paid only if reported to OMAG in writing within 180 days of the date of direct physical loss or damage. This will not increase the limit of coverage that applies to Outdoor Property. 

It is important to understand each MPPP member is automatically provided $100,000 in coverage for outdoor property, including debris removal aggregate in any one plan year; however, trees, shrubs and plants are subject to a maximum of $5,000 per occurrence. Although this $100,000 in coverage is provided to all MPPP members you are responsible for providing timely and accurate lists of such properties so that any loss incurred over the provided limit is properly covered.  To assure adequate protection in the case of a loss, your property needs to be reviewed annually to ensure it is listed on your schedules at replacement cost value.

Print Friendly and PDF

Workers' Compensation Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)

Effective September 1, 2018, the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) has mandated that all Workers’ Compensation claims data be sent to the WCC electronically.  This brings Oklahoma Workers’ Comp into the “paperless” arena so many other states or lines of insurance have already mandated.  The EDI mandate is that all employers, insurance carriers, and third-party claims companies file claims and data through an interchange, rather than using paper forms.   For employers, this means that you will no longer be required to submit a copy of the Form 2 (First report of Injury) to the WCC after an injury resulting in Lost Time.   However, it is imperative to note that these First Report forms must be sent to OMAG via its claims company, CBR, to initiate a claim.  The submission email address is still   CBR will then send this First Report information to the WCC electronically.

 Going paperless should save the WCC manpower and costs, as they no longer must enter the claims by hand, and there will be a much greater compliance rate of submission.  However, there are several areas of concern for OMAG and its member municipalities:

 Fines for non-compliance or poor compliance are expected for employers, carriers, or claims companies.   First Reports of Injury are due to the WCC within 10 days of the date the employer was notified of the injury.  The WCC can levy fines for employers who do not send this information timely.   It is imperative that municipalities send the claim to CBR as soon as possible (preferably within 24 hours, but no later than 5 days).  CBR will send the claim to the WCC within 24-72 hours of receipt, provided all mandatory information is included in the report.

 A report card may be published by the WCC identifying employers, carriers and claims companies who do not send data in timely, or do not pay benefits timely.  A claim must be accepted, denied, or an extension requested within 15 days of employer notice.  Temporary Total Disability or Wages Paid in Lieu of must be started within 15 days of the first day of Lost Time. 

 The WCC is basically going to monitor the timely filing of claims and related information, and the prompt and accurate payment of benefits.  These were never monitored by the WCC in the past.

 OMAG’s claims company, CBR, is on top of these requirements and has been testing with their vendor and with the WCC for some time now.   CBR was fully compliant with the EDI mandate on September 1. 

 Please contact OMAG or CBR for more information.  CBR inquiries can be sent to




Print Friendly and PDF