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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Speed: A Common National Theme

“It’s the job of sergeants to slow these calls down.” That was the phrase Lexipol’s Ken Wallentine used during a recent presentation at the Public Risk Management Association (PRIMA) conference. His presentation was entitled “Police Response to Mental Illness Crises.” While Ken covered a range of issues, the words about sergeants and officers slowing down the pace of these types of calls came at the very end of his presentation during his summary. Slowing down—when possible—allows officers to gather more information and to consider alternatives. I have heard many Minnesota police supervisors saying the same thing when discussing their tactics for responding to these difficult calls.

It reminded me of the national “Below 100” program, which is striving to reduce annual police officer line-of-duty deaths to below 100 per year. The third tenet of the program focuses on the officers’ driving and uses the phrase “watch your speed.” Inherent in that phrase is the need to slow down even when responding to emergencies. We continue to see the officer’s speed as a contributing factor in police crashes and injuries. We know that increased vehicle speed reduces the drivers’ ability to maintain situational awareness as well was increasing braking distance and the ability to react to the unexpected.

That theme of work speed—and the need to slow down to increase safety—was prevalent at the Minnesota Safety Conference in May. The presentations were focused on accidents in the general workforce, and working too quickly was a root cause of injuries. Presenters from around the country cited employees rushing, or working faster than normal, as a contributing cause of workplace accidents and injuries. I found it interesting they noted it was often the company’s best employees who were injured, as many of these employees had the “get ‘er done” approach to their jobs as they tried to meet company or team deadlines and goals.

These very different situations are connected by the commonality of speed—and the loss of situational awareness that accompanies it—as the speed of work, driving, or the human actions at an incident increases. Perhaps this is reflective of the speed of society, technology, and emergency work. Preparation and planning can go a long way in finding the time to slow down. Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

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Up next: 50 Years of 911

Stay safe,

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Another Fire Department OSHA Grant

The La Crescent Fire Department used their OSHA
Safety Grant to purchase new turnout gear.
We recently had another Minnesota fire department awarded an OSHA grant for safety equipment, and the Le Crescent Fire Department used this assistance to purchase new turnout gear. LMCIT Loss Control Representative Cody Tuttle was part of the process.

Cody, could you explain the grant process?
La Crescent was awarded $7,000 from OSHA’s Safety Grant program in order to purchase new turnout gear for probationary members who were about to graduate to full membership—as well as to replace existing members’ gear which was about reach the 10-year recommended age limit set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard #1851. Their probationary members were wearing extra turnout gear the department had that was still in good condition, but was not specifically fitted to them. As full members of the department, it was going to be important to provide them properly fitted equipment that would provide them the best possible protection. This grant paid for 50% of the cost of this new equipment.

How did you assist them?
One of the requirements for the OSHA Safety Grant is a written report from an on-site safety and health survey that lists findings and any recommendations. This is where a city’s LMCIT Loss Control Consultant like me can help out. The city contacted me to request an on-site safety evaluation of their existing turnout gear. Once there, we inspected their existing turnout gear, noting how many were at that 10-year limit or would be in the near future.

We also discussed things that the city was doing—or could be doing—to track its gear, as well as document inspections and cleaning routines. One of the things we’ve seen many cities do in this regard is create an Excel spreadsheet that is used to track what gear each individual member has and when it was purchased. They also use the spreadsheet to document any outside maintenance done on the gear, such as advanced inspections and advanced cleaning done by outside vendors/manufacturer-trained organizations.

Many departments use existing tags within the gear to track its age, but it can be beneficial to have this recorded somewhere separately that cannot be lost or damaged during the gear’s routine use. We also discussed the importance of documenting the regular gear inspections done by the individual members by using a checklist.

Loss Control Field Consultant
Cody Tuttle
Did you learn anything new about the process?
One of the things that OSHA considers when determining whether or not to approve a grant request is how many people will be affected by the improvement. This is one of the areas where public safety departments, such as police and fire, have an advantage. In most occupations, both in the private and public sector, safety improvements will mostly affect those on that individual job site. In public safety, however, the safety improvements affect both the individual employees and the general public they are trying to assist.

Cody, is there anything else you would like to add? 
I would like to emphasize that LMCIT staff is always happy to assist any interested cities starting the process by performing the required OSHA on-site survey.

Read about another Minnesota fire department that was also recently awarded an OSHA grant, and what equipment they purchased with these funds.

Up next: Public Safety Risk Management—Some Common National Themes

Stay safe,