Toolbox Talks


NIRMA’s Toolbox Talks, a.k.a., Safety Minutes, are an easy way for managers, foremen, and supervisors to supplement their training efforts. These short, pre-written safety meetings are available for you to use from your mobile device or print them off along with a sign-in sheet for your records.


Talking Topics

Aerial Lift Safety

Recognize Hazards of Aerial Lifts

Aerial lifts are helpful tools, but they are not without hazard. Falls from height, tip overs, contact with objects or electrocution from overhead lines are some of the most common. Other hazards can include hitting objects or others during movement or ejection from the bucket.

Although these hazards can be serious, they can be controlled by following best practices.  Listen carefully, your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Pre-start Inspections

Before using the aerial lift, you should make sure that two separate inspections are always performed: an equipment check and a site inspection.

First, an equipment check should test controls, fluid levels, warning devices and other items identified in the owner’s manual. [Instructor Prompt: Consult the owner’s manual for more information about how to conduct a pre-start inspection and include the information here. Perhaps conduct the meeting near the lift and conduct an inspection together.]

Second, the site inspection should be conducted before operating in any new area. Ruts, slopes, unstable ground and debris can create conditions that adversely affect the stability of the lift. Therefore, they should be avoided or addressed. Make sure to search for overhead obstacles or energized lines and plan accordingly. The final consideration is weather, be aware of weather forecasts and make appropriate plans. Also, keep an eye on the weather, especially wind.

Best Practices to Manage Aerial Lift Hazards

  • Always keep your feet on the floor of the platform or bucket; do not lean over or climb on guardrails.
  • Never use ladders or other equipment to further extend your height from the lift platform.
  • Always use fall restraint/arrest protection on the equipment that is attached to an identified location on the platform. A body harness should be worn and connected as soon as you or any other worker enters the platform or bucket. [Instructor Prompt: Show the tie-off point or ask the class to explain where the tie-off location is. Ask if everyone understands how to put on a harness.][Instructor Note: See note on scissor lifts.]
  • Always have a thorough understanding of the specific load capacity, wind tolerance, reach and other limitations of the lift to be used. Do not exceed these limits. [Instructor Prompt: Tell the load capacity of the lifts in the facility.]
  • Always be aware of what is in the travel path of the lift. Avoid electrical lines or other items within the path of travel; be aware of overhead objects as well.
  • Never use aerial lift equipment in place of a crane to lift items. Avoid oversized or heavy loads on the platform or bucket.
  • Never travel with the lift raised more than what is given in the manufacturer’s instructions. [Instructor Prompt: Explain the optimum driving height for the lifts in the facility.]
  • Never travel with someone elevated in the platform or bucket unless the equipment is specifically designed for that use.
  • If the lift has controls on both the platform and lower unit and a worker is on the platform, the lower controls should not be operated without the express consent of the worker on the platform except in an emergency.
  • Always ensure that the lift is stable before beginning work. If equipment has outriggers, they should be positioned on a solid, level surface and the brakes should be set.
  • If operations require the lift to be used on an incline, wheel chocks must be used only if they can be safely installed.

Discussion Questions

  • What activities pose the greatest risks when using the aerial lifts?
  • How can we keep ourselves and others safe when using the aerial lift?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Back Injury Prevention

Back injuries continue to be one of the most common types of injuries suffered by member employees. Generally, these injuries occur when we are handling materials, and most commonly when we try to lift or move an object that is too heavy for a single person to handle. Following these recommendations should help prevent a back injury.

Should I Lift This Alone?

Before attempting to lift an object, go through this checklist to ensure you are physically capable of the lift:

  • Can I move the object without assistance?
  • How high off the ground does it have to be?
  • Is the object awkward to carry?
  • How far must I carry the object?
  • Is this a one-time lift or something that must be completed frequently?
  • Are you trying to prove something by lifting it alone?

Plan the Lift

  • Make sure the pathway is clear.
  • Remove any tripping hazards.
  • Ensure floor is dry.
  • Use lift assists whenever possible, i.e. forklift, dolly, cart, hand truck or hoist.
  • If a lift assist is not available and the item exceeds your ability, wait to perform the lift until you have access to a lift assist or another person.

Lift It Correctly

When you must lift an item that weighs over 25 pounds you should follow these procedures:

  • Stand close to the object, then squat or kneel.
  • Maintain a natural curve in your lower back.
  • Ensure a good grip on the object.
  • Keeping the object close to your body, lift it with the power of your legs and keep your back straight as you stand up.
  • As you stand up, tighten your core muscles.
  • Do not twist at your waist, pivot with your feet.
Bloodbourne Pathogens

Bloodborne pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  Bodily fluids, other than blood, that could possibly be infectious are referred to as other potentially infectious materials (OPIM).  The purpose of this safety minute is to discuss ways in which we can reduce or eliminate the risk of exposure in the workplace.

Universal Precautions

To prevent disease transmission, all human body fluids should be treated as if they are infectious for HIV, HBV, HCV or other bloodborne pathogens:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before and after providing first aid and after cleaning up bodily fluids.
  • If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Use protective gloves if you may come into contact with blood or any other bodily fluid.
  • Inspect the gloves for damage prior to putting them on and remove them correctly to prevent exposure if they are contaminated.
  • Use protective eye wear or a face shield if there is a possibility that bodily fluids could be splashed on your face.
  • Don a protective gown if available.
  • Clean up bodily fluids with an EPA approved cleaning solution or a mixture of 10% bleach and water. Leave bleach water solution on surface for at least 20 minutes.
  • Dispose of contaminated clothing and cleaning material in a red biohazard plastic bag if available. If not, place the contaminated items in a sealed plastic bag and dispose of safely.
  • Employees who may be exposed to bodily fluids during their workday should be trained in proper clean-up of bodily fluids.
  • Bodily fluid clean-up kits are recommended.
  • If you are exposed to bodily fluids, report it to your supervisor and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Browsing the Internet Safely

Browsing generally refers to reading and scanning through data, when done on the Internet it is also called surfing. Browsing or surfing the Internet safely can be difficult. Browsing the Internet safely means leaving as little evidence or personal information as possible behind. Especially information that hackers could use to do you harm. This safety minute will provide you with some recommendations to help reduce your footprint when browsing the Internet.

How to Identify Secure Websites

Before entering sensitive personal or work information on a website be sure to verify the website is secure.

  • Look for the padlock icon displayed somewhere in the web browser. This indicates a secure mode between the browser and the server, the communication is encrypted.
  • Look for the “https” prefix to the Web address. The “s” indicates a secure, encrypted connection.
  • If you encounter a warning about a website’s security certificate, check with your IT department before proceeding.

Identifying Suspicious Websites and Links

Much like the suspicious links and attachments that can be sent via phishing emails, Internet users need to avoid malicious content when browsing online. These links can be disguised in pop-up adds or hidden in clickbait type articles.

  • Avoid clickbait, pop-ups and advertisements. While they don’t all contain viruses, this is a very common method of transmitting them.
  • Pop-up adds try to get you to click on them by making incredible sounding offers. If it seems too good to be true, it likely is. If you want to seriously check out a product or service offered in a pop-up or clickbait type add, google it and check it our directly, not via the link in the pop-up.
  • The same hackers that create the phishing emails are creating the clickbait and pop-up adds. Look at the spelling and grammar, if it is incorrect this could be a clue that it is not legitimate.
  • Hover your cursor over links to reveal where the link may be sending you. If it doesn’t seem to match, be wary. It may look similar, like the phishing emails.
  • Treat all these interactions (clickbait, pop-ups, advertisements) as less than trustworthy. With phishing and social engineering being so common, a healthy level of distrust is a good thing.
  • A link can be hidden within clickbait or a pop-up, you may think you’re closing the pop-up when you are clicking a link to download malware.
Carbon Monoxide & Hazards

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas. It is also known as CO. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause health problems:

  • From relatively mild flu-like symptoms of headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain and confusion;
  • To serious tissue or brain damage, or death from high levels or prolonged exposure.

Risk of carbon monoxide exposure increases in winter because buildings are sealed against the cold, so carbon monoxide cannot escape through open windows and doors. Garages with idling or operating vehicles and fuel-burning furnaces or equipment offer the greatest risks of concentrated CO levels. Even burning propane releases carbon monoxide.

Carbon monoxide is slightly lighter than air and spreads normally throughout a room, so moving to a higher elevation does not reduce exposure.

Carbon monoxide exposure can be serious, but with proper preparation and controls, it can be minimized. Your health and safety is important to us, we don’t want you to get hurt.


To keep us safe, we need to learn the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and the emergency procedures to follow when an alarm sounds. I’ll go through best practices to help ensure that our systems are operating as they should and that we know how to react if carbon monoxide builds to hazardous levels. We should

  • Maintain clearance around ventilation intakes. Items positioned close to intakes can affect air flow. If CO alarms activate, evacuate immediately and inform supervisors or management of the problem. [Instructor Prompt: allow participants to hear a CO alarm to become familiar with the sound.]
    • Prevent others from entering the affected area.
    • If we must evacuate the facility, the meeting point is_________. [Instructor Prompt: have participants answer where the meeting point is.]
  • Opening windows or doors will not reduce carbon monoxide to safe levels immediately. If an alarm goes off, evacuate the building and wait until you are given approval to reenter.
  • Any vehicle or piece of equipment that produces CO should be operated outdoors or with proper ventilation.
  • When servicing running vehicles, discharge exhaust outside using a duct or flexible hose connected to a mechanical exhaust system. [Instructor Prompt: Have participants explain where these items are or explain their locations yourself.]
  • Maintain all vehicles and equipment regularly. Poorly maintained or damaged equipment may create more carbon monoxide.
  • If the ventilation equipment stops working, report the situation to your supervisor or management. Stop operating fuel-burning equipment until the area is well-ventilated.
  • Do not operate carbon monoxide-generating vehicles or equipment by a facility’s fresh air intake vents.

If Exposed

If you or your co-workers are exposed to elevated levels of carbon monoxide:

  • Exit the area and seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you may have CO poisoning.
  • Alert a supervisor.
  • Warn others to avoid entering the affected area.


Discussion Questions

  • What are the signs and symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
  • How should we react if we suspect high CO levels in a workspace?
  • How can we maintain adequate ventilation around air vents?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Cold & Flu Prevention

Colds and flus can run swiftly through our families and work groups. These illnesses can lead to time away from work, irritability or more serious effects. Fortunately, there are some steps we can take to help reduce the chances of catching or spreading a cold or the flu to others. So please pay attention; your health and safety is important to us.

Hand Hygiene

Hand washing is the single most effective practice people can do to prevent diseases. Unfortunately, many people either do not wash their hands or do not do so effectively. We should wash our hands before eating, and after using the toilet, blowing our nose, coughing, sneezing, touching garbage or public touch points like door handles and handrails. It is good to wash hands both before and after preparing food or when caring for an ill individual.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to wash properly people should: [Instructor Prompt: Consider demonstrating in front of the class with soap or hand sanitizer]

  • Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), then turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together with soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between fingers and under nails.
  • Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds, consider humming the happy birthday song to yourself from beginning to end twice to approximate 20 seconds. Many people scrub or rub their hands too quickly.
  • Rinse your hands under clean running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
  • Use hand sanitizer if soap is unavailable.
    • Apply hand sanitizer to palm of one and apply through all surface of the hands and continue rubbing hands together until they are dry.

Respiratory Hygiene or Cough Etiquette

Cough etiquette refers to the practice of covering your cough or sneeze to prevent disease transmission. This should be done when coughing or sneezing.

Ideally you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, dispose of the tissue after use and wash hands.

If a tissue is unavailable, cough into the back of your elbow or sleeve, not your hand. Again, wash your hands when able.

If you cough into your hands by mistake be sure to wash your hands promptly; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth until you wash your hands.

[Instructor Note: Several locations, such as hospitals or public health offices, may offer face masks to visitors to help minimize the risk of illnesses spreading to others. If this is available in your facility be sure to mention it as an option.]


Keyboards, computer mice, door handles, railings and phones are common transmission points for germs. These should be regularly disinfected when possible, particularly during peak cold and flu season.

When using any disinfectant, be sure to follow appropriate product directions and personal protective equipment, such as gloves or eye protection if warranted. Please remember that disinfectants may not kill all germs.


To help prevent the flu, the CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone 6 months old and older with rare exceptions. These are offered every year at a variety of locations at low to no cost, depending on your insurance.

Staying Home

When sick with communicable illnesses, such as the flu (influenza), it is best to stay home, not only to care for yourself but to be avoid bringing the illness into the workplace and spreading it to others. [Instructor Prompt: Explain how employees can take sick days, how the policy works, etc.]


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Cold Related Illness Prevention

Extreme Cold Hazards

Exposure to cold can lead to health conditions collectively referred to as cold stress. The most common types of cold stress are chilblains, frostbite and hypothermia. Hypothermia is particularly serious and can result in death or permanent injury. As we all know, Nebraska temperatures and wind chills can dip well below freezing for long periods of time.

[Instructor prompt: Discuss specific tasks where employees may be subject to cold stress.]

Cold stress can be serious, but when we prepare for it and recognize symptoms of it, we can minimize the hazards. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.


  • Be aware of weather reports, temperature and wind-chill forecasts and plan accordingly.
  • Wear appropriate clothing with multiple layers of loose clothing. Consider wearing a snug base layer of moisture wicking material to pull sweat away from your body. Don’t wear overly tight clothing because it can reduce blood circulation needed for warming.
  • Protect ears, face, hands and feet.
  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots.
  • Stay dry whenever possible. Consider having a separate set of clothes to change into if clothing becomes wet.
  • Take breaks in warm areas and limit time outside on cold days.
  • Monitor yourself and others for signs and symptoms of cold stress and know how to respond or get help.

Common Symptoms and Treatment of Cold Stress

[Instructor prompt: Have employees follow along on their handouts as you discuss the symptoms and treatment of the following heat-related illnesses]

 Common Symptoms of and Treatments for Cold Stress

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Possible blistering
  • Inflammation
  • Avoid scratching.
  • Slowly warm the skin.
  • Corticosteroid creams help relieve itching and swelling.
  • Clean and cover blisters or ulcers.
  • Reduced blood flow to hands and feet
  • Numbness, tingling or stinging
  • Aching, bluish or pale waxy skin
  • Move to a warm area.
  • Avoid walking on frostbitten toes or feet when possible.
  • Immerse affected areas in warm—not hot—water. If immersion is not possible, warm fingers under arm pits or with body warmth.
  • Avoid rubbing frostbitten areas. Be aware that numb areas are easy to burn, for example with water that is too hot.
  • Early symptoms: shivering, fatigue, loss of coordination, confusion and disorientation
  • Late symptoms: no shivering, blue skin, dilated pupils, slowed pulse and breathing, loss of consciousness

Temperatures do not have to be freezing for hypothermia to set in; observe symptoms carefully.

  • Call for emergency medical assistance.
  • Move affected individual to a warm area.
  • Remove wet clothing.
  • First, warm the center of the body using an electric blanket or chemical hot packs.
  • Give warm nonalcoholic beverages to worker, but do not give beverages to unconscious workers.
  • After temperature has increased, keep worker dry and wrapped in a warm blanket including the head and neck.
  • Stay with the worker until medical help arrives (as needed).


  • As I mentioned earlier, hypothermia is particularly serious. Fortunately, hypothermia frequently occurs in stages. If detected in early stages, we can treat it and prevent injury more easily.
  • If someone is showing signs of hypothermia, they may not be able to call for help or treat themselves effectively. This is why it is important to know the signs and keep an eye out for each other when we work in the extreme cold.

Discussion Questions

  • What can we do to prevent cold-related illnesses?
  • How do you identify the symptoms of hypothermia? How would you treat someone showing symptoms of hypothermia?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust


Tasks that we have been performing for a long time, or very frequently, can cause us to become complacent. Think of driving an automobile. Do you realize it is arguably the most dangerous thing you do on a regular basis? Complacency, per Merriam-Webster, “marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies.” We know what it is, but how do we fight complacency in our workplace? The first step is recognizing it when it appears.

Fighting Complacency

  • Before starting a task or project, list the hazards that you and your co-workers will encounter. Then list the ways in which you will protect yourself from these hazards. Congratulations, you just performed a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA)!
  • As a group, discuss what could possibly go wrong and what you can do to prevent it or protect yourselves from it.
  • When performing a dangerous task, ask yourself, “Would I allow my grandchild to do it this way?” If not, perform the task the same way you would teach them to perform it.
  • If you hear the phrase, “We’ve always done it this way” or “It’ll be fine this one time” or “O.K., but hurry up and be careful,” complacency is present. Stop, evaluate the hazard and do the right thing.
  • Keep your safety “front of mind.” Bring up concerns, discuss them.
  • If you see something, say something. We are our brother’s/sister’s keeper. How would you feel if you chose not to say something and the worst happened?
  • Always examine equipment, procedures and the hazards that may exist, and focus physically and mentally on your work, no matter how many times you may have done the same job in the past.


Data Storage and Destruction
NIRMA member counties and local government agencies store a significant amount of valuable private information. This data is commonly referred to as Personal Identifiable Information (PII). It is very common for individuals to attempt to access, steal or ransom this data. It is every employee’s responsibility to protect this valuable data as if it were your own. Actually, some of the valuable personal information you are protecting is your own. This safety minute will remind you of the hazards of unsecured datA and provide you with multiple methods to secure and safely store data.

How to Keep Data Secure

  • Do not allow unauthorized persons access to your work areas.
  • All computers should be locked when not in use.
  • Keep software current, install and maintain critical software updates.
  • Use up-to-date virus protection.
  • House network server hardware in a secure environment.
  • Ensure data is backed up and protected.
  • Maintain only critical PII; if you don’t need the information, don’t store it.
  • Limit data access to specific job functions.
  • Review and update data access policies on a regular basis.
  • Make sure wireless networks are password protected.
  • Use shredders to destroy sensitive confidential documents.

How to Dispose of Data and Equipment

  • Adopt an equipment disposal policy and identify who is responsible for disposal.
  • Document how and when equipment was disposed of
  • Remove or reformat and securely dispose of hard drives from the following:
    • Computer hard drives
    • External USB devices (flash drives/external drives)
    • Printers, copiers and scanners
    • Cell phones
    • Tablets
    • Back-up tapes (video and date)
    • Leased equipment prior to returning to the vendor


Deer-Vehicle Collisions

According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, from 2013 through 2017, there were 12,650 animal-vehicle crashes. Many of these crashes resulted in serious injury or death.  [Instructor Prompt: Ask the audience to describe if they have hit or almost hit a deer, it’s a pretty common occurrence.  If no one responds, perhaps ask if they know someone who has hit a deer.]

We can’t avoid all deer-vehicle collisions, but we can avoid many of them. We can greatly reduce injuries with proper preparation and learning the prevention techniques, which we will talk about. Your health and safety is important to us, we don’t want you to get hurt.

Prevention and Best Practices 

  • Deer-vehicle collisions peak in October through November, coinciding with deer mating season and diminished daylight hours. Be especially vigilant at this time.
  • Increase awareness at dusk and dawn. This is the time when deer are most active.
  • Avoid speeding.
  • Scan roadside ditches for deer, particularly in forested areas, near river or stream banks, or where deer crossing signs are posted.
  • Deer are known to travel in groups and often move in single file. If you see one deer, be especially cautious. It is likely there will be more.
  • Deer can be unpredictable. Always slow down when you see deer. They may jump out into the roadway.
  • Keep the windshield clean.
  • Always buckle up, stay alert and drive sober.
  • Use high beams at night or when driving in low-light conditions while being considerate of other drivers.
  • Do not drive faster than the time it would take you to stop should something appear in the headlights.
  • Go slowly around blind corners or dips and hills on the road where the view ahead is limited.
  • Car-mounted deer whistles are largely ineffective at preventing deer strikes. Do not rely on them.

If You Are About to Hit a Deer

  • Keep your hands on the wheel.
  • Do not swerve. Swerving to avoid a deer can lead to a loss of control. It can also put you and others in the vehicle with you into the path of oncoming traffic or a roadside object.
  • Remember: DON’T VEER FOR DEER!

Hitting the deer is often the safest option.

After Hitting a Deer

  • Brake firmly and come to a controlled stop.
  • Move well off the roadway.
  • Seek medical attention if necessary.
  • Turn on the vehicle hazard lights.
  • Alert the nearest law enforcement agency to report the collision.
  • Do not move the deer yourself. The task may be dangerous due to traffic or the weight and awkward lifting required when moving the animal.

Follow the established personal insurance or employer coverage reporting process. [Instructor prompt– Discuss your organization’s accident reporting process.]

Discussion Questions

  • How can we best avoid injuries from deer-vehicle collisions?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Defensive Driving

The most dangerous activity we take part in regularly is operating a motor vehicle. Defensive driving is when you are actively attempting to identify and avoid hazards to prevent crashes, regardless of road and weather conditions and the actions of other drivers.

Defensive Driving Techniques

  • Always maintain a safe following distance. The National Safety Council recommends 3 seconds, plus an additional second for each additional hazard.
  • Slow down. Speeding is a major contributor to serious injury and fatal car crashes.  Driving slower gives you more time to identify and avoid hazards.
  • Avoid distractions. Driving distracted is the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents.  Talking on the phone, texting and eating are all activities that take your focus off driving safely.
  • Avoid driving while impaired. Alcohol, illegal controlled substances, over the counter medications and prescriptions medications can all impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely.  Check the side effects of all medications before use and avoid drugs and alcohol when driving.
  • Be predictable. Keep your vehicle visible by staying out of another vehicle’s blind spots.  Signal your intentions early and act accordingly.
  • Ensure intersections are clear before proceeding. Look left, forward, right and then left again before entering an intersection. 
  • Cover the brake whenever you spot a possible hazard. This refers to taking your foot off the gas pedal and holding it over the brake, causing the vehicle to slow down and reducing the time it takes to stop the vehicle if needed.
  • Maintain a proper lookout. Keep your eyes moving.  Check your mirrors every few seconds.  Our most important job while driving is identifying and avoiding hazards.
  • Yield to aggressive drivers.  Is a crash worth it just because you thought you had the “right of way?”  The right of way is to be given, not taken.  Never assume you have the right of way or that another driver is going to yield it to you.  Always be prepared to yield if necessary.


Distracted Driving Prevention

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is anything that diverts your attention away from driving. Safe driving requires your full attention. It is estimated that a driver makes an average of 200 decisions during every mile he or she drives. Adding unneeded tasks decreases the ability to recognize potential hazards in the road, often causing drivers to react more slowly to traffic conditions.

 Distracted Driving Hazards

According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration in 2018 alone, 2,841 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving creates serious and unneeded risk. By staying aware and vigilantly using prevention techniques, you can greatly reduce these risks. Your health and safety are important to us, we don’t want you to get hurt.


  • Plan your route before you go. Know how traffic and weather conditions might affect you and leave a little earlier. It will help you arrive at your destination with less stress and fewer distracting thoughts.
  • Pre-set the climate control, GPS, radio, or other devices; and identify the location of signals, wipers, and lights in the vehicle before you drive.
  • While driving, turn off your phone, set it on “do not disturb” mode, put the phone in a location to minimize the distraction and temptation of an incoming call or text.
  • Secure loose items and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you are not tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
  • When using a phone in a vehicle requires the use of your hands for more than one single touch, be sure to pull out of traffic and legally park before using the phone.
  • Hands-free devices are not risk-free. They still cause distractions and should be avoided. Use phones only for short, important conversations.
  • If you get lost, turned around or need to make major changes to your route, find a safe place to pull off the road to review and reorient.
  • Postpone complex or emotional conversations on the phone or with passengers until you arrive at your destination.
  • Constantly search the roadway for situations that could require you to take quick action.


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Drowsy Driving

Some of you may have felt the symptoms of drowsy driving: decreased alertness, slower reaction time, nodding your head. Maybe you opened a window, hoping the fresh air would revive you or turned up the radio?

The National Traffic Safety Administration estimates that an average of 83,000 police-reported crashes are caused by fatigued drivers every year, resulting in nearly 37,000 injuries and 900 deaths. Approximately 1 million crashes annually are thought to be attributed to driver inattention or lapses.

Fatigue can make these lapses in attention more likely to occur. So please, pay attention to the risks related to driving while tired. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Who is at Risk?

  • If you are sleep deprived or fatigued, you are, of course, at risk. However, you are also at risk if you:
  • Drive alone
  • Drive long distances without rest breaks
  • Drive through the night or during the night
  • Have consumed alcohol or taken medication that induces drowsiness
  • Have untreated sleep apnea or narcolepsy or other sleep disorders
  • Work long or irregular hours, or your sleep is otherwise disrupted due to shift work

Signs of Drowsy Driving

  • Pay attention to the warning signs that you might be driving fatigued:
  • You have difficulty focusing or keeping your eyes open
  • You experience disconnected or wandering thoughts
  • You have trouble keeping your head up or jerk your head up
  • You drift from your lane or jerk your vehicle back
  • You miss an exit you were supposed to take
  • You can’t remember the last few miles you’ve driven


If you have experienced any of the above signs, you may actually have experienced microsleep. Microsleep is a short burst of sleep ranging in length from 1 second to 10 seconds. Often you don’t even realize you have experienced it.

Basically, your brain is so sleep deprived it is trying to force you to get some sleep. During a microsleep, you have a brief failure to respond to external stimuli.

Preventing Fatigue

  • One of the best ways to prevent fatigue is to get a good night’s rest. It is recommended that adults get at least seven to nine hours of good sleep a night. Here are some tips to help achieve a good night’s sleep:
  • Have a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day, even on days off.
  • Avoid eating large meals or consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime.
  • Try to keep your bedroom quiet and comfortable. Keep things quiet, dark and at a comfortable temperature. If working on night shifts, consider using blackout curtains to keep the bedroom dark.
  • Remove distracting electronics from the bedroom, such as TVs, computers and phones.
  • Engage in relaxing activities, such as reading, about an hour before bed. If possible, avoid electronics as the light from the screens of most devices engages the brain and makes sleeping difficult.
  • Use bright light to help manage circadian rhythms. Try to expose yourself to sunlight in the morning and avoid bright light before bed.
  • Get regular exercise during the day. It can help reduce stress and tire you out. Try to work stretching routines into your day. Stretching helps increase blood flow, which helps supply oxygen to our muscles and brain.
  • Speak with your doctor about getting screened for sleeping disorders, such as sleep apnea, if you continue to have trouble sleeping.

In addition to getting good sleep:

  • If you are planning a long driving trip, consider taking a companion who can help keep you awake and look for signs of drowsiness.
  • If you are on a long trip, schedule regular stops, every 100 miles or two hours.
  • If you are experiencing the signs of drowsy driving, pull off to a safe area away from traffic and take a brief 15 to 20 minute nap if possible.
  • Avoid alcohol and medications that may impair performance. Alcohol combined with fatigue can increase its negative effects—just like drinking on an empty stomach.

Although not an adequate replacement for sleep, caffeinated beverages can be of limited help. Keep in mind that it can take up to 30 minutes for caffeine to enter the bloodstream and have an effect.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the signs of drowsy driving?
  • What are some ways we can prevent drowsy driving?
  • What else can we do to get more sleep?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Fire Prevention

Fortunately, accidental fires are a rare occurrence in our member counties and agencies. It is easy to forget how dangerous and destructive accidental fires are. This safety minute provides you some general tips and reminders to help prevent accidental fires.

  • Do not store combustible materials near an ignition source. Furnace and mechanical rooms should not be used to store combustible materials. 
  • Smoking should be permitted only in designated areas free of combustible materials. Butts should be placed in the designated receptacles.  (Smoking bans are another option.)
  • If space heaters are allowed in your workplace, ensure it has a safety switch that shuts it off if it falls over.
  • Keep all combustible materials at least 3 feet from space heaters. Place space heaters on a nonflammable surface like ceramic tile.
  • Turn off and unplug space heaters when not in use. Space heaters should be plugged directly into an outlet.
  • Do not allow candles in the workplace.
  • Do not overload outlets or circuits. Inspect electrical cords and replace if damaged or frayed.
  • Install and regularly test smoke alarms.
  • Inspect portable fire extinguishers monthly to ensure they are fully charged and accessible.
  • Inspect storage and office areas to ensure nothing is stacked within 18 inches of a sprinkler head.
  • Emergency evacuation plans should be displayed and drills held annually. This should be included in new employee orientation as well.


General Ergonomics


Ergonomics is the science of adapting a workstation, process or equipment to the individual to prevent injuries, mistakes and frustration. Essentially the process of ergonomics makes the workstation, task or equipment work better for a particular employee.

Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards can lead to strains or injuries to muscles and tendons. These injuries are often costly and take a long time to recover from and once injured, you are much more likely to reinjure the area in the future. Fortunately, with a focus on ergonomics, most of these injuries can be prevented. Your health and safety is important to us, we don’t want you to get hurt.


Prevention efforts rely on adopting neutral postures. These postures put minimum strain on the body. Frequent breaks or limiting the time spent in awkward postures or activities can also help prevent ergonomic injuries.


[Instructor prompt:  Safely demonstrate the following using a small, lightweight box]

  • Plan the lift. Think before lifting about how to do it easier. Think about the path you will take and whether you’ll need help. Clear the path of obstacles to prevent tripping.
  • Get help when lifting heavy or bulky items or when lifting multiple items.
  • Bend at the knees rather than the waist.
  • Face the load and do not twist.
  • Keep the load close to your body, directly in front.
  • Lift with slow, continuous pressure. Avoid quick lifts.
  • Store items between waist and shoulder height. This is especially important with heavy or unwieldy items. Give yourself plenty of space to lift so you have room to lift properly.
  • Use carts or lifting devices to lift and carry loads.
  • Maintain a clear line of sight to where you are stepping to avoid obstacles.
  • Eliminate lifts entirely when possible.
  • Use hands and knees to build a bridge to support weight. [Instructor prompt: The photo to the right shows how the left arm is supporting some of the weight, demonstrate this technique.]


  • Push, rather than pull, whenever possible.
  • Plan the route. Move items out of the path.
  • Get help for large items.
  • Use spotters when needed.


  • Use the proper tool for the job. Tools with longer handles can help avoid pinch grips or manipulating a tool with only two or three fingers. Angled handles can help with awkward or uncomfortable wrist postures. Wrists should be as straight as possible.
  • Wear vibration-resistant gloves or other personal protective equipment when working with tools or vibrating equipment.
  • Select tools with comfortably padded handles to avoid uncomfortable pressure on palms or hands.
  • [Instructor prompt: Ask if there are tools in use that are awkward or uncomfortable to use.]


  • For computer work, the work surface height should be slightly below elbow height when standing. This avoids hunching.
  • Objects of frequent use should be placed within easy reach.
  • Raising a foot on a footrest or raised platform can help rest legs and ease discomfort.


Take frequent breaks and stretch as necessary (see images). Stop if you feel pain.

  • If injuries develop, stop immediately and report the incident to a supervisor or manager.

Discussion Questions

What activities present the greatest ergonomic risks and how can we address them?

Lead the group in a selection of stretches.


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Hearing Loss Prevention

Noise-induced Hearing Loss

It can be a noisy world, from equipment, entertainment, the workplace, and recreation, we are often exposed to loud noises. [Instructor Prompt: Ask the class to offer other examples of equipment they use or areas in the workplace that offer long-term exposure to noise]

Loud noises can damage structures within the ear, causing permanent damage. Further exposures can cause additional damage, leading to cumulative effects that accelerate natural hearing loss due to aging. There is currently no medical procedure that can fix this damage, and hearing aids do not restore lost hearing.

Long-term exposure to loud noises can lead to gradually diminished hearing. This gradual hearing loss can happen so slowly that individuals often do not notice the hearing loss until the damage is done.

Other times this hearing loss can occur quickly from extremely loud events, such as explosions, gunfire, or other loud noises near the ear.

Although there are multiple causes of hearing loss that we often cannot control, we can limit our exposure to noise and make efforts to protect our hearing. So please pay attention; your health and safety are important to us. We don’t want you to get injured.

Preventing Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Identifying noises that are loud enough to cause injury can be difficult. Potentially injurious noises are generally defined as those greater than 85 decibels for a specific amount of time. [Instructor Note: See examples on the next page, but be aware these are approximate.] Consider the following methods to help prevent hearing loss both on and off the job:

  • Identify sources of loud noises: snowmobile, lawnmowers, firearms, power tools, etc.
  • Avoid loud sounds whenever possible or minimize your time around them.
  • Turn down sound levels when possible.
  • Use hearing protection when other measures are unavailable or not feasible to control sound.
  • Work with an audiologist or doctor.


80-90 Decibels 100+ Decibels
Hand Drill Snow Blower
Push Mower Leaf Blower
Gas Trimmer Chain Saw
Air Compressor Circular Saw
Shop Vac Car Horn


Wearing Hearing Protection

[Instructor Note: Personal protective equipment is the last line of defense and other methods should be pursued prior to resorting to hearing protection.]

A common method to help prevent hearing loss is to wear hearing protection. When using hearing protection, it is important to follow the directions for use. Improperly worn hearing protection does not offer the indicated levels of protection. [Instructor Prompt: Discuss personal protection equipment and when it should be worn and areas where specific hearing protection is required.]

One of the most common types of hearing protection are disposable foam ear plugs. To wear this type of ear plug properly, please follow the next steps. [Instructor Prompt: Demonstrate to the class how to use these ear plugs. Have your team follow along. Inform employees where they can access hearing protection. See pictures at]

  • Squeeze the foam plug to compress it to make it easier to fit within the ear. As ear canal sizes vary, please select the size of plug that fits best for you.
  • Grab the top curve of the ear with the opposite hand. For example, use the left hand to grab the right top of the ear.
  • Pull the ear upward to straighten the ear canal.
  • Push the compressed foam plug into the ear and wait for it to expand before removing your finger holding it in. Be sure to do this prior to entering a noisy area or conducting noisy work.
  • The length of time to hold it in the ear varies by manufacturer, but it is recommended to wait at least 10 seconds to give the plugs a chance to expand.
  • After the ear plug expands to fit the ear canal, do the same process with the other ear.

When finished with the noisy environment or task, take the ear plugs out and dispose of them. Do not reuse disposable ear plugs.

Discussion Questions

What are your greatest noise exposures at work?

How else can we limit our exposure to loud noise?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust


We’re not talking about the hardworking folks that prepare hotel rooms between guests, we’re talking about one of the most important topics when it comes to maintaining a safe workplace.  Effective workplace housekeeping reduces the number of hazards employees are exposed to, resulting in fewer injuries and a healthier, happier and more productive workplace.  Housekeeping is everyone’s responsibility.


Reduce Fire Hazards

  • Do not store flammable materials near a heat source. Clean out your furnace/mechanical room, it should not be used for storage.
  • Inspect for and repair electrical hazards.
  • Store flammable liquids in an approved metal storage cabinet.
  • Change clothing if it becomes contaminated with a flammable liquid
  • Keep passageways and fire doors free of obstructions. Keep all items at least 18 inches away from automatic sprinklers, fire extinguishers and sprinkler controls.

Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls 

  • Clean up spills, leaks and tracked in moisture immediately.
  • Keep walkways clear of items; sweep and mop regularly.
  • Replace worn, ripped or damaged flooring.
  • Install mats at entrances to absorb and capture moisture and dirt. Replace mats if the edges or corners curl.
  • Use warning signs when floors are wet.
  • Inspect and mop entrances frequently when conditions warrant.

Clear Clutter 

  • Do not store items on the stairs.
  • Return tools and items to storage when finished using them.
  • Maintain a tidy workstation.
  • Dispose of items that are no longer needed.
  • Empty trash receptacles frequently.
  • Ensure electrical panels are unobstructed – 36 inches in each direction.
  • Clean out vehicles after each use.
Incident/Accident/Injury Reporting

There are many reasons incidents go unreported– “wasn’t me,” “not my job,” pride, fear of punishment, unsure of the process, etc. There are many more, and more important, reasons that all incidents should be reported. This safety minute will discuss the reasons you should report all incidents, accidents, injuries and near-misses that occur in your workplace.

Your Own Protection

It is human nature to not want to draw attention to ourselves if we are injured.  A very common occurrence is someone strains their back at work.  It happens to everyone and usually it gets better on its own.  They decide not to tell anyone and not to seek treatment, hoping that an icepack or heating pad, ibuprofen and some rest will fix everything.  It bothers them on and off for a while until they can’t take it anymore and seek medical treatment.  They tell the doctor it happened at work, can’t remember when or how and no one else at work can verify.  They have just put themselves in a position to possibly have a workers’ compensation claim that may not be compensable.  They are unable to document that the injury occurred at work, which may result in a denial of benefits.  Do yourself a favor and report every injury to your supervisor, no matter how small it may seem.  If you’re injured, file a workers’ compensation claim, you don’t have to seek treatment, but you’ll be able to document when and how it happened if you seek treatment in the future.

The Protection of Others

Incidents need to be reported so others can learn from them and prevent reoccurrence.  This includes any type of incident, from a minor property claims to serious injuries to near misses.  These incidents are reported so they can be investigated, the investigation is analyzed, and the information learned is shared with others.  This process allows everyone to learn how to prevent a similar incident from occurring again. 


Incidents that are not reported are not investigated.  Investigations serve two purposes, prevention and protection from liability.  Any event that leads to injuries could result in a claim being made against a NIRMA member.  The initial investigation could make or break the defense of such a claim.  It is far too common that incidents go unreported and uninvestigated leading to an ineffective defense because of the lack of information. 

Please Report and Investigate All Incidents, Accidents and Injuries!


Ladder Safety


  • Inspect your ladder prior to use. Check rails and rungs for damage. Ensure step ladders have two spreaders that function properly. Ensure the fly section of the ladder extends and locks into place. Discard and destroy any damaged ladder.
  • Make sure feet are on a level and stable surface and that spreaders are fully extended and locked into place (step ladders).
  • Identify and stay at least 10 feet from energized electrical conductors.
  • Always maintain three points of contact. Either two hands and one foot or two feet and one hand. Always face the ladder.
  • Follow the “belt buckle” rule. Ensure that your belt buckle area stays between the rails of the ladder and never past the top rung. This keeps your center of gravity between the rails and prevents overreaching.
  • Ensure that the ladder is rated to support the weight of the user.
  • Utilize the 4:1 rule. For every 4 feet of elevation, move the base of the ladder 1 foot away from the wall.
  • Ladders should extend 3 feet from the leading edge and the top should be secured to keep it from tipping.


  • Don’t use a step ladder like an extension ladder. For example, do not lean it against the wall without the legs open and spreaders fully extended.
  • Don’t carry anything in your hand(s) while climbing up or down a ladder. Remember, three points of contact.
  • Never stand on the top two rungs of a step ladder. Remember the belt buckle rule.
  • Never use a ladder made of conductive material (aluminum) any where near energized electrical conductors or equipment.
  • Never place and use a ladder in front of a doorway. If you must, place barricades, warnings and spotters to ensure the user’s safety.


Managing Stress

According to Gallup, 79% of Americans feel stress “sometimes” or “frequently” during their day.  Stress can come from many sources: work, personal life, children, finances, medical issues, the list is countless.  How you choose to respond to stress plays a role in the impact stress will have on your health and well-being.  This safety minute will provide you with some ways to reduce the negative impact of stress.

Focus on Your Health

  • Exercise regularly, even if it is just taking a walk.
  • Eat healthy. Keep the comfort foods to a minimum.
  • Make time for the things you enjoy.
  • Get plenty of rest, shoot for at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Learn and practice a relaxation technique. Meditation, yoga or tai-chi are all believed to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Do not rely on alcohol, drugs, or other compulsive behaviors to reduce stress.

Get Assistance if Needed

  • Does your employer offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)? If so, reach out and see what resources they have.  Most offer assistance with family issues, financial problems, emotional problems, substance or alcohol abuse.
  • Speak with a friend or family member. Sometimes a good talk is what you need.  It helps when you find out other people are dealing with the same feelings.  Lean on them for support.
  • Professional help is always an option. There are health care experts that are specifically trained to help people work through their stress.  Therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists can help with stress and anxiety.  Your mental health and well-being are just as important as physical health and well-being.

Be Proactive

  • Uncertainty is a huge source of stress. The more you know about something the more prepared you become.  Learn all you can about whatever it is that is causing your stress.  Being prepared is a much better feeling that uncertainty.
  • Set limits appropriately and learn to say no to requests that will increase stress.
  • Learn to manage your time.
  • Face the cause of your stress. Ignoring your stressors is tempting, this is more likely to make it worse.  Focus on and address the things you can control and work from there.



Mobile Device Security

When you think of cyber security don’t forget your mobile devices. Phones, tablets, laptops, even thumb drives. Protecting your employer from data breaches and malware must be done in and out of the office. Did you know that there is such a thing as Android mobile ransomware? This safety minute will provide you with ways to maintain security while using various devices outside of the office.

Mobile Device Hazards

  • Lost and stolen equipment can lead to breaches of Personal Identifying Information (PII) and other valuable data.
  • Keep in mind that any mobile device (phone, tablet, laptop) connected to the Internet can be affected by viruses and malware.
  • If those devices are also connected to your office network and servers, this could provide hackers with an opportunity to access your employer’s data.

How to Protect Your Mobile Devices

  • Regularly update your operating system and apps.
  • Use relevant built-in security features that allow you to track your phone and remotely erase data in case you cannot recover your device.
  • Avoid connecting to unsecured Wi-Fi networks by turning off your automatic Wi-Fi connection feature on your phone or tablet. If connecting is necessary, avoid logging into key accounts or financial services. 
  • Disable Bluetooth when not in use.
  • Download Apps from trusted sources.
  • Set automatic locks on mobile devices. Ensure the device locks automatically and is protected by a strong password.  Biometric authentication features such as fingerprint scanner or facial recognition makes unlocking the device more convenient and makes it more secure.
  • Know your county or agencies mobile device policies and procedures. If your county does not have a mobile device security policy one is available on the eRisk Hub under Mobile Computing Policy.


Needle Sticks & Sharps Injuries

Hazards of Sharps

Used needles and other sharps are dangerous to people and pets if not used and disposed of safely. Contaminated sharps can spread infections that cause serious health conditions. Some of the most common pathogens potentially transmitted through contaminated sharps are hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Needle sticks and sharps injuries can be serious, but we can control and minimize the risks with prevention techniques, proper preparation and understanding. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

 Sharps Use

When using needles, remember the following best practices to avoid a needle stick:

  • Do not recap needles. It is too easy to miss the needle with the cap and poke a finger.
  • Always use needle safety devices when available every time. [Instructor Prompt: Demonstrate the proper use of a needle safety device (if available).]
  • Use needleless devices when available.
  • Always pay attention to your surroundings and others when using needles. Many needle sticks occur when the patient moves unexpectedly or when sharps are disposed of improperly.
  • Dispose of the needles in an approved sharps container; never dispose of a needle in the garbage.

 Sharps Containers

Poor sharps disposal practices cause or contribute to many sharps injuries. Disposing of needles or contaminated sharps in garbage cans, recycling bins or flushing them down the toilet puts trash workers, janitors, sewage workers, housekeepers, household members, children, and pets at risk of injury. Instead, dispose of needles or sharps in a sharps container.

A sharps container is designed to hold needles or other sharps and are marked with the biohazard symbol. [Instructor Prompt: Have an empty box to remind people of the appearance. Also, demonstrate how safely to add a sharp to the box. Tell the class where the boxes are located or ask employees to tell the locations and correct as needed.]

  • Keep the sharps containers out of the reach of children.
  • Do not empty one sharps container into another
  • Do not overfill the sharps container. Many needle stick injuries occur when someone tries to overfill a container. If a container is full, please make sure you report it to have it changed.

Needle Sticks or Sharps Injury

If you experience a needle stick or sharps injury or are exposed to blood or other body fluid:

  • Wash puncture or cuts with soap and water.
  • Flush the nose, mouth, or skin with water if there is a splash.
  • Irrigate eyes with clean water, saline or sterile irrigates for eye exposure.
  • Report the incident to your supervisor.
  • Seek medical treatment.

 Discussion Questions

  • How else can we prevent or reduce the risk of sharps injuries?
  • What do we do if we experience a needle stick or sharps injury?
  • What locations have sharps containers, and what other places may need them that do not have them?
  • How do we report full sharps containers to be replaced?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Password Security

Most people don’t realize that there are a multitude of different techniques used by hackers to crack your password.  The beauty is that the strength of your password is up to you.  Nowadays, it is common for websites to have their own minimum requirements for your password, this keeps us from getting lazy.  Passwords are one of the daily nuisances that you need to take seriously and learn to appreciate.  This safety minute will discuss what makes a secure password and some behaviors to avoid.


How to Create a Secure Password

  • Do not use the same password on multiple accounts.
  • Do not share passwords with anyone.
  • Use three to five of the following character classes
    • Lower case letters
    • Upper case letters
    • Numbers
    • Punctuation
    • Special characters (@#$%^&*)
  • Use at least eight characters to create your password
  • Create passwords that are easy to remember but hard to guess.
    • “To be or not to be?” – 2b-or-Not~2B?
  • Never use personal information. No birthdays or kid’s names.
  • Change them periodically.
  • Consider using a password manager.
  • Do not use the “save password” or “remember me” function.
  • If the site you are logging into has a password strength analyzer, use it to your advantage.


Personal Protective Equipment

Personal protective equipment, also called PPE, refers to equipment such as gloves, safety glasses, high-visibility vests, hearing protection and other pieces of wearable safety equipment. [Instructor prompt: Ask the team for additional examples].

PPE is often the last line of defense to prevent an injury in the workplace; however, it is only effective if used correctly and properly maintained. So please pay attention. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.


As already mentioned, PPE is only effective if it is used correctly. Safety glasses won’t help you if you have them on your forehead. There are many reasons people may not wear PPE, such as discomfort, wrong size, cleanliness, lost or missing, or simple inconvenience.

If the issue is comfort or size, please let [designee or your supervisor] know and work with you to find a size or style that is more comfortable. If you are unaware of where the required PPE is stored also, please see [designee or your supervisor], and we can make sure you know.

Keep your PPE clean and in good condition. If it becomes dirty or damaged, tell [designee or your supervisor], and we can get it cleaned or replaced.

As for inconvenience, remember the so-called inconvenience of using PPE is often far less than the inconvenience of an injury that could have been prevented by taking just a bit more time. The PPE is provided for a reason, and that reason is to help keep you safe. Choosing not to use it puts your health and future quality of life at risk. Don’t put your friends, family and loved ones in that position. It can also put you in the position for potential disciplinary action.

PPE Training and Limitations

Everyone should be familiar with how properly to wear, store and maintain their PPE. If anyone has any questions about their PPE, please talk to [designee or your supervisor] and find out.

PPE also does not make you invulnerable. You can still be seriously injured even if wearing and using PPE properly. PPE is the last line of defense, not the only line of defense. You must still follow safe work practices.

Not all PPE is designed to protect against all hazards. For example, gloves may be thick to protect hands from cuts and scrapes, but not be waterproof to protect against chemicals or leaks. Specific respirators may protect against particulates but be ineffective against chemicals. Be sure to know the limitations of whatever PPE you are currently using.

PPE Storage and Maintenance

Always be familiar with manufacturer recommendations for storage, expiration and maintenance. Storing protective glasses in the open, for example, can get them covered with dirt and other contaminants that may limit vision or make wearing them uncomfortable. The same is true with respirators or other devices that are designed to filter irritants or hazardous objects.

Some forms PPE when stored in direct sunlight for extended periods may cause additional damage and decrease their effectiveness.

If multiple brands, styles, or manufacturers are used to supply PPE, it is important to be familiar with whatever is in use.

 Discussion Questions

  • What activities do we do that require the use of PPE?
  • What can we do to address damaged or missing PPE?
  • How else can we encourage and remind people consistently to wear PPE?
  • How do we know when to replace PPE?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Phishing and Social Engineering

Social engineering is the art of deceiving, manipulating or influencing a person into sharing information or taking action that is not in their best interest or the best interest of their organization. The social engineer will then use the sensitive information for nefarious purposes or to gain access to your network and install viruses or malware. Ransomware attacks are becoming more prevalent and organizations are forced to pay a ransom to recover access to their data. Local government has become a target of hackers. This safety minute will help you identify and avoid phishing attacks.

Types of Attacks

Phishing is email-based social engineering targeting an organization. Spear Phishing is similar, but it is aimed at a specific person or role.

USB attacks are when a person uses a thumb drive to install malware on your computer. This can be done in person if your computer is left unsecured or they can simply leave thumb drive lying around near a business and hope someone plugs it in to see what is on it.

Tailgating is when a hacker bypasses physical security by following an authorized person inside.

Text-based social engineering is referred to as Smishing, while over-the-phone-based social engineering is referred to as Vishing.

Red Flags

Red flags are signs of danger or that something is wrong. Trust your gut instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, don’t click the link, don’t download the item, don’t open the attachment. Call the sender to verify. We are going to cover some common red flags that occur in social engineering emails.

An email from an address you do not recognize or an email from a person you recognize but the email is unexpected or out of character.

You are one of multiple people copied on an email and you don’t recognize any of the other people it was sent to.

An email you normally receive during business hours was sent in the middle of the night and the person sending it has never sent you an email at that time.

The subject of the email does not match the content of the message or is irrelevant. It’s an email about something you never requested or a receipt for something you didn’t purchase. The subject line simply says “Re:”. Again, trust your instincts.

Look very closely at hyperlinks for misspellings or for a hyperlink asking you to take an action. When you hover your cursor over the hyperlink, the link address is for a different website.

The sender is asking you to click on a link or open an attachment. The email is asking you to look at a compromising or embarrassing picture of yourself of someone you know. You have an uncomfortable feeling, or it just seems wrong. Again, trust your instincts.

Any attachments that you were not expecting or are included in an email containing any of the red flags listed above.

We’ve all heard the term a “culture of safety.” Cyber security experts are now recommending a “culture of security.” What they mean is this, from now on we need to scrutinize every email we get, look at each email as if it is a scam or a phishing attempt until we can prove that it isn’t. Before you click on any link, open an attachment, or download anything, you need to consider the fact that it could be malicious and act accordingly.


Portable Fire Extinguishers

The most common type of extinguisher utilized in the workplace is the ABC dry chemical. Portable fire extinguishers are named and labeled for the types of fires they are designed to extinguish. An ABC dry chemical extinguisher is designed to extinguish a fire that is fueled by class A, B or C materials. The purpose of this safety minute is to familiarize you with the ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher and then to cover when and how to use one.

Class A fires consist of ordinary combustible materials such as cardboard, paper, wood, dried vegetation, trash.   Basically, anything that leaves an ash after it has burned.

Class B fires consist of flammable and combustible liquids, such as gasoline, diesel, oil, oil-based paints, and many solvents.

Class C fires consist of fires that involve appliances, tools, and other equipment that is plugged in or otherwise electrically energized, as well as fires burning near electrically energized equipment.

Only Fight a Fire If

  • It is small and contained
  • You are safe from toxic smoke
  • You have a means of escape
  • Your instincts tell you it is ok

How to use an extinguisher (PASS)

  • Pull the pin
  • Aim it at the base of the flames
  • Squeeze the operating lever
  • Sweep the nozzle or hose slowly from side to side until the fire is out

Portable fire extinguishers should be inspected monthly by the property owner to ensure they are not damaged, discharged or missing.  Extinguishers should be inspected annually by a vendor that can repair, recharge and recertify their readiness.


Procedures After a Traffic Accident


Although the number of traffic accidents can be reduced with careful and attentive driving, accidents can and will still occur. According to the Nebraska Department of Transportation, in Nebraska during 2019, there were 36,706 traffic crashes with 248 fatalities and 17,198 injuries.

With this in mind, it is important to briefly discuss what to do if you are involved in an auto accident. So please listen carefully, your health and safety are important to us; we want you to be prepared.

First Steps

The first step after an accident is if possible, to move the vehicle out of traffic to a safe location and turn off the engine.  If you can leave the vehicles where they came to rest until law enforcement arrives this will allow them to perform a more detailed investigation.  Do not leave the scene of the accident!  Then ensure that you and others receive necessary medical attention.  This will likely involve calling 911 for an ambulance or other emergency response.

Notify law enforcement so that they can investigate the crash and file a report.  Failing to notify law enforcement can result in a he said/she said situation with no independent opinion as to fault or cause.

Exchanging Information

After an auto accident, drivers must exchange contact and insurance information. When exchanging details, do not admit fault, as additional information may prove otherwise. Avoid making any statements that could be misunderstood, misinterpreted, or used against you.

The key information to gather is:

  • Name, address, and contact details
  • Driver’s license number(s)
  • License plate number(s)
  • Auto insurance information

Whenever possible, it is recommended to get the contact information from nearby witnesses and to photograph the scene of the accident, including damage and conditions. [Instructor Note: Make note of any policies regarding use of entity-provided mobile phones or devices for taking pictures.] Remember to note the date, time, conditions, and verbal statements made by the other parties involved.

Do not rely on law enforcement to gather this information for you, but do not hinder first responders to gather this information. Obtaining medical attention and the safety of the accident scene should take precedent. [Instructor Note: Discuss the organization’s policy about responding to the press.]

If you hit an unoccupied vehicle, you must attempt to locate the owner and follow the procedures we just discussed. If unsuccessful, you may leave a note indicating the following:

  • Your name and contact information
  • Brief description of the accident


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving in Nebraska can go from dry roads to 100% snow and ice in very little time. This safety minute will cover what we should do to our vehicle, what we should have in our vehicle and tips for driving on snow and ice-covered roads.

Winter Vehicle Preparedness

  • Check coolant/anti-freeze level.
  • Check wiper fluid level.
  • Check condition and function of battery.
  • Inspect tires for wear and proper inflation.
  • Replace worn wiper blades.
  • Ensure all lights function properly.

Emergency Preparedness

  • Stock vehicle with warm clothing, hat, gloves, boots and a warm blanket.
  • Maintain not less than one-half tank of fuel.
  • Flashlight and batteries.
  • First aid kit.
  • Small shovel.
  • Gravel or kitty litter for traction.
  • Cell phone and charger.

Winter Driving

  • Clear ice and snow from entire windshield and lights.
  • Remove as much ice and snow as possible from all other vehicle surfaces.
  • Decrease speed and increase following distance to match road conditions.
  • Do not use cruise control on wet or icy roads.
  • Monitor road conditions and temperature when possible.
  • Reduce speed over bridges as they freeze before other road surfaces.
  • Use headlights whenever you use your windshield wipers.
  • Check road conditions before leaving and give yourself extra time to arrive at your destination.
  • Don’t hesitate to cancel or postpone a trip if road conditions warrant.


Severe Weather

Severe Weather and Hazards

When people think about severe weather in Nebraska, tornadoes are often the first that come to mind. Lightning, hail and damaging winds are also examples of severe weather common to the state. All severe weather can be dangerous or damaging with some single events causing high-dollar losses and multiple deaths.

Luckily, we can minimize the threats of severe weather with some planning and following best safety practices. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Watches and Warnings

Watches and warnings often accompany tornadoes and other severe weather. A watch means that conditions are favorable for severe weather to form. A warning means that severe weather has occurred nearby. A third warning may also include a tornado emergency. This is used only for the most powerful tornadoes approaching heavily populated areas.


Prevention efforts are different depending on the specific weather conditions, but all involve taking steps to be aware of the weather and situation. Situational awareness begins when you focus your attention on the weather forecast. Take note of any watches and consider what you would do in case of an emergency.

Also, when under a watch, continue to be aware of changing weather conditions. [Instructor Prompt: Discuss usage of weather radios or allowable phone applications or weather alerts specific to your employees. Remind them to have them available and in working order when under a severe weather watch or warning.]

In any warning situation, seek shelter immediately. Remember the following best practices if you encounter severe weather events when you are either indoors or outside.



  • If you hear thunder, it is best to stay indoors and avoid using corded electrical equipment or leaning against metal support structures for a facility.


  • Take shelter inside, in a sturdy building away from windows.
  • Avoid putting yourself at risk by going outside to protect property from hail.



  • It is not safe to be outside during a tornado. If possible, move to a sturdy structure and into an interior room either below ground or on the lowest level away from windows.
  • If trapped outdoors away from buildings, make a quick assessment to ensure you are not sheltering under power lines or other hazardous conditions. Then find the lowest lying area nearby and lay flat facedown with your hands over your head. You may also take shelter in your car and hide below the steering wheel. Neither of these situations is ideal and should only be used as a last resort.
  • Avoid sheltering under overpasses or bridges. These places put people at greater risk for injuries.
  • Do not try to outrun a tornado in a car; traffic jams or downed trees or power lines can stop a car and leave no other methods of escape.


  • If outdoors, move to interior shelter as quickly as possible.
  • Steel-shelled vehicles can offer protection but avoid making contact with the steel frame. Fiberglass, plastic or cloth tops do not offer protection against lightning.
  • Avoid taking shelter under trees or other tall objects.


  • When possible move inside to a room away from windows. Use an object to protect your head from hail until you get indoors.
  • If it is not possible to seek shelter indoors, find a car or other object to offer some overhead protection.
  • Trees or other objects can blow over in strong winds. Fixed sturdy structures or objects are the best protection.

When driving, depending on the severity of the storm, pull over safely and wait for the storm to pass. Be wary of nearby trees, telephone poles or other items that may fall.


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Shop Housekeeping

Reduce Slip Trip and Fall Hazards

  • Keep all walkways, stairways and door exits clear. Don’t leave cabinet doors or drawers opened into walkways.
  • Put away cords, hoses, and tools when not in use.
  • Cover or report holes that are open in the floor.
  • Monitor floor mats, carpets, and rugs for signs of wrinkling, curling and saturation.
  • Promptly clean up any spills or messes if you can do so safely. Promptly report blood or unknown spills.
  • Keep floors as dry and clean as possible.
  • Ensure drains are cleared so water will not pool.

Reduce Fire Hazards

  • Fire extinguishers, sprinklers, first-aid stations, automated external defibrillators (AEDs), eyewash stations and electrical panels must be left unobstructed.
    • Electrical panels must have at least 36 inches of clearance in front of the panel and 36 inches clearance to each side.
  • Avoid storing items in boiler or mechanical rooms.
  • Avoid placing combustible materials near spark-generating equipment and heat sources.
  • Store flammables in a flammable cabinet or flammable storage room and keep doors closed. Keep flammables away from stairs and exit paths.
  • Dispose of oily, paint-soaked, or other flammable waste into approved, covered metal waste receptacles.

Reduce Other Hazards

  • When storing items, ensure that the material is stable and not protruding from shelves.
  • Ensure storage on mezzanines is stable and protected from falling.
  • Maintain clearance around air intake vents.

Put trash in appropriate containers. Keep desk, breakroom, and work areas clean.


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Speaking Up For Safety


You’ve probably heard the phrase, “If you see something, say something” on signs at the airport. The same is true in the workplace. After serious workplace injuries, the investigation often reveals that various hazards, unsafe behaviors, near misses and even minor injuries were not reported. Had they been reported, the hazards could have been addressed and the serious injury could have been avoided.

Communication is vital to preventing injuries and maintaining a safe work environment. Silence prevents this communication. So please speak up. Your safety and health are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Combatting Silence

There are many reasons people may choose to remain quiet rather than alerting others about safety hazards and behaviors. Let’s talk about some of the most common reasons and why they should be avoided:

  • Concern of getting others in trouble.
    • To help avoid this, be sure first to tell the person of your concerns. This can give your co-worker the opportunity to refrain from unsafe acts or to understand the reason behind safe work practices.
    • If this does not work, reporting to management can help keep that particular individual safe, as well as other co-workers and the public.
  • Fear of being seen as troublesome: Some are concerned about being labeled as a complainer or of “rocking the boat.” Also, some people will avoid reporting minor injuries for similar reasons or from the thought that a certain amount of pain is part of the job.
    • Turning a blind eye to hazards or unsafe actions does not help anyone and only increases the likelihood of accidents or injuries in the future. There are no repercussions for reporting unsafe actions or behaviors.
    • You are not expected to ignore injuries and push through. Small injuries can grow into larger ones and are much easier to deal with if handled early. Be sure to report so we can address those injuries or hazards early.
    • [Instructor Note: Hazards need not be reported in person. E-mail, forms or other options can make the process more anonymous. See what options work well for your organization. If these measures are available, try to keep the reporter anonymous.]
  • Not my job: Some feel it is not their responsibility to voice concerns and that supervisors should be responsible for observing safety hazards and behaviors.
    • Remember everyone has the responsibility to be their own safety advocate and report safety hazards. It is everyone’s responsibility to work safely and look out for each other and the public.
  • Unsure how to report or difficulty reporting: Some people may want to report but do not know how or may find the system too complicated or time consuming to use.
    • Reporting can be as simple as just letting [me/your supervisor] know about a possible hazard. [Instructor Prompt: Other reporting procedures should be discussed here.]
  • Not recognizing the hazard: Sometimes hazards are not reported because employees do not recognize them.
    • If you are unsure about whether something is a hazard, it is always best to assume it is. Trust your gut. Feel free to ask if something is hazardous or could be done more safely. You may identify a new hazard or safer way to complete a task.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some barriers to communicating about safety issues?
  • How can we help improve the safety hazard reporting process?
  • What are the most common unsafe acts to watch for?
  • How can we bring up safety concerns to each other in a non-accusatory way?
    • “Let me help you lift that. Let’s do a team lift.”
    • “That looks heavy/awkward; let’s get a cart to move it.”
    • “I’ll get you some safety glasses.”
    • “Let’s put the guard on that machine before we use it.”


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Snow Removal

Sidewalk and Stair Snow Removal

  • Ensure walks and stairs are clear before employees arrive.
  • Remember to clean out curb cuts again after the streets are plowed.
  • Document when snow removal started and when it was completed. Document how much ice melt was used and where.
  • If snowfall continues, reinspect and remove snow to keep up with the storm.
  • Clear all entrances and exits of snow and ice. Even if not used, all exits should be clear of snow in the event of an evacuation.
  • Slip and fall incidents commonly result in workers’ compensation and liability claims. Thorough snow and ice removal, along with detailed documentation, is very important.

Parking Lot Snow Removal

  • Parking lots can be troublesome if you must work around vehicles. But remember that employees and customers must be able to get safely from their vehicles to the sidewalks. 
  • Document parking lot snow removal as well as ice melt usage, to include location and amount.

Shoveling Tips

  • Use good posture, stand up straight and ensure your head, neck and spine are in alignment.
  • Walk toward the snow until the shovel is full. When moving snow, turn your entire body by pivoting on your feet, do not twist at the waist and throw the snow.
  • Do not throw snow over your shoulder or to the side, carry it in front of you.
  • Snow pushers are excellent for light snow or small snow accumulation.
  • Start shoveling early if the forecast is for heavy snow. It is easier to lighter snow twice than heavier snow once.
  • If at any time you experience chest pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing and immediately seek medical attention.


Storage Tips

Storage Hazards

When storing items, take care to reduce hazards. Hazards can range from falling items; unstable storage racks; strains from lifting, twisting, or reaching; obstruction; and tripping exposures. Although storage might seem simple, if we don’t give it careful thought, these hazards can become severe.

Fortunately, these risks can be safely controlled. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Storage Tips and Best Practices

  • Always use a step stool or ladder to store or retrieve items that are kept at height. Do not use chairs or boxes or climb on the shelves. [Instructor prompt: Ask employees if there are any storage rooms or locations without an easily accessible step stool or ladder. Once reported, make sure one is provided inside or nearby.]
  • Make sure shelves, racks, cabinets, and stored items are secure. Tipping shelves, cabinets or falling items can cause serious injury and damage equipment. [Instructor prompt: ask about storage that may be tippy or methods to secure storage and reporting of unsafe storage.]
  • When storing items, be aware of fire sprinklers. Items positioned too close to them can affect their operation. Maintain at least 18 inches of clearance below sprinkler heads.
  • Position heavy or bulky items lower on the shelves to improve stability and reduce lifting or twisting hazards.
  • Avoid storing heavy or awkward items above shoulder height.
  • When lifting storing or retrieving an object:
    • Plan the route and ask for help if you need someone to hold doors or assist with the lift.
    • Face the load and bend at the knees rather than the waist.
    • Avoid twisting. Instead pivot your feet to change directions.
    • Lift with slow continuous pressure, rather than quick lifts.
    • Carry the lift close to your body directly in front of you if you can see where you are going.
    • Use hands or knees to build a bridge for additional support and to take weight off your back for small items. [Instructor prompt: view the image to the right and model it or have an employee get up and demonstrate the technique.]
  • Use carts or other devices when moving large amounts of materials. This reduces the strain on your body. But don’t overload the cart to where you cannot see the path ahead.
  • Items frequently accessed should be positioned in an easy to reach area.
  • Avoid storing items that protrude into walkways. If it is unavoidable, reduce the hazard with cushioning, flagging or other means.
  • Sharp edges protruding into walkways should be guarded, rounded down or otherwise addressed to prevent cuts. If unable to correct the hazard, it should be reported.
  • Emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, eyewash stations, first-aid kits, electrical panels and disconnects must be kept clear and unobstructed. Blocking these safety devices can affect their operation and delay response in an emergency.
    • Electrical panels must have at least 36 inches of clearance in front and 30 inches wide or the width of the panel, whichever is larger.
  • Avoid storing items in boiler or mechanical rooms. These rooms often contain equipment, electrical breaker panels or other devices that require clear space around them so staff can tend to the equipment.
    • Storing items in these rooms can also increase the hazards for slips, trips, and falls and delay responses in the event of an emergency in addition to increasing the fire risk.


Maintaining safe storage is everyone’s responsibility. If you see something that seems wrong, fix it, or report it to a supervisor or member of management to address the hazard.


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Take Your Time For Safety

Being in a hurry to complete tasks is something to which everyone can relate. However, rushing increases the risks of mistakes and of skipping important steps. Numerous injuries can be traced to being in a hurry.

Rushing also can result in having to do the task again, which means that it actually made the task take longer. We’d rather have you take your time and do the job safely the first time. So please pay attention. Your safety and health are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Risks of Rushing Your Work

Let’s discuss some of the potential consequences of rushing:

  • It reduces focus on what you are doing. Your mind may be on other things, rather than on what you are doing at the moment. This can lead to making simple mistakes.
  • Hurrying increases the risk of injury to yourself and others, especially when taking shortcuts. The same is true with the use of personal protective equipment and other safety tools and equipment. Just because it may take a few moments to find and don safety glasses, for example, does not mean it is the appropriate to skip the step for the sake of quickly completing a task. Please do not take shortcuts.
  • Using equipment outside of their intended purposes is another way haste creeps into our work. Sometimes it takes time to retrieve the right tool for the job. Just because a rolling chair is close does not mean it is the right item to stand on to retrieve something from a high shelf. Using what is on hand to complete a task in a hurry can greatly increase risk. Be sure to use the correct tools, such as a step stool or ladder, for the job.
  • Often the last step of any task is cleaning up the work area and may be left undone. Poor housekeeping increases the chance of slips, trips, and falls, can block important routes of egress and make it difficult to find items. Take the time to put tools and materials away properly and clean up any spills.

[Instructor Note: Poor housekeeping can be a great indicator of rushed work and/or complacency, as well as other safety concerns. Consider reviewing the complacency Take a Minute and the housekeeping Take a Minute with staff.]

  • As with other hazards, rushing to complete a task may not have any immediate negative outcomes. This lack of consequence can then make rushing seem less risky and further encourage doing so in the future. This can build over time and makes the process less safe the more complacency builds.

So, to prevent yourself and others from getting hurt, I want you to take your time, follow all the steps for the task and work safely. Spending a bit more time in the short term often saves time in the long run and helps keep yourself and others safe.

If there is some question as to the reason certain steps are included with a task or procedure, please ask. It is possible we can find a better way of doing things.


Discussion Questions

  • What are some of the tasks that run the greatest risk of rushing through them?
  • How can we overcome the temptation to hurry our work?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Trash Handling

Trash Handling Exposures

You might not think something as simple as taking out the trash could be hazardous. However, there is always the potential for cuts or blood borne pathogen exposure caused by sharps discarded in the trash. Strains to your shoulder or back can also occur if you don’t pay attention to how you lift. Your health and safety are important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Proper Trash Handling Techniques


  • Always be aware of the potential for glass, syringes, or other sharp objects in the trash.
  • Wear proper personal protective equipment. [Instructor prompt: Discuss the type of PPE required; puncture-resistant gloves, safety glasses, masks, etc.].
  • Pay attention to the weight of the trash. You may need to ask for help or use lifting equipment, such as a hand truck.


  • Never push down contents of the trash bag with your hands.
  • Bend your knees and keep your back straight as you pick up and lower cans.
  • If there is a problem removing the bag from the canister, tilt it if possible, to help break the vacuum lock.
  • Never stand in the canister to compact garbage. In addition to potential puncture exposure, you don’t want to fall over.


  • If you must carry two bags, distribute the weight evenly.
  • Hold trash bags close to your body to reduce shoulder strain but ensure the bags don’t bump against your legs to avoid sharps injury.
  • Never throw the trash bag over your shoulder.
  • Use a hand truck or other equipment when transporting heavy loads.
  • Do not drag bags across the floor or ground, as they could rip, spilling the contents.
  • Pay attention to potential slip and trip hazards on the way to dumpsters. Be especially careful of ice around dumpsters.


  • Be aware of bees or other wildlife in or near the dumpster.
  • Open and secure dumpster lid before lifting and depositing trash bag.
  • Do not throw heavy bags up to an elevated dumpster; carefully lift trash and drop it in.
  • Avoid twisting sideways when you deposit trash bags.
  • Never stand in the dumpster.

After trash handling is complete, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.]


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Utility Knife Safety

Utility Knife Overview and Hazards

Approximately 39 percent of injuries involving manual workshop tools included knives with retractable blades, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Most of these injuries are caused by lacerations, but injuries can also occur from ejected pieces of snapped blades or from improperly disposed blades and ergonomic injuries from blade use.

Fortunately, these injuries can be largely prevented with some simple best practices. So please pay attention; we don’t want you to get hurt.

Best Practices

[Instructor Prompt: Consider holding an example of one of the utility knives used in your facility to demonstrate safety features, safe usage or simply examples of the different types and styles available to employees.]

 Use a sharp blade. Dull blades require more pressure and increase the risk of slippage or other potential injuries, including ergonomic strain.

  • Use safety knives with rounded tips or self-retracting blades wherever possible.
  • Plan the cut before cutting and keep your eye on the blade throughout the process. Keep your hands or extremities out of the path of the blade.
  • Inspect the tool before use to ensure that the blade is in its proper position and undamaged.
  • Wear safety glasses to protect against broken blades.
  • Keep the blade extended as short as necessary to make the cut.
  • Cut away from your body, rather than pulling toward you.
  • Do not try to force the blade if it becomes stuck.
  • Hand knives to others handle first with the blade retracted.
  • Store the knife with the blade fully retracted.
  • Use the knife for the intended purpose; they are not designed to pry objects.
  • Dispose of old blades in a puncture resistant container.
  • Breakaway blade models are not designed for heavy-duty industrial use and should not be used for heavy work.
  • Change blades carefully according to manufacturer recommendations with the correct size of blades.

Use the right knife for the job or for your hand, particularly if using the knife for a long time. Knives that are too short can put uncomfortable pressure points into the palm of the hand, while larger knives can be unwieldy to use. 


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust

Vehicle Ergonomics


Ergonomics is the science of adapting a workstation, process, or equipment to an individual to prevent injuries, errors, and discomfort. These principles also apply to vehicles. Using ergonomic principles when in the vehicle can create more comfort and help to reduce the risk of strains or other injuries that could occur over time.

If muscles or tendons are injured, you are much more likely to reinjure the area in the future. Fortunately, with a focus on ergonomics, many of these injuries can be prevented, so pay careful attention. Your health and safety is important to us; we don’t want you to get hurt.


One of the most important elements of ergonomics involves an awareness of neutral postures. Neutral postures are those that improve natural support while placing minimal stress on the body and joints. We will focus on neutral postures and positions while driving or working in a vehicle. Think about how you can adopt these best practices.

Before Driving

  • Routinely clean your windshield on the inside and outside to ensure a clear view.
  • Remove items from pockets, or shift them to front pockets to minimize contact stress as items press into the body.
  • Position items used during the drive nearer to you to reduce unnecessary reaching.
  • Buckle up and ensure the seat belt is comfortable, secure and in good condition. [Instructor Note: Uncomfortable seat belts can occasionally be corrected by the addition of seat belt cushions.]


  • Raise the seat as high as possible to improve visibility but maintain head room and make sure your feet can reach the pedals easily.
  • Adjust the back tilt to support your back fully. Try setting the seat back at an angle between 100 and 110 degrees.
  • Adjust the seat pan or cushion depth to bring the tailbone as far back into the seat as possible.
    • You should be able to place two to three fingers between the back of the knee and the front of the seat. If this is not possible due to a large seat, consider adding a pillow or back cushion to move yourself forward while still providing support for the lower back.
  • The seat pan tilt should fully support your thighs and upper legs; avoid keeping the chair so low you’re your knees are elevated above the hips.
  • After raising the seat, readjust the mirrors as necessary to minimize blind spots. You should only need to turn your head rather than twist or lean to view the mirrors easily.
  • Adjust the head rest to bring the top of it level with the top of your head.
  • Adjust the steering wheel for height or tilt so the center is between 10 and 12 inches from your breastbone, and your arms, wrists and shoulders are comfortable.

Entering/Exiting Vehicles

  • Always use hand holds or rails when entering or exiting vehicles if equipped.
  • Maintain three points of contact. [Instructor Prompt: Ask the group what is meant by “three points of contact.” Answer: Two hands and a foot or two feet and one hand are always in contact with the vehicle or ground.]
  • Avoid jumping out of vehicles.
  • Be particularly cautious when stepping on ice and snow and keep your hands free.

While Driving

  • Although current best practice is to hold your hands at the seven and five position, shift hand postures on the steering wheel frequently while maintaining two hands on the wheel.
  • Take frequent breaks, particularly on longer drives. Get up and walk around the car or do some stretching exercises to help improve circulation and activity of the muscles.

Working in the Vehicle

If you must work in the vehicle:

  • Do not work when it is in motion.
  • Avoid working from the driver’s seat, as it offers the least amount of room.
  • Avoid setting laptop or materials in an adjacent seat and working sideways. Keep your work close in front of you.
  • Do not work more than 10-15 minutes at a time when working in a car.
  • Use rear seats for longer tasks and more space.
  • When using mobile phones, the car should be legally parked for more than one touch operations. When making calls, the phone should be in hands-free operation. [Instructor Note: This may be a good opportunity to discuss hands-free cell phone use policy or procedures.]
  • Do not use your head or neck to hold a phone to your shoulder.
  • Keep commonly used items or notes close to the body.
  • Change positions and take frequent breaks.

Discussion Questions

How else can we improve vehicle ergonomics?


*Content is reprinted with the permission from Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust