Beat the Heat: Understanding Heat Stress and Heat Stroke

As the summer sun beats down, municipal employees who work outdoors face a heightened risk of heat exhaustion. From sanitation workers to road maintenance crews, these individuals are on the frontline, ensuring our communities run smoothly even in the sweltering heat. Understanding how to prevent heat stress and heat stroke is not just about comfort; it’s about safety and well-being. Here are essential strategies for municipal employees to stay cool and avoid heat-related illnesses.Anyone performing physical or athletic activities on hot or humid summer days is at risk for heat-related illnesses. Those likely to be in danger include municipal, fire, police, and public-school employees and students. Heat stress, especially heat stroke, can be life-threatening. Luckily, they are almost always preventable.

Who is at risk?

CONN-OSHA recommends that public employers:

Hydration is Key

Dress for the Weather

CIRMA urges its members to implement a heat-related illness prevention program to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Check out OSHA’s web resources on occupational heat exposures and preventative measures, and the University of Connecticut/Korey Stringer Institute’s information on heat-related illnesses and student athletics.

Access CIRMA.org for more important employee training and education tools and resources on relevant seasonal topics.

How to Support Social and Emotional Wellness in the Workplace

The stigma attached to mental health plays a pivotal role in negative mental health outcomes, alongside limited access to services and misconceptions about the nature and effectiveness of mental health treatment. Numerous employees in public entities encounter trauma due to their work-related experiences. This may encompass secondary trauma, which refers to the emotional strain individuals undergo when exposed to firsthand traumatic incidents recounted by others. Furthermore, the impact of stress and trauma can be greatly magnified when employees lack mental health support from their employers.

Failure to cultivate a workplace culture that advocates for mental health can subject employers to legal risks, including claims of workplace violence or failure to provide a safe working environment under employment laws and regulations. This emphasizes the importance of cultivating a workplace culture that promotes mental health.

Providing social and emotional health resources or strengthening your entity’s current offerings can bring about meaningful changes. Prioritizing mental health in the workplace is essential for promoting a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce. It’s not just about complying with regulations; it’s about creating a workplace culture that values and supports employees’ mental well-being. Addressing the stigma of mental health in the workplace requires a multifaceted approach that involves raising awareness, implementing supportive policies and practices, and fostering a culture of acceptance and inclusion.

Individuals with mental health conditions, including both children and adults, may also have additional risk factors for violent behaviors, influenced by various factors at the individual, family, community, and societal levels. According to SchoolSafety.gov, up to 1 in 5 children in the United States experience a mental health condition each year. Schools are crucial in cultivating safety and improving at-risk students’ behavioral outcomes. By leveraging resources to support the mental health needs of students, educators, and staff, schools can contribute to a safer learning environment. Consequently, improving access to mental health services can contribute to making schools safer.

Municipalities should actively promote the utilization of their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). EAPs play a critical role in supporting employee well-being by offering confidential counseling and assistance for various personal and work-related challenges. By investing in EAPs and encouraging their utilization, municipal leaders can create healthier, happier, and more productive workplaces for the benefit of their employees and the community as a whole.

District and school administrators play a critical role in improving mental health needs by offering instruction that enhances awareness of mental health and social and emotional development. Connecticut General Statute (C.G.S.) 10-222h addresses the school district’s efforts in prevention and response to bullying in schools. Connecticut local and regional boards of education shall collect the school climate assessments for each school and establish a school climate committee to develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address bullying in schools.

District and school leadership have the discretion to choose a social-emotional learning model that fits the needs of their students and the overall school climate. CIRMA Risk Management does not endorse any particular organization that provides social and emotional learning resources. However, below are some organizations to consider that focus on the education of social and emotional learning:

CIRMA encourages its members to use the following resources to promote mental health:

The stigma attached to mental health, alongside the challenge of recognizing mental health issues, hinders individuals from seeking the necessary mental health services. Municipal and educational leaders have the potential to be proactive in preventing mental health crises by providing social and emotional support and education to their employees and students. Adopting easy-to-implement best practices, such as promoting the utilization of EAPs and focusing on the education of social and emotional learning, is particularly vital for the well-being of students and employees to minimize the risks of untreated mental health conditions.

Have questions? We’re here to help. CIRMA Risk Management offers robust training and education resources that feature mental health awareness and provide best practices for employees to protect their mental health. 

Has your municipality or school board taken advantage of the many benefits available through CIRMA’s online training and education platform for its members? Our e-Learning Center for more information or contact CIRMA Risk Management to get started and set up an e-learning account today. CIRMA e-Learning is an exclusive benefit offered to CIRMA members.

Essential Resources to Help Avoid Work Zone Accidents

Whether a road is bypassed for bridge repairs or an entire intersection is closed for scheduled maintenance to a pedestrian walkway, we’ve all experienced a detour while traveling in Connecticut. Temporary narrowed traffic patterns, unfamiliar rights-of-way, restricted lanes, closed sidewalks, and other construction activities can result in accidents, injuries, and fatalities; incidents such as these also cause excessive traffic jams and delays. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), 857 people were killed and 44,240 more were injured in work zone crashes in 2020. Struck-by injuries are tragically serious and pose a severe danger to those working in or traveling in the vicinity of construction sites. 

As drivers, passengers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians, it’s our collective responsibility to ensure safety in work zones. Road workers rely on their communities to keep them safe at work. CIRMA provides tailored public entity training for compliance and recommendations to promote driver safety for your employees.

CIRMA supports the U.S. Department of Transportation’s awareness efforts toward reducing roadway incidents and injuries in work zones and encourages its members to use the following resources to promote employee safety:

Has your municipality or school board taken advantage of the many benefits available through CIRMA’s exclusive online training and education platform?

 Visit CIRMA.org to access robust training options that feature awareness and statistics of vehicle accidents and provide best practices for safe driving operations. Contact your CIRMA Risk Management professional to get started today and set up an e-learning account. CIRMA e-learning is complimentary for CIRMA members and their employees. 

Public entities possess hundreds of thousands of records containing personally identifiable information on their constituents. Creating strong, unique passwords provides a crucial defense from identity theft and financial fraud for municipalities. 

Although widely known as the first line of defense in avoiding cybercrime, passwords have long been firmly established as the weakest link in public entity cybersecurity protocol. Poorly managed passwords remain the most significant and preventable threat to your public entity’s security posture due to the unfortunate reality that people continue to use weak login passwords. To make matters worse, these same passwords are often used across various devices, platforms, and websites. In these cases, by hacking one password, cybercriminals effectively open the doors to your entire digital ecosystem.

Passwords are often the only barrier between a public entity and personal information. While there are several programs that cyber threat actors use to ‘crack’ passwords, choosing strong passwords and keeping them secure can make it more difficult for bad actors to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data.

And as much as we try to convince ourselves that our passwords are impenetrable, professional hackers use tools and tactics to help unveil them in seconds. Weak password security can lead to data breaches, identity theft, and even computer hijacking, allowing criminals to access and exploit your entity’s personally identifiable records.

Are you still using your cat’s name, followed by an exclamation point, as your password? Do you use the same password for a variety of logins? If so, it’s time for a change. And when it comes to protecting yourself, your colleagues, and the community you serve, there’s no better time than the present. 

Four easy steps to becoming a Password Pro: 

  1. Keep it complicated. Consistently updating passwords containing more than ten characters, with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, can help significantly reduce your risk of being hacked. 
  2. Don’t make it personal. A study conducted by Morris and Thompson in 1978 demonstrated that it is easier to guess passwords through personal information (family members’ names, birthdays, home addresses, etc.) than to decipher them.
  3. Use random passphrases. A passphrase (e.g., “memo-tiger-thread-glue-button” or “Isn’t that quarterback the best in New England?”) can be easier for you to remember but more difficult to hack. The key to creating solid passphrases is randomness.  
  4. Get Creative. Consider using phonetic replacements, such as “ph” instead of “F.” Use an exclamation point (!) to replace the letters (I) or (L), or make deliberate misspellings, such as “enjin” instead of “engine.”
  5. Get password (and cyber) smart. The helpful tips above are examples of the initial steps you can take to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your community against cybercrime. CIRMA’s member-exclusive Cyber Webinar Series offers contextual scenarios and the latest information on successfully managing password security best practices. Sign in to CIRMA e-learning to access this valuable member benefit, or contact us to get started.  

Most of our professional and personal business is conducted online, and maintaining strong and secure passwords is crucial to mitigating cyber-related risks and exposures. Training and education remain the most effective defense against cybercrime, and knowing how to protect yourself and your organization is easier than ever. Learn at your own pace and when and where you choose with CIRMA’s e-learning resources, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you haven’t taken advantage of the many benefits available through CIRMA’s e-learning platform, contact your local CIRMA Risk Management representative today to get started. There is no additional charge to CIRMA members or their employees for this service. 

Check out CIRMA’s Cyber Center to learn how CIRMA can help your organization prevent and manage cyber exposures.

Cyber Resources Created for CIRMA Members:

The home office has become a coveted commodity. Unfortunately, not all homes offer dedicated office spaces. Because of this, kitchen counters, dining tables, living rooms, or bedroom spaces are doubling as home offices.

CIRMA’s latest whitepaper, Creating a Home Work Environment That Works for You, identifies best practices for employees working from home who face the dilemma of creating a workstation that allows them to be productive and incorporate proper ergonomics. In this whitepaper, we share achievable and straightforward guidance to help you maximize comfort and reduce risks while working from home.

Adopting healthy behaviors outlined in this helpful resource and knowing what to look for when choosing the right space for you can improve your overall well-being and maximize productivity while working remotely.

Creating a home workspace does not require extraordinary upgrades to your home or even purchasing fancy office equipment. Setting up a workspace with basic ergonomic strategies in mind is beneficial in many ways, including promoting productivity and focus and helping to avoid discomfort and social isolation.

Helpful Resources for CIRMA Members:

Take me to the full whitepaper

Download CIRMA’s latest Workplace Safety Works Ergonomics poster