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.

Bee Careful; Preventing Bee and Wasp Stings

Bee and wasp stings are a common summer nuisance that can turn deadly if the victim develops a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Public Health experts estimate that up to 3% of adults will have a severe systematic reaction to a wasp or bee sting. Anyone who works or recreates outdoors is at risk of being stung.

Helpful Tips to Avoid Being Stung

Bee or wasp sting symptoms that warrant immediate medical attention include:

Access CIRMA’s online portal for more important employee training and education on relevant seasonal topics.

Sprains and Strains; A Preventable Workplace Exposure

Sprain and strain injuries are the most common and costly workplace injuries. Employees can injure their knee, shoulder, wrist, or back while performing everyday work-related tasks.

So what are Sprains?

A sprain is an injury to a ligament (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). In a sprain, one or more ligaments are stretched or torn.

What are Strains?

A strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). In a strain, a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn.

The Causes of Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains can happen suddenly or develop over time. Employees exposed to causative risk factors are more likely to develop a sprain or strain injury.

CIRMA members have reported approximately 11,500 claims over the past five years. While sprain and strain injuries can be frequent and significant to your public entity, the personal costs to the injured employees can be higher. Many are often left in chronic pain or permanently disabled.

The good news is that there are many easy-to-implement and practical steps that municipal and school leaders can take to protect employees. CIRMA members have reduced the number of sprain and strain injuries to employees by 16% over the past five years through resources that educate on avoiding these types of injuries.

Education is key to mitigating risk—download CIRMA’s new workplace safety posters to help raise awareness about injury prevention.  

Safe Lifting

Preventing Injuries

Managing Sprains and Strains

Easy Ergonomics

Access CIRMA’s online portal 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.

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

Social and Emotional Wellness at Work; How Does Your Entity Measure Up?

The adoption of workplace social and emotional health programs skyrocketed over the past two years due to heightened visibility during the pandemic when remote and high-risk work environments caused or exacerbated employees’ psychological and behavioral health issues. 

As lines continue to blur between work and home life, personal stressors such as financial strain, childcare concerns, and other obstacles can also weigh heavily on the minds of your staff and colleagues. In addition, the effects of stress and trauma can be significantly compounded if an individual does not have stable, positive relationships at work.

Providing social and emotional health programs and resources or enhancing your entity’s existing offerings can make a world of difference. In addition, employees who actively foster social and emotional health within their organizations can help nurture an inclusive and positive culture that will yield significant benefits over time. Below are a few examples to consider:

Recommendations for Improving Social and Emotional Health at Work

1) Be a model for the social and emotional culture you want to see in your organization. Some of your coworkers will prefer to remain private and keep to themselves while managing difficult situations. However, if welcomed, take an active interest in your colleagues’ lives and overall well-being. Engage in routine wellness checks and provide appropriate levels of support when needed to help build trust and provide an emotional safety net for future times of crisis.

2) Make it easy for employees to know whom to talk to or where to go to access social and emotional health resources. Time and time again, studies reveal that what employees want the most in the workplace is training and more easily accessible information about where to go or whom to ask about mental health support. Ensure that all employees understand how they can access emotional support tools and resources within your organization; resources can include an appointed delegate who is equipped to guide personnel to these resources.

3) Establish an employee assistance program. Organizations will typically utilize an employee assistance program to support workplace social and emotional health. Extending these benefits to immediate family members can increase employee effectiveness and increase utilization. In addition, form a working group to help identify needs for more tailored solutions that will best serve your entity’s needs; members of this working group can also assist in implementing these resources, serving as program stewards.

4) Establish a peer-to-peer program. Peer-to-Peer programs have proven effective in providing employees with a productive outlet to discuss social and emotional issues they might be dealing with. In addition, peers can often empathize with their colleagues’ feelings because their experiences are often similar.

Many of us spend a significant percentage of our lives at work—and if someone is struggling with social and emotional concerns, it can be challenging to put them aside and try to ignore them while on the job. However, by implementing the recommendations outlined above, you can help your colleagues and staff be the best versions of themselves— in the office, at home, and beyond.

Have questions about social and emotional health and wellness within your public entity? Contact your Risk Management professional for more information. 

In Connecticut, occupational exposure to tick-borne diseases is a recognized hazard. Outdoor workers must protect themselves in the spring, summer, and fall when ticks are most active.

School and Parks & Rec departments should be hyperaware of the danger to students and children participating in summer camp or other outdoor sports activities.

Those who are at particular risk include: 
– Parks and recreation employees,
– Public works employees,
– Summer camp counselors,
– Animal control officers,
– Athletic coaches and teachers, and
– Police officers and firefighters

Ticks in Connecticut can carry a variety of disease-causing agents, including bacteria, protozoa, rickettsia, and the rare but fatal Powassan Virus.

Tick-Borne Diseases Identified in Connecticut: 
– Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi),
– Human granulocytic anaplasmosis (Anaplasma phagocytophilum),
– Babesiosis (Babesia microti),
– Ehrlichiosis(Ehrlichia chaffeensis),
– Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Rickettsia rickettsii),
– Powassan encephalitis(POWV), and
– Hard-tick relapsing fever (Borrelia miyamotoi).

While the number of human cases of these diseases in Connecticut remains low, the infection may have serious consequences. Without preventive measures in tick-infested areas, contracting a tick-borne illness in Connecticut, particularly Lyme disease, is entirely plausible.

All public sector employees required to work in tick-infested areas should know how to protect themselves and their coworkers from tick bites and the signs and symptoms of Tick-borne Disease. For information on workplace controls and Lyme Disease symptoms, download NIOSH Fast Facts. In addition, CONN-OSHA’s Safety and Health Consultation Program is available to help Connecticut employers with this initiative.

Read more about this issue in the CONN-OSHA quarterly.

Download CIRMA’s Tail Gate topic on Ticks and Lyme Disease.

Access CIRMA’s online portal for more important employee training and education tools and resources on relevant seasonal topics.