Town Talk: You ask, we answer

Town Talk

Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to

Why are there are so many City of New Ulm employees on a job site for what seems like a small job that should only require a person or two? Can you explain how your employees are assigned to jobs?

The City of New Ulm and New Ulm Public Utilities Commission promote safety and teamwork on projects, and have a great relationship with local contractors who frequently work with us; often their employees and ours are indistinguishable at a jobsite, making the numbers seem higher. Employees have been issued high visibility vests that read “City of New Ulm or New Ulm Public Utilities Commission (insert department)” on the back, but occasionally they might grab an older style one that doesn’t have it. Also, because of the unique nature of city business, multiple departments may be involved with infrastructure, repair or service restoration (a sewer project, for instance, might require the electric, street and wastewater departments all on the same project as each has departmental interests in the project).

However, the most important thing we stress above all else is safety of our employees, contractors and the public. Even though we are local government, we are still required to follow regulations by agencies such as Minnesota OSHA, Federal OSHA, Federal EPA, MPCA, Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety, and others. Each has unique rules requiring specialized and often advanced knowledge and training that often cannot be accomplished by one person alone. One example is that OSHA rules frequently require what is known as a “competent person” to be present at certain job sites. This person is only allowed to watch for hazards that may emerge, suspend a job as necessary until the hazards are controlled, or worst-case scenario, perform a rescue and provide CPR or first aid until emergency services arrive. A large job may require a second person to assist in hazard recognition and mitigation.

Our employees you see working are the result of a multifaceted safety program, whose foundation is a written policy focusing specifically on accident and injury reduction. Regular safety trainings (both job specific and general awareness) as well as monthly safety committee meetings address specific incidents that may (or have) come up; additionally, departmental needs, recommendations and suggestions are encouraged as part of an “open door” policy for employees. This comprehensive safety program has resulted in a reduction of employee injuries, lowering worker’s compensation insurance premiums for the city while concurrently allowing residents to have reduced outage time or inconvenience due to safer working conditions. With safety, everyone wins!

Shawna Boomgarden

Human Resources Director

City of New Ulm