Recently, tornados in the south have spurred new OSHA warnings about the hazards that utility workers, emergency responders and others face in cold weather in Arizona.
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is warning all businesses, including those in Arizona, that cold, wet or windy weather conditions can be dangerous for employees.
Even if the temperature is a mild 50 degrees, an employee can suffer from cold related injuries and illnesses. The body can get too cold, become unable to warm itself and suffer cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia.
Employees who work outdoors are at a particularly high risk, but any worker can be susceptible to these illnesses during the winter months.
Cold stress is a less severe form of hypothermia, but in severe cases it can be fatal. Cold stress occurs when a person is exposed to cold and has difficulty getting warm. The colder the temperature, the harder the body works to generate heat. The internal organs are the first priority for the body’s heat generator, which means more and more blood is drawn from the extremities. Ears, the nose, hands, feet, arms and legs lose a great deal of warmth and become extremely susceptible to frostbite.
Some workers may be at a higher risk for cold stress due to age and/or medications. Older bodies warm themselves less efficiently. Medications such as antidepressants, sedatives and tranquilizers can affect body warming as well. These employees need to be aware of these factors and act accordingly.
The hazards of cold weather can be reduced by simply following a few safety procedures. First, all employees should wear appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. Dress in layers to adjust to changes in temperature. Avoid getting wet, especially when it’s windy.
Second, drink warm beverages like broth, but avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks. Caffeine and alcohol impair the body’s warming capabilities. Meals that are warm and rich in carbohydrates are also recommended.
Third: employees should take frequent breaks from the cold and go indoors, into a heated vehicle, or somewhere out of the wind.
Arizona Cold OSHA Warning
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reminds employers to establish safety protocols for working in cold temperatures. Employees who work in freezers and those who work outdoors are particularly susceptible to cold weather hazards such as hypothermia and Trench Foot.
While working in cold temperatures, employees will need frequent breaks out of the cold in a warm vehicle or heated shelter. Workers should always keep dry clothes in a warm area as well, in case their work clothes get wet.
Dressing for the job is the most important safety measure. Three layers are recommended by OSHA, with cotton as the innermost to provide ventilation. Wool or down should be worn as the middle layer. The outer layer should be nylon or Gortex.
The type of fabric is extremely important. Nylon and Gortex reduce the effects of wind on the body. Wool maintains its ability to insulate even when entirely wet. As a middle layer it provides warmth while absorbing sweat. Cotton doesn’t insulate when it’s wet, so wearing it close to the body allows ventilation.
Proper clothing includes proper footwear and headgear. Boots are a good choice and if working in wet conditions, the boots should be waterproof. Hats should always be worn. An uncovered head can lose as much as 40 degrees of body heat.
Employers should encourage all employees to drink plenty of fluids, as dehydration is possible even in extreme cold. Alcohol and caffeine should be avoided as they interfere with the body’s heating system. Workers should also be encouraged to eat warm food, like pasta, that is high in calories.
Employees need to be aware of how they react to the cold, plus that smoking cigarettes and some prescription medicines can impair how they handle cold weather. Employees should also work in pairs to watch each other for signs of cold stress, including irrational behavior, confusion and disorientation.
All employees, including supervisors and managers, should be trained to recognize these symptoms, and to get the affected worker to a warm area, or to emergency medical help, whichever is needed.
When an employer posts his or her employee’s labor laws, it is essential that the employer understand exactly what he or she needs to post according to the law. First, the Employer must post the most up-to-date labor laws for the state in which he or she works. Second, the employer must post any Federal labor laws according to the laws that the state adheres to (some states use their own state laws in place of Federal laws.)
In the state of Arizona, it is essential for each employer to post a labor law that includes information on the following Arizona (AZ) Posting Requirements for Employers: Discrimination, Employee Safety & Heath Protection, Unemployment Insurance, Work Exposure to Bodily Fluids Workers’ Compensation and Constructive Discharge.
I think one of the biggest mistakes employers make when they post their labor laws is that they either post laws that are out of date or they do not post the labor law poster in a place that is visible to everyone. Reading through the instructions for Arizona (AZ) Posting Requirements for Employers can help to ensure that you post the posters correctly. It is vital that each employer have the most current version of the labor law poster, as updates occur frequently. Most employers choose to post the laws in the employee break room or in another room that is frequently trafficked by employees. If the sign is at all ripped or taken down, the employer is subject to potentially receiving a fine for the poster.
The reason that the states are so strict about the labor law poster and postings is that they understand the importance of giving rights to the individual employees. The labor law posters have contact information for all of the employees’ rights commissions and agencies. If an employee believes that his or her rights have been violated, then that employee can quickly and easily make steps to rectify the situation or make a claim. The posters also offer a degree of accountability to the employer.
States around the nation have enacted a variety of labor laws that impact many aspects of work life. If you are a resident of Arizona, you might be interested in familiarizing yourself with some of the topics covered by the labor laws in that state.
Arizona has a variety of labor laws touching on several important topics. A major area of labor law in the state covers employment practices and working conditions. This includes the regulation of youth employment (including minimum wages for minors), regulation of hours of labor for certain industries (including mining, commercial laundries, agriculture and motor carriers), regulations on the payment of wages, employee drug testing rules, and a variety of laws related to occupational safety and health.
Arizona also has labor laws relating to the regulation of employment agencies, a law on employment security and unemployment insurance, laws on workers’ compensation and finally, labor relations laws governing employers’ relationships unions.
One area of the Arizona I found to be particularly interesting is that of the wage payment laws. Arizona has some very specific laws on the books about how employers must pay their employees. For example, state law requires that employees be paid twice a month, no more than 16 days apart. Only employers with a principal place of business outside Arizona can pay employees once a month, and then only if the employees are professional, administrative or executive workers. The wage payment laws of Arizona also mandate that any employee who is terminated must be paid within three calendar days or the next pay day, which ever is sooner. While the Arizona wage law does contain these provisions, the state law does not have an overtime or general minimum wage law.
This blog entry is just a brief introduction to the labor laws in Arizona. A complete presentation of all the pertinent federal and state labor laws may be found on the Arizona Complete Labor Law Poster.