Colorado employers need to be aware of the hazards of cold stress in the workplace. Cold temperatures, wet conditions, and wind chill can combine to make a dangerous mixture of winter weather hazards in the workplace.
Cold stress can be treated relatively easily if it is a mild case. An important step is to move to a warm, dry area and remain active. Remove all damp clothes and drink a warm liquid. But avoid alcohol and any caffeinated beverages such as tea, cocoa, or coffee, because they will slow down the body’s warming process.
If the case is severe, however, it may lead to hypothermia. Call an ambulance right away. Medical professionals will know what to do to deal with serious cold stress.
A Colorado alert by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA, has been issued. It specifies the safety hazards of cold, damp weather, and lists some of the dangers as cold stress and trench foot.
To prevent cold stress, it is important to dress in layers of warm, dry clothes. The head and extremities should be covered. Headgear will assist the body in staying warm. Frequent breaks in warm places are important. Try to avoid getting wet because coming into contact with cold water will make it more difficult for the body to stay warm. In both extreme cold and extreme heat, employees should work in pairs in a “buddy system.” That way each can keep an eye on the other for signs of weather-related problems.
Trench foot received its name during World War I, when it was first described. During that war, soldiers sat in trenches for long periods of time, their feet soaking in cold water. The result was trench foot, which causes burning, blisters and itching. It is much like, but not as severe as, frostbite.
Wind child, simply described, is a combination of air temperature and wind speed. As the wind speed increases, the wind chill temperature goes down. A day that seems deceptively moderate based on thermometer temperature, can become a risky environment. The skin reacts to wind chill temperatures, not the thermometer temperature alone.
Safe work practices and appropriate clothing are the key elements in protecting employees from the dangers of outdoor work in cold temperatures.
OSHA has developed a series of common-sense recommendations covering both of these approaches to cold weather work safety.
Proper clothing is a vital element. Employers will often provide cold weather clothes to employees who work in the cold for an extended period, whether outdoors or in a freezer.
Keep in mind that the type of fabric chosen is crucial because cotton loses its ability to insulate when it is wet. Wool, however, works as an insulator even when soaked.
OSHA makes the following clothing recommendations:
- Wear loose clothes for better insulation and ventilation.
- Wear insulated footwear. In wet conditions it should be waterproof.
- Keep spare dry clothes in a warm location.
- Wear a hat. 40 degrees of body heat can be lost otherwise.
OSHA also recommends 3 layers of clothes. The outer layer should be nylon or Gortex as a windbreaker. The next layer should be down or wool to absorb sweat and provide insulation. The innermost layer may be synthetics or cotton for ventilation.
Train workers and supervisors to spot the signs of cold stress, such as irrational behavior, disorientation, and confusion. Employees should work in pairs so each can spot signs of cold stress in the other. Urge employees to drink lots of liquids (dehydration is a problem in cold weather) but avoid caffeine or alcohol, because they reduce the body’s ability to stay warm. Cigarette smoking and certain prescription drugs have the same effect.
Schedule extra breaks, in a warm building or vehicle. Workers should eat warm foods that are high in calories, like pasta. Provide radiant heaters in work areas. Temporary shelters cut drafts and wind. Cover metal handles with insulation, particularly when temperatures go below 30 degrees.
Supervisors should let workers take an extra break, or interrupt their work, if they feel exceptionally uncomfortable.
These steps are important because cold stress results in frostbite, hypothermia, and trench foot.
Under Colorado Minimum Wage Order 24, the state minimum wage increases by 17 cents from $6.85 to $7.02 per hour on January 1, 2008. Tipped employees must be paid at least $4.00 per hour, under the new law.
The Colorado minimum wage law is must more limited than similar laws in other states. The rate covers only retail and service industries including commercial support, food and beverage, and the health and medical industries.
Under the Colorado law, workers in those same industries are entitled to overtime after working 12 hours in a single day, or 40 hours in a week. The overtime rate is 1.5 times the usual hourly rate.
The previous Colorado minimum wage law has been in effect since January 1, 2007.
This is just the most recent in a series of changes to the Colorado employment laws. On January 1, 2007 Colorado Statute 8-2-122 went into effect. This was a tough new immigration law that requires every employer to make copies of the employee’s identification documents for the federal I-9 form, and keep them on file for the entire term of employment. In addition, every employer is required to complete a state affirmation within 20 days of hiring a new employee. The affirmation states that the employer did not knowingly hire an illegal alien, and that the employer has examined the worker’s documentation without altering it.
State laws governing overtime and the minimum wage for employees who receive tips differ greatly across the nation.
According to federal law any time worked over 40 hours per week is payable at one and a half times the worker’s normal hourly rate. This “overtime” covers the majority of workers in the country. Several states don’t have a state level statute, however, to cover overtime pay. In those states, if the employees aren’t covered by the federal law, they are probably not entitled to any overtime.
Nebraska, Illinois and a number of other states utilize the federal law and require employers to pay overtime for more than 40 hours of work per week. In Minnesota, state law considers anything over 48 hours to be overtime. Kansas overtime cut-off point is anything over 46 hours per week.
A few states also have laws in effect for the number of consecutive days worked. For example, in Kentucky any employee who works seven days in a row gets overtime pay for that seventh day–no matter how many hours have already been worked. Connecticut has a similar law, but it only applies to workers in hotels and restaurants.
California takes it a step further, guaranteeing overtime on the seventh day and after 8 hours on the seventh day requires employers to pay double the hourly salary, or double time.
For employees who receive tips as a part of their job, the federal law mandates an hourly rate of $2.13 per hour. Indiana and Kentucky mirror the federal law. Massachusetts law mandates a rate of $2.63 and North Carolina’s is $2.43 per hour.
In several states employers get only a little tip credit when paying tipped employees. Colorado’s minimum will increase to $4.08 in 2008. Hawaii allows businesses to pay $7.00 instead of the state minimum of $7.25 per hour, allowing a 25 cent tip credit.
Washington, however, gives no tip credit at all. State law in Washington requires companies to pay tipped employees the same as non-tipped employees. In 2008, that minimum wage will rise to $8.07 per hour.
Colorado employees are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break free from all work duties on any shift of 5 hours or more. If the work situation makes this impossible, employees are entitled to eat a meal while on duty, and must be paid for this time. Employees are also entitled to a 10-minute paid break on each shift of 4 hours “or a major fraction thereof.”
Every employer must display a Colorado minimum wage poster prominently in an area frequented by all employees. A complete list of the state’s required labor law posters is at www.laborlawcenter.com.
We have all heard about the flu season. Someone catches the flu every year, and spreads it to someone else. It’s hardly a worldwide threat of death as we know it today. Most people just get a flu shot, or simply take their chances. Very young babies and elderly folks are the most threatened by the sickness, but for the most part people are fairly immune.
The Colorado OSHA has just release an alert concerning the possibility of an influenza outbreak. This warning is not for the seasonal flu, but for a possible new strain of influenza that the human body has not yet been exposed to.
Back in 1918, 25 million lives were lost to the Spanish Flu pandemic. This happened over a time span of only 25 weeks. When the AIDS virus emerged, it took 25 years to claim that many lives. A more recent outbreak of influenza, in 1957, caused the deaths of approximately one million people. Thankfully it was quickly contained, or it would have been much worse.
Even more recently, the bird flu was discovered. In order for a pandemic to actually result from this type of flu, the virus would have to mutate and begin spreading between humans. It is more likely that a familiar form of the flu would develop into something that could be contracted by people. Without prior exposure, immunity to a new type of influenza is unlikely.
It is essential that you understand that there is no new version of the influenza virus in circulation right now. Once again, please realize, there isn’t a pandemic going on right now. The OSHA announcement is to urge every employer and employee to develop a plan in case of a pandemic. As with any type of disaster, local or global problem, workers and their employers should be prepared for the unexpected.
CO Laws govern quite a few aspects in the workplace. For example, you can find information about unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and other issues pertaining to employment, such as safety and payment of wages.
According to CO laws injured employees must notify their employer within four days in writing to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If employers are not notified within four days those employees’ benefits may be reduced by up to one day’s compensation for each late day of filing.
CO laws also indicate the procedure for filing an unemployment insurance claim. For instance, those who are 18 and over must provide proof of lawful presence in the United States prior to receiving those benefits. Identification can be proved by presenting a driver’s license, military ID card, coast guard card, or a Native American tribal agreement document.
Other aspects of CO laws which pertain to employment include that of safety. For example, one division of Colorado’s Department of Labor regulates the inspection and maintenance of boiler systems.
An example of a regulation that would be made by sections of CO laws regarding new boiler rooms. Those that are just built that are more than 500 square feet shall be built with two forms of exit. Additionally, all boilers that have been reinstalled secondhand are required to be legally registered for use. This ensures safety on the premises of an employer for everyone.
Other requirements exist that are written in CO laws regarding work force regulation. For instance, workers can find information contained within these laws about payment of wages. For instance, Colorado employees are required to be paid within no more than 30 days or one calendar month, whichever is greater.
It is important for both employers and employees alike to read all CO laws that pertain to labor. These laws are usually posted on most job sites.
There are very specific Colorado (CO) Posting Requirements for Employers that all employers are legally required to adhere to. If you are a California employer, I think the most difficult part of adhering to these labor laws is ensuring that you stay on top of them. It is the law that you provide labor law posters that are the most up-to-date and current. In the event that you let a labor law get by without posting its most updated version, you can be subjected to citations and other penalties.
Luckily, there are not many labor laws that must be posted in Colorado, as compared to some other states. Colorado (CO) Posting Requirements for Employers include the following mandated posts: Unemployment Insurance, Workers’ Compensation, Minimum Wage and Overtime, Discrimination, Notice of Injury, and Pay Day Notice.
It is important for employers to post the labor law posters in an area of the workplace that is visible to all employees. Many employers choose to put the posters in the break room, for example. Colorado (CO) Posting Requirements for Employers also include certain requirements about the posting – for example, you must post the posters in an area that is highly visible and you must ensure that the posters are not tampered with or removed. In the event that a poster is removed, it is essential that you replace the poster as soon as possible.
The labor law posters serve two main functions: 1. They educate employees about the most current labor laws. As such, employees can know and understand their workplace rights. 2. The posters share contact information for state agencies that govern the particular labor laws. If an employee feels that his or her rights have been violated, the employee can easily access information for state agencies governing that particular labor law in order to make a claim.