As an Iowa employer, you need to be prepared and know what to expect if a pandemic were ever to hit your state. Knowing what to do in a pandemic is equally as important as the plans you’ve already likely made for natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
According to a recent Iowa OSHA alert, you should prepare yourself just in case there’s a worldwide influenza outbreak. This recent alert addresses the possibility of a flu epidemic or a global disease outbreak.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns that a pandemic could disrupt the global economy and possibly have a similar affect on the American population as the Spanish Flu of 1918.
A global pandemic would affect travel, trade, tourism, the food supply and consumer buying. Normal delivers of products won’t happen due to an interruption in supply chains. Grocery stores will be overwhelmed serving the many consumers who will be buying needed supplies. There might even be a shortage of certain supplies like hand sanitizer and tissues.
A pandemic would also affect healthcare facilities. With more people getting sick hospitals and doctor’s offices could become overcrowded. A flu outbreak would affect the patterns of commerce as well. Places where people typically congregate in groups would likely lose business. This is because influenza is spread from person to person and there’s a greater risk of getting it when in groups. Such businesses include malls, restaurants and movie theaters.
In short, a global disease outbreak would have more of an impact than any single terrorist attack that will ultimately affect your business as well.
The 1918 Spanish Flu, the most recent influenza pandemic our nation has experienced, occurred near the end of WWI and killed 50 to 100 million people in only 18 months. To help you understand the full impact of the number of these deaths, compare the influenza fatalities to those of World War I. In the First World War 9 million soldiers and several million civilians died.
The OSHA says there’s currently no new strain of influenza and no pandemic.
“Stay Out – Stay Alive” is an important slogan to remember when it comes to Iowa worker safety. Each year, several people die when they wander onto the property of abandoned mines. Many of them are workers in unrelated industries.
It’s simple. Staying out of abandoned mines entirely is the best way you can avoid deadly accidents. Mines, whether active or abandoned, are a danger to Iowa worker safety. But they can be a hazard to children and recreational users as well.
As a result, MSHA has begun urging rock climbers, swimmers, bikers, and workers to “Stay Out – Stay Alive,” a public safety push warning workers and outdoor recreation enthusiasts about the risks of trespassing on mine sites.
Besides children, bicyclists, swimmers, rock climbers, and workers in other industries are at risk. Quarries and surface mines may pose particular dangers. Quarries may look like “swimming holes,” but the resemblance ends there.
Whether you’re a rock climber, a hiker, a swimmer, a bicyclist, or a worker not directly related to the mining site, the old abandoned mines can be a danger. Quarries and surface mines are two kinds of hazards.
Surface mines, for example, may pose dangers to all terrain vehicle drivers, when their ATVs roll over on hills of loose materials from old stockpiles. Quarries may look harmless, but there are potential hidden dangers. They frequently contain sharp objects – old machinery below the surface of the water. The cold, deep waters can surprise swimmers. The rock ledges may be unstable and the slopes dangerously slippery.
Mine accidents are not just the disastrous collapses featured in the news. Most involve these risks to children, recreational enthusiasts, and workers from other industries.
More than 200 people have died in mine-related mishaps since 1999 alone, and many of those were children and recreational users. Children sometimes go one mining property to play. To help stem the danger to children, U.S. mining professionals in safety and health will be visiting schools, scout organizations, and other groups to talk to youngsters about the risks involved in playing on mine property.
As the recent Kansas tornados prove, spring weather is always unpredictable.
As always, Iowa worker safety is a concern for state businesses. One major area of concern is the possibility of power failures. Businesses should have a plan in mind for handling the power failures that happen in the spring. More than just an inconvenience, when a power outage occurs, businesses can experience property loss. Depending on the circumstances, employees can experience serious injury and even death if safety procedures aren’t followed.
Can a generator be used when the power fails?
Businesses that decide to have a generator installed to use when the power fails should have a licensed electrician do the hook up. A licensed electrician will follow proper installation procedures so that the generator can be used safely. If the generator is not installed correctly, an unsafe situation can occur where a back feed of electricity goes through the normal distribution wiring. In this situation, utility line workers, along with other worker, can face a risk of electrocution.
In addition to wiring concerns, without electricity the air circulation in a building can be affected. Without proper forced-air circulation, unsafe levels of heat can build up. For that reason, take care when using heating stoves that require forced-air circulation. Extra care should be taken in areas where food is prepared, such as restaurants. If a device needs forced-air circulation to operate safely, do not use it unless you have a way to provide power for the air circulation to occur. Unsafe use of heating devices without proper ventilation can lead to fires and even carbon monoxide poisoning.
To avoid injuries and possible fatalities, employers should always have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms installed throughout their buildings. Also, consider having a radio that works on batteries both at work and at home to monitor the weather.
Drug and alcohol are a danger in the workplace. But it is an avoidable one. Programs like the Iowa Drug Free Workplace Alliance is one way you as an employer can help fight the battle drug and alcohol abuse at work.
The Iowa Drug Free Workplace Alliance recognizes that Iowa employers have the power to curb the alcohol and illegal problem by teaching employees about the risks involved and persuading them to get help. The Alliance demonstrates the federal government’s willingness to work with both contractor associations and the unions in putting in place efforts like pre-hiring drug screening and random drug tests.
You as an employer are not required to create a drug free workplace program. But the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says such programs complement other efforts you are probably already making to guarantee worker safety and healthy workplaces. With a program like the Iowa Drug Free Workplace Alliance, you’re adding value both to your community and to your business.
The Department of Labor notes that employee drug and alcohol abuse problem is coming at a high cost to businesses. As an employer, consider the cost of on-the-job errors and accidents. There is also the cost of higher absenteeism rates. Add to that the less noticeable costs of lower worker morale and higher rates of sickness. OSHA calls illegal drug use and alcohol abuse an avoidable hazard. Programs like the Iowa Drug Free Workplace Alliance can raise rates of worker health and safety. It strongly backs such programs especially in what it calls safety-sensitive work environments, like those places where machinery is being operated.
Drug free workplace programs usually have five key elements for you to consider. They are putting a policy in place, getting your supervisors trained, educating employees and assuring they have assistance, and instituting random drug testing. But OSHA urges that you be reasonable and take your workers’ privacy rights into account, especially in drug testing.
Every employer is required to display an Iowa OSHA 300 form from the beginning of February until the end of April 2007. This form lists all the accidents and injuries that might have occurred in that organization in 2006. The goal is to increase awareness of accidents, and prevent future accidents.
To ensure the health and safety of employees, the federal government created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. Businesses in 28 states are covered by the federal OSHA. OSHA encourages states to create their own state worker safety agencies, under federal supervision. States with their own worker safety programs include Iowa, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon. The territory of Puerto Rico also has a separate worker safety program.
In Iowa, the state body is called IA OSHA, or the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Three states have their own OSHA plans, but they cover the state and local government employees only. These states are Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. In these states, non-profit organizations and businesses are covered by the federal OSHA plan. Kansas used to be a state with its own OSHA plan, but now they are also covered by the federal OSHA.
For a state to have its own OSHA plan, a developmental plan must be submitted to the federal OSHA. The purpose of this plan is to assure the federal OSHA that the state would implement a fully functional and efficient OSHA within a period of three years, with all the necessary components. These components include appropriate legislation; regulations and procedures for standards setting, enforcement, appeal of citations and penalties; and an adequate number of qualified enforcement personnel.
Most of the 22 states with their own OSHA plans follow the federal OSHA plans so that there is not much of a difference. Some features of the plan have to be modified to make them more suitable to local needs. The OSHA plan in California pays attention to some areas of occupational safety that were not addressed in the federal plans.