The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding Kentucky businesses, along with companies across the nation, that exposure to cold weather in the workplace can cause cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia.
Recent winter storms left part of the Midwest without power for nearly a month. As they began to recover another major storm hit. Workers employed outside in these conditions are particularly susceptible to cold-related illnesses. With winter deeply upon the nation, though, almost any worker can suffer cold-weather hazards.
According to OSHA, even temperatures as warm as 50 degrees can be dangerous. The body can get too cold, and become unable to warm itself. When that occurs, the employee experiences cold stress, which is a less serious form of hypothermia, an illness that can lead to death.
When the outdoor temperature drops, the body exerts more energy to maintain body heat. The internal organs are given priority, which draws blood away from the limbs. Hands, feet, fingers, toes, ears and the nose then are particularly at risk for frostbite.
Though it’s winter, cold stress can happen even at milder temperatures. Wet and windy conditions can sap heat from the body, especially if any part of the worker’s body is submerged under water.
In addition, some workers are at a higher risk for cold stress than others. The bodies of older persons are less efficient at heating themselves. Also, some medications can interfere with the body’s thermometer. Any employees on sedatives, anti-depressants or tranquilizers should understand they could be more susceptible to cold stress than those not on medications.
To prevent the risk of injury and cold-related illness, workers can engage in a few safety measures. First, dress appropriately for the weather, preferably in layers, so if a worker becomes wet, that layer can be removed. Second, the employee should take frequent breaks in a warm area out of the wind, and drink warm beverages such as broth. Do not drink coffee. Caffeine diminishes the body’s ability to warm up. Alcohol has the same effect, so both should be avoided.
Kentucky Cold Stress
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued an alert regarding worker safety issues during cold weather. The Kentucky OSHA has added its own alert, warning of the danger of Cold Stress and Trench Foot in the workplace.
Trench Foot is a disease named during World War I, so is unfamiliar to most employees today. Soldiers during that war often spent long periods of time in water-filled trenches. This exposure caused burning, itching and blisters like those in frostbite, but less severe. Trench Foot is a sign of cold stress, which occurs when the body loses its ability to warm itself.
When working in wet or windy conditions, even in mild temperatures can be dangerous for workers. The combination of wind and air temperature, known as wind chill, can lower the body’s temperature. The stronger the wind, the colder the temperature will be.
Employees, especially those who work outdoors, can take some simple steps to prevent the dangers of cold weather. Wearing appropriate clothing is of utmost importance. Dressing in layers is the best way to help the body stay warm and dry. The inner layer should allow the body to breathe, the middle to insulate, and the outer to protect against the wind. Footwear should be insulated and waterproof, and all employees should wear a hat.
In extreme conditions, employees should work in pairs, to keep an eye on each for symptoms of cold stress. Mild symptoms can be treated simply by moving the worker to a warm area and removing any damp clothing. Warm drinks are helpful as well. Coffee, however, should be avoided, along with other caffeinated beverages, as should alcohol. Each of these chemicals can impair the body’s ability to stay warm.
In severe cases of cold stress, which can lead to hypothermia, supervisors or coworkers should immediately call for emergency medical assistance. Depending on the severity of the case, the worker may be treated on site, or need to be transported to a hospital.
The oil refinery industry apparently has no intention of voluntarily protecting workers from the kind of disaster that took the lives of 15 employees and injured more than 100 at a refinery near Houston, TX.
That’s the conclusion of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
As a result, OSHA is conducting meticulous inspections of every refinery in the nation that is under its jurisdiction.
That will be good news for Kentucky residents and a positive move toward greater Kentucky worker safety.
Some may remember the refinery tragedy near Houston during the spring of 2005. A plant owned and operated by BP blew up, resulting in the deaths and injuries. Flames shot into the air thousands of feet above the site, and debris fell on the area surrounding the refinery.
The plant near Houston had employed 1,800 workers. It processed 433,000 barrels of crude oil every day. The explosion essentially took 3% of the country’s total production out of commission, and by the summer of 2006, gasoline prices skyrocketed.
Six months later, OSHA inspected another plant, this one in Ohio. It found that BP had made no corrections to the problems that caused the Houston tragedy, and embarked on the inspection program. Safety at refineries has become a major priority of OSHA, particularly after a hearing on the report by the Chemical Safety and Hazard Inspection Board (CSB) addressing the Houston refinery disaster.
OSHA inspected 100 refineries in 2006. In 2007 it has inspected another 50 so far. Meanwhile the agency is hiring and training more refinery inspectors. It has trained more than 160 people in the guidelines for inspections under the Process Safety Management plan, or PSM, according to Edwin G. Foulke Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. By August of this year, he predicted, the agency should have 280 PSM-trained inspectors.
The goal is to inspect every refinery under OSHA’s authority through the new National Emphasis Program.
Many employers may have questions about the Kentucky worker safety alert concerning a recent recall of some popular chainsaws.
Which brands of chainsaws are being recalled? The chainsaws affected by this recall are manufactured by Troy-Bilt and Craftsman. These chainsaws are popular and used in many industries, such as landscaping, lumbering, and construction.
The two chain saw types impacted by the recall are made by Troy-Bilt and Craftsman. All of the chainsaws have two-cycle engines that run on gasoline. The engines on the four recalled Troy-Bilt chainsaws range from 46cc to 55cc. These chainsaws also have either 18-inch or 20-inch cutting blades. The Craftsman chainsaw that has been recalled is the “Incredi-Pull” model. This chainsaw has a 55cc engine and a cutting blade measuring 18 inches.
Due to the injuries suffered, the chainsaws have been voluntarily recalled by their manufacturers in conjunction with OSHA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). CPSC works to prevent the public from being seriously injured by any of the over 15,000 types of products that fall under its jurisdiction. The recall of these chainsaws is an example of how this agency works to protect consumers.
A safety replacement kit is available for these chainsaws. These free kits are available by contacting either the chainsaw manufacturer or OSHA. The kit includes a replacement handle and instructions on how to install this new handle.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was part of this recall effort. This agency has the mission to protect consumers from injuries, death, and property damage caused by consumer products. This commission oversees over 15,000 different types of products sold to consumers. Incidents involving these products cost the US over $700 billion annually. This agency works to protect children, families, and workers from possible fire, chemical, electrical, and mechanical hazards posed by some products.
A new safety campaign, “Stay Out — Stay Alive,” is intended to address Kentucky worker safety and help prevent mine accidents. Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, explains, “There are about 500,000 abandoned mines and another 14,000 active operations throughout the United States.” According to Stickler, “Many of them contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly. That’s why we urge workers, hikers, bikers, rock hounds and swimmers to ‘Stay Out — Stay Alive.’”
The new safety program will work to educate people on the hazards of mines. Both workers and outdoor enthusiasts need to be aware of the dangers posed by mines. Most people think of mine accidents as only involving collapses. Actually, the majority of mine accidents don’t involve mineworkers. Instead, these accidents happen to recreational enthusiasts, children, and workers from other industries.
Both mines that have been abandoned and those that are still active pose threats. Since 1999, mine-related accidents have claimed the lives of over 200 people. Often children or recreational enthusiasts trespass or play on mine property and end up being injured. Moreover, workers from industries unrelated to mining may encounter hazards such as mineshafts.
A potential threat may actually look innocent in some cases. An abandoned quarry filled with water may look safe when in actuality, it may be very hazardous. The water is often very cold and deep and can pose a hazard to swimmers. Moreover, machinery and sharp objects may be under the water and concealed from the surface. The slopes down to the water may be slippery, and rock ledges surrounding the quarry may be unstable.
All-terrain vehicle drivers often like to ride around old mines. But these mines may have unstable piles of loose material left behind. If this loose material collapses, it may cause the all-terrain vehicle driver to experience a potentially deadly rollover.