“Stay Out – Stay Alive.”
It’s that 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 Maine worker safety. But they can be a hazard to children and recreational users as well.
The “Stay Out – Stay Alive” campaign is a new safety program geared toward warning everyone from outdoors people to workers about how dangerous it can be to trespass on mine property.
Outdoor workers, rock climbers, swimmers, hikers, and bicyclists are just a few of the sports enthusiasts who can put themselves in danger on mine sites. Since 1999 alone, over 200 people have died in mine-connected mishaps, and many of the victims were children and recreational users. Mention mine accidents and you usually think of mining collapses – the disasters prominent in the nightly news. But many are workers in other industries as well as outdoors people and children.
Children might trespass to play on the property of an abandoned mine, or workers in industries not connected directly to mining may have accidents on mine property or even fall into mine shafts. The “Stay Out – Stay Alive” program will include visits by federal mining safety and health experts to scout groups, schools and other organizations to speak with children about the deadly risks of playing on mining property.
Surface mines are a danger to all terrain vehicle drivers. Those old mines typically have heaps of refuse or hills of loose materials that can collapse. The result – rollovers, often deadly ones.
Quarries pose a hazard. They may look harmless, but there could be hidden dangers. Beneath the surface may lurk sharp objects or pieces of machinery left in the wake of old mining operations now closed. Slopes are slippery and rock ledges are unstable. The best of swimmers may run into problems in cold, often surprisingly deep, water.
The “Stay Out – Stay Alive” safety program is featuring public service announcements urging the public to avoid trespassing on mine property.
There have been some changes to the Maine USERRA that employers should be aware of. These final USERRA changes were recently released by the Dept. of Labor and cover the job rights for veterans and members of the reserve and National Guard.
The USERRA stands for the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. It was instituted in 1994 to protect service members, clarify the law and improve enforcement.
Under the USERRA regulations, when employees return from military service, they have the right to the same job, salary and benefit that they would have had if they had remained in their civilian jobs.
The most recent regulations state that veterans, members of the Army, Navy or Air Force Reserve have their civilian jobs protected for up to 5 years while they serve their country. This period is cumulative. This means that an employee serving two years and then an additional three years would still be covered.
But employers should note that there have been some changes to the latest USERRA rules. Significant exceptions have been made to the five-year limit. A soldier whose initial enlistment lasts for more than five years may now still have his or her civilian job protected. Under the new regulations, the timing, frequency, duration or nature of the individual’s service is irrelevant. What is important is that basic eligibility a criterion has been met.
Employers and military workers should note that periodic National Guard or Reserve training is not included in this five-year total.
Test cases have been done on vets returning to work. In several of these cases, veterans are awarded promotions that they would have received based on the length of service, if they had not served in the military. In many cases, employees are also entitled to annual cost-of-living and salary increases that they would have received had they remained working in their civilian jobs.
Due to these changes, now is a good time for employers to update their posters to make sure correct information is on display for employees.
The Veterans’ Employment and Training Services (VETS), a division of the US Dept. of Labor, provides assistance to everyone with claims under USERRA.
Most people have heard about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. What many don’t realize is that it’s possible that a similar pandemic could occur in the future. If this were to happen, many people could die before a vaccine is developed. There would be social disruption and the global economy would be a mess.
This is according to a recent Maine OSHA alert that deals with the threat of a worldwide flu pandemic.
Most people don’t consider the flu to be a workplace hazard, since they know it as the unpleasant but mild illness that many get during the fall or winter. This type of flu, often called the seasonal flu, is only potentially fatal to children, the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. Healthy adults rarely die from the seasonal flu.
An influenza pandemic could be fatal to healthy adults as well. This is because should an outbreak occur, it would come from a new strain of the flu virus that no one had been exposed to before. No one will be able to develop immunity and many people could die before a vaccine is developed.
This is the worst-case scenario and something employers and employees should be prepared for. Even if the knew virus doesn’t prove to be fatal, it could cause an unusually severe flu season.
In 1957, a flu pandemic was quickly contained. One million people died. The Spanish Flu killed between 2.5% to 5% of the world’s population, often within hours. Twenty-five million people died in 25 weeks. Up to 20% of the world’s population was infected. Compare this to the AIDS virus, which has killed one million people every year for 25 years.
Avian flu is a concern. It starts in wild birds and can spread to domestic fowl like turkeys and chickens. There’s a chance that the virus could mutate and spread to humans. If this were to happen, a pandemic could occur.
No new version of the flu virus exists and there’s no concern of a pandemic. Yet employers and employees should be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
It almost sounds comical, but “Slips, trips, and falls” are no laughing matter. They cause 15 percent of all accidental workplace deaths. Only motor vehicle accidents cause more fatalities. Slips, trips and falls are also responsible for the majority of accidents in industry.
New Maine OSHA standards are out now, and if you are in employer, you should update your Slips Trips Falls Poster. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration ahs updated its standards for walking and working surfaces. They are applicable to all permanent workplaces, with just a few exceptions.
One of the best moves you can take is posting a Slips Trips Falls Poster in an easy-to-read location, reminding workers to clean up spills. All employment area, including storerooms, passageways, and service rooms, must be kept sanitary and orderly. OSHA notes that housekeeping is a commonly overlooked method of preventing slips, trips, and falls.
The new standards of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration require that every workroom floor must be kept clean and dry. If that is not possible – because the industrial process involved is a “wet” one – then you must offer drainage and provide raised platforms, gratings, or mats.
Besides cleanliness, obstructions must be eliminated. No loose boards, protruding nails, holes, or splinters are allowed. Aisles and passageways come in for special consideration. They must be kept free of dangerous obstructions, and must be marked. They must be wide enough for two people to pass, because narrow aisles, traffic, and messes can lead to injuries. They can also cause equipment damage, and even block exits in emergencies. Blocked exits become serious issues when workers are rushing to leave buildings.
Holes, loose boards, protruding nails, and splinters, are prominent safety culprits when it comes to preventing slips, trips, or falls. Every floor, passageway, and workspace must be kept clear of such hazards.
Drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace is both dangerous, and expensive. Employers in Maine can fight the costs of workers’ drug and alcohol abuse by joining the Maine Drug Free Workplace Alliance. The Alliance is another arrow in the quiver that can help target the problems related to abuse.
It’s a five-part effort – training supervisors, putting a policy in place, teaching employees about the on-the-job dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, and drug testing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes that a business isn’t mandated to participate in a drug free workplace program. But it suggests that it fits into a larger plan helping to foster healthier and safer workplaces – and as a result, make for a more profitable, valuable business.
The Maine Drug Free Workplace Alliance is another example of the federal agency’s joint effort with labor and management. OSHA, contractor associations, and unions work together to protect workers’ health and safety, by teaching employees about the risks and urging those with abuse problems to get help.
The program is a fivefold effort that begins with a policy, trains supervisors, educates workers, gets help for those workers when needed, and includes drug testing. According to OSHA, the programs – particularly the drug testing component – must be what it calls reasonable, and respect workers’ privacy rights.
Employers should understand that drug free workplace programs are not mandatory. But they are a good piece in the larger program of guaranteeing safety and health at work. And by doing so, they increase business value and improve the community.
What are the costs to you, the employer, when workers are saddled with drug and alcohol problems? Those costs are mistakes, accidents, and absenteeism at growing rates. But less noticeable but also costly are drops in employee morale and increases in the rates of illness.
OSHA says it strongly supports drug free workplace plans. Such plans curb what it calls avoidable dangers in the workplace, and can boost worker health and safety records. The programs are particularly valuable in work places where safety is a key issue – such as those environments where machinery is operated.
Getting workers with abuse problems back into the workplace safely requires access to support services, treatment, and continued care.