Since 1999, 200 people have died in accidents around abandoned or active mines. In 2006 alone, at least 30 people aged 17 to 51 died on mining sites. Among them were children, outdoors enthusiasts, and workers.
As summer approaches, people will be outdoors, and again there’s a danger of trespassing or accidentally wandering onto the property of an active or abandoned mine, with all its hidden hazards.
That’s why a public safety effort is underway to warn people to “Stay Out — Stay Alive.”
New Jersey worker safety is at issue along with the safety of children and casual explorers. Workers who are not in the mining industry may suffer an accident on mine property, or even fall into a mine shaft.
The “Stay Out — Stay Alive” program of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has been active for 9 years, and has involved state and federal agencies, businesses, individuals, and private groups.
One of its efforts involves visits by federal mine safety and health experts to schools or to children’s groups such as scouting organizations, to warn the youngsters about the dangers lurking on mining property. Children often trespass or wander onto mining property, and find themselves in dangerous or life-threatening situations.
Richard E. Stickler, Assistant secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, estimates there are about 500,000 abandoned and 14,000 active mine sites in the U.S. “Many of them,” he said, “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.’”
There are a number of potential hazards to the inattentive worker or the unsuspecting, casual outdoor enthusiasts. They include mine shafts that may drop hundreds of feet. The shafts may be hidden under rotting or decayed boards that could give way under the slightest pressure. Tunnels may cave in. They may contain poisonous gases, or snakes and insects. The tunnels may also be flooded. All are recipes for serious accidents or worse.
You should be aware of the emergency plans at your workplace. That should include a plan for an influenza pandemic, or epidemic across the globe, according to a recent OSHA alert.
A recent New Jersey OSHA alert warns that during an influenza pandemic, a new variation of the flu virus appears. It is quickly passed from person to person, regardless of countries or frontiers. No one is safe. The last major influenza pandemic occurred between 1918 and 1920. The virus first showed up at a military base in Kansas, but spread rapidly all over the world. In only 18 months, more than 50 million people died. Many of them were healthy young adults.
Influenza or the “flu”, as we know it, is an annoying but not dangerous seasonal ailment. An influenza pandemic is different. The first is just a seasonal flu and can be a serious illness for small children, the elderly or people with affected immune systems. However, to healthy adults, the seasonal flue is normally a minor disease, because adults develop some immunity to the virus. The second, the pandemic flu, is a new strain of the virus, and no one has immunity to it. It spreads very quickly from person to person across the world.
Some of the most common tips to avoid spread of influenza include not going to work or school when you are ill, always keeping hands clean and using hand sanitizer, and staying at a distance from infected people. Also, when you cough or sneeze, you must cover your mouth, and it will be better if you use a disposable tissue.
One effective way to stop proliferation of the virus in the workplace is to reduce the contact between coworkers. You can do that by allowing some employees to work from home, organizing conference calls instead of meetings, and using drive-thru windows to create a barrier between the public and employees.
A recent New Jersey OSHA alert makes it clear that influenza is a serious workplace hazard. If a worldwide outbreak of the flu occurs, this pandemic could disrupt the global economy in addition to resulting in a significant number of deaths.
Although many people think of the flu as just an annoying disease, it is always a serious concern for infants, the elderly, and people who have compromised immune systems. Over the years, most of us have developed a certain level of immunity to the disease and don’t consider it a serious threat.
Employers and employees should prepare now for this workplace hazard. Although no pandemic exists at the moment, the possibility is real. If a new form of influenza were to emerge, no one would be immune to it, and developing a vaccine could take months. During those months, the disease could spread around the globe.
If you’ve never worried about the flu, a recent New Jersey OSHA alert may change your mind.
Influenza, which many of us consider a seasonal disease with annoying symptoms, can pose a workplace hazard if a pandemic were to occur. OSHA feels employers and employees should prepare now for the possibility.
A pandemic is when a disease travels around the world, spreading easily between people. This type of global illness could result in a significant number of deaths, not to mention it would cause a disruption in the world’s social network and problems with the world’s economy.
Although a pandemic doesn’t currently exist, the possibility is there. Consider the avian or bird flu. This virus has spread from wild birds to domestic birds, and in a few cases, from birds to humans. The concern is that the virus will mutate and then easily pass from person to person, causing a pandemic. No one will have immunity to the virus.
For this reason, OSHA feels the flu is a workplace hazard. Employers and employees should prepare in case a pandemic does occur. Even if the bird flu doesn’t cause a pandemic, more familiar forms of influenza could cause a pandemic. No one would have immunity to this virus, so it could spread quickly.
Employers have even more power to protect their businesses from drug and alcohol abuse, thanks to the expansion of a work alliance that was originally instituted in 2004.
The signing of expansion of the New Jersey Drug Free Workplace Alliance involved leaders from five labor unions and five contractor associations. They joined Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao at the recent signing ceremony that occurred at the US Census Bureau.
When the Drug Workplace Alliance was established, it was an unprecedented cooperative agreement between the US Dept. of Labor and construction and mining industries. Its purpose was to improve worker safety through drug abuse prevention, with a focus on substance abuse in mining and construction industries.
The five contractor associations were:
Associated General Contractors
Nationalational Asphalt Pavement Association (NEA)
Association of Union Constructors
Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association
The five labor unions were:
International Union of Operating Engineers
Laborers’ International Union of North America
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada
International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers
All five unions are members of the Drug-Free Workplace Alliance.
The new alliance highlights the secretary’s commitment to working cooperatively with unions and contractor associations on the shared goals of protecting worker safety and health.
Drug or alcohol abuse is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in the workplace, according to the OSHA. Substance abuse also causes increased employee absenteeism, low employee morale, higher illness rates, accidents and costly errors.
Employers have a lot of power when it comes to protecting their workers’ safety, especially in regards to alcohol and drug abuse.
Employers can help by encouraging individuals with alcohol and drug problems to seek help, which is what many companies in the alliance already do.
Workers are being warned to stop using certain chain saws immediately and employers are being told to retrofit them for safety. Manufacturers are voluntarily recalling the saws.
A New Jersey OSHA alert reports that the chain saws are popular and commonly used in landscaping, lumbering, construction and other areas of industry.
Four models of Troy-Bilt and one of Craftsman are involved in the New Jersey OSHA alert. They are two-cycle gasoline engines with either an 18-inch or 20-inch blade and engines from 46cc to 55cc. The Craftsman is the “Incredi-Pull” model and comes equipped with an 18-inch bar and 55cc engine.
Workers have gotten serious bruises and a wrist sprain in one reported incident and burns from muffler heat in another case. In one case, there were severe cuts. OSHA warns that severe gashing can occur, as well as other serious injuries or death.
On the five models, the plastic front handles of the chain saws may break after the saws are used heavily. Once that happens, the chain saw is difficult to control.
OSHA wants employers to protect workers from danger by taking the chain saws off the job until they’re equipped with the necessary safety items. New Jersey employers can contact New Jersey OSHA or the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to get information about a free kit that includes a handle for replacement and instructions for installing the new handles. Without the retrofit, according to OSHA, serious injuries and even death can follow.
More than $700 billion yearly is the cost of deaths, damage, and injury due to faulty consumer products. The CPSC is working with OSHA on the project. While OSHA is aimed at workplace safety, CPSC’s target group is mainly consumers. Its goal is to protect them from dangers of death or injury by tracking more than 15,000 kinds of products that may pose dangers of mechanical, fire, electrical, or chemical problems, or endanger children.