While it may not seem like a hazard for the workplace, influenza – flu, for short – can take a serious turn.
A recent New York worker safety alert warns of the dangers in store if, instead of the usual flu outbreak, we were faced with a flu pandemic.
A pandemic could follow the emergence of a new strain of flu. When that happens, there is no immunity. The disease then spreads rapidly worldwide, from person to person, while scientists are forced to spend months developing a new vaccine.
It sounds like fantasy, but the possibility is a real one, even though no such strain of flu exists now. There is no pandemic raging in the world at the present time. Nevertheless, says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in one of the more serious scenarios, a pandemic could result in disaster – a worldwide economy in turmoil, society in disarray, and high death rates. Of course, such a scenario is not the inevitable result of the outbreak of a new strain. It might result merely in a flu season that was more severe than usual.
The common flu shows up each fall and winter, and is called “seasonal flu.” These bouts of influenza are usually self-limiting because most people either already have, or soon develop, an immunity. It’s usually life-threatening only to selected portions of the population – those with immune system problems, the aged, and infants.
The Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 killed 25 million people in just 25 weeks. Even the AIDS virus, by comparison, has resulted in the deaths of 25 million people in 25 years. During the 1918 pandemic, somewhere between 2.5% and 5% of the population of the world died, sometimes within hours of contracting the flu.
The latest concern is bird flu, or avian influenza. It starts in wild birds and spreads to the domestic ones – turkeys, chickens, and the like. In a few cases, one type of bird flu has spread to humans from infected birds. A mutated virus capable of spreading from person to person would result in a pandemic.
Seasonal flu is more than just an annoyance. It can be dangerous to the old, those with weak immune systems, or small children. However, the real danger posed by influenza is a pandemic.
According to a recent New York OSHA alert, when a new strain of the virus emerges on the scene, immunity is non-existent. The ailment passes rapidly from person to person, soon spreading around the world. The results can be deadly.
If you are a worker or an employer, you should know all of the emergency plans your workplace has set up. Now, according to an OSHA alert released recently, a contingency plan for a global influenza pandemic should be included. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says a new pandemic would throw the global economy into turmoil worse than any single terrorist event.
Pandemics occur when a new strain of the virus emerges to which we haven’t developed immunity. No new strain of virus has appeared and no flu pandemic exists now.
Workplace plans could include limiting the effects of the disease through cutting back on contact between coworkers. Some methods are conducting conference calls rather than meetings or encouraging employees to work from home when possible. Some businesses might decide to construct drive-throughs or create other barriers between their workforce and the public.
It’s important to know the difference between seasonal flu and a pandemic. Normally we perceive flu as an irritant that’s not life threatening except in certain cases. But a pandemic is much more serious. It can occur when a new influenza virus comes on the scene. Because we have not developed immunity, the disease can spread fast from one person to another, eventually finding its way around the world.
Another flu pandemic could wreak havoc on the world economy in ways worse than a terrorist attack, according to OSHA.
Some newly identified dangers have prompted the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) to introduce a new public service program.
To the worker who’s not watching, or to the trespasser looking for a place to play, abandoned mine property may seem like a harmless place. But beneath the surface, so to speak, lie all kinds of dangers – from falls down mine shafts to snake bites to deadly explosions.
Richard Stickler, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, says that besides the 500,000 abandoned mines there another 14,000 active ones in the U.S. “Many of them,” he adds, “contain hidden hazards and, for those not trained to work in mines, the outcome can be deadly.” That’s why, he says, workers, bikers, hikers, climbers, and swimmers are being urged to “Stay Out – Stay Alive.”
The MSHA’s program involves public service announcements. They warn people from mistakenly going onto mine property, whether for work or for play. Mine health and safety officials from the federal government will visit schools and scouting groups, as well as other organizations to warn youngsters about the dangers.
What are some of the hidden dangers? Hidden mineshafts pose a serious risk Workers in fields not directly related to mining may be injured when they fall into mineshafts. Often these shafts are hidden by a deceptive layer of boards, which may actually be decaying or rotten, giving way under very little weight. Explosives are a hazard. Misfired or unused explosives such as blasting caps can be set off by small disturbances or a mere touch. Tunnels may collapse. Inside those tunnels, there may be deep water. Snakes and insects may be nesting inside. Sometimes poisonous gases are trapped inside the shafts.
Some of the more than 200 deaths in mining accidents since 1999 have included recreational users and children.
Many employers may have questions about the New York OSHA 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.
Which models of Troy-Bilt and Craftsman are part of this recall?
Four models built by Troy-Bilt are included in this recall, and one model built by Craftsman is included. The Troy-Bilt chainsaws all have 18-inch or 20-inch blades and gas-powered two-cycle engines. These engines are from 46cc to 55cc in size. The Craftsman chainsaw included in this recall is the “Incredi-Pull” model. This chainsaw has an 18-inch blade and a two-cycle 55cc gas engine.
Why are these chainsaws being recalled?
These Troy-Bilt and Craftsman chainsaws are being recalled because the front handle, which is made of plastic, can break when the chainsaw is being used heavily.
What happens if this handle breaks?
When this handle breaks, the chainsaw can become difficult to control and, therefore, pose a hazard to workers. Employers should make certain workers stop using these chainsaws since they are unsafe.
Have people been injured by these chainsaws?
Yes, injuries have been reported to OSHA. These reports include incidents of cuts, bruises, sprains, and burns. To prevent injuries, workers should stop using the chainsaws immediately.
Is a replacement kit available?
Yes. To receive a safety kit for free, contact the chainsaw manufacturer or OSHA. This safety kit contains a replacement handle and instructions on how to install this handle. To prevent injuries, and possibly even death, discontinue using the chainsaw until the replacement handle is installed.
Who issued this recall?
Troy-Bilt and Craftsman voluntarily recalled these chainsaws to prevent injuries. OSHA worked in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission on this recall.
In a recent tragic accident involving an ATV at work, the employer had attached an herbicide sprayer to the rear cargo rack of the ATV. The worker was spraying the herbicide on weeds, driving uphill on rough ground, when the ATV flipped over. She first tried to stabilize the vehicle by standing up, according to the local area OSHA office, which investigated the incident. But the ATV flipped. The driver tried to leap clear of the machine, but failed to escape and was crushed by the weight.
The accident has taken the life of an ATV driver who was using the vehicle on the job, prompting a New York OSHA alert. The sporty vehicles are seeing more frequent use in the workplace, particularly in agriculture, forestry, police work, and construction, and OSHA notes that with the increase have come more injuries and deaths.
According to OSHA, the modifications by the employer made the vehicle unstable, leading to the accident. The spray device was 55 pounds heavier than the manufacturer’s recommended cargo weight, and that changed the weight-distribution, making the machine unstable. Driving uphill contributed to the instability, OSHA said.
Recreational use still causes the greatest number of accidents. In the past 10 years, ATV accidents have claimed more than 100 lives, and there were 800,000 injuries during the past decade.
A recent bulletin describes the guidelines for operation and training when ATVs are used on the job.
Usually thought of as a recreational device, ATVs are being used more frequently in the workplace. But according to the New York Department of Labor and New York OSHA, workers are very often not being trained in their use. With increased work use comes more workplace accidents.
More than 100 workers have lost their lives in work-related accidents in the past ten years. OSHA recommends that employers and workers both modify their work practices to help curb serious injuries or deaths. Workers should wear helmets and follow manufacturer recommendations about weight loads. Employees must receive training in operation of the ATV.