Outdoor workers, and those who spend a lot of time in freezers, are especially susceptible to cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reminds employers to prepare for cold weather and to encourage employees to follow safety protocols.
Possibly the most obvious, and the most important measure is for the employee to wear proper clothing. OSHA recommends at least three layers of clothing, with cotton on the innermost layer, followed by wool or down, completed by an outer layer of nylon.
The fabric is just as important as the layers. Cotton insulates until it gets wet. Wool, on the other hand insulates even when completely wet. Using wool as a second layer will absorb the sweat and still provide warmth. Nylon or Gortex is good as a wind break, thereby reducing the effects of wind chill.
Employees should avoid getting wet if at all possible. They should also keep a change of clothing in a warm, dry area to replace any work clothes that get soaked. Temporary shelters around the work site can help reduce the effects of wind, and if the shelters are heated, they can provide a warm area for the workers to take a break.
While working in cold temperatures, employees should take frequent breaks, drink plenty of fluids and eat warm food that is high in calories. Breaks should be taken out of the cold in a warm vehicle or a heated shelter. Employees should also work in pairs to watch for symptoms of cold weather exposure such as cold stress. Signs include disorientation, irrational behavior and confusion.
Training should be provided to all coworkers, managers and supervisors, so they are able recognize the signs of cold stress. If an employee begins to exhibit symptoms, or begins to feel uncomfortable, he or she must stop working and seek a warm area.
South Dakota OSHA Cold Stress Warning
OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, reminds businesses in South Dakota and throughout the nation, that winter cold brings the hazards of cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia to the workplace.
The south has been plagued with unusual weather recently including ice storms, freezing rain and tornadoes. In the Midwest, a major winter storm recently knocked out power for almost a month. After that storm, another one hit many of the same areas. These conditions can be dangerous for any employee, but outdoor workers are particularly at risk.
Cold stress occurs when the body can’t warm itself. When working in cold air, windy or wet conditions, the body expends more energy to heat itself. It does this by drawing blood away from the limbs to maintain the warmth of the internal organs. Arms, legs, hands, feet, ears and the nose then have less blood flowing to them and are exceptionally susceptible to frostbite.
The temperatures don’t have to be freezing to create a hazard. OSHA warns that even at 50 degrees, an employee in wet, windy conditions can experience cold stress. Also, some workers are more susceptible to cold stress than others. Medications can affect body heat, so persons on tranquilizers, antidepressants or sedatives may be at higher risk. Older employees can be more susceptible, because as the body ages it becomes less efficient at warming itself.
It is important, therefore, that all workers take a few safety measures to prevent cold-related illnesses and injuries.
First, every worker needs to wear clothing appropriate for the weather. Be sure to dress in layers, and to avoid getting wet, particularly when it’s windy. Each worker should take several breaks from the cold, either indoors, in a heated vehicle, or a warm area out of the wind. Warm beverages, not hot, are a good way to assist the body’s heating process, as are warm carbohydrate-rich meals.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol. These types of drinks actually impair the body’s warming system.
Every South Dakota employer should update their labor law posters by December 31, 2007.
The 2008 South Dakota labor law posters contain some important changes. For one thing, they reflect changes in the federal minimum wage that occurred in 2007.
In 2008, by state law, every South Dakota employer is required to display the following posters:
- Sexual Harassment
- Unemployment Insurance
- Workplace Safety
Popular locations for posters include break rooms, beside the employee time clock or in other employees-only areas.
In addition, South Dakota employers are require to display a number of federal labor law posters including:
- USERRA – Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
- Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law
- Federal Minimum Wage
- Employee Polygraph Protection Act
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- OSHA-Job Safety & Health Protection
State minimum wages vary across the nation. For the past two years, the Oregon minimum wage has been the second highest in the nation. In 2008, it will go to the fourth highest, when California and Massachusetts increase their state rates from $7.50 per hour to $8.00 per hour. This is just one of the changes that will be reflected in the new labor law posters for the year.
South Dakota labor law posters serve as a handy reference on a wide range of topics, from unemployment benefits to child labor laws.
Labor law posters provide important information for employees and supervisors alike. For example, from state to state, the laws controlling minimum wage for tipped workers and overtime pay show a wide variation. Complete updates are available on each state’s labor law posters.
When it comes to minimum wage rates for tipped workers, some states don’t have their own laws, so they are automatically covered by the federal law. Some are slightly more generous, while others equal or are nearly equal to the states’ own minimum wages. Kansas, on the other hand, at $1.59 an hour, is the lowest.
The federal rate is $2.13 an hour. Nebraska, Kentucky, and Indiana follow the federal rate. Michigan’s on the other hand is $2.65. Massachusetts is $2.63, Wisconsin is $2.33, and North Carolina is $2.43.
But there is no “tip credit” for employers in Washington State. In other words, tipped workers’ minimum wage is the same as for other workers. It will be $8.07 an hour starting January 1. In Hawaii, it’s just 25 cents an hour below the usual minimum wage. Tipped workers get $7 an hour, while other workers get $7.25. Colorado’s rate in 2008 will be $4.02 an hour.
States either have no overtime law, in which case they follow the federal law, or they pass laws building on or mirroring the federal law.
Federal law offers a premium of 1.5 times the normal hourly rate for any time over 40 hours. States without their own laws include Delaware, Arizona, Idaho, Georgia, and Florida. Workers not normally covered by federal overtime law are not entitled to overtime in these states.
Nebraska mirrors the federal law but extends coverage to all businesses with 4 or more employees. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan also mirror federal law – 1.5 times normal after 40 hours. But Kansas’ overtime does not kick in until 46 hours, and Minnesota’s not until 48.
Kentucky provides overtime after 40 hours or on the 7th consecutive workday regardless of number of hours. In Colorado, it kicks in after 12 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Only restaurant and hotel workers may collect overtime on the 7th consecutive day of work in Connecticut.
California has the most generous plan. Employees get overtime after working 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. Anyone working 7 consecutive days gets overtime on the 7th day. Double-time is paid after an employee works 12 hours in a day, or after 8 hours on the 7th consecutive work day.
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced a National Emergency Grant of $660,000 to assist unemployed workers in South Dakota in recovery from recent tornadoes and flooding. This is just the latest in a series of recovery efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor, FEMA, and the IRS.
Under the current grant, the funds will be used to create 50 new jobs to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts in those areas most severely affected by storms, tornadoes and flooding. Residents who are unemployed due to the flooding, or who have been unemployed long-term, will receive preference for the new jobs.
The grant, awarded to the South Dakota Department of Labor, will also be used for temporary employment on projects that provide food, clothing, shelter and other supportive services for disaster victims. Workers eligible to apply for these jobs include those dislocated as a result of the storms, tornadoes and flooding, and other dislocated workers, as well as the long-term unemployed.
“Several counties in South Dakota were affected by these storms and need help to clean up and repair damage,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training Emily Stover DeRocco. “This grant will offer workers who lost their jobs an opportunity to lend assistance to damaged areas while earning a steady paycheck.”
On May 4 and 5, 2007, a major tornado outbreak in parts of Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and South Dakota spawned 83 reported twisters. Damage was exacerbated by severe storms and flooding over the next few days.
On May 22 2007, FEMA –the Federal Emergency Management Agency — declared the following South Dakota counties eligible for public assistance: Aurora, Beadle, Bon Homme, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Clark, Day, Hanson, Hutchinson, Jackson, Jerauld, Kingsbury, Lake, Marshall, McCook, Miner, Roberts, Sanborn, Spink, Tripp and Yankton. Also declared eligible were the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Crow Creek Indian Reservation and those portions of the Sisseton Wahpeton Indian Oyate which lie within the designated counties.
State and federal officials have approved almost $11 million in disaster grants and low-interest loans for South Dakota homeowners, renters and business owners who sustained damages resulting from the severe storms, tornadoes and flooding.In just a few weeks, more than 3,546 South Dakotans applied for disaster assistance by calling the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The agency reacted quickly, with more than $4.7 million in grants to 2,234 households approved for temporary home repairs and alternate housing. So far, individuals and families have received more than $322,000 in assistance for other needs from FEMA. This includes funds for medical expenses, transportation, and reimbursement for personal property not covered by insurance or other aid programs. Of these funds, FEMA will underwrite 75% while the state will pay the remaining 25%.
A total of 266 low-interest disaster loans totaling $5.68 million have already been approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to help businesses and non-profits of all sizes. The funds will be used for repairs or rebuilding efforts, and to cover the cost of replacing lost or destroyed property. These disaster funds are in addition to any payments by insurance companies, to compensate for losses not covered by other sources.
By late May, the state of South Dakota had provided $578,000 in emergency disaster aid to nearly 600 people in the form of vouchers for food and clothing, and help with prescription drugs. A total of 3,628 South Dakotans visited Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in the days after the disaster. The centers provide information about various disaster recovery programs including state-based services, individual and household assistance, disaster unemployment benefits, SBA low-interest disaster loans, and guidance on rebuilding wisely.
In another move to aid the South Dakota disaster victims, the Internal Revenue Service announced tax relief for South Dakota taxpayers in the Presidential Disaster Area. Under a new procedure, the IRS computer system now automatically identifies taxpayers in the affected area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. Taxpayers no longer need to identify themselves by noting their status on the tax return, or by using the disaster designation in tax software.
Deadlines for affected taxpayers to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts falling between May 3, 2007 and July 23, 2007 have been postponed to July 23, 2007.
Any affected taxpayer, who receives a penalty notice from the IRS, should call the number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply.
According to a recent South Dakota worker safety alert, the forklift manufacturer must approve any modifications to the equipment. Improper forklift modifications are a very common cause of forklift accidents. Attachments or accessories fitted to the forklifts improve performance, but they can also introduce new hazards. Once modifications are in place, the equipment should not be used until the manufacturer approves it. At that time, new decals and tags with revised specifications will be issued.
Attachments diminish the capacity of the forklift and must be included as part of the load.
According to South Dakota OSHA information, forklifts cause many workplace injuries each year. The most recent OSHA forklift standards require that anytime a forklift operator is involved in an accident he or she receives additional training before operating the equipment again. This is also true when a forklift operator is involved in a near miss. In addition, OSHA requires periodic evaluation of forklift operators.
Why all the concern about forklifts? Although they look harmless and seem easy to operate, forklifts cause about 10,000 industrial deaths each year. There are over 1.5 million workers across the nation who use forklifts in many industries. Any forklift training program should vary depending upon the type of forklift, specific hazards found in the workplace, the operator’s demonstrated expertise and the operator’s level of experience.
A safety consultant recently analyzed common forklift safety problems in a state safety magazine. One very common cause of injuries is improper forklift load balance.
Powered Industrial Trucks or PITs are the more proper names for forklifts. They are also called fork trucks, at times. Common attachments to PITs include drum carriers, drum grippers, boom extensions, hoppers, rug rams, and cylinder caddies. Many of these attachments are used during various manufacturing processes. While such attachments are useful, employers and employees alike must consider safety before using them.
A recent South Dakota Worker Safety alert was issued by OSHA to warn employers to the dangers posed by All-Terrain Vehicles, also known as ATVs. Although many people may not realize it, ATVs are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. As their popularity grows, more accidents occur. For this reason, the recent alert explains that employers need to follow the guidelines supplied by the manufacturer to insure safe operation of the ATV. Moreover, employees should be trained on the proper way to drive the vehicles.
Employers need to take these steps because ATVs pose a real danger in the workplace. The South Dakota Department of Labor and South Dakota OSHA, also known as SD-OSHA, wants employers to know how vital it is that employees receive proper training. Many people think that since ATVs are driven recreationally, even by children, that they are easy to operate. Actually, ATVs handle differently than cars and motorcycles, and for that reason, employees should receive proper training before driving the vehicles.
The number of deaths from ATV accidents is on the increase according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 1982, the number of people who died in ATV-related accidents was 29. That number rose to 470 in 2004. The number of injuries received in ATV-related accidents is 800,000 for the past 10 years. These statistics are only from injuries sustained during recreational use.
Injuries received from driving ATVs in the workplace are on the rise as well. ATVs are used in industries such as law enforcement, agriculture, facilities management, and construction. Employees who operate ATVs in the workplace face the same hazards as recreational users. In the last 10 years, 100 people have died in ATV accidents in the workplace.
To reduce and hopefully avoid more injuries and deaths, OSHA stresses that all employees should wear helmets when driving the vehicles. Moreover, the manufacturer’s operating instructions should be followed, and drivers should be trained specifically on how to handle the vehicles.