Last year, 30 people between the ages of 17 and 51 years old died on mining sites.
That number includes not only workers, but also young people and outdoor enthusiasts who wandered or trespassed onto the sites of active or abandoned mines.
A solution to the tragic loss of life? “Stay Out – Stay Alive.” The new safety push by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is encouraging everyone to stay away from the dangers by staying away from the sites.
Tennessee worker safety is at risk. Workers, many of them not directly related to the mining industry, may be injured or worse if they fall into a mine shaft, for example, or suffer other accidents while working on a mining site.
The coming of the summer season increases the need for the safety warnings, as casual explorers such as swimmers, rock climbers, bikers, and hikers find their way onto abandoned or active mine property.
There are about a half-million abandoned sites, and another 14,000 active ones, throughout the U.S. Many of them, according to Richard E. Stickler, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health, contain what he describes as “hidden hazards.” For those without training in working at mine sites, he said, “the outcome can be deadly.”
The numbers bear him out. Since 1999, more than 200 people have been killed in mine-related mishaps, some of them children who often trespass or wander onto the sites. Labor Department experts in the fields of mine safety and health are taking that message to children at schools and in scouting organizations, warning them of the hazards of mine sites.
What are some of the hazards to both workers and the public? A typical danger is the hidden mine shaft that can be hundreds of feet deep. Often a layer of boards that are rotting or decayed covers these shafts. They may collapse under the slightest pressure. Tunnels pose another danger. They may be filled with water or poisonous gases. They may contain insects or venomous snakes. They may even collapse.
The Tennessee Governor has recently gotten WIRED on behalf of the workers of the state of Tennessee. WIRED (the Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development Initiative) is a collaborative effort developed to assist workers in economically troubled regions to upgrade job skills in order to bring improved job opportunities and higher wages where unemployment rates are traditionally high.
The WIRED initiative has recently announced the award of a Tennessee unemployment grant that is part of collaboration between the US Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal agencies working in conjunction with state, regional and local entities. The Tennessee grant is part of the third wave of grants totaling $260 million that have been awarded in recent years to 26 regions across the country.
Rapidly emerging technological advances in the workplace are the focus of the Tennessee unemployment grant. These highly technical jobs bring higher wages which, in turn, boost the economies of regions where these jobs are found. The WIRED program will work to develop the higher paying job opportunities and train the regional workforce to develop the skills needed to land and maintain these higher paying jobs.
In the recent announcement of the Tennessee unemployment grant, DOL Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said, “This regional economic development strategy transcends political boundaries to better leverage a region’s assets to help workers succeed in the 21st century worldwide economy.”
The WIRED grants are awarded amidst keen competition from state governors invited to submit proposals. Each state is allowed to submit two proposals which must clearly describe economic need. Also included in the grant proposals are supplemental sources of support from state and regional agencies and the local private sector.
Citing the importance of the collaboration of multiple entities, Secretary Chao adds, “Investing in area workforces through this collaborative approach will boost entire regions’ economic vitality.” Providing workers with the opportunity to keep job skills current they will be better able to maintain a competitive edge in the job market. The WIRED initiative provides approaches that go beyond the traditional methods used to improve job opportunities and economic growth.
Many employers may want more information about the expansion of the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Alliance. Below are the facts about this expansion.
What does the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Alliance do? The alliance helps employers with the problem of drug and alcohol abuse in the workplace. The alliance is a cooperative effort between the US Department of Labor and many unions and contractor associations. The alliance was originally formed in 2004. This expansion highlights the commitment the nation has toward dealing with the problem of alcohol and drug abuse in the workplace. The alliance works to protect employers and employees by preventing alcohol and drug abuse.
Is the abuse of alcohol and illicit drugs a problem for businesses? Alcohol and drug abuse account for problems such as increases in absenteeism, accidents, and mistakes. Also, low employee morale and increases in illnesses can be results of alcohol and drug abuse. According to OSHA, positive test results for alcohol or drug abuse were found in up to 20% of the individuals killed in a workplace accident.
Are many individuals with abuse problems employed? Most adults with abuse problems have jobs. The number of adults with abuse problems totals 16.7 million. Of that number, 12.4 million have either a full-time or a part-time job. That means that approximately 74.3% of individuals with abuse problems are working.
What can employers do about the alcohol and drug abuse problem? The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, feels that employers have the power to protect their businesses. To begin with, employers should educate employees about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse. Also, employers should encourage workers with abuse problems to find help.
Also, many employers who belong to the Tennessee Drug Free Workplace Alliance use approaches such as random drug testing and pre-employment drug testing as a way to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.
The avian flu and the possibility of a pandemic is one of the concerns covered in a recently released OSHA alert. The alert deals with the potential dangers of a disease many of us don’t consider a workplace hazard…the flu.
While the Tennessee OSHA alert warns that there is no new version of the influenza virus around, it is important for every employee and employer to be prepared for a worst-case scenario.
No pandemic will hit us any time soon, but if one were to happen, it could result in high death levels, social disruption and general havoc on the global economy. A milder pandemic could cause a severe flu season.
The seasonal flu is not dangerous to healthy adults. But children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems could die from it. A pandemic flu is fatally dangerous to everyone, including healthy adults.
A pandemic is caused the flu virus mutates into a form that no one has an immunity to. If this happens, it could take months to develop a vaccine as the disease travels from person to persona across the globe.
This is what happened during the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 1957 flu pandemic. The Spanish Flu in 1918 caused more fatalities than the 1957 flu. In 1957, one million people died before the virus was contained. In 1918 2.5% to 5% of the world’s population died. Twenty percent of the population contracted the virus and 25 million people died in 25 weeks. By comparison, the tragic AIDS epidemic has killed 25 million people in 25 years.
One concern about the alert is the avian influenza, or the bird flu. It starts in wild birds and sometimes travels to domestic birds. It can occasionally mutate and spread from domestic birds to humans. If this happens, it could cause a pandemic if the virus travels quickly from person to person.
Employers and employees need to be prepared.
“Slips, trips, and falls.”
While it may almost sound comical, it’s no laughing matter. Slips, trips, and falls cause 15 percent of all accidental workplace deaths, and only motor vehicle accidents cause more fatalities. They are responsible for the majority of accidents in industry.
New Tennessee 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 ways you as an employer can prevent the problem is to post a Slip Trips Falls poster prominently in your workplace. That way, workers will be reminded to clean up spills quickly. Cleanup is a key factor because housekeeping is one area most frequently neglected when it comes to slip, trip, and fall prevention.
OSHA standards require the floor of all workrooms to be kept clean, orderly, dry, and sanitary. That includes passageways, storerooms, and service rooms. In places where industry requires wet processes, OSHA requires drainage. Raised platforms, mats, or gratings must be in place.
There are other requirements as well. Aisles and passageways of a permanent nature must be marked. They must be kept clear – no obstructions that would cause dangers are allowed. And every area – whether passageway, floor, or workplace – must be absolutely free of loose boards, holes, splinters, or nails.
Aisles must be kept wide enough for mechanical equipment, where that equipment is used. They must also be wide enough for two people to pass. That is because narrow aisles, vehicle traffic, and bad housekeeping can combine to create problems – injuries to workers and damaged equipment. Blocked emergency exits can also be a problem, because when employees are rushing to leave a building, slip-trip-fall accidents can happen.
The exceptions to the recent Tennessee OSHA standards are places of employment where agricultural, mining, or domestic work only is carried out.