The possibility of an influenza outbreak is a concern of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, even though no new strain of the virus has been found. Neither is there any current risk of a pandemic.
Still, according to a recent Utah OSHA Alert, it’s wise to be prepared for all emergencies, including the possibility of a global outbreak of disease. The alert says that all employers should include a plan for a worldwide influenza outbreak.
An influenza outbreak is completely different from the common seasonal flu that plagues so many people in the fall and winter. The seasonal flu is not life threatening to the average healthy adult because most have developed immunity to it. Only those with compromised immune systems, the children, or the elderly are at risk of dying from the seasonal flu. An outbreak is caused by a new strain that people’s bodies don’t know how to fight off.
This is what happened during the Spanish Flu from 1918 to 1920. The new influenza virus was released to the public from a military base in Kansas. It spread globally from there killing more than 50 million people in 18 months.
Wartime censorship prevented publishing stories about the flu, so there isn’t much written about it. Spanish newspapers, however, were able to publish more stories about it,
which is why this pandemic is referred to as the Spanish Flu. Those who died from it, died within days of contracting the virus. Even healthy young adults.
If a pandemic were to occur, people can protect themselves by washing their hands, staying at least 6 feet away from sick people, staying home when sick, and by covering their mouths with disposable tissues when they cough or sneeze.
During a pandemic, employers can reduce contact between their employees by, for example, having conference calls instead of meetings. Barriers between their employees and the public can be erected and some employees may be able to work at home.
A pandemic could have more impact on the global economy than a single terrorist attack, according to the OSHA.
OSHA has received a number of reports that two chainsaws pose a threat to worker safety.
This is the focus of a recent Utah OSHA alert. Workers lose control of the saws when the handles break. One case of severe cuts was reported. One worker reported getting burns to the fingers from a heated muffler, and another got severe bruises and a wrist pain when they lost control after the front handles broke.
The Utah OSHA alert urges employers and employees to stop using the chainsaws immediately. Five models of two chainsaw brands have been recalled, and the Utah OSHA is warning employers to pull them until they’re retrofitted for safety.
Workers have reported suffering bruising, wrist pain, and finger burns, OSHA warns. Both brands are used throughout industry, including lumbering, construction and landscaping. The saws in the alert are four models of Troy-Bilt and one Craftsman model, all powered by two-cycle gas engines from 46cc to 55cc and equipped with an 18- or 20-inch cutting blade. The Craftsman model is the “Incredi-Pull,” a 55cc, two-cycle engine with the 18-inch bar.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, warns that the chainsaws’ front handles may break when the saws are used heavily, and when that happens, the saw is difficult to control. Workers could be cut severely.
Manufacturers have voluntarily recalled the chainsaws, working with both OSHA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Meanwhile employers should take the chainsaws out of the workplace until they are retrofitted with the safety kits. Without those kits, serious injuries and even death can result.
The employers should get in contact with either the manufacturer of the saw or with OSHA for information about getting the free safety kit that includes a replacement handle and instructions.
The CPSC is working together with OSHA on the problem. Estimates are that property damage, death, and injury cost $700 billion yearly. The CPSC’s mission is to protect consumers, workers and families from unreasonable dangers of death or serious injury. It monitors some 15,000 kinds of products that present chemical, mechanical, or electrical dangers, or could hurt children.
Every workplace has some potential hazards characteristic to its own kind. Getting injured while operating a saw is likely to happen in a lumber mill but not in a car manufacturing plant. Getting burned while welding two sheet of metal can happen in a manufacturing environment, but not in a lumber mill. Yet there are some hazards are shared by every workplace… such as slips, trips and falls or influenza. Usually, flu is not considered a work hazard, but it is, because of being contagious.
A recent Utah OSHA alert warns the employers and the workers against a potential influenza outbreak. A flu epidemic usually happens when a new kind of viral strain manifests itself. It has not happened in a long time, but it is not impossible. In addition, when it does happen, many people end up losing their lives before a vaccine is invented.
Recently, Bird flu has struck fear in the hearts of millions. It is found in wild birds, but it can infect domestic chickens and turkeys etc. If an infected bird were eaten, the person who has eaten would be infected too. Moreover, that person can become the starting point of a pandemic, by affecting others. Luckily, Avian or bird flu has not caused many human deaths, but it has been a scourge for the poultry farmers who have had to cull millions of infected chickens.
The last influenza outbreak in humans happened in 1957. It did not take too long to contain it, but it still caused a million deaths. The one before that is known as the Spanish Influenza Pandemic, and it caused 25 million deaths in a little more than six weeks. If you compare this number with the number of deaths caused by AIDS, it appears 52 times greater because the same number of deaths was caused by AIDS in 25 years.
The Utah (UT) employer laws are designed to protect both employee and employer. They do not replace Federal law, but act within accordance to them and both work to assist the employee and the employer.
The Utah (UT) employer laws address several topics including minimum wage, the employment of minors, uniforms and hours employed.
As of February 14, 1990, the state minimum wage for those employees not covered by the Federal Minimum Wage is $5.15 (Adults) and $5.15 (Minors — under 18 years of age; however the wage is $4.25 for the initial 90 days of employment)
Both adults and minors who are employed as tipped employees earn, according to Utah (UT) employer laws, $2.13.
Although certain exemptions apply. More information can be garnished by contacting the Employment Standards Bureau.
EMPLOYMENT OF MINORS
Utah (UT) employer laws state that no minor under the age of 16 will be allowed to work in more than four hours in one school day. Also, they will not be permitted to work before 5:00 a.m. or after 9:30 p.m. unless the next day is non-school day. Minors under the age of 16 will not be able to work more than 8 hours in a 24-hour period and no more than 40 hours in any week. Minors who are 14 and 15 years of age are able to be employed in non-hazardous work places; such as retail stores, restaurants, fast food, service stations, lawn care, janitorial, and other jobs not determined to be harmful.
If a uniform is a requirement for an occupation, it is to be supplied by the employer. The employer may request a refundable deposit for the uniform — equaling the cost of the uniform or $20 and not to exceed $20.
Utah (UT) employer laws states that ‘hour employed’ means all of the time during which an employee is to be working. It also is meant to mean the time that an employee is to be at the employer’s premises ready to work, to be working, to be at a delineated work place, or to attend a meeting or training, and for time used during a rest or break periods excluding meal breaks of 30 minutes or more where the employee is not responsible for his/her duties.
While researching OSHA standards and regulations across the states, I learned that Utah’s OSHA department has a very comprehensive resource section on the Utah Occupation Safety and Health (UOSH) Web site. The purpose of the organization is “to preserve human resources by providing safety and health assistance through consultation, training, and education for employees and employers and by establishing and enforcing occupational safety and health standards.” As such, the organization is devoted to ensuring that each worker in the state of Utah have safe working conditions.
In Utah, employers are invited to partake in a special achievement called the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). When someone is attempting to achieve SHARP recognition, the employer may be eligible to be deferred from OSHA enforcement inspections for a 12-month period.
UOSH Public Sector Consultations are available to help employers prevent work-related injuries before they occur. As the department views it, preventing injuries in the workplace is the first line of defense for employees.
Additionally, the UOSH department provides Compliance Assistance, which means that they will assist with training, presentations, workshops and the like in order to help prevent injury and to create a healthy and safe work environment. Compliance Assistance Specialists (CAS) will help employers find these resources and help employers understand the standards. CAS workers respond to a variety of businesses, from small businesses, trade associations, union locals and faith-based groups.
In addition to providing seminars, workshops and speaking events, CAS will also help to promote cooperative programs such as Consultation Programs, Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), Strategic Partnership Programs and Alliance Programs. Additionally, they will direct businesses to the materials that OSHA makes available online.
The Federal OSHA Web site has a very comprehensive collection of resource materials for businesses and employees. Each state has their own methods of making sure that their businesses comply with both the Federal and State OSHA guidelines.