With record snowfalls in Pennsylvania and Western New York, along with frigid temperatures in the Northeast and Midwest, OSHA urged everyone involved in snow removal and cleanup to take precautions and focus on safety.
Workers performing snow removal operations may be exposed to serious hazards, including slips and falls while walking on snow and ice, falls from roofs and roof edges, through skylights, or from aerial ladders and lifts. Workers may also be injured by a roof collapse. Other storm recovery work hazards include being struck by vehicles, carbon monoxide, hypothermia, and being injured by powered equipment.
Those working outdoors may also be at risk of cold stress, including first responders who are on duty for long periods of time. Anyone working outside for prolonged periods may experience cold stress with mild symptoms, such as shivering while remaining alert. Moderate to severe symptoms include shivering stops, confusion, slurred speech, heart rate/breathing slowness, and loss of consciousness. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related injuries may occur, such as frostbite.
Extreme cold weather is a dangerous situation that can bring on health emergencies in susceptible people, such as those without shelter, outdoor workers, and those who work in an area that is poorly insulated or without heat. What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions relatively unaccustomed to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered factors for cold stress. Whenever temperatures drop decidedly below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can more rapidly leave your body. These weather-related conditions may lead to serious health problems.
Recommendations for Employers
Employers should take the following steps to protect workers from cold stress:
- Schedule maintenance and repair jobs in cold areas for warmer months
- Schedule cold jobs for the warmer part of the day
- Reduce the physical demands of workers
- Use relief workers or assign extra workers for long, demanding jobs
- Provide warm liquids to workers
- Provide warm areas for use during break periods
- Monitor workers who are at risk of cold stress
- Provide cold stress training that includes information about:
- Worker risk
- The importance of monitoring yourself and coworkers for symptoms
- Personal protective equipment
Recommendations for Workers
Workers should avoid exposure to extremely cold temperatures when possible. When cold environments or temperatures cannot be avoided, workers should follow these recommendations to protect themselves from cold stress:
- Wear appropriate clothing.
- Wear several layers of loose clothing; layering provides better insulation
- Tight clothing reduces blood circulation; warm blood needs to be circulated to the extremities
- When choosing clothing, be aware that some clothing may restrict movement resulting in a hazardous situation
- Make sure to protect the ears, face, hands and feet in extremely cold weather
- Boots should be waterproof and insulated
- Wear a hat; it will keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head
- Move into warm locations during work breaks; limit the amount of time outside on extremely cold days
- Carry cold weather gear, such as extra socks, gloves, hats, jacket, blankets, a change of clothes and a thermos of hot liquid
- Include a thermometer and chemical hot packs in your first aid kit
- Avoid touching cold metal surfaces with bare skin
- Monitor your physical condition and that of your coworkers
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Three Companies Fined for Exposing Employees to Lead, Other Hazards, During Renovation of Chicago’s Old Post Office
OSHA cited three Chicago area companies that worked on the renovation of Chicago’s Old Post Office for failing to protect employees from lead and cadmium exposure. The companies face a total of 31 citations and proposed penalties of $220,497.
OSHA inspected the post office site in August 2017, after receiving referrals from the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Public Health. Both public health agencies reported an elevated blood lead level for an employee performing sandblasting work.
OSHA determined that American Demolition Corporation, Valor Technologies Inc., and Tecnica Environmental Services Inc. failed to comply with OSHA’s respiratory protection, provide training, and properly handle personal protective equipment. American Demolition was also cited for failing to establish a written lead compliance program. Proposed penalties for American Demolition, Valor, and Tecnica are $105,765, $64,538, and $50,194, respectively.
“It is well known that exposure to lead can cause chronic adverse health effects,” said Des Plaines Area Office OSHA Director Angelina Loftus. “Employers must monitor lead hazards and limit employee exposure through proper respiratory use, personal protective equipment, and training.”
Nox US LLC Fined Over $500,000 in Safety Violations
Nox US LLC, an Ohio manufacturer of luxury vinyl tile, faces $514,236 in proposed penalties after OSHA cited the company for machine safety violations. OSHA responded to two separate reports of employee injuries in June 2017. One employee required surgery after his hand was crushed in a tile machine. Less than two weeks later, another employee suffered partial amputations of two fingers while working on a recycle material system. OSHA cited the company for failing to use adequate lockout/tagout procedures and devices to prevent unintentional machine movement, failure to train employees, and exposing employees to fall hazards. The company has been placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
“When dangerous machines are not properly guarded or de-energized, employees face an increased risk of serious injuries,” said OSHA Area Office Director Kim Nelson, in Toledo. “Employers must monitor their facilities continuously to ensure workplace safety and health procedures are adequate and effective.”
Bartlett Grain Company Settles with OSHA After Worker Fatalities
OSHA signed a comprehensive settlement agreement with Bartlett Grain Company LP that resolves contested citations issued by OSHA in 2012. Six workers were killed and two were injured as a result of an explosion at a Kansas grain elevator. Under terms of the agreement, the employer agreed to pay $182,000 in penalties. The original fines totaled more than $400,000.
Under the settlement agreement, Bartlett is required to review its safety and health management system and consult with industry experts to conduct a detailed audit of the system’s effectiveness. As well, the employer will give its internal safety manager authority to:
- Stop unsafe operations
- Obtain a qualified third party to review new installations or material modifications to certain equipment
- Update housekeeping and preventive maintenance programs
- Enhance training procedures
- Report to OSHA on a quarterly basis throughout the term of the agreement
The company has agreed to work with OSHA, the independent Grain Elevator and Processing Society, and the National Grain Feed Association to educate employees on hazards and share best practices for employee training and education. In addition, Bartlett will provide information on grain engulfment and rescue for first responders and community members following any grain-engulfment incidents near one of their facilities for a period of 3 years. The agreement calls for Bartlett to install and require the use of fall protection on top of railcars contiguous to, or inside a structure and within a loading zone.
In April 2012, OSHA issued five willful and eight serious safety violations to Bartlett in the wake of the fatal incident. The willfuls included allowing grain dust, said to be nine times as explosive as coal dust, to accumulate; using compressed air to remove dust without first shutting down ignition sources; and failing to require employees to use fall protection when working from heights, among other failures. Then labor secretary Hilda Solis said the six worker deaths could have been prevented if the company had addressed hazards that are well-known in the industry.
NIOSH Engineer Winner of Digital Health Award for Ambulance Safety Video Series
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) safety engineer, James Green, received a merit award this month from the Health Information Resource Center for his 7-part video series on ambulance crash test methods. This award is the fourth received for work that aims to help emergency medical services workers stay safe during a crash.
The research, including production of the videos, was jointly funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate under a pair of Interagency Agreements between NIOSH and DHS.
The Digital Health Awards were created by the Health Information Resource Center, a national clearinghouse for professionals who work in consumer health fields, in order to recognize digital health resources and entries that are web-based, mobile, wearable devices, media publications, or social media. The video series, which was released earlier this year, highlights NIOSH research that contributed to new crash test methods, demos of crash-tested products, and improvements to the design of the ambulance patient compartment.
“With these new crash test methods, the patient compartment of an ambulance can become increasingly safer for both the patient and the worker,” said Green. “I am pleased that this work is being recognized and that EMS workers might now be better positioned to do the work they were trained to do, while still remaining properly belted in a moving ambulance. These new test methods also greatly reduce the risk of patient or work injury resulting from flying equipment and supplies.”
The Digital Health Awards are given out twice a year, in the spring and fall seasons, and entries are evaluated for content and design, creativity and user experience. The NIOSH ambulance video series, Improving EMS Worker Safety Through Ambulance Design and Testing, also provides viewers with an overview of the many changes impacting ambulance design, testing, and manufacture.
Green has also recently received the 2017 Person of the Year Award presented by Automotive Testing Technology International and the 2017 EMS Partnership of the Year Award from the American Ambulance Association for his role and partnerships with the ambulance industry. Additionally, he was recognized by the Ambulance Manufacturers Division of the National Truck Equipment Association as a major contributor to the advancement of the North American ambulance industry.
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