Posts Tagged ‘emergency workers’

12 Winter storm-related hazards & a tool kit for preventing problems

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

This storm is a whopper of potentially historic proportion, with warnings and advisories covering a 2,000+ mile swathe from New Mexico and the Southern Plains to the upper Mid-Atlantic and New England. Four states – Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois – have already declared a state of emergency. More than one million square miles of the country are expected to be affected. And even if you live in a balmy state that is not directly affected, expect travel and business disruptions to spill over. (Or maybe the correct term is “snowball?”)
If you get confused about the difference, here’s a handy guide to how the National Weather Service defines Storm Warnings, Watches and Advisories and here is further clarification for winter weather terminology.
According to National Weather Service, about 70% of the injuries during winter storms result from vehicle accidents, and about 25% of injuries result from being caught out in the storm. Emergency workers who are out and about during the storm and in storm cleanup face additional risks.
Here are some of the most common winter workplace injuries and a toolkit of resources for prevention.
1. Driving accidents on slippery roadways or due to obstructed vision; Being struck by vehicles while working in roadways or while pulled over in roadways
CCOHS: Winter Driving Tips
OSHA: Safe Winter Driving
Mass. DOT: Safe Winter Driving Tips
2. Slips and falls on snowy or ice-covered outdoor walkways and wet indoor floors from snow or ice being carried in.
Winterize your workplace
7 Tips for Winter Slip and Fall Prevention
3. Hypothermia and frostbite due to cold weather exposure
CDC winter weather exposure
NIOSH: Cold Stress
Extreme cold prevention
In case you are stranded while driving in winter
4. Being struck by falling objects such as icicles, tree limbs, and utility poles
Natural disaster response: safety for cleanup workers
5. Falls from heights (roofs, ladders, lifts) while removing snow
OSHA Fall Protection
Safe snow removal
Safe work practices on snow covered roofs
6. Electrocution and burns from downed power lines, downed objects in contact with power lines, or ungrounded electrical equipment.
OSHA: Working Safely Among Downed Power Lines
OSHA Overhead Power Lines
Powerline Safety
NIOSH: Electrical safety
Electrical burns: first aid
7. Lacerations and amputations from unguarded or improperly operated snow blowers, chain saws and power tools
Practice snowblower safety
Mind the machinery while you work
8. Injuries from roof collapse under weight of snow
Preventing roof collapse in winter
Some roofs more prone to collapse
9. Exhaustion from working extended shifts
OSHA: Extended/unusual work shifts
10. Dehydration
Preventing dehydration in winter
11. Back injuries or heart attack while shoveling or removing snow
Snow shoveling is risky
Snow shoveling and snow removal safety
12. Carbon monoxide poisoning from generators used in improperly ventilated areas or from idling vehicles
Occupational Safety and Health Guideline for Carbon Monoxide


Thursday, January 14th, 2010

As the world watches in horror and hopelessness, the people of Haiti are trying to extricate themselves from one of the great natural disasters of our lifetime. As I write, thousands of people are still alive, trapped beneath the rubble of what was once Port-Au-Prince. Very soon, most of these people will die, along with scores of the relatively unscathed who have no food, no water and no shelter. Faced with formidable logistical obstacles, the rescuers will not be able to reach most of the trapped people in time and the trickle of essential supplies may be too late for many others.
Our thoughts are with everyone who is suffering in this unimaginable disaster.
As the roads are cleared and supplies finally make their way into what is left of Haiti’s capital, rescuers will face enormous hazards. Unstable buildings may collapse at any moment. Further aftershocks are likely. Everyone in the devastated landscape is breathing air contaminated with toxins. There is even a danger of mob violence, as victims become increasingly frustrated by the lack of effective response.
Among the many issues that need confronting at this time, workers comp coverage for the rescuers is probably at the bottom of the list. Yet we know from the World Trade Center experience that many first responders will be exposed to life-threatening injury and illness in the coming days and weeks. Given the magnitude of human suffering in front of them, these responders are not about to raise the issue of their own disability coverage. But the day will come when the extent and nature of that protection is paramount, when the as-yet undiscussed benefits will be an absolute necessity for individual rescuers and their families.
We blogged recently about the personal risk management in which we all engage on a daily basis. We make our choices, moment to moment, in the expectation that nothing really bad will happen. If our luck holds, we live to face the micro challenges of another day.
For the poor people of Haiti and the brave souls trying desperately to help them, the time for micro management is over. The challenge of a lifetime confronts them with savage force. May all who suffer find peace and may all who are trying to alleviate the suffering return home safely.
See a post at HR Web Cafe on Haiti earthquake resources, which includes links for:

  • Finding missing loved ones
  • Ways that you can help
  • Avoiding scams
  • News resources
  • Twitter feeds