Preventing and Mitigating Workplace Violence

When shooting rampages happen, they make headlines. They do so, of course, because they are relatively rare. But violence and threats of violence all along the spectrum occur in workplaces all over the country.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were approximately 572,000 nonfatal incidents of workplace violence in 2009 alone. These incidents include assault and battery, rape and sexual assault and robbery. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a broader definition of workplace violence, and estimates that it strikes as many as 2 million workers each year.

Workplace violence can arise as the result of assaultive or threatening behavior among employees, between supervisors and employees, and even from outside the workplace. It is not unusual, for example, for upset significant others and exes to show up at the workplace to harass, threaten or assault employees. Unfortunately, businesses need to have a plan to prevent workplace violence, and a plan and resources to mitigate it when it occurs.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can be a victim of workplace violence at any time. But according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, those most at risk of workplace violence include anyone who handles cash or valuable goods and interacts with the public, workers who work in very small groups or who work alone, law enforcement officers and others involved in social services with unstable or criminal populations, such as visiting psychiatric workers, health care workers and probation officers. Taxi drivers and letter carriers are also at an elevated risk.

Countermeasures

OSHA recommends a “zero tolerance” policy for workplace violence incidents caused by employees. Include language in your employee handbook and/or new hire packet that makes it clear that one incident of threatening or other violent behavior will result in immediate termination of employment.

This is important to protect the business as well. If you give an employee a second chance and he hurts someone, that is a powerful cause of action against you, the employer. If a worker suffers damages as a result of workplace violence, an employer that kept a known offender on the payroll despite a history of incidents is much more likely to face severe punitive sanctions, over and above compensating the employee for injuries suffered, if the case goes to court. Settlements will likely be less favorable to the employer, as well.

Install access control systems.

Access control systems allow the employer to control who gains access to the workplace. For example, you can install a key-card swipe system. Then if you want to revoke a former employee’s access to the building, you don’t have to change locks – just deactivate the former employee’s swipe card. A punch code system works, too – whenever anyone leaves the company, the HR director notifies the security director, who changes the access code and notifies current employees.

Of course, both systems work to prevent access to street criminals and anyone else looking to gain unauthorized access to the workplace as well, not just former employees.

Add lighting.

The walk from the office to the workers’ cars can be hazardous. You can mitigate that by adding extra lighting and security surveillance of the parking lot. Workers can go to cars in groups, as well.

Get cash out of the registers

Cash on hand is an obvious robbery target – particularly after dark. Employers can install drop safes and time lock safes to ensure that the potential payoff is not worth the risk of a robbery attack. Employers can also work to move cash transactions to electronic or credit card transactions, further reducing the amount of cash exposed.

Empower Employees

Home health care aides, maids and cleaners and others are routinely in homes and workplaces alone. Employees should have the authority to assess whether their workplace is unsafe, and to refuse to enter into unsafe situations without fear of reprisal by the employer.

Sterilize Field Workers

When employees go out into the community to work, they should not bring their purses or any other valuable items with them. Provide a safe place for workers to store purses and anything else of value. Encourage workers to bring nothing but required identification and lunch money out into the community or a hazardous worksite.

Have a Crisis Response Plan

Develop a crisis response plan to handle any incident you can reasonably foresee, and update it regularly. This could be a plan to quickly evacuate the entire office in the event of a bomb threat or shooting incident, or to evacuate a single employee out of site of a jealous ex or stalker who may become a problem. Rehearse these plans periodically, and speak with employees about updating them.

Also, be sure to have an adequately-stocked first-aid kit on hand, and invest in training employees in how to provide assistance to anyone injured.

Encourage employees to share information

Occasionally issues from outside the workplace can spill into the office. Encourage employees who are having issues in their private lives to notify security without fear of embarrassment. This will allow decision makers to take appropriate actions to control access and to identify a potentially violent person the minute he shows up in the area. That may give security time to block access, notify law enforcement, and ensure the targeted worker is in a safe location.

 

Screen New Hires for Potential Safety Risks

Is it possible to identify unsafe potential workers in advance? That’s the business proposition offered by some testing firms. These companies create tests designed, in part, to identify workers and applicants in advance who are unable or unwilling to follow workplace safety protocols and procedures.

This is particularly effective in industries where human error is responsible for a large fraction of workplace injuries and deaths – that is, most of them. Furthermore, the testing is particularly important in industries like construction, manufacturing, mining and transportation, where an attitude of carelessness or negligence is more likely to be lethal.

Specifically, employment safety assessments seek to quantify employee attitudes on several axes.

For example, assessments from Australian employee testing firm OneTest measure employee attitudes on the following subjects:

Locus of control. Some employees believe they, as individuals, can make a difference in their environment through rigorous effort and discipline. Others believe that external factors such as fate are determinative. Such individuals are less likely to be diligent in following safety protocols or being proactive to ensure a safe workplace.

Risk aversion. Some employees have more of an urge to thrill-seek than others. Those who have low inhibitions or who are easily bored are more apt to be involved in workplace accidents than those who indicate that they are more cautious or risk averse.

Stress management. Employees who do not handle stress well are likely to become flustered or distracted, leading to potential workplace hazards. Workers with higher stress tolerance are considered to be safer risks than workers with low stress tolerance.

Drug aversion. Workers who use illegal drugs, or who are likely to use controlled substances, often generate low insight into drug issues – which makes them easier to identify using written assessments. There are a number of employee screening tools that seek to identify lax or permissive attitudes towards drug use themselves or tolerating it among coworkers.

Propensity to violence. Those who report that aggressive behavior is justifiable or understandable are more likely to cause workplace violence themselves – or tolerate it among coworkers. Furthermore, those who report a poor ability to control their own emotions and temper are more apt to become problems in the workplace.

Another testing, Sodexo, slices the apple a little differently: They seek to measure test-takers on their conscientiousness, agreeability, customer service and safety orientation – that is, their stated willingness to adhere to safety protocols and regulations.

Of these parameters, Sodexo has found substantial positive correlation between screening and improved safety outcomes in a variety of industries. Employers found that screening out applicants who had failed the assessment resulted in a 1/3 reduction in workers compensation claims, and that the amount of the remaining claims were also reduced by one third.

Sodexo also found out that employers who screened out those who failed their safety assessment also reduced their employee turnover by an average of 17 percent.

The self-reported effectiveness of Sodexo and OneTest are in line with this case study, reported by another assessment firm, Orion System. Orion cites a major U.S. retailer which tested its approach on 26 stores, covering 4,000 employees. Orion reports that the retailer experienced a 31 percent reduction in workers compensation claims, 23 percent reduction in general liability claims over a five-month period, compared with the same period the year before.

Conclusion

The efficacy of written safety assessment tests isn’t limited to screening out potential employees. Diligent executives can also use these assessments to compare facilities around the company. For example, if employees at one location are far more likely to report that they have ignored safety regulations in order to complete a job on time than workers at another location, you may not have an employee issue so much as a leadership issue at that site.

Employee safety screening is not foolproof. Accidents happen, and always will, as long as people are fallible and equipment isn’t perfect. However, in the aggregate, employee safety screening has proven its value in helping reduce workplace accidents.

Steps for Forming a Solid Workplace Safety Plan

Two of the most serious components of workplace dangers are substandard equipment and inadequate planning. Fires destroy thousands of workplaces every year. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is commonly shortened to OSHA, exists to help prevent fires, various workplace hazards and accidents. Workplace safety cannot be achieved by only one individual. To be effective, it must include OSHA, compliance with other regulations, employee cooperation and diligence from employers. In addition to this, employers must ensure that workers receive thorough training and understand the safety procedures. Since every employer wants to avoid fines or possible lawsuits, it is essential to have the strongest safety plan possible. The following steps are helpful for creating an emergency preparedness a plan.

Emergency Procedures Employers should ensure that all workers know the locations of fire extinguishers and exits. Annual training should be provided to retrain workers how to use extinguishers. After creating evacuation maps, employers should place them in visible areas throughout the workplace. Each employee should receive a handbook with the company’s safety procedures and evacuation plans. Employers can also involve employees in monitoring the workplace for fire hazards.

Check Lights And Exits Lighted exit signs should be placed above every door leading outside. When fires occur in buildings, the smoke is so thick that it reduces visibility considerably. If exit signs are not lit, employees may not be able to see the doors to escape safely. In addition to this, stress, panic and stinging sensations in the eyes only complicate the task of exiting a burning building. Employers should have the batteries and light bulbs in these signs inspected and replaced frequently. Fire extinguishers should also be inspected and marked.

Safety Training Practice drills are essential to test employees’ capabilities to escape safely. During each drill, ask employees to find the nearest fire extinguisher. Have them practice communicating with others to call 911 and take other steps included in the plan. Stress the importance of teamwork for surviving a workplace fire.

Answer Questions Encourage employees to ask questions. Some people may be afraid to ask questions, so they should feel that every question is welcome. In addition to hosting a group question-and-answer session following a safety meeting, ask employees to submit anonymous concerns in a locked drop box. Some people may be afraid to bring up safety issues if they involve another worker who they feel may retaliate. Emphasize that every note is confidential and no names will be disclosed. If workers have to wonder whether their employers will tell other workers about complaints involving them, they are more likely to remain silent than to come forward.

Keeping good records and complying with OSHA’s standards are both important components of a solid safety plan. Employers should keep important forms such as the Form 300, which is used for work-related injury reports, stocked and in an accessible place. Using these forms is a helpful way to pinpoint problem areas in the workplace. For answers to any questions, contact ACBI.

Workplace Safety Update: Crisis Communication Plans

When you began your small business, you had a plan for getting off the ground. As time went on, you planned ahead for growth and expansion.

Do you have a plan for the crisis moments? In today’s world of instant information and Internet rumors that spread faster than wildfire, every small business must have an emergency communication plan in place – before disaster strikes.

A plan designates who will speak for the company, to whom and what entities, how the communication will occur, and, to some extent, what will be said. This provides a clear template to follow when stress and emotions are running as high as the demand for immediate response. A planned response will present as calm, informed, and in control, providing an opportunity for fair treatment in the media and helping to mitigate any damage to the company’s reputation that may occur as a result of the crisis.

What constitutes a crisis?

A crisis is anything that threatens to damage the operation of your business, including ruining its reputation. Many of them will involve workplace injuries or deaths. Recall, for example, the Sago mining disaster of 2006. Twelve miners were trapped in an underground explosion. After two days of frantic rescue attempts, word leaked out to the families – and subsequently to the media – that the miners had been found. Families gathered at the mine to await their loved ones. It was only then that their hopes were dashed by devastating news: Eleven of them were dead.

This is a major communications error, and put a black mark on the management team for years.

Frequency

Hopefully you will never have an incident that kills a dozen employees. But workplace injuries and deaths are a fact of life in many industries. A crisis preparedness study done in 2011 by Penn Schoen Berland found that 66% of the businesses it surveyed had suffered a crisis, with the number even higher in manufacturing and technology-based businesses. And if your company has a computer or a website, it is vulnerable to problems from cyberspace – from your employees doing things they shouldn’t, to breaches within your email or internet service provider or banking institutions. These aren’t life threatening, but they still require an organized and thoughtful response to both internal communications – to employees and their families – and external communications, to the community, emergency responders and the news media.

A checklist

  1. Designate a single spokesperson and ensure they are prepared. No matter the nature of the crisis or the method of response, there should be one “face” that is addressing the issue. Get key individuals some media training or, at the very least, a group of colleagues and practice.
  2. Define the top five mostly likely calamities to strike your business and its reputation.
  3. Formulate 1-2 key messages for each of these calamities, building in flexibility for specifics. What information is most important? What message needs to be heard? Make sure the message is simple enough to be understood across all media.
  4. Identify and connect with other people you may need to contact in the event of an emergency. These are people who either have information you will need before you respond, or can help you manage the response. You may have someone already performing these roles for you, or you may have to seek out consultants. Either way, do it ahead of time. Establish the relationship now, define their role in an emergency, and go over your plans with them. These may include:
  • Marketing/Public Relations professional (See #6 for more)
  • Safety/security expert
  • Regulatory agencies
  • Legal counsel
  • Insurance agents
  • Accountant
  • Internet service provider
  • Relevant media
  • Local police department
  1. Identify your communication target audiences in each of your top five most likely scenarios. These might be internal (employees, families of employees, stakeholders, clients, vendors) or external (general public, media agencies, regulatory agencies, law enforcement) contacts.
  2. Specify what channels of communication you will use. It is essential that your message be consistent across all media. If you are not comfortable with new media, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, you are not alone; according to the same PSB study mentioned above, 54% of business decision makers do not feel confident in this area. If you need to consult with a PR firm, do so, looking for expertise in social media and crisis management.
  • Email
  • Telephone
  • Your business’ voicemail message
  • Local media – print, radio, television, online
  • Website
  • Text messaging
  • Social media: Even if you don’t already have social media channels in place, you will need to use it to monitor what folks are saying about you, and to immediately respond to questions and concerns. Remember that in today’s world you are expected to communicate WITH people, not just TO them.
  1. Practice! Put each of your top five scenarios in action and practice. Prepare the people involved in each situation, and identify specifically what you are likely to need from them.

After the crisis has passed

When the dust has settled, take a deep breath and review. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are there any business or safety practices that need to change to prevent recurrence? Start making those changes.
  2. How effective was our message during the crisis? What might have worked better?
  3. Are we continuing to manage our reputation online? Have your PR person continue to monitor – and respond to – what is being said on social media, review sites, etc.
  4. How might we turn this situation into something that will work for the company? Consider developing a seminar on “What we learned,” or writing a news story or presentation.

5.What contacts were most useful? Maintain those relationships.

Insurance

Companies with a plan for handling crises before they occur handle situations more effectively and recover far more rapidly than companies without a plan. Remember: The crisis itself is less likely to put you out of business than how you handle the situation. Having a plan ahead of time is akin to having insurance for your reputation. Putting in the time to develop a solid plan before anything actually happens pays multiple dividends when it does.

Understanding OSHA and Which Workplaces Must Comply

The bill that would lead to the Occupational Safety and Health Act went into effect on April 28, 1971. When Congress passed the bill, they made it clear that their intention was to ensure that every working individual in the nation would have healthful and safe working conditions. OSHA was then formed as a division of the Department of Labor. After being formed, it was given the power to enforce and set safety and health standards for American workplaces. In addition to this, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, which is a research institute for disease control, was established. OSHA describes employers as any persons engaged in businesses that affect commerce and have employees. However, political subdivisions of individual states and the United States political divisions are not included.

Nearly all workplaces must comply with OSHA. Hospitals, offices of charities, private schools, labor unions, restaurants, construction companies, law firms, manufacturers and many more types of businesses must follow OSHA’s regulations. Religious organizations that have employees for secular purposes are included. Family farms, people who are self employed and workplaces that are subject to other federal laws are exempt. Some examples of workplaces that are subject to other federal laws include nuclear weapons manufacturers, airlines, railroads and mining companies. State and local governments are also exempt. However, the United States Postal Service and other federal agencies are included.

Under OSHA regulations, employers are required to:

– Comply with and be familiar with applicable standards.

– Maintain practices that keep workers reasonably safe on the job.

– Make sure employees are provided with necessary protective equipment when applicable.

This is part of the General Duty clause. When OSHA acts on the clause, there must be four elements present:

– There must be a hazard.

– The hazard has to be recognized.

– The hazard is likely to cause serious injuries or death.

– It must be possible to correct the hazard.

Since it is difficult for OSHA to make rules, the division mostly focuses on mechanical and chemical hazards instead of procedural tasks. They currently focus on falls, electrical hazards, toxic substances, digging trenches, infectious diseases, hazardous waste, explosion dangers and machine hazards.

If an employee dies due to a work-related injury, an employer must report the death to OSHA within eight hours. This is also true if there are three or more workers hospitalized as a result of a workplace accident. Workplace injuries must always be reported in a timely manner. Reports must be kept on file for five years following an injury. Any on-the-job heart attacks must also be reported immediately. It is important for employers to communicate with their workers about hazards and procedures to avoid them. Technical guides and material safety data sheets should be available to all workers.

OSHA forbids employers from retaliating, discriminating against or discharging any employees for exercising their rights outlined in Section 11. Employees have the right to contact OSHA about concerns, participate in proceedings and participate in inspections. Some states adopt their own safety and health plans, which is permitted in Section 18 of OSHA. However, the state’s standards must be effective in creating healthful and safe employment.

New Ladder Safety App Helps Construction Workers Avoid Falls

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health promoted a new ladder safety phone application recently. The app is available for all smartphone users, and it uses audio and visual signals to aid workers who must use extension ladders. The app checks the ladder’s angle when it is positioned and also provides several helpful tips for proper ladder use. It is free to download for Android and iPhone devices.

Every year, there are many injuries resulting from ladders falling on construction sites. Whether a person is on the ladder or standing under it when it is knocked over, injuries are usually severe enough they require emergency medical attention. Falls are one of the biggest concerns, and many people fall while they are on an extension ladder if safety precautions are not followed. One major risk is misjudging the angle of the ladder. It may look secure from one point, but it may actually be far from a safe angle for climbing. When it is set too steep, it often falls backward. However, ladders where the bottoms are set too shallow may fall out from below.

Experts say that the new phone app is a good way to keep workers safer in two useful ways. They also believe it will help prevent injuries if construction workers are encouraged to download it. They point out that the app is proof of how experts are constantly looking for easier ways for workers to protect themselves. This app provides feedback for setting up ladders at certain angles. In addition to this, there are references users will find helpful. There is also a guide for inspecting, using, accessorizing and selecting extension ladders.

In addition to downloading this app, it is helpful for construction workers to brush up on their extension ladder safety basics frequently.

The following are some useful points to remember:

– Never stand above the ladder’s highest safe standing level, which is outlined by the manufacturer and is usually above three rungs.

– Always keep three or more points of contact during a project.

– Avoid extending the center of the body beyond the sides of the ladder.

– Do not carry tools while using a ladder. Instead, wear a window cleaner’s belt or similar product designed to meet the purpose.

– Always face the ladder when descending or ascending.

– Do not leave an erected ladder unattended for any length of time.

– Always wear non-slip footwear when climbing a ladder.

What Employers Need to Know about Keeping Workers Safe from Asbestos

Flooring tiles may contain asbestos, which is a mineral fiber that was used in the past in several different building materials. It was used before people were aware of the dangerous effects it had on human health. Workers who are responsible for buffing or waxing floors with asbestos are in danger of negative health effects. If floor tiles were put in prior to 1980, workers should assume that they have asbestos. However, some workplaces may have had the flooring inspected to confirm that it is free of asbestos. If a floor cannot be confirmed as being free of asbestos, it is essential to take the proper precautions when cleaning or polishing it.

There are several regulations developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to protect people in workplaces from asbestos. The standard equipment used to clean asbestos flooring requires a pad that is abrasive. Since it runs at high speeds, it chips off tiny particles of asbestos into the air. When these fibers are airborne, they are easy for workers to inhale. The carcinogenic fibers become trapped in the lungs, and they can lead to lung cancer or other forms of lung disease.

Identifying a hazard in the workplace may not always be easy. Airborne fibers from asbestos flooring are small enough that workers will not be able to see them. As a rule, the simplest way to stay safe is to assume that any flooring put in prior to 1980 is dangerous. Even if it is not, the precautions are easy enough to follow that they are not burdensome. To be considered dangerous, a piece of flooring only needs to contain more than one percent asbestos.

Workers who are responsible for taking care of asbestos flooring should become familiar with the OSHA standards regarding this material. It is Part 1910.1001 of the 29 Code of Federal Regulations. For the shipyard and construction industries, there are separate asbestos standards due to varying working conditions. Employers are required to provide proper training that is understandable to all workers. They must cover the location of the asbestos, the health effects of it, how to recognize damaged asbestos-containing materials and how to respond to fiber releases. They should also provide workers with these valuable tips for flooring care:

– Never sand asbestos flooring.

– Use pads with low abrasion for buffing.

– Use wet cleaning methods.

– Keep buffer speeds below 300 rpm.

– If finish is sufficient, dry buffing or brushing is acceptable.

When properly implemented, these methods should be sufficient enough care precautions that personal protective equipment is not needed. Employers are required to keep records of workers’ training and notification. If any workers are exposed to asbestos or dangerous conditions, records should be kept and the workers should be monitored.

The DTSEM FS-3693 is one of the informational fact sheets used for highlighting OSHA programs, standards and policies. There are no new compliance regulations. To find the list of regulations and standards, look at Title 29 in the Code of Federal Regulations. Employers should also let workers know their rights in this matter. They have the right to do the following:

– Experience working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.

– Exercise their law-given rights without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

– Review their own records of illnesses or injuries at work.

– Receive training and information in a language they understand.

– Be trained about workplace hazards and prevention methods.

– File confidential complaints to OSHA for workplace inspections if necessary.

– Receive copies of test results measuring and identifying hazards.

Employers who are starting new businesses or buying older buildings with asbestos flooring should be aware of these regulations and training requirements for workers. For more information about insurance to cover possible workplace incidents, contact ACBI. 

How to Stay Safe Around Electricity and Electrical Equipment

Electrical power can be very dangerous when used improperly. It can hurt or kill people, ignite fires and damage property. Thorough safety practices are useful for minimizing electrical hazards, and they reduce the risk of accidents. Electrical hazards cannot be removed completely, but they can be controlled with the right engineering and educational techniques. People who understand electricity can stay safer at work and at home.

Electrical Shock If a person touches hazardous electrical equipment and a grounded surface at the same time, electrical shock occurs. This is the flow of electrical current from the equipment, through the body and to the ground. The severity of the injury is dependent upon which body parts are affected by the electrical current and how long the flow lasts. Even a tiny amount of electrical current can kill or severely injure a person.

Workplace Protection Only employees who are properly trained and qualified can work on electrical equipment. All types of equipment should be thoroughly inspected regularly by an electrician. Tools, lights and machines should also be inspected to ensure they are operating according to code requirements. Cords should be in good condition and not frayed. If they are frayed or damaged in any way, they should be replaced by a professional.

In damp or wet areas such as the outdoors, kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, ground fault circuit interrupters should be used. Protect electrical equipment with circuit breakers, and make sure control panels or panels that cover receptacle boxes stay closed when they are not in use. Never touch a damp or wet surface and bare wires at the same time. As a rule, it is best to avoid working in damp conditions whenever possible. Always use tools and equipment for their designated uses only. Immediately report defective equipment, damage, and tools that are not functioning correctly in the workplace. Read any posted warning signs, and always follow the lockout/tagout procedures in the company handbook.

What To Wear And What Not To Wear Avoid wearing any metal jewelry, and always wear eye protection. Rubber-soled boots or shoes are essential when contact with wet or damp surfaces is likely. When working with electricity, use leather or rubber gloves that are safety approved.

Observing Hazards Survey the area for water, spills or dampness. Look closely at ground wires and connections to ensure they are free from breaks and secured tightly. Always check to make sure wiring and circuits are in good repair, and they should never be overloaded. Look for worn spots or breaks in insulation. These pose shock hazards. Analyze equipment frequently for damage, and make sure it is properly maintained to ensure it works correctly. Report any hazards immediately. Any foot or hand protection should be kept in good repair and replaced whenever necessary. Look at gears and belts to ensure the tension is correct and the risk of power overload is minimized.

Emergencies In case of a medical emergency outdoors, call 911. Notify the supervisor, follow emergency protocols and follow all necessary safety procedures. Avoid touching a person who has been shocked, and never try to free the individual using tools. For indoor or low-voltage emergencies, call 911 immediately. Do not touch a grounded person. Turn the power off at the circuit breaker box or fuse. If the shock came from a device with a plug, pull the plug while wearing the proper safety equipment. People who are unable to shut off the power or are unsure how to turn it off should call the power company immediately. Always know the location of power sources, and have a plan ahead of time for how to handle these emergencies. To learn more about this topic, contact ACBI.

Workplace Safety Tips for Working in Cold Temperatures

Depending on how long a person has been exposed to cold temperatures, hypothermia symptoms may vary. The earliest symptoms include fatigue, shivering, confusion and loss of coordination. As hypothermia progresses, it may cause blue skin, dilated pupils, lack of shivering, loss of consciousness, slowed breathing and a lowered pulse.

Treating Hypothermia If a worker is suffering from hypothermia, it is important to act quickly. Let the workplace supervisor know immediately, and ask for medical assistance. Take the victim to a warmer room, remove clothing if it is wet and focus on warming the center of the body first. This should include the neck, head, chest and groin. Use dry layers of blankets or material. Do not give the person alcohol to drink, but a warm beverage may help if the person is conscious and able to drink. Once the victim’s body temperature has risen, keep the person wrapped up and warm in a blanket. Be sure the neck and head are covered. For victims who have no pulse, start CPR immediately and have someone call 911.

Immersion Hypothermia When a person is submerged in cold water, it creates a condition known as immersion hypothermia. This type develops considerably faster than the standard type, which is due to the body’s natural response of conducting heat away from itself 25 times quicker than it does with air. Immersion hypothermia can happen in any water that is below 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Frostbite Frostbite happens when part of the body freezes. It results in a loss of color and feeling, and it is most common in the ears, chin, cheeks, nose, toes and fingers. Frostbite can cause permanent tissue damage, and it may even lead to amputation of affected limbs or digits. Workers who are not dressed properly or have poor circulation are more prone to developing frostbite in cold temperatures. Tingling, numbness, stinging, waxy-looking skin and aching are common symptoms. If a worker exhibits symptoms, immerse the affected area in warm water, keep pressure off of it and seek medical attention.

There are other conditions to watch for such as trench foot, which happens when the feet are exposed to cold and wet conditions. It can occur at temperatures of 60 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Another condition to watch for is chilblains, which are itchy areas that return with repeated exposure to cold. Ears, cheeks, nose and other exposed areas are usually affected. The itching is due to permanent capillary bed damage. Keeping workers safe is something all employers should make a top priority. The following tips are helpful for this:

– Be aware of dangerous environmental conditions in the workplace.

– Know the signs and treatments for illnesses or injuries caused by cold temperatures.

– Have workers wear appropriate clothing when working in cold or damp locations.

– Make sure workers are informed about cold-related injuries and illnesses.

– If possible, have employees work during the warmer part of the day in colder months.

– Since energy keeps muscles warm, do not work employees to the point of exhaustion.

– Encourage workers to eat high-calorie foods that are warm when working in the cold.

– Make sure there is a warm and dry place where workers can take frequent breaks to warm up.

– Tell workers to avoid caffeine and choose warm or sugary beverages instead.

– Have employees work in pairs to ensure they may look for danger signs in one another.

– Workers who are taking certain medications, have poor physical health or have chronic illnesses face increased risks for cold-related injuries and illnesses.