Post Storm Safety

Now that two hurricanes have passed the clean up is under way. There are some real hazards when cleaning up from a storm like a hurricane that if not followed can lead to injury and illness.

I always like to use risk management. Even after a storm, you can identify the potential hazards and ways to control them through a risk management process. There are a lot of different risk management processes out there and I recommend using the one you are most familiar with. The important thing is to use it.

The first thing you will want to do is obtain the protective clothing and equipment. If you will be working in water a good pair of hip or leg waders are necessary. Solid well fitting working gloves are also essential. If you are moving sharp items you will want to make sure your gloves will prevent cuts and scrapes. Protective eyewear and hard hats may also be needed. If you are not wearing a hard hat you should wear a hat to keep the sun off of your face, neck,  and ears.

In addition to the protective clothing and equipment you should apply sunscreen to prevent sunburn and at times a bug repellent. It is important for you to keep yourself hydrated so a handy bottle of cool water is essential. I say cool because most of us don’t like to drink warm water and if you don’t like to drink it you probably won’t. This will put you at a higher risk for heat injuries.

You will need to make sure the area you are about to work in is safe. This includes checking for electrical shock hazards or leaking gas. It is also important to look for wildlife such as snakes and in some areas alligators and crocodiles. There may even be mammals with rabies. Skunks and racoons are commonly infected. They usually act aggressively when infected.

You will also want a first-aid kit and a way to contact emergency medical care for yourself or a colleague. Cuts, punctures, and scrapes may require a tetanus shot to prevent infection. After applying a band aid or bandage seek medical attention due to the unclean condition following a storm.

It is always best to work in teams so there is always someone to get help for an injured person. There are also other hurricanes in the Gulf and you will want to stay on top of their locations and hazards as well.

 

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Know the Dangers of Flash Flooding

The flooding in Texas, Mississippi, and New Orleans has displaced many people and placed others in grave danger. One danger we see now occurring is flash flooding. This type of flood occurs suddenly, with little or no warning, and can be disastrous. Areas can be safe one minute and flooded by a raging current of water the next. Flash flood waters move incredibly fast and with a tremendous amount of force. They can push boulders, tear down trees, and destroy buildings, roads, and bridges. Walls of water can reach 10 to 20 feet high very quickly and without warning.  To avoid becoming injured or even killed by a flash flood it is essential that you know and following precautions:

  • Prevent children from playing in high water or storm drains.
  • Stay out of low areas.
  • Be familiar with the land features where you live, work, and play.
  • Know where high ground is and how to get there quickly.
  • Don’t try to drive through water.

There are signs you can watch for tell if flash flooding is possible:

  • Unusually hard rain over several hours.
  • Steady substantial rain over several days.
  • A tropical system affecting your area.
  • A weather report of severe weather or a flash flood watch.
  • Water rising rapidly in streams and rivers.
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Conduct Continuity of Operations Planning Now

What is happening in Texas now is a good reminder that your company needs a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under any circumstances. You should prepare for the full range of potential emergencies and put in place a viable Continuity of Operations (COOP) capability which ensures the performance of company operations during any emergency or situation that may disrupt them. There are several objectives to any COOP plan, which include:

  • Communicating effectively from an alternate site.
  • Validating support systems for 24-hour operations.
  • Testing an alert, notification, and activation system.
  • Performing selected operations from an alternate site.
  • Receiving, process and analyze, and disseminate information.
  • Be able to access vital files and databases from an alternate site.

Continuity of Operations planning must be done in advance to respond to a natural or man-made emergency. This means if your company needs to relocate to an alternate site coordination should be done before hand. Some tasks that your company may have to provide include:

  • Acquiring space and facilities
  • Providing for the safety of employees
  • Coordinating facility repair and operations
  • Providing travel and transportation services
  • Providing mail and courier delivery services
  • Identifying all affected real and personal property
  • Providing administrative and facilities management and support services

This plan should allow your company to continue its work with little or no disruption in service; however, it takes a lot of work to do well.  For example at the national level continuity planning also requires coordination with state and local governments. This planning must also include information technology.

There is a lot of guidance from the Federal Government that can be used in the planning process. Here are some that I think are helpful:

  • Delegate full authority in order of succession.
  • Identify alternate facility or facilities for critical personnel
  • Train employees as to their individual roles during a COOP activity
  • Demonstrate a general level of understanding of the plan among employees
  • Maintain vital records and databases in electronic form at a backup location to meet operational responsibilities following the activation of a COOP.

Teleworking (employees working from an alternate site or home using telephone and computer) is one element of planning that must be considered. Teleworking can allow employees to work from home or an alternate location when a facility is damaged, cannot be reached, or is in the path of an impending disaster. Standards and guidance must be in place prior to any emergency to ensure employees have the equipment necessary to perform their work. This means IT components critical for telework.

There are always security concerns involved with moving an organization to an alternate site when responding to an emergency. Specifically, managers experience a great deal of concern over the security of the information technology equipment and transmissions. In addition, security planners must also consider the physical security of any alternate site. It is essential that a risk assessment is conducted of possible alternate sites so that risks can be considered along with other criteria to determine the best fit. These risk assessment should identify the potential security weaknesses of a facility. Effort should then be expanded to reduce some of the risks for selected facilities.

This blog post touched on a variety of topics that all deal with putting in place a comprehensive and effective program to ensure continuity of operations under all circumstances. The topics of planning, telework, and security were each explored. To ensure that companies can respond in an emergency it is essential that all aspects of the response be planned for. Without this planning, it will be very difficult if not impossible for a company to respond and if the response is weak customers the voters can and should go to another company.

 

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What I learned from An Inconvenient Truth

I first learned about protecting the environment in sixth grade. At that time, the focus was on not polluting the planet. Near the end of that year, I earned first place in pollution prevention poster contest. For the rest of my life, I kept that interest in protecting the environment. My awareness was raised to a higher level when I lived in Germany where reducing exhaust from vehicles and recycling were a part of the culture. As an adult, I even managed environmental protection programs in a few of my jobs.

To keep myself abreast of the field I read books and watched documentaries when I got the chance. In 2006 Al Gore made a very slick documentary titled An Inconvenient Truth. This documentary that won the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Documentary, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Song, and the American Cinema Editors Guild Best Edited Documentary.  Furthermore, in 2007 Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change received the Nobel Prize. Al Gore won the award for his tireless campaign to put the climate crisis on the political agenda. I saw that, at least in part, as making the documentary. Many people I knew watched the documentary myself included.

I thought it was the best documentary I had ever seen. The documentary was a dramatic improvement over the old documentaries that were often dull and monotone. I was surprised at the way the director kept the emotions high using events from Gore’s life to raise emotions.

However, no documentary can stand on the quality of presentation and flashy camera work alone. There needs to be some truth there. To prepare for this blog post, I watched An Inconvenient Truth again. One chart at the beginning stood out to me. It was a quote from Mark Twain that I paraphrase here “What gets us into trouble is what we know that just ain’t’ so.”

This quote stood out because there are several things that Al Gore refers to that simply are not true or accepted as fact:

  • The most obvious to me is was that Gore speaks as if man made CO2 is the cause of warmer temperatures. I have done a lot of research, and there is considerable disagreement as to how much man-made CO2 affects the environment.
  • Another was the connection with the rise in temperature and CO2. There is conflicting agreement with some sources saying the increase in temperatures come first then the CO2 which is the opposite of Gore’s claims.
  • Gore spoke of an increase in hurricanes and their strength. That has not happened.
  • Gore inferred that global warming caused Hurricane Katrina. Experts disagree on any connection between the two.
  • There was also the note that there were no articles in peer reviewed journals that denied global warming. That in and of itself should have been a red flag. I am not aware of very many topics in science that have zero opposition. Information has come out that editors of peer reviewed journals do not accept for publication articles that question global warming.
  • Gore also said that small groups of people deny global warming. Those small groups add up to about half the scientific community.
  • Gore also raised the issue of scientists who were punished for supporting global warming. What I see are scientists punished for not supporting global warming.

Despite my disagreements with the documentary, I learned a valuable lesson. If you want people to accept and listen to safety, occupational health, and environmental protection messages you have to dress them up as Gore did. Many people watched this documentary. How many watched your last workplace video or even noticed your recent poster? First make sure your videos and posters are correct then make them slick or flashy and I think more will notice.

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Management Must Control Hazards

In today’s market place there is an emphasis on rebuilding or redefining companies and organizations so they are lean, cost effective, and capable of competing in the world economy. As businesses change to meet this new challenge it is essential that steps be taken to eliminate or control the hazards in the work place to eliminate accidents and the waste that follows them. If a business is to be competitive all waste must be controlled and eliminated. In this blog entry, I will highlight the management approach to controlling hazards.

The management approach to controlling and eliminating hazards is not a new one; however, it does not seem to get the attention it deserves. This may be due to the impact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has on the way U.S. businesses prevent accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is compliance oriented and implements the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires businesses to provide, in as much as possible, a safe and healthful working environment for the employees of the organization. The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations spell out the requirements of a compliance based program. This compliance approach is directly opposed to a management approach.

Management inefficiencies and deficiencies are the primary cause of hazards that lead to accidents and near misses. Logically, this means that a management approach to controlling these hazards will be the most effective way to correct inefficiencies and deficiencies within the management systems that cause hazards. Management should care about controlling and eliminating these hazards because the costs of accidents and near misses can increase the price of products or services provided by an organization. This often leads to increased cost of products or services, reduced profits, and lost customers.

The way in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides for the safety of the U.S. labor force is but one way in which an organization can prevent accidents. In recent years the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has worked on a management application; however, this is in the preliminary stages. A second and more result oriented approach is the management of hazards through the use of current management system in place within the organization. Hazard Control Management is what this approach is often called. There are organizations who have advocated this approach for many years. The National Safety Management Society and the International Board for the Certification of Safety Managers (former Board of Hazard Control Management) are two of the more well-known.

In addition to the organizations that advocate a Hazard Control Management program, there are professionals who have written about this approach.  Harold Gordon, former Executive Director of the Board of Hazard Control Management, Jim Tweed Executive Director of the International Board for Certification of Safety Managers, and the late William C. Pope are three of the better known. In spite of the written works that have expounded this approach and the organizations that support it, there is little said or done about Hazard Control Management.

What is Hazard Control Management? It is the use of current management systems within an organization to identify, control or eliminate the hazards that would cause accidents within the workplace. You could expand this answer to include waste from bad quality. This approach uses the language and applications that management is most familiar with. Management also understands how to control business with management systems and in turn will better understand the use of these systems to prevent accidents. This is better than what is occurring in many businesses where the manager does not fully understand how and why the safety program within the organization works.

I am most familiar with the book “A Management Approach To Hazard Control Management,” written by Harold Gordon. In section one “What is Hazard Control Management” he introduces the reader to the approach of management of hazard control and the principals that make it such a dynamic approach. Controlling or eliminating hazards through management control can make a real difference in how a business controls and eliminates the hazards that cause accidents and their costs. These costs can be in medical care, compensation, lost business, damaged equipment or perhaps even damage to the business’ reputation. World class organizations can’t afford these costs any longer. If you haven’t already please look into Hazard Control Management today.

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Older Adults need our help this Summer

Each year I read about older adults who died from the heat. It is saddest when I hear that many of them died alone in apartments with all the windows closed, no fan, or air conditioning. Many that die do not have friends or relatives that can help. What can we do to prevent older adults from dying in hot weather?

Before we can help we need to understand that older adults are more prone to heat stress. According to the Center for Disease Control “older adults do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature. Older adults are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat. Older adults are more likely to take prescription medicines that affect the body’s ability to control its temperature or sweat (Older, 2017).

It is important for neighbors, family, and friends to check up on older adults. You can help them by paying attention to the local news for weather updates and keeping an eye out for heat warnings. You can also provide an older adult with fans or an air conditioner. Many older adults keep their windows shut because of a fear of crime. Check and if that is true providing a window air conditioner may be the best help.

A Place for Mom provides recommendations for older adults to prevent heat injuries and death. These include (Elder, 2017):

  • Drink Plenty of Liquids. Dehydration is the root of many heat related health problems. Drink plenty of water or juice, even if you’re not thirsty. But remember to avoid alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothes. An old Swedish saying says, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad” When it’s hot out, wear light-colored, lightweight, loose-fitting clothes and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Stay Indoors During Mid-Day Hours. During periods of extreme heat, the best time to run errands or be outdoors is before 10 am or after 6 pm when the temperature tends to be cooler.
  • Take it Easy. Avoid exercise and strenuous activity, particularly outdoors, when it’s very hot
  • Watch the Heat Index. When there’s a lot of moisture in their air (high humidity), the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired. The heat index factors humidity and temperature to approximate how the how the weather really feels. The current heat index can be found on all popular weather websites and is also usually announced on local TV and radio weather reports during periods of warm weather.
  • Seek Air-conditioned Environments. Seniors whose houses aren’t air-conditioned should consider finding an air-conditioned place to spend time during extreme heat. The mall, library or movie theater are all popular options. During heat waves, many cities also set up “cooling centers,” air-conditioned public places, for seniors and other vulnerable populations. Seniors without convenient access to any air-conditioned place might consider a cool bath or shower.
  • Know the Warning Signs of Heat-related Illness. Dizziness, nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, fainting and breathing problems are all warning signs that help should be sought immediately.

The Center for Disease Control further recommends that if the older adult’ doctor limits the amount of fluids they can drink or has them on water pills, they should ask the doctor how much they should drink during hot weather (Older, 2017).

During this hot summer, please take some time to look out for the older adults in your life. They will appreciate, and it and their life just may depend on it. Today’s Caregiver says that “Elderly people (that is, people aged 65 years and older) are more prone to heat stress than younger people for several reasons (Heat, 2017):

  • Elderly people do not adjust as well as young people to sudden changes in temperature.
  • They are more likely to have a chronic medical condition that changes normal body responses to heat.
  • They are more likely to take prescription medicines that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature or that inhibit perspiration.

Biography:

Elderly Heat Stroke retrieved on July 15, 2017, from http://www.aplaceformom.com/senior-care-resources/articles/elderly-heat-stroke.

Heat Stress in the Elderly retrieved on July 15, 2017, from http://caregiver.com/articles/heat-stress-elderly/.

Older Adults Heat retrieved on July 15, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/older-adults-heat.html.

 

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Exercise Right in Hot Weather

With the extreme temperatures experienced in the summer months, heat stress injuries are a serious threat. This threat increases when you exercise. Many heat injuries occur during the hottest periods of the day, during periods of physical stress, to personnel who are either not acclimated or just recently acclimated. In spite of water being consumed the injury occurred. That could be because the individual did not consume enough water.

Chart ver 2

It is important to consume water prior to and during exercising. The chart above was borrowed from Fort Jackson and in my opinion, no one does heat injury prevention better than the U.S. Army. When the temperature is between 78 and 81.9 there is no limit on the amount of easy workout a person can do as long as they consume a ½ quart of water per hour.  When the temperature goes above 90 degrees then the person should rest 10 minutes after every 50 minutes of easy workout and consume 1 quart of water per hour.

As with all things, this must be done in moderation. Many people who are exercising are trying to lose weight or might be skipping meals to stay fit. The body needs a balanced diet with all the minerals and nutrients to stay healthy. If one skips meals or doesn’t consume the right diet too much water can be harmful. Too much water can cause a condition known as Hyponatremia or what many refer to as “water intoxication”. The definition of Hyponatremia is a less than normal concentration of sodium in the blood, caused by inadequate excretion of water or by excessive water in the circulating bloodstream. In severe cases, the person may develop confusion and lethargy, leading to muscle excitability, convulsions, coma and possible death.  The symptoms may mimic heat exhaustion.

  • So what can one do to keep hydrated and prevent Hyponatremia? Here are a couple of ideas:
  • Consume no more than 1 1/4 quarts of fluid per hour
  • Daily fluid intake should not exceed 12 quarts per training day
  • Provide electrolyte replacement drinks if possible at meals

Remember to keep track of the number of quarts consumed per hour by using a marker to put a check on the arm.

  • To prevent heat injuries while exercising it is important to:
  • Assess the risk daily and review it as conditions change.
  • Watch the temperature closely and exercise accordingly.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat stress injuries, use the buddy system, and raise concerns to your buddy.
  • Risk can be reduced when one is acclimated to the temperature and weather conditions of the area.
  • Ensure that a normal diet is eaten each day and know that drinking too much water can result in harm.
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