Cold and Flu Season

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The dreaded cold and flu season is here.  In the US it ranges from November through April.  And according to the CDC, 5% – 20% of the US population catches the flu annually.

Here are some tips to help you avoid being a victim:

  • Clean and wipe down shared surfaces such as countertops, keyboards & phones
  • Avoid touching you mouth, nose & eyes, and wash your hands thoroughly and often
  • Get a flu shot if possible – it’s most important for children & elderly
  • Eat healthy foods to strengthen your immune system
  • Exercise moderately to maintain a healthy immune system
  • Ask your doctor about vitamin supplement to help support your immune system
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Try to avoid people who are sick & know when to stay home if you become sick

Recognizing the symptoms of the Cold and Flu plays a key role in knowing if you ultimately fell victim.

  • The symptoms of the cold include:
    • Sore throat
    • Cough,chest discomfort
    • Mild fatigue
    • Runny nose
    • Fever and headache are rare
  • The symptoms of the flu are:
    • High fever 102-104 degrees Fahrenheit
    • Headache
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Dry cough and sore throat
    • Runny or stuffy nose
    • Muscle aches
    • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea

Infection can occur 1 day before and up to 5 days after becoming sick.  So it is important for you to do your part to prevent the spread of germs.

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough.
    • Use tissues when you sneeze or if you have the sniffles.
    • If tissues aren’t available, sneeze into your sleeve – it is another great weapon against germs.
  • Toss tissues in the trash and
  • Wash your hands frequently.
    • Any kind of soap is effective in removing germs if you vigorously rub your hands together under running water for at least 15-30 seconds.

Sharing isn’t always Caring

Stay home if you

  • Have a fever
  • Cannot control your sneezing and coughing

The National Safety Council published Facts About the Flu. Feel free to download it and share with your team members and family.

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Heat Stress: Construction Safety and Health

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After the cool temperatures of spring slowly pass, the energy draining temperatures of summer are ready to descend on us. For anyone working outdoors, or work in heat-producing environments, heat is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be very  dangerous.

Heat related sickness affects thousands of workers every year and more than 40 have lost their lives because of it. Unfortunately, about half of these deaths occur in the construction industry. Heat can make anyone sick, but people, who are overweight, have high blood pressure or heart disease are at increased risk. So is anyone who takes allergy medication, decongestants or blood pressure medication.

Heat stress can induce a series conditions and illnesses ranging from rashes and cramps to heat exhaustion and life-threatening heat stroke. However, construction laborers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress and illnesses because of the heavy climates they work in.

Why is heat a hazard to workers?

When working in a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat to maintain its stable internal temperature. It is able to do this by circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.

If the air temperature is close to or warmer than normal body temperature, the process of cooling of the body becomes more difficult and the blood that is circulated to the skin cannot lose its heat. Thus, sweating becomes the main way the body cools off. However, sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow evaporation, and if the fluids and salts that are lost are adequately replenished.

Remember, if the body cannot get rid of excess heat, it will then store it. When this happens, the body’s core temperature rises and the heart rate will also increase. As the body continues to store heat, the person will begin to lose concentration and will have difficulty focusing on a task, may become irritable or sick, and many times will lose the desire to drink. The next stage is most often fainting and even death if the person is not cooled down.

How to know when it’s too hot:

  • Temperature rises
  • Humidity increases
  • The sun gets stronger
  • There is no air movement
  • No controls in place to reduce the heat imitated from equipment that radiates heat.
  • Protective clothing is work
  • Over all work is strenuous in nature.

Symptoms Heat Illness:

  • Working in high temperatures and humidity, direct sun exposure and no breeze
  • Engaging in heavy physical labor
  • Wearing waterproof clothing

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Headaches, dizziness, light-headedness, fainting
  • Weakness and moist skin
  • Irritability or confusion
  • Upset stomach, vomiting

Symptoms of Heat stroke:

  • Dry, hot skin with no sweating
  • Confusion, loss of consciousness
  • Seizures or convulsions

Heat Exhaustion

What can you do to help prevent and protect workers from Heat Stress?

By following a few precautions you can help prevent Heat Stress

Precautions:

  • Know signs/symptoms of heat illness; monitor yourself; use a buddy system.
  • Gradually increase workloads and allow more frequent breaks for workers new to the heat or those that have been away from work to adapt to working in the heat (acclimatization).
  • Provide cool water to drink (five to seven ounces) every 15 minutes.
  • Require rest breaks in a cool, shady spot and with fans available.
  • Schedule heavy work during the coolest time of the day.
  • When possible, assign work that can be done in the shade.
  • Rotate workers when working in the heat is unavoidable.
  • Suggest workers wear lightweight, light-color clothing.
  • Schedule additional rest breaks for workers who wear protective clothing and check their temperature and heart rate.

If a worker has symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Call 911
  • Move him/ her into shade
  • Provide cool drinking water, if able to drink
  • Wipe skin with cool water
  • Loosen Clothing
  • Fan with cardboard or other material

Working in extreme heat is many times unavoidable when working in construction; however it doesn’t have to be unendurable. With preemptive planning, proper training and investment in cooling systems for workers, construction  laborers can work safely when temperatures are high.

Additional Resources for Information on Heat Stress

If you are looking for additional resources on Occupational Heat Exposure there are two specific ones that we recommend.

OSHA-NIOSH Heat Stress (Heat Safety Tool)

The OSHA NIOSH Heat Stress Tool is a free app for your mobile devices. This app allows you to calculate the heat index for your work site (yes, it is GPS enabled so your information is specific to your actual project) and based on the heat index will display the risk level to the employees that are required to work in the environment. With a simple click you can get reminders about the protective measures that should be taken at that risk level to adequately protect the worker.

OSHA Heat Stress

CPWR

CPWR also provides additional training materials from OSHA, NIOSH, as well as  materials they have created. (Working in Hot Weather)

 

Frostbite

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Frostbite can be caused by exposure to severe cold or by contact with extremely cold objects. Frostbite occurs in layers of skin tissues freeze.

Frostbite particularly affects the face, ears, fingers and toes. Once damaged, the tissue will always be more susceptible to frostbite in the future.

Symptoms:

  • Cold, tingling, stinging or aching feeling in the frost bitten area, followed by numbness
  • Skin color turns red, then purple common than white or very pale skin, cold to the touch
  • Harder blistering skin in severe cases.

Effective Response:

  • Do not rub the area
  • Wrap in a soft cloth
  • Call 911, if help is delayed, immerse the area in warm water but not hot water. Do not pour warm water directly on the affected area because it will warm the tissue too fast. Warming should take about 25 to 40 minutes.
  • Do not warm the skin if there is a chance of re-freezing. Severe tissue damage can occur if this happens.

 

Hypothermia

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Hypothermia by definition means “low heat.”   It occurs when the body begins to lose heat at a faster rate than it is able to replace it.

Mild Hypothermia

Symptoms

  • Body Temperature between 98゚F to 90゚F
  • Shivering
  • Lack of coordination, stumbling, fumbling hands
  • Slurred speech
  • Pale or cold skin

Effective Response:

  • Move to a warm area
  • Stay active
  • Remove the wet clothes and replace them with dry clothes or blankets, make sure to cover your head.
  • Drink warm but not hot sugary drinks such as sports drinks however avoid caffeinated beverage is and alcohol.

 Moderate hypothermia

Symptoms

  • Body Temperature between 90゚F to 86゚F
  • Shivering stops
  • Mental confusion or impairment
  • Reduce breathing and/or heartrate
  • Unable to walk or stand
  • Confused and irrational

Effective Response:

  • (Along with all of the above)
  • Cover All extremities completely
  • Place warm objects, or hot packs or water bottles on the victim’s head, neck, chest and groin.
  • Call 911

Severe hypothermia

Symptoms

  • Body Temperature between 86゚F to 78゚F
  • Severe muscle stiffness
  • Very sleepy or unconscious
  • extremely cold skin
  • Irregular or difficult to find a pulse

Effective Response:

  • Call 911
  • Handle the victim carefully, sudden movements are rough handling can actually upset the heart rhythms.
  • Do not attempt to rewarm; the victim should receive treatment at the hospital as soon as possible.

 

Temperature Basics

 

Cold Stress – How Cold is Cold? Let’s Not Find Out.

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Any worker exposed to cold temperatures can be put at risk of cold stress.

It could take anything such as wind speed increases, which causes the cold air temperatures to feel even colder, to cause a worker to be at risk of Cold Stress.

The most affected are those who work outdoors on a daily basis: recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers, and firefighters to name a few.

The risks involved in being exposed to Cold Stress are:

  • Wet or damp clothes.
  • Being dressed in appropriately for the weather conditions and exhaustion
  • Certain health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism and diabetes.
  • Poor physical condition.

The most common types of cold stress are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot, also known as immersion foot.

When most people think of hypothermia, they think of sub 0゚ temperatures or blizzard like conditions.  Most people would be surprised to learn that hypothermia actually occurs more often in the spring and fall rather than in winter.

The four factors that contribute to Cold Stress are:

  • Cold temperatures
  • High or cold winds.
  • Dampness
  • Cold Water

During extremely cold temperatures the cold environment forces our bodies to work harder to maintain normal body temperature of 98.6゚F

Cold air, water, and snow all cause heat to be drawn from the body. So while it is obvious that below freezing conditions combined with inadequate clothing could bring about cold stress, it is also very important to understand that it can also be brought upon by temperatures in the 50’s, especially, when you add rain and wind as factors.

The combination of air temperature and air movement creates wind-chill. The dangers of working in a cold work environment increase with increased wind speed and lower temperatures.

Prevention:

The best defense against getting colds stress is always planning for the weather that you’re going to work in. Wear protective clothing – wool is better than cotton.   It is important to remember that cotton a great insulator when dry, loses all insulation properties when it gets wet. A great alternative would be to wear wool, which keeps its insulation qualities even when went wet.

  • Protect all your extremities, including your head.  Body heat can be lost from any exposed area, and one of the most forgotten areas to protect is the head.
  • Wear insulated boots and other footwear which is sized appropriately. This allows for proper blood flow.
  • If you get hot while working, open your jacket but remember to keep on your hat and gloves.
  • Always keep a change of dry clothes available in case that your work clothes become wet.
  • It is always better to wear loose clothing since it allows better ventilation.

Work Practices:

Remember to always drink plenty of liquids and stay hydrated. As tempting as it is, avoiding caffeine is recommended.

Take appropriate breaks to warm up as needed.  This may include anything from simply stepping into a sheltered space out of the wind to taking a short break in a warmed environment, whether that is an office or vehicle.

Use the buddy system that we talk about often.  By working in pairs you can keep an eye on each other and watch for signs of cold stress.  There many times where victims of hypothermia may not even recognize the symptoms.

It is important that all employees and supervisors take the time to be trained to detect early signs of cold stress.