16 Dec 2013
With winter officially arriving on December 21st and the cold weather already setting in, now is the time to start thinking about how the cold weather will affect safety within the workplace. There may be situations where workers will be required to work either briefly, or regularly for sustained periods of time in the cold weather and will be faced with cold weather hazards that would not normally be present at other times of the year. For these situations, and just cold weather in general, we have compiled this article featuring cold weather safety tips for the workplace to help workers, managers, and supervisors continue to work efficiently and effectively while maintaining work safe practices in the cold weather.
Hypothermia and Frostbite
The first thing that all workers should be aware of is that the two biggest health hazards that result from overexposure to cold temperatures are hypothermia and frostbite. Hypothermia results when workers are exposed to the cold without protection for long periods of time. This will cause body temperatures to drop to dangerously low levels until hypothermia sets in. Realize that hypothermia doesn’t always occur in freezing or sub-zero temperatures. Oftentimes, hypothermia results from workers who are working in windy conditions, the worker is exhausted, or they are wearing wet clothes. If hypothermia is recognized while working, it should be treated IMMEDIATELY! Untreated hypothermia can lead to loss of consciousness or even death.
Frostbite occurs when the body tissues actually freeze. Usually you will find that frostbite will affect fingers, toes, the nose, cheeks, and ears. Frostbite, like hypothermia, should be treated IMMEDIATELY once it is recognized. Unfortunately, frostbite can result in permanent tissue damage or the possible loss of movement in affected areas. If it is bad enough, amputation could become a possibility.
Cold Fingers and Mood
Of course, severe health issues don’t always result from cold temperatures. Sometimes, just the fact that your hands and fingers are cold and have less grip and dexterity could lead to disastrous consequences. When you can’t feel your hands or fingers, it becomes much harder to grip and handle tools, materials, or other equipment. This can lead to accidents happening that could injure or kill someone, simply because someone lost their grip on their tools or they couldn’t handle them correctly.
Cold weather also has a tendency to affect the moods of workers. It is natural to feel the winter blues once the cold weather sets in, especially if it’s been cold for a considerable amount of time. When workers become irritated or grumpy while working, this can also lead to accidents due to workers rushing to get jobs done so they can get inside and warm up again. They can also tend to forget about, or become less aware, of the hazards around them.
One thing a lot of workers fail to take into account when dealing with cold weather is the windchill factor. This is a problem considering that 80% of a worker’s body heat that is lost on cold days is lost to the windchill. The trick is to understand how the windchill is affecting what it really feels like outside, not just what the temperature indicates. For example, it could be 34 degrees Fahrenheit outside with no windchill and workers should be able to work fine without it affecting them too much. However, the same temperature, 34 degrees, will feel MUCH different when there is 25 mile per hour winds blowing. 34 degrees with 25 mile per hour winds feels bitterly cold. The wind ends up blowing away the thin layer of air between the skin and the air that usually protects workers, creating a much colder environment that should be protected against accordingly.
So, to protect against the elements, you will want to have a good idea of your options. Generally speaking, cold weather work clothes should:
- Provide high insulation.
- Allow moisture to escape from inside of the clothing.
- Resist moisture from getting in from the outside.
- Resist snow.
- Have a means of alternating insulation and flow of air.
- Be unrestrictive to movement.
- Have minimal bulk and weight.
- Be easy to put on and take off.
- Be durable.
The following clothing is recommended for any workers who will be working briefly, or for extended periods of time in the cold this winter.
- Underwear-Thermal underwear should be worn with cotton shirt and shorts underneath. It is better to have 2-piece long underwear than a single piece. You want to stay warm, but you don’t want to constrict the blood vessels either.
- Pants-Lined thermal type pants, or wool and quilted pants are recommended. Pants should provide room to the wearer and should be worn with suspenders, not a belt. Belts constrict circulation.
- Shirts-Wool shirts are best for cold weather. They should be worn over underwear tops and suspenders with the shirttail worn outside of the pants to help ventilation. If you are allergic to wool, you can wear a cotton or synthetic shirt.
- Socks-Socks should assist in the evaporation of sweat without restricting circulation. The best socks for this are high wool socks. Avoid stretch socks if you can since they limit circulation.
- Boots-Any and all footwear should be waterproof and reach high up the leg. The most strongly recommended boots are rubber bottomed, felt lined, and leather toppers with removable insoles.
- Face Masks-Face masks should only be worn by workers who simply cannot afford to suffer limited vision while working. If this is the case, the face masks need to be removed on a constant basis to check for frostbite.
- Head Covers-Hat liners or wool knit caps that extend down the back of the neck are the best choice. However, a ski mask, or balaclava, will offer even more protection against the cold.
- Mittens and Gloves-For full protection from the cold, mittens are recommended. However, you will want to carry both mittens and gloves so you can put the gloves on when you need more dexterity when moving your fingers.
Cold weather is a normal occurrence, so it is easy for workers to forget the dangers and consequences associated with it. Make sure to take into account these cold weather safety tips while working in the workplace to better protect yourself against the elements while still maintaining effectiveness and productivity.
You may be wondering why Incident Command System training is so important. For starters, back in the 1970s, before there were Incident Command Systems (ICS) in place, a number of problems arose throughout the country regarding incidents in the workplace and how you should react and recover from them. These problems were numerous, including:
- Too many workers reporting to a single manager or supervisor.
- Too many variations in emergency response structures within different organizations.
- Little to no reliable incident information or documentation.
- Incompatible and inadequate communications.
- Little to no structure for coordinated planning between separate agencies.
- No clearly drawn lines of authority.
- Differences in terminology between agencies.
- Unspecified or unclear incident objectives.
Due to these problems, the Incident Command System was created to give federal, state, and local governments consistent guidelines when it comes to preparation for, response to, and recovery from an event or incident. The ICS applies regardless of the size, nature, location, complexity, or scope of the incident. Keep in mind that this also applies to non-profit entities.
The core set of ideas that the ICS provides for are interoperability, efficiency, and effectiveness through a central set of concepts, principles, terminology, and technology that includes all aspects of incident management. Included in this is multi-agency coordination, identification and management of resources, training, unified command, qualification and certification, and the collecting, tracking, evaluation, and dissemination of information.
The current ICS was signed into law on March 5, 1996 as Executive Order No. 26. This established the National Interagency Incident Management System, or Incident Command System, as the standard command and control system for the entire country to be used during any emergency operation. The ICS is designed to hep set a standardized set of procedures for managing personnel, facilities, communications, and resources.
On top of this, President Bush also directed his Secretary of Homeland Security to create and implement the National Incident Management System (NIMS) which integrates effective practices of emergency preparedness and response into a more widely encompassing national wireframe for incident management. NIMS allows responders at any level to work with each other more effectively when managing incidents, regardless of the size, cause, or complexity of the incident. As a result of NIMS being devloped, Executive Order No. 26 was updated to Executive Order 26.1 in 2006 to include the change to NIMS. The benefits of NIMS are:
- Standardization of organizational structures, processes, and procedures.
- Standardized planning, training and exercising, and qualification requirements.
- Certification standards and equipment acquisition.
- Interoperable communications methods, systems, and procedures.
- Information management systems.
- Supporting technologies such as information systems, data display systems, specialized technologies, and voice and data communications systems.
However, once the ICS and NIMS were implemented, it became clear very quickly that any and all systems must meet the following requirements in order for it to be fully effective. Keep these in mind when developing an ICS for your job site or workplace:
- The system must be organizationally flexible so that it meets the needs of any type or size of incident.
- The system must be able to be used by agencies on a daily basis for both routine and major emergencies.
- The system must allow personnel from various agencies and a variety of different locations to quickly and efficiently merge into a central management structure.
- The entire system must be cost effective.
All of these guidelines and regulations will be taught in our incident command system training classes along with several other pertinent pieces of information. The thing to remember about emergencies and incidents is that they happen quickly, without warning, and they can escalate very quickly, especially if the personnel involved have not been trained in proper incident command system procedures. When you take incident command system training, you will be equipping yourself with knowledge and skills that will help you keep a level head and know what to do in the event of an emergency. Don’t let yourself become flustered and panic when it matters most, get yourself trained and certified in ICS training and you will feel much better and more composed should an emergency strike.
12 Dec 2013
When it comes to SCBA training, there is simply no substitute. SCBA (self contained breating apparatus) training applies to anyone who needs to use a SCBA device while working in conditions where there is a considerable amount of smoke or fire, so naturally this will apply more to firefighters than any other line of work. However, if you are not a firefighter but you still work in conditions where you need to use a SCBA device, then you will also want to pay special attention to this article and the possibility of signing up for SCBA training. Anyone who needs to use a SCBA device needs to be comfortable and familiar with operating SCBA devices while performing duties such as fire attack, victim search, rescue, ventilation, salvage, or overhaul. Firefighters and other rescue personnel should also be trained in regular preventive maintenance procedures. These are usually daily inspections, cleaning, disinfecting, and cylinder changes.
The problem with SCBAs is that firefighters and other people who use SCBAs on a daily basis tend to treat their apparatus’ like a tool rather than a piece of equipment that their life is literally dependent on. Simply performing a cursory check before going in for a shift is not enough. Firefighters and other personnel need to make it a habit to thoroughly and carefully inspect and test every function of their SCBA on a regular basis. Career firefighters need to be doing this EVERY day. Volunteer firefighters should inspect and practice using SCBAs in every meeting, drill session, and training class.
It is absolutely vital that every firefighter take SCBA training. When firefighters are being indoctrinated, they should become very familiar with SCBA and should receive extensive training while using SCBA in low stress scenarios. They should also be trained in fully simulated fireground operations so they are ready when they have to use their SCBA in real life applications. Any and all training needs to be done in accordance to industry recognized regulations and standards. It is also recommended that records be kept on every firefighter and any other personnel for their individual training. This will ensure that everyone is keeping up to date on their training and proficiency with SCBA.
SCBAs will help firefighters in most situations, but it is important to remember that there are certain circumstances in which a SCBA will not give adequate enough protection and could potentially have a catastrophic failure. These specific instances are covered in SCBA training and will allow firefighters and other workers to make the determination whether or not their SCBA will work in a given situation.
Not only should firefighters and other personnel who work with SCBAs be fully trained and certified, but they also need to make it a habit to regularly practice and review SCBA guidelines and regulations to ensure that everyone is maintaining the appropriate proficiency with their devices. Performing regular drills will help firefighters and other workers become more familiar with their SCBA, which will naturally make them more comfortable with using it in situations of duress.
Lastly, but certainly not least, is is strongly encouraged that all firefighters, and other workers who regularly use SCBAs, consistently perform a “buddy check” with their partner before entering threatening conditions. It is fairly easy for each person to check the other’s gear to make sure that their SCBA is properly worn and fully operational. This is yet another step that can further prevent accidents from happening and a SCBA failure from occurring. SCBA training is extremely important and can literally save your life. Don’t look at your SCBA as merely a tool to help you breathe, look at it as your lifeline when you are in hazardous situations. Because that is exactly what they are.