How to Prevent Cold Weather-Related Injuries and Sicknesses in the Workplace

Construction Worker in Snow

Cold weather conditions can bring dangerous hazards to the workplace, whether this be slipping accidents, health issues and illnesses (such as hypothermia), unsanitary work conditions and exposure-related injuries. It’s really important that businesses take various safety precautions to minimise the various risks of winter weather and protect their employees.

For employees who are working in cold outdoor weather conditions, these hazards are amplified significantly. These include workers who are involved with trade occupations such as construction, agriculture and fishing, along with snow clean-up crews and recreational employees. Workers who are frequently exposed to cold temperatures such as freezer storage workers or ski/snowboarding instructors are also at high risk of potential injuries. 

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2017, there were over 20,000 occupational injuries related to harsh cold weather conditions. In fact, in January 2019, there was a chilling polar vortex in the U.S which brought record-breaking low temperatures that caused the deaths of 21 people.  

Here is how you can prevent illnesses and injuries associated with chilling weather:  

Slippery Floors – Use Wet Area Mats & First Aid Kits

Heavy rainfall and cold weather are a recipe for slip-and-fall disasters. According to SafeWork Australia, trips and falls result in thousands of preventable injuries each year. The most common injuries include musculoskeletal injuries, cuts, bruises, fractures and dislocations. In fact, from 2003-15, trips and falls caused the death of 386 workers, where 56% were caused by environmental factors. 

Businesses can easily prevent this hazard and minimise WHS negligence complaints by investing in equipment and materials that deal with slippery rainwater on the floor. One of the best types of products is Alsco’s Wet Area Mat which is cleverly designed to provide a safe barrier against liquid spills. The durable rubber mat has textured surfaces that provide great grip and even have anti-fatigue properties, while it’s bevelled edges anchor it to the floor, providing optimal safety for workers. 

Another way to preemptively prevent cold weather-related injuries (stemming from slip-and-fall accidents) is to install First Aid Kits around the workplace. Every business must have first aid kits that comply with Workplace Health & Safety (WHS) regulations, ensuring that the workplace remains safe and secure for all employees. These kits have to be restocked regularly on a quarterly basis. Of course, along with first aid kits, companies should invest in first aid training for their employees. Both of these are essential for providing treatment for nasty bruises, sprains and any serious wounds which may come from slick rainwater-covered floors and muddy puddles. 

Cold Weather & Heart Attacks – Defibrillator 

Not many people know that cold weather can affect your heart condition, particularly with elderly workers who are more susceptible to the winter. Cold weather makes your heart work harder to keep your body warm – this puts pressure on your blood vessels, which constrict so that the heart can concentrate on pumping blood to the brain and other major body organs. This increases the risk of developing blood clots which could eventually lead to a heart attack or stroke. In the possible event of a cardiac arrest in the workplace, businesses should invest in an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to adequately prepare for these sorts of unexpected emergencies. 

Cold & Flu Sicknesses – Hand Hygiene & Washroom Services 

In cold weather, the chance of catching a cold or the flu (seasonal influenza) is also intensified, especially for more elderly workers with heart conditions. In Australia, cold and flu infections are most likely to occur between May and September, which can be easily spread among colleagues or workplace visitors if the right precautions are not undertaken. This can interfere with their productivity and any pressing work deadlines. 

Whether you work in an enclosed work facility or office environment, you are at risk of contracting the cold and flu virus since it spreads rapidly within constrained, indoor areas. This contagious illness is amplified when the virus becomes airborne or contaminates surfaces that people can easily touch, like tabletops and laptop keyboards. Due to this, employees in the workplace can also become infected by shaking hands or inhaling air particles carrying flu droplets. There are various strategies which businesses can implement to minimise the chance of people catching illnesses in the workplace: 

  • Proper hand hygiene is crucial for preventing cold-weather illnesses in any workplace environment, whether this be a professional restaurant kitchen or a butcher warehouse. This includes mounted automatic soap dispenser units, hand drying (paper towel) solutions, surface sanitisers or instant hand sanitiser dispensers.
  • Washroom services are an essential facility for the workplace. A clean and hygienic bathroom will prevent bacterial cross-contamination from the cold and flu virus. This includes seat sanitisers and urinal digital sanitisers which prevents harmful bacteria and microbes that become airborne whenever the toilet/urinal flushes.
  • Cold & Flu Signs can be placed strategically around the workplace (such as entrances, lifts and stairwells) which can remind staff/visitors to stay away when infected. These warning signs can be effective in counteracting the spread of contagious infections, such as urging employees to wear personal protective equipment (i.e. surgical face mask), covering their mouth when sneezing or coughing, or performing hand hygiene practices. Businesses can order customised safety messages for these cold and flu infections. 
  • Cleaning services and equipment should be cleaned regularly to ensure cold viruses are eradicated. This means using disposable disinfectant wipes on particularly risky areas such as door knobs and handles, buttons on machines such as photocopiers and microwaves) or benches/counters in office kitchens. 
  • Training programs and services can be used to educate employees about the various ways the flu infection can spread around the workplace, cold and flu symptoms, common flu strains and the preventative measures to be implemented to safeguard against contagion. Businesses can also use these training programs to promote flu vaccinations.

Cold-Related Stress, Fatigue and Dehydration 

Employees working in any cold environment are at risk of cold stress, which is a very serious health condition where the body can no longer maintain its normal temperature as the cold atmosphere draws heat from the body. Cold work environments involve conditions with temperatures below below 10℃, high wind speeds exceeding 40MPH, humidity, contact with cold surfaces/water and inadequate clothing.

This includes industries where workers are required to work outdoors in particularly cold weather climates and atmospheres for extended periods of time, such as ski or snowboarding instructors. However, this is not simply limited to the outdoors – employees who work inside places such as refrigerated warehouses, freezer plants, cold air-conditioned stores and the supermarket fridge aisle can also be affected by cold-stress. 

In extremely cold weather, other serious cold-stress related illnesses can also arise which can cause permanent tissue damage, or even death. This includes chilblains (painful inflammation of skin blood vessels that causes itching, ulcers, swelling, burning and red patches), trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia. It can also cause minor symptoms such as fatigue and dehydration which can adversely impact the workers’ mental health and productivity. All workplaces should take the suitable precautions below to manage these risks of cold-stress illnesses and injuries. 

  • Conduct safety initiatives revolving around cold-induced illnesses by establishing safety standards (WHS compliance) and promoting a company culture of workplace health and safety. Businesses should also be training workers or supervisors to treat cold-related injuries or illnesses. This involves assisting employees in identifying, treating and preventing cold-stress symptoms, including frostbite, trench foot and hypothermia.
  • Enforce safe working practices and signage which remind workers to frequently drink warm liquids and eat warm, high-calorie foods to heat up the body. However, drinks with caffeine (coffee, tea and hot chocolate) and alcohol should be avoided because it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather.
  • Encourage workers to wear protective clothing to stay safe in both cold weather and indoor environments. There are various fabrics to be considered – for example, cotton loses insulation when it becomes wet, whereas wool or fleece absorbs sweat and provides insulation even when soaked. Face masks and gloves/mittens are also good options.
    • Wear at least 3 layers of clothing – wear an outer layer to break the wind and allow ventilation, a middle layer of wool/fleece, and an inner layer of synthetic weave to allow further ventilation
    • Use head coverings (knitted hats, hard hats, beanies, etc.) since 40% of body heat is lost when the head is exposed in a cold environment 
    • Wear insulated boots which are sized appropriately since tight-fitted footwear restrict blood flow. This will go well with a pair of thermally insulated socks as it provides an extra layer of insulation and warmth
  • Provide a controlled heating environment for employees such as radiant heaters or infrared heating panels installed within the office. You can also implement electronic or hydronic floor heating, which can deliver warm air without circulating germs, bacteria and dust. Other factors include: building insulation, workstation layouts, direct sunlight control and control of air flow. 
    • Enable workers to take frequent short breaks in warm, dry shelters 
    • Create a “buddy system”  where employees can work in pairs to identify signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses 

Cold-related injuries and illnesses can severely impact the safety and health of any workplace. So, why not check out Alsco’s First Aid Services and Fresh and Clean solutions to minimise these threats? 

Keeping Your Workplace Safe – Having a Defibrillator?

defibrillator

Keeping ourselves, our families, and our colleagues and customers safe and well has never been more important.  Front of our minds today is the need to ensure a hygienic and sanitised workplace and place of commerce, in the face of the impact of the CoVid-19 pandemic.  But at the same time as the need for hygiene and cleanliness, we should never forget all the aspects of safety and health that impact lives every day. 

And the need to have a well maintained and easy to use Automated External Defibrillator (AED) available and accessible in your workplace is about just that – it’s making your workplace safe, and keeping you, your staff, and your customers safe.

One of the biggest killers is heart disease.

As we all know, heart disease and cardiac incidents are one of the leading causes of death in Australia.  This has never been more prominently visible than it is today, with the recent news coverage of the heart attack on stage at a Wiggles performance.

When we talk about heart disease, there are a number of types – they include angina, blocked arteries and heart attacks any of which could lead to a sudden cardiac arrest. A study of patients of sudden cardiac arrest found that heart attack (acute myocardial infarction) was the most common underlying mechanism of a cardiac arrest.  Heart attack and heart disease knows no gender bias, being the primary cause of death for men and women alike.

Whilst age does factor in, with those below the age of 25 less at risk, by the time you turn 45, it is the number one cause of death.  But even turning 25 significantly increases your risk of heart disease.  This is also the age when people start to work and the participation of people in the workforce peaks. It is almost a given that a person of this age group would be employed and working in some form or the other and contributing.

Now, work in and of itself isn’t the cause. But, what are some of the things you as a business owner should be looking out for to protect your employees both young and older, to mitigate the risks of heart disease, and to have a safe, protected, and fit workforce?

In this article we look at some of these factors and try and understand how they are ultimately related to a sudden cardiac arrest.

Toxins at the Workplace

Several chemicals are considered to be a direct cause of heart attacks.  There are many benefits to a professional cleaning service, for instance, that uses safe chemical free cleaning, and manages the use and disposal of chemicals and materials for you. Want to find out more? Check out our range of clean and safe solutions here.

Just a couple of the examples of chemicals include:

  • Carbon disulphide is a gas found mainly in industrial plants producing rayon, cellophane, etc. Studies have shown that people working in these plants have a significantly higher mortality rate due to heart related conditions.
  • Carbon monoxide, which is found in the exhaust of vehicles, is another toxin which causes higher rates of mortality amongst people engaged in jobs related to roads, tunnels etc. where exposure to motor exhaust is high.

Environmental Tobacco Smoke

Passive smoking is another known and proven contributing factor to heart disease, amongst other serious and potentially fatal health impacts. Breathing other people’s cigarette smoke enhances your chances of lung cancer as well as heart disease. Ensuring distance from smoking areas, and ventilation of any areas, are just a couple of the things that you should look to do to minimise the impact of passive smoking on your place of work.

Shift Work

Working in shifts, particularly in the night shift, often results in lack of sleep. The body requires a certain minimum amount of sleep in order to rejuvenate itself and work properly the next day. Failure to get the required amount of sleep can result in tiredness, difficulty to concentrate which may result in errors or accidents and ultimately build up of stress, with the concomitant negative impact on chemical production in the brain and body.

Moreover, the body’s own circadian clock gets disturbed, affecting the performance of the heart and generally placing a higher level of stress and pressure on your body’s systems. Other factors such as changes in behaviour and social patterns may also cause a person working in shifts to be at greater risk of a sudden cardiac arrest.  For many companies and industries, shift work is a norm – so having equipment like an accessible and easy to use AED on site, within easy range, is just good common sense for any company operating in shifts.

Stress

Stress at work has risen over the last few years. A survey done by Princeton Survey Research Associates found that 3 out of every 4 workers believe that stress in work now is more than what it was a generation ago.

The CDC defines stress as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury. Stress at work is caused by many job conditions which the individual worker is unable to cope or deal with adequately. Job conditions that may lead to stress include too much work, leadership or management behaviour, insecurity around role.  But, perhaps most relevantly and immediately contributing to the growth and increase in stress, are any environmental concerns such as excessive heat, noise, or sitting in poor spaces or positions.

Stress, particularly constant stress, is a known risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress causes the body to release hormones in order to activate its survival mechanisms. Blood pressure is raised and there are changes in the way the blood clots in the human body, both of which increase the likelihood of heart attacks.

Finally, as we all know, our response to stress is often not optimal.  Instead of placing greater emphasis on health, fitness, nutrition, we often turn to smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating or not exercising, which will only exacerbate the situation and increase the impact on our system of the stress we are experiencing.

Workplace Lunches

For many of us, our lunch at work is less than ideal!  In addition to bad habits formed around eating at desks, in a rush, with the relevant impacts on stress and our bodies that have been articulated above, our choices for food can be disastrous for our overall health.  This includes our choices such as:

  • Large portion sizes.
  • High levels of sodium, sugar and fat.
  • Use of high fat meats such as bacon, pepperoni, meatballs rather than low fat ones like ham, chicken, turkey.
  • Choice of cooking techniques – Larger quantities of food more often tend to be made in plenty of oil (breaded, buttered, tempura, fried, etc.) rather than being being baked, barbecued, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted or steamed.
  • The use of heavy cream or cheese based sauces such as mayonnaise, hollandaise, Alfredo etc.
  • The easy availability of high sugar content drinks like fizzy soft drinks, fruit flavoured carbonated beverages or even milkshakes rather than fresh fruit juices.
  • Lack of availability of fresh fruits and vegetables to snack upon when hunger strikes, such as baby carrots, apples, yoghurt, nuts.

All these factors combined have caused heart related diseases to become the number one cause of death in Australia.

Given the dire implications, workplaces and employers need to work towards developing healthy workplaces and healthy practices – providing their staff with guidance beyond hygiene and safety, and reducing the dependency on emergency assistance provided by AEDs.  Some of the things that as an employer you can consider include:

  • Provide healthy foods and beverages at workplaces, including in lunchrooms, cafes and vending machines.
  • Providing access to exercise facilities at subsidised rates either onsite or close to the office.
  • Encourage employees to use stairs often.
  • Provide free or subsidised health checkups regularly, including checking for cholesterol screening.
  • Offer access to a recognised training course on first aid which includes cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Last, but certainly not the least, easy access to AEDs at workplaces since people spend 40 hours a week at their workplace.

Join the healthy heart movement today. Make your workplace heart friendly with these simple tips.

Ensure that you always have a fully functional defibrillator that can be easily accessed whenever required. The Heartsine 500P AED from Alsco is more than just a defibrillator. It is easy to use, gives assists during the CPR process via vocal prompts and helps saves lives at a convenient low monthly cost. To know more about the advantages of the Heartsine 500P, simply give our friendly experts a call.

Why Choosing the Best Cleaning Technology Helps Keep Your Workplace Hygienic and Safe

best-cleaning-technology

In today’s climate, cleanliness and hygiene have to go hand in hand with ensuring an environmentally sustainable and effective solution when it comes to cleaning.

One technology that has been available for many years is “microfibre” technology, which has become a byword for green, sustainable, and hygienic cleaning.  However, you still need to ask the question – what are the ancillary products you are using with your microfibre cloth? And what quality of product do you have in your business – how clean is it, really?

It’s important to remember that there remain many myths and beliefs not backed by facts when it comes to green cleaning solutions.  For instance, many people still use chemicals even with a system designed to be used without chemicals.  At the other end of the spectrum, you get what you pay for – and selecting the cheapest provider with an inferior product won’t give you a better result with your cleaning solution that it will in any other walk of life.

So let’s start at the beginning.

What’s so hygienic and sustainable about Microfibre, and does it work without chemicals?

First of all, let’s start with the whole point of this technology from a green point of view.  Good quality microfibre cloth is designed to be used without normal chemicals, to reduce the health and toxicity risk both to staff and customers, as well as to the environment.  Obviously this does still depend on the quality of the product – poor quality cloths from low value providers will decay and deteriorate swiftly, and will then need to be disposed of.

So, how can we measure the success of a good quality microfibre cleaning system? Amongst the health, hygiene and environmental benefits are:

  • Lasting at least 500 washes
  • Reducing water-use, packaging waste and transportation
  • Using chemicals in the manufacturing and laundering stages only
  • Preventing skin irritations and respiratory problems
  • Removing surface contamination and preventing it from spreading while cleaning.
  • Lighter and more easy to use, strains for users should be lower

But, again, you do get what you pay for.  Cheap products are likely to be lower value, and will fail to provide the environmentally friendly and hygienic cleaning solution you are seeking.  As Rob Gordon, the environmental services manager who implemented microfibre technology at St Vincent’s Health Australia in Darlinghurst (Sydney), points out; “Microfibre out-performs any other cloth on the market, but it comes down to the quality you buy.”

Gordon also carefully controls the whole cleaning process: its supply, storage, training, handling, testing and maintenance. If we look at this as a cleaning life cycle, the manner in which you can consistently experience high quality cleaning hygienically and in a sustainable low impact way, you then need to ask your second question. 

How do you manage change, and deal with the cost?

Much as you would not expect your 1996 Skoda to outperform a brand new Maserati in a speed or engine test, you would not expect the cheapest product on the market to compare to the performance of professional grade hygienic microfibre equipment.  It is true that Microfibre equipment at this level can cost up to ten times as much as cheaper options. 

When asked about this, Rob Gordon pointed out, these upfront costs become  negated over time for a number of reasons.  This includes the benefit of hygienic but extended durability, reduced expenditure on chemical purchase, storage, and disposal.  In addition, if you conduct regular monitoring through extensive internal testing, professional grade microfibre products tools perform at peak for an average one and a half to two years, and are then transferred to administrative offices, thus extending its life-span.

Now, obviously this can vary from industry to industry.  When used in an Aged Care setting, the application of microfibre cloths is largely restricted to environmental cleaning applications. However, with the addition of anti-bacterial nano-silver, disposable microfibre and/or steam equipment, microfibre methodologies are being tested successfully in some hospital clinical areas and infectious rooms, and anti bacterial cleaning through these services will only help to provide a safer, more hygienic and cleaner environment for staff and customers in all industries.

When you are considering this as a solution, though, as with so many other products and services that you can obtain, if you fail in training, you will fail.  Not training your facilities or contract cleaning staff in how to use them will likely mean they will continue to “trust what they know “ – ultimately continuing to use chemicals, which negates the benefits you were hoping to achieve as well as destroying the professional microfibre products you have procured for the reason.  The biggest success factor is the provision of a managed laundry service to ensure that your product is cleaned effectively, and to a high standard, in a way that provides sustainable hygiene and benefit.

Keeping your workplace clean and green is easier than you think as greener cleaning alternatives are available like Microfiber Mops and Ecosafe Parts Washer. No need to use harmful chemicals. Switch to safer and more economical cleaning! Learn more.