NOTICE: Updated CDC Guidelines
On August 28, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) weakened its COVID-19 guidelines. The sudden and controversial change says that people recently exposed to COVID-19 do not have to be tested if they are asymptomatic. This is a dangerous revision, since about 50 percent of COVID-19 transmissions happen before symptoms begin, when people may be most contagious.
Health officials in several states – including Florida, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, California, New York, and New Jersey – are refusing to follow these new, lower testing standards. The Infectious Disease Society of America and the American Medical Association (AMA) have demanded that the CDC issue an immediate reversal.
The TWU urges all employers to continue with the higher standard of COVID-19 testing protocols in order to ensure the safety of all workers. TWU members should contact their division if this becomes an issue at their workplace.
TWU HEALTH & SAFETY
Your one-stop shop for all Health & Safety Resources
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2019 Novel Coronavirus Webpage This webpage provides information, guidance, and links to additional resources to cover topics including: risk assessment, guidance for travelers, information for healthcare professionals, information on laboratories, CDC response, latest news, and more. CDC will continue to provide updated information as it becomes available, in addition to updated guidance.
World Health Organization (WHO) Coronavirus Updates: This page provides daily updates on the status of the virus, along with information and steps you can take to prevent its spread.
CDC Newsroom This webpage includes CDC announcements and events, latest news, available transcripts and audio of telebriefings, press releases and more.
U.S. Department of Labor/Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 2019 Novel Coronavirus Webpage: This webpage provides information for workers and employers about the evolving coronavirus outbreak. The information includes links to interim guidance and other resources for preventing exposures to, and infections with, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Federal Aviation Administration: The FAA’s coronavirus webpage has includes updates and recommendations for actions you can take to stay safe.
Click here for the IRS website that provides tips for taxpayers and tax pros
Click here for IRS FAQs regarding this year’s tax filing deadline extension
Click here to find your local Social Security Office
Click here for Social Security’s website with information related to their services during the coronavirus pandemic
OSHA Training Institute Education Centers offer training courses designed for workers, employers, and managers on safety and health hazard recognition and abatement at convenient locations nationwide.
Resources for Members: Click to Expand
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is widely known as a codes and standards organization. Its mission is to provide you with the information and knowledge you need to do your job well in today’s ever-changing environment. The 300 codes and standards are designed to minimize the risk and effects of fire by establishing criteria for building, processing, design, service, and installation around the world. The more than 250 technical committees, comprised of approximately 9,000 volunteers, review public inputs and vote on the revisions in a process that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute. NFPA provides free online access to its codes and standards.
- National Safety Council (NSC)
The National Safety Council eliminates preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in cooperation with its partners and customers, strives to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
NHTSA’S mission Save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)
The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent Federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation – railroad, highway, marine and pipeline. The NTSB determines the probable cause of the accidents and issues safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, the NTSB carries out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinates the resources of the Federal Government and other organizations to provide assistance to victims and their family members impacted by major transportation disasters
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
CPSC is an independent federal regulatory agency formed in 1972 with a mission to protect the public against unreasonable risks of injury or death from consumer products through education, safety standards activities, regulation, and enforcement. We are a small agency with a large mission, and we work to ensure the safety of consumers every day.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
EPA provides information on the environmental hazards that can threaten our health in our everyday lives. Keep informed about how you can keep yourself and your family healthy and safe.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for protecting the public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, and medical devices; and by ensuring the safety of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.
FDA also has responsibility for regulating the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to protect the public health and to reduce tobacco use by minors.
FDA is responsible for advancing the public health by helping to speed innovations that make medical products more effective, safer, and more affordable and by helping the public get the accurate, science-based information they need to use medical products and foods to maintain and improve their health.
FDA also plays a significant role in the Nation’s counter-terrorism capability. FDA fulfills this responsibility by ensuring the security of the food supply and by fostering development of medical products to respond to deliberate and naturally emerging public health threats
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC works 24/7 to protect Americans from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S. Whether diseases start at home or abroad, are chronic or acute, curable or preventable, human error or deliberate attack, CDC fights disease and supports communities and citizens to do the same.
CDC increases the health security of our nation. As the nation’s health protection agency, CDC saves lives and protects people from health threats. To accomplish our mission, CDC conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
As a TWU Railroad Division member, where you turn to for health and safety guidance depends on where you work.
If you work in a Car Repair Shop, contact OSHA with any hazards or concerns.
All other Railroad Division members should contact the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Click here for the FRA’s Code of Federal Regulations
Click here for the Rail Worker’s Hazardous Material Training Program
Tips for Working in the Heat
Working in hot environments is not safe. Your body builds up heat when you work and sweats to get rid of it. Too much heat can make you tired, hurt your job performance, and increase your chance of injury. When the temperature changes quickly, you need time for your body to get adjusted to the heat. Be extra careful early in the summer when hot spells begin.
You have a right to a safe & comfortable work environment
Don’t wait for the 90-degree heat – plan for it
- Clean water provided through a fountain, cooler or bottled water at all locations
- Cool work areas and break rooms
- Ventilation to bring in clean air and take out hot air
- Make adequate water supplies part of your daily workplace inspection
What are the symptoms?
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Mood changes such as irritability, confusion or the inability to think straight
- Upset stomach or vomiting
- Decreased or dark-colored urine
- Fainting or passing out
- Pale, clammy skin
What should you do?
- Act immediately. If not treated, heat exhaustion may advance to heat stroke or death.
- Move the victim to a cool, shaded area. Don’t leave the person alone. If symptoms include dizziness or light-headedness, lay the victim on his or her back and raise the legs 6 to 8 inches. If symptoms include nausea or upset stomach, lay the victim on his or her side.
- Loosen and remove any heavy clothing.
- Have the person drink cool water (about a cup every 15 minutes) unless sick to the stomach.
- Cool the person’s body by fanning and spraying with a cool mist of water or applying a wet cloth to the person’s skin,
- Call 911 for emergency help if the person does not feel better in a few minutes.
Tips for Working in the Cold
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards. In addition, pursuant to Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Below are Federal OSHA’s Recommendations.
Anyone working in a cold environment may be at risk of cold stress. Some workers may be required to work outdoors in cold environments and for extended periods, for example, snow cleanup crews, sanitation workers, police officers and emergency response and recovery personnel, like firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. Cold stress can be encountered in these types of work environment. The following frequently asked questions will help workers understand what cold stress is, how it may affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.
How cold is too cold? A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Whenever temperatures drop below normal and wind speed increases, heat can leave your body more rapidly.
Wind chill is the temperature your body feels when air temperature and wind speed are combined. For example, when the air temperature is 40°F, and the wind speed is 35 mph, the effect on the exposed skin is as if the air temperature was 28°F. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature and eventually the internal body temperature (core temperature). This may lead to serious health problems, and may cause tissue damage, and possibly death.
What are the risk factors that contribute to cold stress? Some of the risk factors that contribute to cold stress are:
- Wetness/dampness, dressing improperly, and exhaustion
- Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism, and diabetes
- Poor physical conditioning
How does the body react to cold conditions? In a cold environment, most of the body’s energy is used to keep the internal core temperature warm. Over time, the body will begin to shift blood flow from the extremities (hands, feet, arms, and legs) and outer skin to the core (chest and abdomen). This shift allows the exposed skin and the extremities to cool rapidly and increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia. Combine this scenario with exposure to a wet environment, and trench foot may also be a problem.
What are the most common cold induced illnesses/injuries?
Hypothermia and Frostbite
Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F), if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.
Mild symptoms of hypothermia include:
- An exposed worker is alert, but he or she may begin to shiver and stomp the feet in order to generate heat.
Moderate to severe symptoms:
- As the body temperature continues to fall, symptoms will worsen and shivering will stop.
- The worker may lose coordination and fumble with items in the hand, become confused and disoriented
- He or she may be unable to walk or stand, pupils become dilated, pulse and breathing become slowed, and loss of consciousness can occur. A person could die if help is not received immediately.
What can be done for a person suffering from hypothermia?
- Call 911 immediately in an emergency; otherwise seek medical assistance as soon as possible.
- Move the person to a warm, dry area.
- Remove wet clothes and replace with dry clothes, cover the body (including the head and neck) with layers of blankets; and with a vapor barrier (e.g. tarp, garbage bag). Do not cover the face.
If a person is not breathing or has no pulse:
- Call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately.
- Treat the worker as per instructions for hypothermia, but be very careful and do not try to give an unconscious person fluids.
- Check him/her for signs of breathing and for a pulse. Check for 60 seconds.
- If after 60 seconds the affected worker is not breathing and does not have a pulse, trained workers may start rescue breaths for 3 minutes.
- Recheck for breathing and pulse, check for 60 seconds.
- If the worker is still not breathing and has no pulse, continue rescue breathing.
- Only start chest compressions per the direction of the 911 operator or emergency medical services.
- Reassess patient’s physical status periodically.
What is frostbite? Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing of the skin and underlying tissues. The lower the temperature, the more quickly frostbite will occur. Frostbite typically affects the extremities, particularly the feet and hands. Amputation may be required in severe cases.
What are the symptoms of frostbite?
- Reddened skin develops gray/white patches.
- Numbness in the affected part.
- Feels firm or hard.
- Blisters may occur in the affected part, in severe cases.
What can be done for a person suffering from frostbite?
- Follow the recommendations described above for hypothermia.
- Do not rub the affected area to warm it because this action can cause more damage.
- Do not apply snow/water. Do not break blisters.
- Loosely cover and protect the area from contact.
- Do not try to rewarm the frostbitten area before getting medical help; for example, do not place in warm water. If a frostbitten area is rewarmed and gets frozen again, more tissue damage will occur. It is safer for the frost bitten area to be rewarmed by medical professionals.
- Give warm sweetened drinks, if the person is alert. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
How can cold stress be prevented? Employers have a responsibility to provide workers with employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards, including cold stress, which are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to them (Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970). Employers should, therefore, train workers on the hazards of the job and safety measures to use, such as engineering controls and safe work practices, that will protect workers’ safety and health.
Worker training is needed on how to prevent and recognize cold stress illnesses and injuries and how to apply first aid treatment. Workers should be trained on the appropriate engineering controls, personal protective equipment and work practices to reduce the risk of cold stress.
Employers should provide engineering controls. For example, radiant heaters may be used to warm workers in outdoor security stations. If possible, shield work areas from drafts or wind to reduce wind chill.
Employers should use safe work practices. For example, it is easy to become dehydrated in cold weather. Employers therefore, can provide plenty of warm sweetened liquids to workers. Avoid alcoholic drinks. If possible, employers can schedule heavy work during the warmer part of the day. Employers can assign workers to tasks in pairs (buddy system), so that they can monitor each other for signs of cold stress. Workers can be allowed to interrupt their work, if they are extremely uncomfortable. Employers should give workers frequent breaks in warm areas. Acclimatize new workers and those returning after time away from work, by gradually increasing their workload, and allowing more frequent breaks in warm areas, as they build up a tolerance for working in the cold environment. Safety measures, such as these, should be incorporated into the relevant health and safety plan for the workplace.
Dressing properly is extremely important to preventing cold stress. The type of fabric worn also makes a difference. Cotton loses its insulation value when it becomes wet. Wool, silk and most synthetics, on the other hand, retain their insulation even when wet.
The following are recommendations for working in cold environments:
- Wear at least three layers of loose fitting clothing. Layering provides better insulation. Do not wear tight fitting clothing.
- An inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to keep moisture away from the body.
- A middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation even when wet.
- An outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
- Wear a hat or hood to help keep your whole body warmer. Hats reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from your head.
- Use a knit mask to cover the face and mouth (if needed).
- Use insulated gloves to protect the hands (water resistant if necessary).
- Wear insulated and waterproof boots (or other footwear).
SAFETY TIP FOR WORKERS
If you believe you are being assigned to work in a cold or cold/windy environment that endangers you and you and your co-workers, immediately contact your local union representative.