Friday, June 9, 2017

Prevent Heat Illness with Water, Rest and Shade

With summer comes hot, humid weather and a greater chance of heat-related illness for outdoor workers. How to prevent heat illness? Three words: water, rest and shade.

Heat illness is not to be taken lightly—in 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and other heat-related conditions on the job. Workers most at risk are those exposed to hot and humid conditions, especially those whose jobs require heavy lifting or heavy work tasks and who wear dense or bulky clothing and equipment.

Workers who have not built up a tolerance to heat, including new workers, temporary workers, or those returning to work after a week or more off are all at greater risk, and all workers are at risk during a heat wave. 

The body normally cools itself by perspiring. During hot weather, however, especially in high humidity conditions, sweating isn’t enough to keep the body cool. To keep body temperature from rising to dangerous levels, drink water and rest in the shade to prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

According to the Mayo Clinic, heatstroke symptoms include:
  • Altered mental state or behavior. Confusion, agitation, slurred speech, irritability, delirium, seizures and coma can all result from heatstroke.
  • High body temperature. A body temperature of 104⁰ F or higher is the main sign of heatstroke.
  • Alteration in sweating. In heatstroke brought on by hot weather, your skin will feel hot and dry to the touch. However, in heatstroke brought on by strenuous exercise, your skin may feel moist.
  • Nausea and vomiting. You may feel sick to your stomach or vomit.
  • Flushed skin. Your skin may turn red as your body temperature increases.
  • Rapid breathing. Your breathing may become rapid and shallow.
  • Racing heart rate. Your pulse may significantly increase because heat stress places a tremendous burden on your heart to help cool your body.
  • Headache. Your head may throb.
The Mayo Clinic urges immediate action to cool the overheated person while waiting for emergency treatment, including:
  • Get the person into shade or indoors.
  • Remove excess clothing.
  • Cool the person with whatever means available—put in a cool tub of water or a cool shower, spray with a garden hose, sponge with cool water, fan while misting with cool water, or place ice packs or cold, wet towels on the person’s head, neck, armpits and groin.

Friday, June 2, 2017

2017 Early Wildfire Season Likely Less Fierce

Structures can be seen burning as the Waldo Canyon Fire west of Colorado Springs rages out of control in 2012. Federal fire forecasters say the risk of similar wildfires is lower than normal this season. Source: Denver Post

Meteorologists who predict fire danger say a cooling trend this spring means the chance for wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming and parts of South Dakota is lower than normal this summer, according to the National Interagency Fire Center’s summer outlook.

“We’ll have some fires and periods of fire activity, but it’s not looking like one of our busy years,” said Russ Mann, a meteorologist for the National Park Service. Over the next 120 days, forecasters expect about 135,000 acres of grass and forest land to be burned by large wildfires in Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.

By comparison, 947,000 acres of forest and grasslands were destroyed in 2012, said Mann. Colorado had numerous highly destructive wildfires that year, including the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs and the High Park fire that destroyed more than 87,000 acres in Larimer County.

On average over the past 16 years, about 220,000 acres of wild lands are destroyed each year in the region encompassing the three previously mentioned states. The 2017 fire-danger projection is based on weather patterns including temperature anomalies, precipitation and drought comparisons, and the moisture content in fire fuels including grass, brush and trees.

Snowpack levels in the mountains also indicate a lower-than-normal fire danger. Risk of wildfires will be lower than average in June and July in Colorado and Wyoming, but return to normal in August and September.
Colorado’s Western Slope is experiencing drier conditions than the eastern half of the state and so fire forecasters are projecting a more typical year. A frost on the Western slope killed large areas of brush and other plants, contributing to the wildfire fuel load, Mann reported.

source: Denver Post

Friday, May 19, 2017

How Safe Is Your Salad?

Pre-washed, ready-to-eat bagged salads certainly offer convenience. But a recent study in Applied and Environmental Microbiology alarmingly reported that they might fuel the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, at least under certain conditions.

British investigators simulated this scenario in lettuce packages by exposing raw salad greens to the liquid released when the leaves are cut or damaged. This “salad juice,” as they called it, had been contaminated with Salmonella. Even at refrigerator temperature, the bacteria increased dramatically over five days—from about 100 to 100,000 cells, a level high enough to cause foodborne illness.

More disconcertingly, the juice not only allowed the bacteria to stick more to the inside of the plastic salad bag, it also created a coating on the leaves that trapped the bacteria so strongly that they couldn’t be washed off.
Bacteria can get into salad greens via contaminated irrigation water, soil, and human hands during harvest, processing, and packaging. Though this happens rarely, when it does occur it can cause severe, even deadly, illness. A number of headline-making outbreaks have been linked in recent years to packaged salads contaminated with Listeria and other bacteria. Spinach may be particularly vulnerable to such contamination. 

So what to do?

It’s really up to growers and packagers to find ways to ensure that salad greens are not contaminated with foodborne pathogens on the way from the field to the bag. In the meantime, the FDA maintains that pre-washed salad greens—the label may say “triple-washed” or “ready-to-eat"—can be eaten without further washing. The rationale is that they have been processed in facilities that are typically more sanitary than the average home kitchen, and home washing may just increase the contamination risk.

But other experts recommend rewashing as an extra layer of safety—as long as you make sure your hands and kitchen surfaces are cleaned well, so as to prevent cross-contamination.

Whether or not you rewash bagged greens, here’s what Berkely Wellness advises:
  • At the store, select packages that are refrigerated, have the latest “use by” dates, and show no signs of damage, spoilage, wetness, or slime on the leaves. The leaves should look dry and crisp. Greens that are minimally cut may be less risky than chopped ones.
  • At home, keep them refrigerated, and eat them as soon as possible. But toss them if you notice any juices or slime developing.
  • Don’t assume packaged organic greens are safer. Several outbreaks of foodborne illness have implicated them specifically.
  • Since pre-washed greens are more expensive, you may be better off buying unpackaged greens if you plan to wash them anyway.
  • If you buy bagged spinach, consider cooking it. This will greatly reduce or eliminate any risk, depending on how long and to what temperature it’s heated.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Disruptive Technologies Present Opportunities for Risk Managers, Study Finds

 The 14th annual Excellence in Risk Management report, was released at the RIMS conference. The study found an apparent lack of awareness among risk professionals of their company’s use of existing and emerging technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), telematics, sensors, smart buildings, and robotics and their associated risks. 

When presented with 13 common disruptive technologies, 24% of respondents said their organizations are not currently using or planning to use any of them. This is surprising, as other studies have found that more than 90% of companies are either using or evaluating IoT technology or wearable technologies and that companies in the United States invested $230 billion on IoT in 2016.

Another finding was that despite the impact disruptive technology can have on an organization’s business strategy, model, and risk profile, 60% of respondents said they do not conduct risk assessments around disruptive technologies.

“Today’s disruptive technologies will soon be — and in many cases already are — the norm for doing business,” said Brian Elowe, Marsh’s U.S. client executive leader and co-author of the report said in a statement. “Such lack of understanding and attention being paid to the risks is alarming. Organizations cannot fully realize the rewards of using today’s innovative technology if the risks are not fully understood and managed.” According to the study:
Organizations generally, and risk management professionals in particular, need to adopt a more proactive approach to educate themselves about disruptive technologies — what is already in use, what is on the horizon, and what are the risks and rewards. Forward-leaning executives are able to properly identify, assess, and diagnose disruptive technology risks and their impact on business models and strategies.

“As organizations adapt to innovative technologies, risk professionals have the opportunity to lead the way in developing risk management capabilities and bringing insights to bear on business strategy decisions,” said Carol Fox, vice president of strategic initiatives for RIMS and co-author of the report. “As a first step, risk professionals are advised to proactively educate themselves about disruptive technologies, including what is already in use at their organizations, what technologies may be on the horizon, and the respective risks and rewards of using such technology.”

One thing companies can do to manage risks associated with disruptive technologies is facilitate discussions through cross-functional committees—yet fewer companies, only 48%, said they have one, a drop from 52% last year and 62% five years ago.
Whether discussed in weekly, monthly, or quarterly organization-wide committee meetings, emerging risks — including disruptive technologies — need to be examined regularly to anticipate and manage the acceleration of business model changes. When risk is siloed, too often the tendency can be toward an insurance-focused approach to risk transfer rather than an enterprise approach that may lead to pursuing untapped opportunities.

The Excellence survey, Ready or Not, Disruption is Here, is based on more than 700 responses to an online survey and a series of focus groups with leading risk executives in January and February 2017.
Findings from the survey were released today at the RIMS 2017 Annual Conference & Exhibition. Copies of the survey are available on<> and<