Protecting Workers from Sun Exposure

sun workers
The number of skin cancer cases in the United States continues to increase, with nearly 5 million people treated for it every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Outdoor workers are especially at risk, as they are constantly exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays, even on cloudy days when they may think they are safe from the sun.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), UV rays, which are a part of sunlight, are an invisible form of radiation. There are three types of UV rays: UVA, which is believed to CDC advicedamage connective tissue and increase the risk for developing skin cancer; UVB, which doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin, but can still cause some types of skin cancer; and natural UVC, which is absorbed by the atmosphere and does not pose a risk.

One of the dangers of being out in the sun for prolonged periods is that sunburn is not immediately apparent, NIOSH said. Symptoms usually start about 4 hours after sun exposure, worsen in 24 to 36 hours, and get better in 3 to 5 days. They include red, tender and swollen skin, blisters, headache, fever, nausea and fatigue. Another danger is that eyes can also become sunburned. They become red, dry, painful and feel gritty. Chronic eye exposure can cause permanent damage, including blindness.

The CDC advises organizations to add sun safety to their workplace policies and training programs, as well as to:Include sun-safety information in workplace wellness programs. For example, programs designed to help employees avoid heat illness can be adapted to include information about sun safety.
• Teach outdoor workers about risks of exposure to UV radiation and the signs and symptoms of overexposure.
• Encourage outdoor workers to be role models and discuss the importance of sun protection with clients, and coworkers. Visit the National Cancer Institute’s RTIPs website for more information about sun safety.

NIOSH’s advice to workers:

Protect Yourself

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun when possible.
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.
    • SPF refers to how long a person will be protected from a burn. (SPF 15 means a person can stay in the sun 15-times longer before burning.) SPF only refers to UVB protection.
    • To protect against UVA, look for products containing: Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone.
    • Sunscreen performance is affected by wind, humidity, perspiration, and proper application.
    • Throw away sunscreens after 1–2 years (they lose potency).
    • Apply liberally (minimum of 1 oz.) at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
    • Apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet, and backs of hands.
    • Reapply at least every two hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.
    • Some sunscreens may lose their effectiveness when applied with insect repellents. You may need to reapply more often.
  • Wear clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF clothing.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels.
  • Take breaks in shaded areas.

First Aid

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache, and fever.
  • Drink plenty of water to help replace fluid losses.
  • Comfort burns with cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths.
  • Avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved.
  • Use of a topical moisturizing cream, aloe, or 1% hydrocortisone cream may provide additional relief.

If blistering occurs:

  • Lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection.
  • Do not break blisters. (This slows healing and increases risk of infection.)
  • When the blisters break and the skin peels, dried skin fragments may be removed and an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream may be applied.

Seek medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Severe sunburns covering more than 15% of the body
  • Dehydration
  • High fever (greater than 101 °F)
  • Extreme pain that persists for longer than 48 hours

California’s New Localized Water Controls a Step Forward

With higher levels of rain and snowfall over the winter, California’s water situation has eased in some areas, prompting the state to initiate new water conservation rules, adopted on May 18 and in effect June 1 through January 2017. The regulations give control over water usage to local communities, which means more restrictions in some areas than in others. In Northern California, winter precipitation has filled some reservoirs, while drought conditions persist in Southern California.

The previous rule—enacted in April 2015 by Gov. Jerry Brown, who issued an Executive Order mandating a 25% reduction of urban water usage from 2013 levels over a nine-month period—saw a savings of about 424 billion gallons. That followed a failed year-long effort to achieve a voluntary 20% reduction in water usage, with statewide conservation results averaging between just 7% and 12%.

The State Water Resources Control Board explained that the new approach replaces the percentage reduction-based water conservation standard with a localized approach. The emergency regulation requires that urban water suppliers ensure that at least a three year supply of water would be available to their customers in case of drought conditions. Suppliers that would face shortages under three additional dry years are now required to meet a conservation standard equal to the amount of a shortage. A water agency that projects it would have a 10% supply shortfall, for example, would have a mandatory conservation standard of 10%. The regulation also makes previously passed water-wasting rules permanent, including no hosing of sidewalks, washing cars without a hose nozzle, or watering lawns within 48 hours of measurable rainfall.

“El Nino didn’t save us, but this winter gave us some relief,” Water Board Chair Felicia Marcus said in a statement. “It’s a reprieve though, not a hall pass, for much if not all of California. We need to keep conserving, and work on more efficient practices, like keeping lawns on a water diet or transitioning away from them. We don’t want to cry wolf, but we can’t put our heads in the sand either.”

Will Sarni, director and practice leader of water strategy at Deloitte, agrees with the direction the state is taking on conservation.

While it may appear that restrictions are being eased, which could send the message that things are going back to business as usual, “It’s not business as usual, but local entities are being given more control,” Sarni said. “My view is that water is ultimately a local issue, so providing greater flexibility and decision-making at the local level that aligns with an overall strategy within the state, or nation, makes sense.”

The model of local management actions that roll up to a regional entity have successfully been adopted in other parts of the country, he said, explaining that states do work together. One example is the Delaware River Basin Commission, which is an entity that has a say in how water is managed in the Delaware River. Other examples include the Great Lakes Commission and the Colorado River Compact. “So cooperating on water is actually more common than not,” Sarni said.

Drought1

Drought 2

Houston Faces ‘Largest Flooding Event Since Tropical Storm Allison’

Historic flooding has left the Houston metropolitan area inundated once again this week, killing at least seven people, flooding 1,000 homes and causing more than $5 billion in estimated damages in Harris County alone. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster for nine counties in and around the Houston area. The widespread nature of the disaster prompted the city of Houston to call this the largest flood event since Tropical Storm Allison, which devastated southeast Texas in 2001, causing $9 billion in damage and $1.1 billion in insured losses.

According to Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, about 240 billion gallons of rain fell on the Houston area this week. That’s the equivalent of 363,400 Olympic-size swimming pools, CNN reported. After 10 inches of rainfall fell in six hours Sunday night into Monday, powerful, slow-moving thunderstorms had paralyzed the region Monday, but storms continued through Wednesday.

Having some of the hardest rainfall overnight helped a bit to mitigate the dangers this week. While this made it difficult to predict, it allowed people to better make choices about going out, as opposed to last year’s floods around Memorial Day, Emmett told the Houston Chronicle. Nevertheless, emergency crews made more than 1,200 high-water rescues, many residents had to evacuate to shelters, and for those who were able to shelter in place, 123,000 homes had no power at the height of the flooding. Officials have also expressed concern about two local dams that have been rated “extremely high risk and are at about 80% capacity, but they are not in immediate danger of failing.

As I wrote in Risk Management last year, the city’s rapid urbanization and approach to land development have made it extremely vulnerable to flooding perils because there is little land surface that can absorb water in foul weather. Rivers, bayous and other receptacles for runoff are easily overwhelmed and take a considerable amount of time to return to normal levels, making the heavy, concentrated, sustained rainfall seen this week even more dangerous in such an urbanized setting. Last May, record rainfall and severe thunderstorms caused tremendous damage across Texas and Oklahoma, killing 32 people and flooding more than 5,000 homes in the metro regions of Houston, Austin and Dallas.

With this latest storm, Houston again offers a powerful reminder about the natural catastrophe perils compounded by urbanization and the need to prepare, both in the form of routine disaster preparation and urban planning. From the August issue of Risk Management:

The city has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to battle the effects of urbanization. On Buffalo Bayou alone, for example, flood control efforts totaling half a billion dollars in the past decade have included bridge replacements, the addition of detention ponds for runoff, and creation of green spaces that serve as parks in normal weather while offering more land surface that can absorb water in foul weather.

But the investments are not enough. “Houston may be doing things to try to improve…but there’s a long history of pre-existing stuff that is still there,” Walter Peacock, an urban planning professor at Texas A&M and director of the school’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, told Time. “Think about every time you put in a road or a mall and you add concrete—you’ve lost the ability of rain to get into the soil and you’ve lost that permeability. It’s now impermeable, and therefore you get more runoff.”

Flurry-Down Economics: The Real Cost of Blizzards

Winter Storm Juno New York City

Despite predictions of a “historic” snowstorm this week, the Northeast – and the insurance industry – largely dodged the blizzard bullet. Over the past 20 years, winter storms have caused an average of $1.2 billion in insurable losses every year, the Insurance Information Institute reported. Last year’s polar vortex and significant snow accumulations came with a price tag between $15 and $50 billion, and winter weather caused $3.7 billion in overall losses, of which an estimated $2.3 billion was insured, according to MunichRe.

NATURAL DISASTER LOSSES IN THE UNITED STATES, 2014

Ahead of what could have been record snow, seven states preemptively declared a state of emergency for what some dubbed Winter Storm Juno. Authorities shut down many major cities, canceling thousands of flights and closing major roads and mass transit systems. Though Boston was pummeled by about two feet of snow, New York City and most of the region emerged relatively unscathed.

“We think the economic impact of the storm is going to be relatively small,” said Evan Gold, senior vice president at weather advisory firm Planalytics. “We’re estimating at about $500 million, and that’s simply based on the duration of the storm, the timing of the storm and the population centers that are impacted.”

Others estimate the cost may be closer to $1 billion, considering the lost business, wages and taxes, and snow removal costs. According to a new report from City Comptroller Scott Stringer, in the past 12 years, every inch of snow cost New York City an average of $1.8 million to remove. From 2003 through 2014, the city spent $663.2 million just to clear the snow. Lighter snowfall actually takes a greater toll per-inch. “It’s a lot more expensive on a per-inch basis when we get a little snow because we have startup costs and we have fixed costs. We have to have plows and salt,” Stringer said. As a result, the city saw 55.5 inches of snow in 2003 and paid $740,000 per inch in cleanup costs, while the city had 6.8 inches of snow in 2012 and paid $4.4 million per inch.

In a press conference on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo shrugged off the financial implications of preparations for and recovery from Juno, calling it one of the “costs of doing business.” He explained, “We factor that in—things like snow removal, salt purchases, overtime for crew to handle storms, these are factored in the budget and this was not exceptional to that process.”

The cost of overpreparation is hefty, however, and it primarily falls upon the public. A one-day storm in Massachusetts costs the state economy about $265 million, while the total cost in New York is around $700 million, according to the Boston Globe. A significant portion of that is due to lost wages for hourly workers, who tend to be hit the worst by snow-related shutdowns.

Travel cancellations have a similar impact. According to research firm masFlight, it costs an airline about $6,000 to cancel a typical domestic flight on a full-size jet, but the total tab for all the passengers who were supposed to be on board is about $58,000, due to the additional costs of lodging and meals. More than 4,700 flights were cancelled Tuesday after about 2,800 on Monday ahead of the storm, CNN reported. Amtrak also suspended service between New York and Boston because of the weather.