Las Vegas Market Officials Bullish on Summer Market

Las Vegas Market Officials Bullish on Summer Market

With five weeks remaining until the Summer Las Vegas Market, held Aug. 1-5, all indications point to anything but more dog days for manufacturers and retailers. Las Vegas Market officials are optimistic for a strong August show with better-than-expected increases in hotel bookings and pre-registrations as compared to recent markets.

Las Vegas Market has already sold nearly 80 percent of its hotel inventory to Las Vegas Market attendees for the same block of room nights. The pick-up rate is outpacing the same period last year by 36 percent.

Market pre-registration is also tracking ahead of recent shows, with 14 percent more buyers pre-registered than Winter 2010 Market. Significantly more retailers and designers are planning to attend as compared to last Summer.

“This is certainly encouraging news for our industry and our customers. It has been a very challenging summer at retail and we are excited that buyers are apparently searching for new products and ideas at Las Vegas Market,” said Robert Maricich, chief executive officer of International Market Centers, parent company of World Market Center Las Vegas. “It is extraordinary that so far registrations are well ahead of last year, especially at the magnitude above last summer’s Market. We have worked hard with our programming and buyer outreach to create a compelling reason to attend Las Vegas Market and these positive numbers are proving successful.”

Hotel partners of Las Vegas Market include Aria, Bally’s, Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan, Golden Nugget, Hilton Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo, NYNY, Palazzo, Paris, Planet Hollywood, PH Towers, Stratosphere, Treasure Island, Trump, Vdara and Wynn.

Registration for Summer 2011 Las Vegas Market is now open and discounted hotel rooms are still available online. Qualified attendees are able to register at www.lasvegasmarket.com and take advantage of group rates at some of Las Vegas’ best hotels, both on and off the Strip.

The Power of eCommerce When Selling to the Hot Buyers

Do you have a successful business and want to ensure its future success? How secure are you right now? Maybe you think your brick and mortar store is all you need. Think again. Times are changing and you’ve got to follow the trends of today to survive in tomorrow’s marketplace.

Many retailers are changing their eCommerce selling strategies to entice today’s key purchasers: the ‘Under 45s’, Generation X and Y (a.k.a. the Millennials). Keep reading as we outline the top features required in order for your eCommerce solution to gain the attention of the Generation X and Y buyers, while also being a revenue generator. This article provides insight as to how you can increase selling power and market to the younger generations with your online presence.

Sure, you have a website, but are you selling online? If you are not, you are missing out and here’s why. The younger generations have the buying power now and the first place they usually look, before even stepping foot into a store, is on the Web. Technology is a part of their daily lives; it defines these generations. Without an online retail presence, you’re losing valuable customers.

The Importance of a Retail Website is Not to be Ignored
Rich Mitton, director of IT, at Mathis Brothers Furniture recently stated, “There are many customers, especially those in California, who don’t necessarily want to drive to a store. They prefer buying from our site. If they have visited one of our stores, had the Mathis Brothers’ experience and purchased furniture, then they are even more comfortable adding those extra pieces by just buying them online. eCommerce has been a great improvement to our overall business. It’s an evolution.”

Today, it’s so easy to search for a company, business, retail store, etc. on the web and find exactly what you are looking for quickly. The competition is out there creating a brand and making a name for themselves, and making money doing it.

A television commercial for Verizon that is currently running in the New York tri-state area features a local retailer who searches for her company name on the Web and is surprised to find that it’s not listed. This is because she doesn’t have a website or any other presence on the Internet. The Verizon rep tells her, “If you don’t have a website, you’re basically invisible.” He then shows her how to create a small business website to promote her business. In the end the setup was easy, and she is happily branding her retail business via the Web.

Who are the Hot Buyers?
Take a look into the lives of your hot buyers; the statistics may surprise you.
Generation X makes up 75 percent the size of the Baby Boom generation, and just 68 percent the size of Generation Y, according to the Retail & Consumer Insights report. Born 1966-1976, they are entering their peak earning years. This generation is highly-educated and uses caution when purchasing. They are spending money on big ticket items for their children entering college.

They are buying practical products, such as home improvement equipment, furnishings, children’s needs, sports and leisure items.

Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, or the Echo Boomers, are the largest generation compared with the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Born 1977-1994, they are 120 percent the size of the Baby Boom generation, and 170 percent of Generation X. They make up 85 million of the country’s population (Retail & Consumer Insights). This generation was born into technology and image matters to them. They are the primary influencers of all generations because they have information at their fingertips via mobile phones, iPads, YouTube, etc. Constant technological advances are normal to these generations. They are always ready to seize the next big item, the latest trends and to make an upgrade.

Why Do They Buy?
Retailers should understand the needs of their consumers and adapt to each of the different generations. Know how to target these consumers and gain their trust. While the Baby Boomer generation responds to newspaper, radio, print, and TV ads, Generations X & Y respond to mobile technology and social media.

Generation X wants you to help them, not sell them. They are looking to gain more for their money. If you provide evidence as to why your product will benefit them more than your competitor’s and prove it, they will buy. Post testimonials of your products online. These buyers like to research first. The more information you have online, the better the opportunity for you to make sales. Turn your website into a retail atmosphere. Offer easy access to your products and services.

Generation Y consumers are connected to technology. They shop together in groups. They respond to word of mouth. You have to go where they are: Facebook, Twitter, mobile, school, etc. They care about communities. Be a part of their lifestyle. Build loyalty. Enable customers to use their mobile phones to obtain information on a product, download coupons, discounts, etc.

Come on and Get Social
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—it’s the Social Network, so get on board. You have to embrace the trends and go where the buyers of today are spending their time. According to www.laptopmag.com, Twitter has gained over 190 million users since its inception in 2006. The average Facebook user has 130 friends, and there are more than 500 million active users today. The average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups, and events. Imagine what kind of marketing impact this can have for your website and your brand.

Create website appeal by making it easy for them to click and buy. Performance matters when it comes to your website. Make your site easy to manage and browse. Become interactive by adding virtual screen options, such as a room planner where one can select a product and preview it in a room for size, color and style. Enable customers to “check-in” with Facebook Places through their mobile phones and reward them for “advertising” your company. Their network of friends can instantly see the places they’ve checked into, triggering more potential customers to notice your brand and strike an interest in visiting your store.
Start a following on Twitter with tweets that grab the consumer’s attention. Twitter runs in real-time, so your response is instantaneous. Offer a one day sale and highlight deals in your tweets. Focus on your local community of followers. You can offer specials to those who follow you on Twitter and in turn, convince them to buy online or in the store.

Keep them engaged and coming back. Give them coupons; offer discounts for referring or sharing with a friend, or donate a portion of their purchase to charity. Create loyalty programs so that they return and invite their friends to shop your store. Social media is huge for advertising in retail.

Post Pricing on Your Products
It’s an instant turn-off to buyers if you don’t have price tags for your products on your website. You are automatically running the risk of losing the potential buyer’s trust. What do you have to hide? Your competitors are listing price tags. If your products are expensive, but well worth the quality, give them the opportunity to shop. If you prove your quality and offer the essential reasons they should purchase your products, young consumers will buy.

“eCommerce was a big move for us because we’ve always been so guarded in protecting our retail pricing. Ironically enough, we found out that people don’t like to look at websites without pricing. So we had to look at the hard facts and make a change for our customers. The younger generations (X & Y) are shopping online and that’s how it’s going to be in the future,” stated Nestor Reyes, Director of IT at City Mattress.

Why is My Website Important to Them?
Consumers feel secure with your business when they can find you on the web. Having a website places your business a step above the competition. Offering the option to buy online makes life easier, and saves the shopper time.

Reyes continues, “Having an online store is a lot less expensive than opening an actual retail store location. It’s a great compliment to our store network because people like to research online first. Then they will come to our store with papers in hand ready to purchase. It also makes it easy to manage products. In store, we update our pricing and it populates directly into our website. We don’t have to update pricing in separate locations. It’s the wave of the future.”
Other smart retailers have jumped on board the eCommerce platform because they know that it can only increase their branding, sales and staying power. The Consumer Behavior Report of Online Purchasing Trends by Generation reported that 69 percent of consumers purchase online as much as they do in store. Also noted, 96 percent of online consumers are confident that the site is safe and secure for purchasing. If your website is suspicious, slow, or quirky, they won’t buy. Web performance can be a killer. If your online retail site is not up to speed, Gen X & Y are not going to stay. They want it to be easy and fast. They are multi-taskers.

Top 100 retailer American Furniture Warehouse has been an innovator with their eCommerce website. They understand that reaching out to the key buyers is important, and they’ve created a website that is consumer friendly. “We’ve been using an eCommerce platform for years. It’s nice to have real-time inventory and order information on our website, and it’s seamless to our store operations. Online sales are really growing for us as we’re projecting record sales online this year,” confirmed Jake Jabs, owner of American Furniture Warehouse.

Why My Website is Important to Them

  • 18 percent of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive ROI
  • 90 percent skip commercials via TiVo or DVR
  • 78 percent consumers trust peer recommendations
  • 14 percent trust ads

The Future is Now
What’s next is already here. Interactive displays in store and online are sweeping the consumers off their feet. This technology offers the ability to use touch screens to find products, view them room by room, share the look with family or friends, and even check into the store online for a coupon.

Are you convinced yet? Sure you’d like to keep marketing to the Baby Boom Generation. They respond to TV commercials, newspaper and print ads. But the up-and-coming buyers do not. They skip TV commercials on recorded shows, using TiVo and DVR technology. They view content on iPhones, iPads, and the web. Gen X is emailing and instant messaging, while Gen Y is texting, blogging, tweeting and so on… The best way to succeed is to stay at the forefront of technology, by connecting and interacting with these active buyers.

Michelle Beres Skyta has over 10 years of industry experience with Advertising and PR. She has been with STORIS Management Systems, a leading retail software solutions and services provider for Big Ticket retailers, for the past five years. Currently, a Marketing Communications Specialist, Michelle is a Millennial embracing new technology and social advancements. She holds a degree in Mass Communications and Media from Ramapo College of New Jersey. For additional information please contact Michelle at (888) 478-6747 x286 or mlb@storis.com.

Enforcement: How to Effectively Prepare for a Cal/OSHA Visit

The current administration in Washington, D.C., has promised increased regulatory enforcement against employers. Additionally, Cal/OSHA knows that employers are trying to do more with less these days, so Cal/OSHA is operating under the assumption that illegal safety shortcuts are being taken.

The bottom line? You’re now more likely than ever to get a knock on the door from a federal or Cal/OSHA inspector. If you want to avoid the potential of hefty fines and litigation costs, now is the time to get prepared.

Current Cal/OSHA inspection priorities:

  • High hazard industries — SIC Codes 20 – 39
  • X-Modifications of 125 or greater
  • Outdoor workforces — exposure to heat illness

How to best prepare for a visit:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment
  • Review your Injury Illness Prevention Plan (ILPP) to ensure compliance
  • Review your documentation — training; quarterly inspections, accident reports; OSHA 300 log; workers’ compensation records

How the enforcement actions and the new penalty calculations affect you:

  • General violation fine up to $7,000
  • Serious violation fine up to $25,000
  • Willful violation fine up to $70,000
  • Repeat violation fine up to $70,000
  • Failure to correct fine, $15,000 per day

Effective strategies to greet Cal/OSHA Inspectors:

  • Request identification and phone Cal/OSHA District Office to verify
  • Require specific purpose of visit
  • Restrict access to only areas specified in complaint or search warrant
  • Refuse any request to reconstruct or perform any action not otherwise occurring as part of your on-going business activity
  • Say or ask as little as possible and volunteer nothing
  • Duplicate the actions of the inspector

Winter Safety Programs Need to be in Effect

Once again the winter season is upon us. This peak shopping time is also a peak accident time, requiring all employees to have a heightened awareness of store safety and security. WHFA and Argonaut Retail have the following tools to help you to communicate safe practices and prevent accidents.

  • Winter Safety Checklist assists in identifying and correcting key areas of concern within your store.
  • Manager’s Winter Safety Reminders provides information to review with managers.
  • Employee Safety Reminder Poster will communicate these important issues to employees.

This packet can also serve as a topic for your safety committee, if applicable. If you have questions or would like assistance, please feel free to contact Argonaut Retail Loss Control Consultants (866) 428-0730 or WHFA at (800) 422-3778.

Prevent Injury From Backpacks, Purses, Laptops, and Wallets

People are used to hearing about ergonomics at work, buy rarely think about the everyday items used to carry “stuff” that may contribute to physical discomfort and injury.  The information below focuses on the ergonomics of what we use to carry our smart phones, computers, and other personal items.

Backpacks are used by people of all ages; unfortunately, they are often overloaded and packed incorrectly.  This has contributed to an increase in reported back, shoulder, and neck pain.

  • Wear both straps over both shoulders with the backpack over the mid-back muscles.
  • Avoid the shoulder straps from being too loose or too tight.
  • Keep the weight of the backpack within 10-15% of the user’s body weight.  Carry only what is needed and organize the contents by placing the heavier items closest to the back.

Purses have grown in size and weight and, as the saying goes, “the bigger the bag, the more stuff will fit in it”.  Single-strap purses cause uneven loading of the back muscles and restrict blood flow at the shoulder.

  • Keep purses as light as possible by carrying only what is essential.
  • Avoid thin straps, long straps, and chain handles.
  • Regularly switch shoulders when carrying.

Laptop bags are typically single-strap models, carried over one shoulder.  The weight of the laptop and other bag contents can place considerable strain on the shoulder muscles, restrict blood flow, and pinch nerves.

  • Consider using a bag with wheels or a two-strap backpack.
  • Alternate carrying the bag by switching sides and holding it down close.
  • Avoid using a sling-style messenger bag.

Wallets may be smaller, but they can contribute to extreme pain in the low back.  Sitting a a wallet in the back pocket can cause damage to key nerves in the back.  Always remove the wallet from the back pocket when sitting and/or driving.  Consider a thinner, smaller style wallet and carry only what is necessary.

Featured article in State Fund Insurance Safety News, Issue Four 2009

Preventing Strains & Sprains

Lifting, pushing and overreaching are common causes of strains and sprains. Any job that requires you to sit or stand for long periods of time and bend in an awkward position, can cause excess stress and strain on muscles. Most strains and sprains affect the back, arms and shoulders. However, there are some very simple things you can do to prevent or minimize body strains and sprains.

Many strains and sprains occur because of poor material handling. Workers lift things that weigh too much or they lift incorrectly. Lift correctly by bending your knees, not your back and carry loads close to your body. Injuries can occur when workers try to pull or lift a heavy or awkward object without help or lift an object while twisting from the waist. When carrying a load, avoid bending or lifting upward unnecessarily and keep as much of the load as you can at waist level.

Get help with heavy loads. Don’t try to move or lift an object you can’t handle. Instead of lifting a 75-pound load, break it down into smaller parts. If you can’t break it down, get help from a mechanical device or lift it with another worker. Make sure moving equipment works properly or it will cause you to strain unnecessarily just attempting to get it to work. If the wheels on a cart are not aligned, you could strain your arms, shoulders and back trying to move it.

Also change your working positions frequently. Chronic strain due to an unchanging work position can weaken your back, arms and shoulders. Adjust working heights to prevent slumping or excessive reaching. A vicious cycle develops when chronic strain continues; muscles become less able to withstand strenuous activity and grow more prone to injury of all kinds. Stretch during the day to increase your flexibility. Take body relaxation breaks by letting your shoulders and neck muscles go limp; swivel your head or arms or flex your hands and fingers.

Take care of your whole body with exercise, proper posture, a sensible diet and adequate rest. If your muscles or ligaments have weakened over time from lack of exercise or age, you are more apt to get a strain or sprain than if you’re are physically fit.

Preventing Workplace Injuries — Office Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science that seeks to fit the job or task to the individual rather than expecting the individual to conform to the job or task. It seeks to adapt work or working conditions to suit the worker. The goal of an effective ergonomics program is to reduce work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that can be developed by workers.

Evaluate your employees’ workstations to ensure they are set up properly for each employee. A couple of areas to pay attention to are:

  • Chair Height: Adjust height so your employee’s elbows are at about desktop level.
  • Seat Back: Adjust for good support of the lower back and use a lumbar cushion if needed.

Another way to prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders is by taking short breaks from your computer every hour to stretch. A couple of good stretches are:

  • Fingers and Hands: Make a fist and hold for a second. Then spread your fingers apart as far as you can. Repeat several times.
  • Lower Back: Sit on edge of chair with your knees and feet well apart, hands resting between your legs. Bend your trunk forward with head and arms dangling. Touch the floor with your hands and hold for 5-10 seconds. Return slowly to the starting position.

For more information on office ergonomics and stretching, call WHFA at (800) 422-3778 to request a free copy of their Helping to Prevent Workplace Injuries — Office Ergonomics brochure.

Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat

During emergency response activities or recovery operations, workers may be required to work in hot environments, and sometimes for extended periods. When the body is unable to cool itself by sweating, several heat-induced illnesses can occur, and can result in death. The following information will help workers understand what heat stress is, how it may affect their health and safety, and how it can be prevented.

Factors Leading to Heat Stress

High temperature and humidity; direct sun or heat; limited air movement; physical exertion; poor physical condition; some medicines; inadequate tolerance for hot workplaces; and insufficient water intake can all lead to heat stress.

What kind of heat disorders and health effects are possible and how should they be treated?

  • Heat Stroke is the most serious heat related disorder and occurs when the body’s temperature regulation fails and body temperature rises to critical levels. It is a medical emergency that may result in death. The primary signs and symptoms of heat stroke are confusion; irrational behavior; loss of consciousness; convulsions; a lack of sweating (usually); hot, dry skin; and an abnormally high body temperature. If a worker shows signs of possible heat stroke, professional medical treatment should be obtained immediately. Until professional medical treatment is available, the worker should be placed in a shady, cool area and the outer clothing should be removed. Douse the worker with cool water and circulate air to improve evaporative cooling. Provide the worker fluids (preferably water) as soon as possible.
  • Heat Exhaustion is only partly due to exhaustion; it is a result of the combination of excessive heat and dehydration. Signs and symptoms are headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, thirst, and giddiness. Fainting or heat collapse is often associated with heat exhaustion. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion should be removed from the hot environment and given fluid replacement. They should also be encouraged to get adequate rest, and when possible, ice packs should be applied.
  • Heat Cramps are usually caused by performing hard physical labor in a hot environment. Heat cramps have been attributed to an electrolyte imbalance caused by sweating and are normally caused by the lack of water replenishment. It is imperative that workers in hot environments drink water every 15 to 20 minutes and also drink carbohydrate-electrolyte replacement liquids (e.g., sports drinks) to help minimize physiological disturbances during recovery.
  • Heat Rashes are the most common problem in hot work environments where the skin is persistently wetted by unevaporated sweat. Heat rash looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters. It is more likely to occur on the neck and upper chest, in the groin, under the breasts, and in elbow creases. The best treatment for heat rash is to provide a cooler, less humid environment. Keep the affected area dry. Dusting powder may be used to increase comfort, but avoid using ointments or creams-they keep the skin warm and moist and may make the condition worse.

Administrative or work practice controls to offset heat effects

  • Acclimatize workers by exposing them to work in a hot environment for progressively longer periods.
  • Replace fluids by providing cool water or any cool liquid (except alcoholic and caffeinated beverages) to workers and encourage them to drink small amounts frequently, e.g., one cup every 20 minutes. Ample supplies of liquids should be placed close to the work area.
  • Reduce the physical demands by reducing physical exertion such as excessive lifting, climbing, or digging with heavy objects. Use relief workers or assign extra workers, and minimize overexertion.
  • Provide recovery areas such as air-conditioned enclosures and rooms and provide intermittent rest periods with water breaks.
  • Reschedule hot jobs for the cooler part of the day, and routine maintenance and repair work in hot areas should be scheduled for the cooler seasons of the year.
  • Monitor workers who are at risk of heat stress, such as those wearing semi-permeable or impermeable clothing when the temperature exceeds 70 degrees F, while working at high energy levels. Personal monitoring can be done by checking the heart rate, recovery heart rate, and oral temperature.

What Personal Protective Equipment is effective in minimizing heat stress?

  • Reflective clothing , worn as loosely as possible, can minimize heat stress hazards.
  • Wetted clothing , such as terry cloth coveralls or two-piece, whole-body cotton suits are another simple and inexpensive personal cooling technique. It is effective when reflective or other impermeable protective clothing is worn.
  • Water-cooled garments range from a hood, which cools only the head, to vests and “long johns,” which offer partial or complete body cooling. Use of this equipment requires a battery-driven circulating pump, liquid-ice coolant, and a container.

 

Smoke from Wildfires and the Workplace

When smoke from wildfires is in the air, employers may wonder if the smoke is a health hazard and if they can do anything to protect their workers.

Smoke is a complex mixture of gases and fine particles. The fine particles in smoke are the primary health concern. Irritating chemicals in the smoke, such as formaldehyde and acrolein, are not present in levels to cause a public health concern, but they contribute to the irritating effects of the particulate matter. The level of carbon monoxide in the smoke is typically only a concern for firefighters close to the fire line.

Health effects depend upon the level of smoke and the sensitivity of the individual. They can include irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, cough, phlegm, wheezing, difficulty in breathing, and chest discomfort. Exposure to smoke may also depress the lung’s ability to fight infection. People with asthma, lung disease, or heart disease are more likely to be affected by smoke, and their conditions can be aggravated by smoke. The risk of cancer or other long-term health effects from short-term exposure to smoke is considered to be quite low.

Employers should stay alert. They should listen to local news, weather forecasts, and air quality alerts. Air quality advisories and news can also be found at www.airnow.gov. Air quality districts rate the air as good, moderate, unhealthy for sensitive groups, unhealthy, very unhealthy, or hazardous. Depending upon the conditions, recommendations may be made that apply to sensitive groups or to everyone. These recommendations are geared towards the general public, so employers should be sure to use appropriate judgment when applying them to the workplace.

Staying indoors is a common advisory. This is useful if the air inside is cleaner than the air outside. The doors and windows should be kept shut. The heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system should be set to maximize the amount of recirculated air and minimize any fresh air being brought in. The HVAC system should be fitted with a filter that is as efficient as possible without adding too much resistance for the system to operate properly. Filters may also need to be changed more frequently because of wildfires. Some buildings are so “leaky” that the air inside is as bad as that outside. If the air inside is unhealthy, it may be appropriate for some or all employees to remain at home or at some alternate location.

Portable room air cleaners can supplement the filtering of particulates done by an HVAC system. The effectiveness of an air cleaning device is a function of the cleaning efficiency, the air exchange rate, and the room size. Portable room air cleaners may not be effective for large office buildings, or places with large open areas. Some air cleaners are mechanical: the air is pulled through a filter that traps particles. Other air cleaners are electronic; these include electrostatic precipitators (which use an electrical charge to collect particles pulled through the device) and ionizers (which cause particles to stick to materials, such as walls and carpets, near the ionizer). These electronic devices produce some amount of ozone (a respiratory irritant) as a result of the ion-generating technology used. Some “air purifiers” or ozone generators are specifically designed to generate ozone and should not be used. The Cal/EPA Air Resources Board has more information on air cleaners at http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/acdsumm.pdf.

Heat stress may become a health issue in some buildings during warm weather. Buildings without air conditioning may rely on open windows or doors to keep indoor temperatures from becoming too hot. In some smoke conditions, however, opening windows may not be acceptable. If exposure to heat stress or smoke are the only options, it may be appropriate for some or all employees to remain at home or at some alternate location.

Air contaminants generated within the workplace can be a concern. Open doors and windows may provide the outside air needed to control exposures to air contaminants from forklifts, welding, or other operations. Even local exhaust ventilation relies on make-up air from the outside to control exposures. It may be appropriate to limit or even stop some operations so that employees are not exposed to smoke and industrial air contaminants at the same time.

Reducing physical activity is also recommended when air quality is unhealthy. With increased physical activity, breathing rate increases and so does the amount of pollutants inhaled. With heavy exertion, workers also tend to breathe more deeply, depositing particles more deeply into the lungs. Heavy exertion may also cause workers to breathe through their mouths, bypassing the filtering mechanisms of the nose. Employers should review the level of physical exertion needed for all operations and limit or stop some activities if appropriate.

In general, the use of masks is not recommended for widespread use in areas affected by smoke. However, their use may be appropriate in some limited situations, such as some workers who need to be outdoors. In order to provide any protection, a mask must be able to filter out the microscopic particles in smoke and it must provide an airtight seal against the face. Surgical-type masks and “comfort” masks sold at the hardware store do not protect the wearer from smoke.

Masks specifically designed to protect workers from air contaminants are classified as respirators and are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). There are disposable respirators or “dust masks” available which are certified by NIOSH to filter out microscopic particles. These are marked as N, R, or P and 95, 99 or 100 (e.g., N95 or P100). There are many workplaces that use these masks on a routine basis. However, these respirators can be difficult to breathe through, leading to increased breathing and heart rates; they can also contribute to heat stress. Therefore, those groups that are more sensitive to smoke may also be more likely to have adverse health effects from using a respirator. When an employee’s job requires an employee to wear a respirator, the employer must develop and implement a written respiratory protection program. This program includes medical evaluations, fit-testing, and training along with other requirements. Employees that are not required to use respirators but are considering using them for protection against smoke should consult their physician first if they have cardiac or respiratory disease. Cal/OSHA has more information on respirators in the workplace at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh.

Consider the commute. Even if the air where the workplace is located is relatively unaffected by wildfires, employees may need to travel on roads with unhealthy levels of smoke or where reduced visibility makes driving dangerous. Employers should also be on the alert for road closures and notify employees if their commute home is affected.

Encourage workers to report any health effects. If workers experience symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath, or severe fatigue, medical attention should be sought.

After a fire, housekeeping can help reduce the indoor levels of particulate matter present in the air and on surfaces. Over time, airborne particulate levels will decrease, but there are some things that can be done to maximize the comfort and health of employees. Housekeeping staff should be instructed to only use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum cleaners so that fine particles are not reintroduced into the air. Carpets, upholstery, and other porous materials should be thoroughly HEPA vacuumed or professionally cleaned. Nonporous surfaces including walls and floors should be cleaned using wet methods where feasible.

Stimulants and Workplace Safety

Stimulants – such as energy or caffeinated drinks and supplements or prescription and recreational dugs – can affect workplace safety. Caffeine is the most common stimulant. In moderation, it can increase energy, but it affects people differently. If you overuse caffeine, you can feel nervous and irritable, anxious, and get an abnormal heart rhythm. You may have difficulty concentrating and sleeping, leading to mistakes on the job.  You may miss your body’s signals that it is tired and you should slow down, leading to strains, sprains and injuries. Because caffeine is a diuretic, it can cause frequent urination, dehydration, and heat illness, if you’re exposed to hot work environments or heavy exercise. You should know your caffeine tolerance.

Energy drinks are another popular source of caffeine. Overuse of a high caffeine content energy drink can lead to dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and heart irregularities. Never mix an energy drink with alcohol; the combination can mask the effects of alcohol, causing you to over-indulge. Energy drinks may contain other additives like amino acids, carbohydrates (sugars), vitamins, and herbs that can have their own side effects. Read product labels to get the ingredients, potential side effects, and directions on amounts you can drink in a day.

Energy supplements available in pill or tablet from that contain caffeine, sugar, herbs and vitamins claim to boost strength, alertness, energy, and/or weight loss but they too can have mild to serious side effects.  Read supplement labels for ingredients, use, and dose directions.

Control the amounts of stimulant drinks and supplements you use. Don’t drive or operate machinery if you are feeling the effects of stimulant overuse.  Know the signs and symptoms of overuse in yourself and coworkers.