Halloween Food Safety Tips for Parents

Even though it’s not an official holiday, Halloween is much beloved by children and adults alike. What could be more fun mummiesthan trick-or-treating, apple bobbing, or costume parties?

To make sure treats are safe for children, follow these simple steps:

  • Snacking: Children shouldn’t snack on treats from their goody bags while they’re out trick-or-treating. Give them a light meal or snack before they head out – don’t send them out on an empty stomach. Urge them to wait until they get home and let you inspect their loot before they eat any of it.
  • Safe treats: Tell children not to accept – and especially not to eat – anything that isn’t commercially wrapped. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.
  • Food Allergies: If your child has a food allergy, check the label to ensure the allergen isn’t present. Do not allow the child to eat any home-baked goods he or she may have received.
  • Choking hazards: If you have very young children, be sure to remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.

Halloween Pumpkin with candyBobbing for apples is an all-time favorite Halloween game. Here are a couple of ways to say “boo” to bacteria that can cause foodborne illness.

  • Reduce the number of bacteria that might be present on apples and other raw fruits and vegetables by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Try this new spin on apple bobbing from FightBAC.org: Cut out lots of apples from red construction paper. On each apple, write activities for kids, such as “do 5 jumping jacks.” Place a paper clip on each apple and put them in a large basket. Tie a magnet to a string. Let the children take turns “bobbing” with their magnet and doing the activity written on their apple. Give children a fresh apple for participating.

If your idea of Halloween fun is a party at home, don’t forget these tips:

  • Beware of spooky cider! Unpasteurized juice or cider can contain harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. To stay safe, always serve pasteurized products at your parties.
  • No matter how tempting, don’t taste raw cookie dough or cake batter that contain uncooked eggs.
  • “Scare” bacteria away by keeping all perishable foods chilled until serving time. These include finger sandwiches, cheese platters, fruit or tossed salads, cold pasta dishes with meat, poultry, or seafood, and cream pies or cakes with whipped-cream and cream-cheese frostings.
  • Bacteria will creep up on you if you let foods sit out too long. Don’t leave perishable goodies out of the fridge for more than two hours (1 hour in temperatures above 90°F).

How to Talk to the Media Like a Pro

Do you dream of getting interviewed by a reporter, radio personality or blogger? Unless you know how to handle yourself during the interview, your dream could turn into a nightmare. You see, getting the media’s attention is only half the battle for a small business owner. What really matters is how well you handle being interviewed.

As a small business journalist and blogger who’s interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, I’ve learned the painful difference between the business owner who responds in monosyllables and the ones who give great quotes, create a conversation and are just plain fun to talk to. How can you be the latter and not the former? Read on.

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  • Be ready. Never send out press releases or pitch reporters without being prepared to speak about the topic you’re pitching. You may not get a lot of warning—reporters are on short deadlines, so it’s possible you’ll get a call or email back within minutes of sending a pitch.
  • Use your time to prepare. If your interview is a few days or weeks away, use the time to prepare even further. Ask the reporter what the article is about, so you’ll have a sense of how best to contribute. For instance, if you own a craft brewery, is the article a profile of your brewery? Then have some good stories about your startup and growth to share. Is it an overview of the craft brewing trend? Then be ready to discuss industry trends and where you think the industry is going. It’s also perfectly OK to ask the reporter for samples of the kinds of questions he or she plans to ask—this can be a smart move if you’re shy or have trouble thinking on your feet.
  • Stay on track. At the opposite extreme of the “yes or no” answer is the small business owner who can’t stop talking (and usually goes completely off topic). If a reporter asks you about industry trends, don’t tell her how your grandfather’s recipe for chocolate stout inspired you to start the business, and by the way, your grandfather was a Russian immigrant who kept pot-bellied pigs in his backyard, and…. Focus on the topic at hand.
  • Promote your “talking points,” but gently. Reporters expect interviewees to promote themselves a bit; it’s why people agree to be interviewed. You can subtly draw the conversation around to what you want to promote, as long as you don’t go overboard. (Watch any interview with a politician and see how they bring it back to their core message.) For instance, if the reporter asks you about trends in the craft beer industry, you could say, “IPAs have peaked and become mainstream; now sour beers are growing in popularity. That’s one reason we’re introducing our new line of sours, which is already seeing growth of 20 percent month-over-month.” See how completely you answered the question, but also promoted your new product line?
  • Provide hard data. Reporters love statistics and facts, so be ready to share any data you can to back up what you say. In the example above, the craft beer entrepreneur could also have shared industry data about the growth of sour beers overall. Stats from your own experience are great, too, so if you collect data on your customers that illustrates trends, or have done a customer survey recently that gleaned valuable information, be sure to share it.
  • Be helpful. Be on time for the interview, and let the reporter know you’re available for any follow-up questions afterwards. Reporters prefer working with nice people. Treat the interview like a pleasant conversation, and they’ll turn to you again and again.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “How to Talk to the Media Like a Pro.” For more information, please visit www.sba.gov.

Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

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What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.

How do you know if your tax records have been affected? Usually, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund. Generally, the identity thief will use a stolen SSN to file a forged tax return and attempt to get a fraudulent refund early in the filing season. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your tax return later in the filing season and discover that two returns have been filed using the same SSN. Be alert to possible identity theft if you receive an IRS notice or letter that states that:

  • More than one tax return for you was filed,
  • You have a balance due, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return, or
  • IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

What to do if your tax records were affected by identity theft? If you receive a notice from IRS, respond immediately. If you believe someone may have used your SSN fraudulently, please notify IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice or letter. You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. For victims of identity theft who have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 1-800-908-4490

How can you protect your tax records? If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report, etc., contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.

How can you minimize the chance of becoming a victim?

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card or any document(s) with your SSN on it.
  • Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask – only when required.
  • Protect your financial information.
  • Check your credit report every 12 months.
  • Secure personal information in your home.
  • Protect your personal computers by using firewalls, anti-spam/virus software, update security patches, and change passwords for Internet accounts.
  • Don’t give personal information over the phone, by fax, through the mail or on the internet unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.” For more information, please visit www.irs.gov.

Are Your Window Coverings Safe?

kdi-curtain-shutterstock_22288252The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has identified window coverings with cords as one of the top five hidden hazards in the home. To prevent tragic child strangulations, CPSC recommends the use of cordless window coverings in all homes where children live or visit.

About once a month a child between 7 months and 10 years old dies from window cord strangulation and another child suffers a near strangulation. In recent years, CPSC has recalled over five million window coverings, including Roman shades, roller and roll-up blinds, vertical and horizontal blinds.

Strangulation deaths and injuries can occur anywhere in the house where a window covering with a cord is installed. Children can wrap window covering cords around their necks or can pull cords that are not clearly visible but are accessible and become entangled in the loops. These incidents happen quickly and silently.

  1. Pull Cords:
    Children can strangle when they wrap the cord around their necks or become trapped in the loop created when loose cords get entangled. Even if cleats are used to wrap excess pull cords, if installed within the child’s reach, the cords above the cleat present a hazard.
  2. Looped Bead Chains or Nylon Cords:
    Children can strangle in the free-standing loops.
  3. Inner Cords of Roman Shades:
    Children can pull out an exposed inner cord on the back side of Roman shades, wrap it around their necks and strangle.  Children can place their necks in the opening between the fabric and cord and strangle
  4. Lifting Loops of Roll-up Blinds:
    If the lifting loops (that raise and lower the blinds) slide off the side of the blind, they form a freestanding loop in which a child can become entangled and strangle. Children can place their necks between the lifting loop and the roll-up blind material and strangle.

CPSC offers the following safety tips to prevent deaths and injuries associated with window covering cords:

  • Examine all shades and blinds in the home. CPSC recommends the use of cordless window coverings in all homes where children live or visit. Make sure there are no accessible cords on the front, side, or back of the product.
  • Do not place cribs, beds, and furniture close to the windows because children can climb on them and gain access to the cords.
  • Make loose cords inaccessible.
  • If the window shade has looped bead chains or nylon cords, install tension devices to keep the cord taut.

Note: Most window blinds sold prior to November 2000 have inner cords (for raising the slats of the blinds) that can be pulled by a child and form a loop in which the child’s neck can entangle. Consumers should immediately repair these types of blinds. For a free repair kit, call the Window Covering Safety Council at 800-506-4636 or visit windowcoverings.org. Consumers should know that WCSC’s retrofit kits do not address the dangling pull cord hazard associated with many common window blinds.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “Are Your Window Coverings Safe?.” For more information, please visit www.cpsc.gov.

Small Business Safety Q’s and A’s with OSHA

question-answer-fb-shutterstock_66185413Establishing a safe and healthful working environment requires every employer – large and small – and every worker to make safety and health a top priority. The entire work force — from the CEO to the most recent hire — must recognize that worker safety and health is central to the mission and key to the profitability of the American company.

Why is safety and health important for a small business owner like me?

Safety is good business. An effective safety and health program can save $4 to $6 for every $1 invested. It’s the right thing to do, and doing it right pays off in lower costs, increased productivity, and higher employee morale.

As an employer, you have a duty to protect your workers from injury and illness on the job. Protecting workers also makes good business sense. Accidents and injuries are more expensive than many realize. Costs mount up quickly. But substantial savings in workers’ compensation and lost workdays are possible when injuries and illnesses decline. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can help you.

How can I reduce employee injuries and illnesses?

Compliance with OSHA rules is essential. Compliance along with an effective voluntary safety and health program can help reduce your costs and injuries and illnesses. An organized, carefully crafted plan that systematically focuses on workplace hazards and employee training is critical. Buy-in from every manager and employee is essential. Everyone has to work at safety and health.

How do I develop this program?

Each safety and health program should be tailored to fit the company, to blend with its unique operations and culture, and to help employers maintain a system that continually addresses workplace hazards. There are five elements that every effective program should have: management leadership and employee participation, workplace analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training and education, and program evaluation.

What do you mean by management leadership and employee participation?

Employers and employees work together to make safety and health a priority. Employer and employee involvement communication on workplace and safety and health issues are essential. For example, this partnership can be achieved when you

  • Post the company’s written safety and health policy for all to see
  • Involve employees in policy making on safety and health issues
  • Take an active part in safety activities
  • Hold meetings that focus on employee safety and health
  • Abide by all safety and health rules
  • Show your commitment by investing time, effort, and money in your safety and health program.

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What’s a worksite analysis and how often do I have to do it?

A worksite analysis means that you and your employees analyze all worksite conditions to identify and eliminate existing or potential hazards. This should be done on a regular and timely basis. There should be a current hazard analysis for all jobs and processes that all employees know and understand. To do this, it is helpful to

  • Request a free OSHA Consultation visit
  • Become aware of hazards in your industry
  • Create safety teams
  • Encourage employees to report workplace hazards
  • Examine history of worksite conditions
  • Have an adequate system for reporting hazards
  • Have trained personnel conduct inspections of the worksite and correct hazards
  • Ensure that any changes in process or new high-hazard facilities are reviewed by a competent person
  • Seek assistance from safety and health experts. (See also OSHA publication 3071 – Job Hazard Analysis for steps in identifying and protecting against workplace hazards.)

After I identify hazards at my worksite, how can I prevent or control them?

The next part of a good safety and health program is your continual review of your work environment and work practices to control or prevent workplace hazards. This can be done when you

  • Regularly and thoroughly maintain equipment
  • Ensure that hazard correction procedures are in place
  • Ensure that employees know how to use and maintain personal protective equipment
  • Ensure that all employees understand and follow safe work procedures
  • Make sure that, where necessary, you have a medical program tailored to your facility to help prevent workplace hazards and exposures.

What else can I do to minimize potential accidents and injuries?

It is important that everyone in the workplace be properly trained, from the floor worker to the supervisors, managers, contractors, and part-time and temporary employees. This can be done when you

  • Allow only properly authorized and instructed employees to do any job
  • Make sure no employees do any job that appears unsafe
  • Hold emergency preparedness drills for employees
  • Pay particular attention to employees learning new operations to make sure they have the proper job skills and awareness of hazards
  • Train supervisors and managers to recognize hazards and understand their responsibilities
  • Encourage all employees to report any hazardous conditions to their supervisors.

What is the OSHA Consultation visit you mentioned?

OSHA operates various voluntary compliance programs to assist small employers. The OSHA Consultation Service helps employers find out about potential hazards and how to improve their occupational safety and health management. A visit from OSHA consultation is always at the employer’s request. The service offers workplace safety and health training and technical assistance. Consultation is a free service largely funded by OSHA and operated by state government agencies using well-trained safety and health staff. This service is completely separate from OSHA’s inspection effort; no citations are issued or penalties proposed. An employer’s only obligation is to correct serious hazards that the consultant finds. The visit begins with an opening conference between the consultant and the employer followed by a walkaround of the worksite. For more information on consultation services, contact your nearest OSHA office listed at the end of this publication or visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.

Can I get other help from OSHA?

OSHA also provides others services and assistance to help small businesses. These include the following:

    • Third-Party Training and Education — OSHA gives training and education grants to various non-profit groups to develop programs to help small businesses establish safety and health programs. Grantees develop training programs and materials that they make available to small businesses. For more information on grants, see the Index at www.osha.gov.
    • Mentoring — OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) recognize worksites where employers and employees work together to achieve safety and health excellence. Small firms can be matched with and mentored by a VPP site that will share its safety and health experience and expertise. For more information on VPP, contact your VPP coordinator in your nearest OSHA regional office.
    • Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) — Part of the Consultation Program, SHARP also recognizes exemplary employers who take special pride in providing a safe and healthful work environment for their employees and who meet specific program criteria. Employers who qualify receive a 1-year exemption from OSHA’s general schedule inspections.
    • Training and Education — OSHA’s Training Institute in Des Plaines, IL, and OSHA’s Training Education Centers across the country provide basic and advanced courses in safety and health. OSHA’s area offices offer information services, such as audiovisual aids, technical advice, and speakers for special engagements. For more information, contact the Institute at 1555 Times Drive, Des Plaines, IL 60018, (847) 297-4810, or fax (847) 297-4874. A list of courses also
      can be found under Outreach at www.osha.gov. Note, in particular, OSHA’s computer-based training software — Expert Advisors — on topics such as hazard communication, asbestos, cadmium, confined spaces, fire safety, lead in construction, and more! See the Index on OSHA’s home page for this and other information.
    • State Plans — Twenty-four states and two territories operate their own federally approved occupational safety and health programs. These entities conduct most OSHA enforcement through their own standards, which are at least as effective as Federal OSHA’s, but may have different or additional requirements. Many states offer additional programs of assistance to small businesses. For more information on state plans, see the list of plans at the end of this brochure or visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.
    • Electronic Information/Internet — OSHA standards, interpretations, directives, interactive software, compliance assistance materials, e-Tools, and additional information are available or can be ordered online at http://www.osha.gov. See also, OSHA’s online small business page.
The above is an excerpt adapted from the article, “Small Business Safety Q’s and A’s.” For more information, please visit www.osha.gov.

Parents: Keep Talking About “5 to Drive”

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  • Start the conversation with your teen during Teen Driver Safety Week, but continue the conversation every day.
  • Even if it seems like they’re tuning you out, keep telling them. They’re listening, and these powerful messages will get through.
  • Get creative! Talking is just one way to discuss safe driving. You can write your teen a letter, leave sticky notes in the car, or use social media to get your message across.
  • Get it in writing. Create a parent-teen driving contract that outlines the rules and consequences for your teen driver. Hang the signed contract in a visible place.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “2015 Fact Sheet.” For more information, please visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Remember the “5 to Drive”

teenage-driver-parent-fb-shutterstock_24392347You’ve guided your teen this far. Driving is a new chapter, a step toward independence for many teens. But your job’s not done. Surveys show that teens whose parents impose driving restrictions typically engage in less risky driving and are involved in fewer crashes. They can’t listen if you don’t talk.

Remember the “5 to Drive”:

  1. No Drinking and Driving.

Set a good example by not driving after drinking. Remind your teen that drinking before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and driving should never mix no matter your age.

  1. Buckle Up. Every Trip. Every Time. Front Seat and Back.

Lead by example. If you wear your seat belt every time you’re in the car, your teen is more likely to follow suit. Remind your teen that it’s important to buckle up on every trip, no matter how far or how fast.

  1. Put It Down. One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.

Remind your teen about the dangers of texting or dialing while driving, and that the phone is off-limits when they are on the road. It’s equally important to model safe driving habits for your teen—you shouldn’t text and drive either.

  1. Stop Speeding Before It Stops You.

Drive the speed limit and require your teen to do the same. Explain that every time your speed doubles, your stopping distance quadruples.

  1. No More Than One Passenger at Any Time.

With each passenger in the vehicle, your teen’s risk of a fatal crash goes up. Check your State’s GDL law before your teen takes to the road; it may prohibit any passengers.

The above is an excerpt from the article, “2015 Fact Sheet.” For more information, please visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Too Many Teens are Getting Hurt Behind the Wheel

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  • Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States.
  • In 2013, there were 2,614 teen (15-19 year old) passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes, and an estimated 130,000 were injured.
  • You are the biggest influence on your teen’s safety behind the wheel. Parents need to take the time to talk with their kids about the many dangers of driving. Those dangers include:
    • Alcohol: Teen drivers are at a greater risk of death in alcohol-related crashes compared to drivers in all other age groups, even though they’re too young to legally buy, possess, or consume alcohol. Nationally in 2013, almost one out of five (19 percent) of the teen drivers (15 to 19 years old) involved in fatal crashes had been drinking.
  • Seat belts: Wearing a seat belt is one of the simplest ways for teens to stay safe in a vehicle. Whether their unsafe behavior stems from immaturity or a false perception that they’re invincible, the numbers speak volumes: teens aren’t buckling up, and neither are their passengers. In 2013, 64 percent of all the young passengers (13- to 19-year-old) of teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers who died in motor vehicle crashes weren’t restrained. When the teen driver was also unrestrained, the number of all passengers unrestrained increased to almost 90 percent.
  • Texting: Texting or dialing while driving is more than just risky—it’s deadly. In 2013, among drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 11 percent were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the highest percentage of drivers distracted by phone use. In 2013, 318 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted teen driver.
  • Speeding: In 2013, almost one-third (29 percent) of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were speeding.
  • Passengers: Extra passengers for a teen driver can lead to disastrous results. Research shows that the risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of teens in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behaviors triples when traveling with multiple passengers.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “2015 Fact Sheet.” For more information, please visit www.nhtsa.gov.

Cold Weather Supplies to Have at Home

At Home and Work Primary concerns are loss of heat, power and telephone service and a shortage of supplies if storm conditions continue for more than a day.

At Home:

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Flashlight and extra batteries.

Battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and portable radio to receive emergency information. These may be your only links to the outside.

Extra food and water. Have high energy food, such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and food requiring no cooking or refrigeration.

Extra medicine and baby items.

First-aid supplies.

Heating fuel. Refuel before you are empty. Fuel carriers may not reach you for days after a winter storm.

Emergency heat source: fireplace, wood stove, space heater.

  • Use properly to prevent a fire.
  • Ventilate properly.

Fire extinguisher, smoke alarm.

  • Test smoke alarms once a month to ensure they work properly. Make sure pets have plenty of food, water and shelter.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Winter Storms: Deceptive Killers.” For more information, please visit www.nws.noaa.gov.

Protecting Workers from Cold Stress

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Who is affected by environmental cold?

Environmental cold can affect any worker exposed to cold air temperatures and puts workers at risk of cold stress. As wind speed increases, it causes the cold air temperature to feel even colder, increasing the risk of cold stress to exposed workers, especially those working outdoors, such as recreational workers, snow cleanup crews, construction workers, police officers and firefighters. Other workers who may be affected by exposure to environmental cold conditions include those in transit, baggage handlers, water transportation, landscaping services, and support activities for oil and gas operations.

Risk factors for cold stress include:

  • Wetness/dampness, dressing improperly, and exhaustion
  • Predisposing health conditions such as hypertension, hypothyroidism, and diabetes
  • Poor physical conditioning

What is cold stress?

What constitutes cold stress and its effects can vary across different areas of the country. In regions that are not used to winter weather, near freezing temperatures are considered factors for “cold stress.” Increased wind speed also causes heat to leave the body more rapidly (wind chill effect). Wetness or dampness, even from body sweat, also facilitates heat loss from the body. Cold stress occurs by driving down the skin temperature, and eventually the internal body temperature. When the body is unable to warm itself, serious cold-related illnesses and injuries may occur, and permanent tissue damage and death may result. Types of cold stress include: trench foot, frostbite, and hypothermia.

For more information, see OSHA’s Cold Stress Safety and Health Guide.

How can cold stress be prevented?

Although OSHA does not have a specific standard that covers working in cold environments, under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers have a duty to protect workers from recognized hazards, including cold stress hazards, that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm in the workplace.

  • Employers should train workers. Training should include:
    • How to recognize the environmental and workplace conditions that can lead to cold stress.
    • The symptoms of cold stress, how to prevent cold stress, and what to do to help those who are affected.
    • How to select proper clothing for cold, wet, and windy conditions.
  • Employers should:
    • Monitor workers physical condition.
    • Schedule frequent short breaks in warm dry areas, to allow the body to warm up.
    • Schedule work during the warmest part of the day.
    • Use the buddy system (work in pairs).
    • Provide warm, sweet beverages. Avoid drinks with alcohol.
    • Provide engineering controls such as radiant heaters.
The above is an excerpt from the article, “Working in the Cold: How Cab Cold Stress Be Prevented?” For more information, please visit www.osha.gov.