Employee Health: Alaska
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Leanne Coffman
- Alaska has created stricter requirements for protecting employees from certain toxic chemicals, such as for those workers employed in petroleum refining. See Managing Day to Day Health Concerns.
- Based on the state's presumptive disability laws, various illnesses and diseases may be covered as compensable conditions. See Presumptive Illnesses and Conditions.
- Mental injuries are covered under the Alaskan workers' compensation laws if specific conditions apply. See Managing Mental Health Concerns.
- Smoking restrictions apply to private workplaces and public places. See Smoking in the Workplace.
- The state has a Good Samaritan law, which offers conditional protection from civil damages to those offering emergency medical care. See Managing Medical Emergencies.
Managing Day-to-Day Health Concerns
By reference, Alaska has adopted standards from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, Alaska does have various state-specific requirements for employee health and safety. Among these unique provisions are those that pertain to certain chemical hazards.
Affected employers should know the state's rules to protect employees involved in work with hazardous chemical paint, asbestos abatement and process safety management.
In addition, Alaska has stricter requirements for air contaminants than the federal government. Employers should inspect material safety data sheets for potential hazards and compare with applicable standards. Generally, air sampling or other chemical tests are essential to determine the specific exposure levels that employees have on the job.
If it is found that employees have exposure to chemicals above permissible limits, the employer should implement appropriate controls to reduce hazards. Increased ventilation, rotating employee duties to avoid overexposure or personal protective equipment may be necessary.
Petroleum Refining, Handling and Transportation
The state's rules for petroleum refining require safeguards for hazards indigenous to this industry. In addition to the dangers posed by flammable and combustible materials in petroleum refining, handling or transportation, employees may have exposure to leaded gasoline storage tanks, as well as various acids and corrosives.
+8 Alas Admin 61.1190(g)(3).
Petroleum refining, handling and transportation standards require the employer to make certain safeguards, such as:
- If employees enter leaded gasoline storage tanks, the employer must provide hot and cold water shower bathing facilities;
- Affected employees must be provided the proper personal protective equipment, such as good quality, acid-proof gloves and rubber boots;
- All personal protective equipment worn by workers must be appropriately cleaned at the end of each day or shift;
- No employee should be permitted to enter a tank without an attendant supervising the operation; and
- The attendant must have appropriate PPE to enter the tank if an emergency occurs and must remain at the entrance while the work is conducted.
Policies should also be implemented that require employees exposed to these hazards to bathe daily, either at the conclusion of the day's work or when the job duties are finished. Additionally, any time the clothing becomes soaked with gasoline or sludge, the employee must be required to bathe and change clothes promptly.
Employers should ensure that the clothing worn by employees for these purposes is thoroughly and adequately rinsed prior to laundering. Employees should be trained in methods to protect against toxic chemicals and recognition of hazards.
Additional state-specific rules exist for health and safety in petroleum drilling industries.
Logging Industry Requirements
As the logging industry has extremely unique hazards, the state has implemented rules to ensure employees have adequate protection.
Along with other industry-specific requirements, first aid for remote logging crews must be carefully managed and planned.
According to state statutes, employers must ensure logging crews are provided with the following:
- A readily available stretcher, two wool blankets and splints (the state defines readily available, as within one-quarter of a mile to any one point of operation); and
- Radio communication within one-half mile of logging and road construction working crews.
Dedicated plans and procedures to prevent logging accidents are essential, as these workers have exposure to flying and falling debris, heavy equipment, fall hazards and noise.
Employers must also provide:
- High visibility vests or fluorescent colored hard hats for employees working on landings or log sorting areas;
- Suitable eye protection for all employees banding loads of logs or working in areas with eye hazards; and
- Sharp caulked boots if employees are required to work on wet or slippery logs.
If employees have exposure to extreme outdoor temperatures in the course of job duties, the employer should implement an appropriate cold stress prevention program.
Recommended elements of the program are:
- Assessment of job duties with exposure to cold temperatures;
- Procedures to reduce exposure or protect workers, such as rotating job duties, frequent rest periods away from cold, providing hot beverages or adequate warm clothing;
- First aid and emergency procedures; and
- Training for employees and supervisors.
The state maintains an influenza and pandemic reporting website, which provides up-to-date information, beneficial to employers. If an outbreak occurs or there is a threat of a serious infectious disease, employers should commence appropriate infection control measures for the workplace.
Additionally, Alaska follows similar protocol as other states for investigating matters of public health. The state division of public health is permitted to investigate places of employment and study conditions that may be responsible for the illnesses of workers or their families. Therefore, unusual disease patterns in the workplace, such as employee asthma clusters or certain occupational or infectious illnesses may be examined by the public health officials. Referrals to OSHA (and subsequent inspections) may occur as a result of these investigations.
For employers, this means careful observance of health-related concerns that transpire in the workplace. Whenever an employee presents with an illness or occupational disease, employers should determine causes and implement steps to prevent future occurrences.
Presumptive Illnesses and Conditions
Various illnesses and medical conditions may be considered work-sourced if contracted by certain firefighters.
Covered illnesses include:
- Respiratory disease;
- Cardiovascular events that are experienced within 72 hours after exposure to smoke, fumes or toxic substances;
- Certain cancers, including leukemia, primary brain cancer, malignant melanoma, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, and cancers of the bladder, kidney or prostate.
The state's presumptive evidence law applies only to firefighters who, at a minimum, are certified by the Department of Public Safety as a fire fighter I.
To be covered under presumptive disability, the affected firefighter must pass initial and routine medical examinations and maintain other eligibility requirements set forth by the state.
However, if a firefighter has a history of tobacco product use, he or she may be excluded from claiming coverage for certain presumptive disabilities. Other factors, such as physical fitness and weight, lifestyle, hereditary conditions and personal activities, may also cause denial of the claim.
Managing Mental Health Concerns
Mental injuries are covered under the Alaskan workers' compensation laws if specific conditions apply.
To gain coverage for a mental injury, the employee must establish that the job-stress was extraordinary and unusual compared to other employees in similar working environments. For example, if an employee develops post-traumatic stress disorder after being attacked on the job, and such an attack is unusual or significant for the working conditions or industry, the mental injury may be compensable.
Further, the working condition must be the primary source of the mental injury.
Mental injuries that occur as a result of pre-existing conditions or routine job actions performed in good faith by the employer, such as lay-offs, terminations or company closures are not compensable by the state.
Smoking in the Workplace
Alaska has a statewide smoking ban that includes smoking tobacco, e-cigarettes or other oral smoking devices in an enclosed area in a place of employment and in a public place.
Smoking means using an e-cigarette or other oral smoking device or inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying a lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, pipe, or tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation.
E-cigarette is defined as any product containing or delivering nicotine or any other substance intended for human consumption that can be used by a person through inhalation of vapor or aerosol from the product, of any size or shape, whether the product is manufactured, distributed, marketed or sold as an e-cigarette, e-cigar, e-pipe, e-hookah, vape pen or any other product name or descriptor.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.399.
The law prohibits smoking in the following enclosed spaces:
- In a place of employment, including a vehicle;
- At an entertainment venue or a sports arena;
- On a bus, in a taxicab, on a ferry, or in another vehicle used for public transportation;
- At a public transit depot, bus shelter, airport terminal, or other public transportation facility;
- At a retail store or shopping center;
- At a place of government or public assembly located on property that is owned or operated by the state, a municipality or a regional educational attendance area, or by an agent of the state, a municipality or a regional educational attendance area.
- In an office building, office, hotel, motel, restaurant, bar, retail store or shopping center;
- In a common area in an apartment building or multiple-family dwelling;
- At a public or private educational facility;
- At a health care facility, including residential units in the health care facility;
- In a building or residence that is used to provide paid child care, whether or not children are present in the building or residence, or care for adults on a fee-for-service basis. However, an individual may smoke in a private residence that is in a building where another residence provides paid child care or care for adults; and
- On a vessel operating as a shore-based fisheries business.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.301.
An enclosed area means space between a floor and a ceiling that is bounded on two or more sides by a combination of walls, doorways, windows or other physical barriers that may be open, partially open, closed, retractable, temporary or permanent.
A place of employment means work areas, private offices, hotel and motel rooms, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, cafeterias, hallways, vehicles and other employee work areas that are under the control of an employer.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.399.
In addition, smoking is banned outdoors as follows:
- At a place of employment or health care facility that has declared the entire campus or outside grounds or property to be smoke-free;
- Within 10 feet of playground equipment located at a public or private school or a state or municipal park while children are present;
- In a seating area for an outdoor arena, stadium, or amphitheater; and
- 10 feet of an entrance to a bar or restaurant that serves alcoholic beverages;
- 20 feet of an entrance, open window or heating or ventilation system air intake vent at an enclosed area at a place where smoking is prohibited; or
- A reasonable distance, as determined by the owner or operator, of an entrance, open window or heating or ventilation system air intake vent of:
- A vessel covered under the law; or
- A long-term care facility.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.301.
Unless the owner or operator prohibits it, the law allows smoking under certain circumstances at a retail tobacco or e-cigarette store. Exceptions (under certain circumstances) also include smoking:
- In a vehicle that is a place of employment when the vehicle is used exclusively by one person;
- In a separate enclosed smoking area located in an airport terminal for international passengers who are in transit;
- On a vessel when the vessel is engaged in commercial fishing or sport charter fishing;
- At a private club that:
- Has been in continuous operation at the same location since January 1, 2017;
- Is not licensed to serve alcoholic beverages; and
- Is not a place of employment;
- At an e-cigarette store that has been in continuous operation at the same location since January 1, 2017;
- At a private residence; and
- In a stand-alone shelter.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.301.
The law defines employer as:
- A person or a business with one or more employees;
- The state;
- A municipality; and
- A regional educational attendance area.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.399.
An employer (and/or building manager) may not:
- Permit an employee, customer or other person to smoke inside an enclosed area at a place of employment;
- Provide ashtrays or other smoking accessories for use in that building or workplace; or
- Require an employee, customer or other person to enter a stand-alone shelter for a purpose other than smoking.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.311.
The law contains anti-retaliation protections. Specifically, an employer may not terminate or in any other manner retaliate against an employee because the employee cooperates with or initiates enforcement of a requirement under the law. Alaska Stat. § 18.35.326.
Signs must be displayed in places or vehicles where smoking is prohibited. The sign must:
- State "Smoking Prohibited by Law--Fine $50";
- Include the international symbol for no smoking; or
- Include the words "No Puffin" with a pictorial representation of a puffin holding a burning cigarette enclosed in a red circle crossed with a red bar.
Alaska Stat. § 18.35.311. See Employee Communications: Alaska.
Managing Emergency Medical Situations
Alaska has a Good Samaritan law, which offers conditional protection from civil damages to those offering or attempting to provide emergency medical assistance. The law includes offering medical care or emergency counseling to an injured, ill or emotionally distraught person.
However, to gain protection under the law, the care must be voluntary and rendered in good faith. Acts of gross negligence, such as willful misconduct, reckless conduct or intentional wrongdoing to injure the victim, are not covered by the law.
Automated External Defibrillator Laws
Similar Good Samaritan protections from liability are extended to those who operate an automated external defibrillator (AED) in good faith.
State law specifically states that the person who uses an AED to treat another person in cardiac arrest is not liable for civil damages if the person was properly trained to use the device. The person offering care must also activate the local emergency medical services system (dial 911) promptly after use of the device.
For organizations to gain protection under the state law, the purchaser of the AED must ensure the device is properly maintained and appropriately train anticipated users.
As it is important for emergency medical dispatchers to know the locations of AEDs so rescuers may be directed to the device, employers should notify the local EMS of the placement of the AED. More information on AEDs may be found on the Alaska Division of Public Health website.
Managing an At-Work Fatality
Under Alaska statutes, employers must report workplace fatalities or overnight hospitalizations to the Division of Labor Standards and Safety immediately, or within eight hours of employer awareness of the event. The employer must relate details of the event, such as circumstances of the accident, number of fatal injuries or extent of injuries.
This report must be made by phone call.
During normal business hours, employers should call (800) 770-4940 to contact the state agents. If after hours, employers must use the OSHA Hotline (800) 321-6742.
Additionally, employers must complete the Employer Report of Occupational Injury or Illness to Division of Workers' Compensation (Form 07-6101) and file this immediately or within 10 days of the event (or knowledge of the event) with the state workers' compensation division. See List of Worker's Compensation Forms, Division of Worker's Compensation.
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