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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Symptoms and treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome

Pennsylvania workers who have jobs that require repeated motions of the wrist are at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome. This can cause tingling, numbness and weakness, making it difficult and painful for employees to complete their tasks.

In addition to the tingling and weakness, other symptoms can include pain in the fingers and hand. Occasionally, some workers may experience pain in their arm; however, the symptoms most often occur in the index finger, thumb, middle finger and half of the ring finger. In many cases, the symptoms first make an appearance at night when employees are not at work.

Lax safety rules lead to warehouse worker death

Pennsylvania warehouse workers understand how important it is to follow all safety rules while on the job. If certain standards are not met, serious injuries can occur. For example, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that a warehouse worker fell 7 feet to his death while standing on a platform elevated by a forklift.

According to the report, the warehouse stored inventory on steel storage racks. In order to reach the top racks, workers commonly stood on a pallet and had a coworker elevate them with a forklift, which is not what the equipment is designed for. The fatal accident occurred when a worker slipped from the pallet and fell to the ground below. OSHA points out that the incident likely happened because the employer failed to provide proper equipment for workers to reach upper storage racks. It also failed to follow manufacturer instructions and allowed workers to improperly use the forklift. Finally, it failed to provide employees with proper forklift training and certification.

Hazard prevention in distribution centers and warehouses

Pennsylvanians who work in warehouses, distribution centers and production facilities face numerous dangers. These risks are not unidirectional, making it important for facility managers to conduct careful evaluations of the facilities and to implement the appropriate safety measures.

Falls are a leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities in workplaces The falls may occur on the same level or from one level to the floor below. Workers may fall from platforms or off of unprotected loading docks. Because of the risks of falls in these types of workplaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards in place that the workplaces are supposed to follow to prevent them.

Computer workers at risk for eyestrain and headaches

Office workers in Pennsylvania might assume that their workplaces do not present any serious health hazards. However, all of those hours looking at a computer screen could injure the eyes. The American Optometric Association labels the problem as computer vision syndrome. The strain of viewing digital screens for prolonged periods produces problems like eyestrain, blurry vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain.

The average American worker looks at a screen seven hours a day. When symptoms develop, a worker should obtain a thorough eye exam. To alleviate the problems, an eye doctor might prescribe corrective lenses or vision exercise therapies.

Water pipe repairs could be hazardous to workers

According to researchers, a common water pipe repair method used by Pennsylvania construction workers could be hazardous. The method, called the cured-in-place method, releases a plume of what was thought to be steam during the curation process. However, air test studies found that these plumes may actually contain known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

The cured-in-place water pipe repair method requires workers to place a fabric tube that has been impregnated with resin into the damaged pipe. Pressurized steam, hot water or ultraviolet light is then used to cure the resin. During this process, a plume is released into the air. Once the curation is complete, a new plastic pipe is formed. This method is used for a variety of different water pipes and is used in about 50 percent of all water pipe repairs around the country.

Fatal trenching accidents and industry safety standards

With more than 20 trenching deaths around the country reported in 2016, Pennsylvania construction workers may want to know more about this high-risk job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, fatal trench-related incidents are preventable when safe operating procedures are in place and contractors comply with industry safety standards. However, criminal convictions in trench-collapse cases indicate that safety may sometimes be overlooked.

In some cases, quick completion of the project may be a higher priority than compliance with OSHA and other safety guidelines. The president of operations at one insurance and risk management firm suggests that cutting corners may give contractors an edge in finishing a job on time and budget. In some situations, supervisors and managers who are interested in protecting their bonuses for meeting schedule and budget goals may be inclined to pass on safety considerations. A careless safety culture and inadequately trained workers are also believed to contribute to the high number of fatalities in the construction industry.

Workers' compensation and wearable technology

Pennsylvania workers who are injured on the job may benefit from the advancements in wearable and smart technologies. The innovations are transforming certain aspects of workers' compensation, including how workplace injuries are managed, how quality care is provided and how rehabilitation is facilitated.

During a presentation at a Case Management Society of America conference, one speaker stated that wearables have evolved from their initial function as activity tractors. It is expected that wearables will have a bigger role in healthcare by being utilized to observe vital signs, including heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure. They can also have a role in the assessment of body mechanics so that injuries can be avoided and risks reduced. The presentation included an assessment of how the use of wearable technology was beneficial during the different stages of the workers' compensation system. This included the reporting of injuries, creation of a care and rehabilitation strategy, preventing injuries from reoccurring, and safety.

Statistics show younger workers at risk for injury

Young workers in Pennsylvania may be at a greater risk of injury on the job than their older counterparts. It is estimated that they suffer injuries that must be treated in emergency rooms at a rate two times greater than workers older than 24. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, in 2015, more than 400 workers younger than 24 died from workplace injuries. Among that number, 24 were younger than 18. That same year, there was a total of 19.1 million workers younger than 24, and this made up 13 percent of the workforce.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified specific hazards in certain industries for younger workers. Food service, which employs the largest number of teens, has hazards that include slippery floors, cooking equipment and the possibility of violent crime. In retail establishments, teens' second largest employer, slippery floors are also a problem along with heavy lifting and equipment and machinery. More than 2 million people younger than 20 work in the agricultural industry each year where they may face exposure to hazardous chemicals or injuries from grain bins and other machinery.

Skin exposure in the workplace

Over 13 million workers in Pennsylvania and the rest of the United States may be exposed to chemicals that can enter the body through the skin. Such exposure to dangerous agents can cause a wide range of occupational disorders and diseases. These include systemic toxicity and occupational skin diseases.

Because the focus of managing exposure to hazardous materials in the workplace has been on inhalation instead of skin exposure, there are currently inadequate standardized methods for evaluating and measuring skin exposures. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has created a strategy for categorizing multiple skin notations that can define the direct, systemic and immune-mediated effects that result from the skin being in contact with chemicals.

Skin conditions are a common kind of workplace illness

More than 13 million workers around the country are exposed to potentially toxic substances in the workplace each year, and skin conditions are the second most common kind of occupational diseases, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. These illnesses, that many Pennsylvania workers have contracted, range from mild conditions like contact dermatitis that respond well to antibiotics to possibly life-threatening diseases like skin cancer.

Contact dermatitis accounts for at least 90 percent of the occupational skin condition cases in the United States according to NIOSH, and about eight out of 10 of the workers affected become sick after being exposed to an irritant of some kind. Workplace irritants include chemical compounds that can provoke severe allergic reactions and biological agents like parasites and animal waste. The hands are the part of the body most often affected, and prolonged exposure and preexisting skin conditions are among the most common aggravating factors.

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