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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Avoiding the five most common workplace accidents

Employers and employees alike in Pennsylvania should know what the most common types of workplace accidents are and how to avoid them. The first is the slip and fall, accounting for one third of all on-the-job injuries. Slips are normally caused by wet, icy or oily surfaces as well as by flooring that does not have proper traction. Trips also fall under this category and usually involve debris and poor lighting.

Victims of such accidents could incur head trauma, broken bones and lacerations, so job site maintenance and proper footwear are key. The second most common accident is the caught-in-between or struck-by accident. This means having the right machine guards and having operators undergo training and wear protective clothing. Otherwise, machine-related incidents will arise and lead to crushed extremities, severed fingers or blindness.

Strategies to reduce truck driver injuries

For truck drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country, serious shoulder injuries can lead to permanent disabilities.. Researchers have noted that by positioning themselves strategically while cranking the landing gears of a truck, drivers may have better protection from shoulder problems when raising or lowering large trailers of goods. The study involved observations of 12 drivers during the cranking process, including examinations of 16 muscles linked to the function of the shoulder. Truckers' shoulder muscle activity and range of motion were studied as they cranked the gears while handling trailers.

According to researchers, it is safer for truck drivers to stand parallel to the trailer while cranking it up. This can help to reduce the load on the shoulder joint and muscles by using additional full-body strength to manage the resistance of the trailer. On the other hand, drivers can face the trailer and crank the handle at a perpendicular angle to its rotation. This task involves less heavy resistance and more shoulder rotation, leading to workplace injuries and repetitive stress damage linked to grinding and rubbing of the ligaments over time.

OSHA's authorization of drone inspections causes controversy

Construction contractors in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. are concerned over the implications of a 2018 OSHA memorandum that authorizes investigators to use drones in job site inspections. One concern is that the drones, which are equipped with cameras to take pictures and video recordings, will go beyond the limited scope of an inspection and infringe upon employers' privacy.

Employers have the right to protest an inspection, but the introduction of drones may complicate this. In addition, if one employer on a multi-employer construction site gives permission, the inspection may affect the rights of those employers who did not give permission. Another issue relates to the question of who owns the airspace above a construction site.

Most contract workers' electrocution deaths are in construction

The National Fire Protection Association has found that out of the 8 percent of contract workers who die from electrocution, 68 percent worked in construction and extraction. Researchers analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics spanning the years 2012 to 2016. Contract workers in Pennsylvania, whether independent contractors or affiliated with a particular firm, should take notice of this trend.

Almost 30 percent of construction contractor electrocution deaths took place on construction sites. Construction trade workers made up 57 percent of fatalities. Next were electricians (31 percent), construction laborers (11 percent) and roofers and supervisors (both 5 percent). A total of 42 percent of deaths were caused by direct exposure to electricity over 220 volts. Indirect exposure to the same voltage accounted for 37 percent of fatalities.

Construction fatalities fall in 2017 statistics

Construction workers in Pennsylvania and across the country may be seeing safer workplaces, as workplace deaths and the overall industry fatality rate both declined in 2017. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that fatal workplace accidents in construction dropped 2 percent in 2017 and that 971 construction workers lost their lives on the job during the year. The number of fatalities was still higher than those in 2014 and 2015, when 899 and 937 workers were killed on the job, respectively.

The BLS report also said that the fatality rate for construction workers fell to 9.5 per 100,000 full-time workers from 10.1 per 100,000, the rate in both 2015 and 2016. However, some jobs were far more likely to be fatal than others. Roofers suffered a workplace fatality rate of 45.2 per 100,000 full-time workers, while structural iron and steel workers had a fatality rate of 33.4. In addition, while the overall number of fatalities dropped in 2017, some sectors of the industry saw an increase in workplace deaths. Buildings construction experienced an 8 percent increase in fatal accidents in 2017.

Diesel exhaust contains dangerous gases

A fact sheet published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health lists diesel exhaust exposure as a hazard faced by oil and gas extraction workers in Pennsylvania and all over the U.S. Diesel engines are common in many different industries; they are found in earth-moving equipment, trucks, generators, compressors and other equipment. According to NIOSH, a research paper on the subject found that every worker in oil and gas is potentially subject to harm caused by diesel exhaust.

Diesel exhaust carries diesel particulate matter. Even short-term exposure to diesel particulate matter in high concentrations can lead to dizziness, headaches or severe irritation of the nose, throat or eyes. The irritation can be serious enough that workers are unable to work. Exposure to diesel particulate matter over the long term can increase the worker's risk of lung cancer, cardiopulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease.

Protection for temporary workers

Pennsylvania residents who work on a temporary basis may be interested to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is recommending that temporary staffing firms and host employers detail in their contracts their obligations for complying with OSHA standards. The inclusion of the terms in the contract can help prevent confusion about the responsibilities of employers and help guarantee that the employers will be in compliance with any applicable regulatory requirements.

Temporary staffing agencies and host employers have a joint responsibility for making sure that their temporary workers have a safe working environment, even as the degree of responsibility, as determined by the law, of the agencies and employers is dependent on the factors of each case. The host employers and the staffing agencies are also both responsible for making sure that the requirements for recordkeeping, training and hazard communication as dictated by OSHA are fulfilled.

OSHA's most common workplace safety violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is tasked with ensuring that employers in Pennsylvania and around the country obey safety regulations and provide their workers with the safety training and equipment they need. The violations handed out by OSHA inspectors reveal how seriously these responsibilities are taken by employers and the kind of infractions the agency is primarily concerned about, and the 10 most common OSHA citations were recently discussed during the National Safety Council Congress and Expo.

The data, which was gathered between October 2017 and September 2018, reveals that employers were most often cited for failing to provide their workers with adequate fall protection. This has been the most common OSHA violation for several years because falls are a leading cause of workplace deaths. Failing to warn workers about hazardous workplace conditions was the second most common reason for an OSHA citation.

About rotator cuff tears

It is not unusual for adults to experience pain and be disabled by a rotator cuff tear. An annual number of nearly 2 million people in Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation will go see their physician because of issues related to their rotator cuff.

A tear in the rotator cuff will cause weakness in the shoulder. It can make many activities, such as putting on clothes or combing hair, very difficult and painful to complete.

OSHA updates program on trenching and excavation safety

OSHA has updated its National Emphasis Program on trenching and excavation for the first time since 1985, mainly as a response to the increase in worker injuries and fatalities. Pennsylvania workers should know that the private construction industry accounted for 104 out of the 130 fatalities in trenching and excavation between 2011 and 2016. Approximately 49 percent of those fatalities occurred between 2015 and 2016 alone.

The update requires that for 90 days following Oct. 1, 2018, all regional and area OSHA offices are to conduct outreach with employers so that the latter can comply with the trenching and excavation standards. The Compliance and Safety and Health Officers must conduct inspections on any open trench or excavation regardless of whether it violates the standards.

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Law Office of Richard F. Maffett Experienced Harrisburg, PA Attorney

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