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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

How OSHA regulation NFPA 70E could minimize electrical injuries

OSHA wants workers in Pennsylvania to be as safe as possible when they need to perform various tasks. This is why the government agency provides a series of regulations and guidelines concerning many different occupations and industries. One of these is NFPA 70E, which is a proactive and preventative standard that pertains to electrical safety in the workplace.

When properly implemented and adhered to, the NFPA 70E standard has the potential to reduce workplace injuries that could affect productivity along with an employer's reputation and ability to attract quality workers. One common reason for issues with workplace safety is a lack of understanding about what's needed to perform tasks safely. However, NFPA 70E could be used by both employers and individual contractors to organize their approach to work.

Workplace electrical injuries reduced by going beyond NEC

Electrical injuries are on the rise in the workforce. Between 2016 and 2017, there was a 35 percent increase in electrical injuries. An estimated 54 percent of these injuries occurred in construction workers. Electrical hazards, such as arc flashes, can not only cause fatalities, but they are also responsible for severe injuries that can cost over $1 million to treat. Preventing electrical injuries by exceeding minimal code requirements is the best way to prevent them from occurring in Pennsylvania and across the United States.

Experts recommend that employers must go beyond the basic requirements given in the National Electrical Code to keep both employees and property safe. Many electrical workplace injuries are due to improper bonding and grounding in the systems. This is a particular concern in data centers and emergency centers, which cannot risk losing electricity when arranging help in critical situations.

Study finds farm machine vibrations can injure workers' backs

In a NIOSH-funded study, researchers attached seat and floor sensors to 112 pieces of farm machinery, including tractors, combines, forklifts, skid loaders and ATVs, in order to measure their vibration levels. These machines were operated by 55 workers. The study found that many of the machines can negatively affect workers' health through the intensity of the vibrations. Pennsylvania workers may want to know more.

The European Union has a designated "action level" for exposure limit when it comes to whole-body vibrations, beyond which the vibrations can raise workers' risk for more frequent, more severe back pain episodes. Fifty-six percent of the machines in the study met the action level within eight hours of use while nearly 30 percent reached that level after only two hours.

Ladder Safety Month Draws New Attention to Ladder Designs

In Pennsylvania, falling off ladders at work causes many workers to experience severe workplace injuries. More than 300 individuals die because of accidents related to ladders. Thousands of people incur serious disabilities, including traumatic brain injuries. The National Ladder Safety Month, an annual event sponsored by the nonprofit American Ladder Institute (ALI) advocates using ladders safely. National Ladder Safety Month provides information and classes teaching people how to have safer environments. People who sign up to receive emails from the ALI have access to various topics.

ALI covers information on how to use, inspect and design ladders. ALI also provides details on how to prevent workplace injuries or home-related accidents. Members receive emails and phone numbers of professionals offering complimentary safety training classes for businesses and charities. But safety training classes do not solve the problem. Manufacturers must learn new ways to design ladders. Since ladders today resemble those from a century ago, new designs may make equipment safer for residents and workers. Another issue involves selecting the right ladder for the task.

Wearable technology may boost worker safety

Advances in technology continue to make common, everyday occurrences out of what not so long ago seemed impossible to comprehend. Increasingly, wearable technology is becoming available with the intended purpose of improving worker safety. While everyone supports a reduction of workplace injuries and accidents, many believe that wearable technology has some inherent negatives. Among the concerns of some Pennsylvania employees being asked to utilize wearable technology is that a 'big brother" type of monitoring system will intrude on their right to privacy.

Today, wearable safety technology is most commonly used to detect proximity, ergonomics and stress and fatigue levels. Additionally, the true benefit of the information gathered is through a broad range of employees, not individualized data from one or two workers in a specific department. The goal is to monitor and determine overall trends and recommend improvements to enhance safety.

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.

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