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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

How signs and labels affect workplace safety

Employers in Pennsylvania know how important signs and labels are in maintaining a safe workplace. Yet when workers are required to do more at a faster pace, safety is compromised and the cycle of injuries and OSHA violations begins. This is where new technology can come in to enhance safety identification solutions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to protect their employees using various tools like color codes, posters, labels, signs and tags to warn of potential hazards. Such tools must be eye-catching and made from durable materials so that the message gets across.

The top five hazards of a construction site

More than 20 percent of private sector employee deaths occur within the construction industry despite the fact that construction workers make up only 6 percent of the population. Construction workers in Pennsylvania should know that most accidents in their industry are preventable. The following is a summary of the top five hazards they face.

Falls are the worst hazard, accounting for over a third of construction fatalities, and are usually caused by work surfaces that lack traction, are unstable or are full of holes. A lack of fall prevention equipment like guardrails and fall arrest systems are also to blame. Some employers fail to provide the right personal protective equipment like hard hats and non-skid work boots.

Amazon workers complain of unsafe workplaces

Amazon workers in Pennsylvania and across the country may be concerned about safety on the job. According to a recent investigation, workers at some Amazon warehouses report very poor job conditions. Across the United States, there are over 140 warehouses or fulfillment centers that process and package orders for the online retail giant.

These massive warehouses have reportedly had a number of severe workplace accidents, and many hurt workers allegedly received improper and ineffective treatment. Amazon was already under scrutiny as the company was listed by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health as one of its "dirty dozen" most dangerous places to work in the country. Since 2013, seven people have been killed while working at Amazon warehouses, and three of those workers lost their lives in one five-week period in 2017.

Workplace safety rules for hazardous materials

Employers in Pennsylvania have a responsibility for making sure that the workers who have to work with or around hazardous materials are aware of the basic safety rules. A list of the rules for handling such materials can be presented at a safety meeting during which the employees should be encouraged to assist with adding to the list.

It is important that employees adhere to all of the established procedures for handling hazardous materials and that they execute their work duties as they have been trained. Planning is necessary as workers consider what could possibly go wrong over the course of a work shift.

OSHA's updated guidance for identifying workplace hazards

Some Pennsylvania workplaces have inherent hazards due to the nature of the job. However, these employers are still responsible for ensuring that the workplace is as safe as possible for employees. This includes identifying and remedying workplace hazards. To help employers with this process, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidance publications with recommended practices.

The Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs document was originally published in 1988. A first update to the document was published in October 2016. This revision noted that major changes had taken place in workplaces across the U.S. As a result, changes were made to reflect hazard identification and assessment. The guide offers six steps or action items that employers can take to make the workplace safer.

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