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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

America's most dangerous jobs

For some, the possibility of experiencing a fatal accident might be an occupational hazard that they have to go through every day. Yet, not all jobs are equally dangerous. For instance, a logging worker in Pennsylvania is more at risk of having an accident than an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.

Bearing that in mind, the top 10 most dangerous jobs in America were tabulated using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of every industry in the United States, logging workers were the most at risk of suffering a fatal injury while on the job. Following loggers were fishers, aircraft pilots and roofers. Surprisingly, trash collectors and farmers also made the list.

Coal dust exposure remains ongoing health problem for miners

Coal mining forms part of the economy and history of Pennsylvania. Underground mining, however, exposes workers to coal dust, which builds up in the lungs and causes serious and sometimes fatal health problems. Pneumoconiosis, or black lung disease, has increased among miners despite workplace safety regulations that are meant to reduce coal dust exposure. Researchers also suspect that coal dust promotes lung cancer and emphysema.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has released a report questioning the efficacy of current safety regulations. The report cited concerns among researchers about continuous personal dust monitors worn by workers. These devices might not accurately measure the concentration of coal particles. Not all workers wear these monitoring devices, which complicates the assessment of their impact on preventing occupational illness.

How to avoid five common kitchen accidents

Anyone in Pennsylvania who spends time cooking, whether at home or a place of business, should know how to avoid some of the most common kitchen accidents. While one can generally avoid safety risks by being calm and thinking things through, more specific guidance is also helpful. Below are instructions on avoiding five types of kitchen accidents.

Finger cuts are very prominent among kitchen injuries. In fact, bagel-related injuries ranked fifth in a 2008 government study on finger cuts. The problem appears to be that many people cut bagels vertically. However, the safe way is to lay the bagel flat on the work surface, splay the fingers upward and cut the bagel horizontally with a serrated bread knife.

Insect-borne illnesses rise, put outdoor workers at high risk

Illnesses caused by mosquito, tick and flea bites have been on the rise throughout Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report saying that between 2004 and 2016, the number of cases involving such illnesses has more than tripled. Over 640,000 cases arose within that 12-year period.

The domestic diseases most frequently reported include Zika fever, dengue fever, Lyme disease and plague. These and other insect-borne diseases tend to share similar symptoms -- fatigue, fever, muscle pain, skin rash and even paralysis. According to the CDC, commerce that moves insects across the country may partly be to blame for causing the rise.

Software startup aims to improve workplace safety

Every year, workers' compensation claims cost employers and insurance companies across the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars. Everything from radiation exposure to slip-and-fall hazards can present themselves in a Pennsylvania workplace. In fact, analysts say that 500 workplace injuries happen every minute throughout the world.

However, an Iowa-based software startup called MākuSafe has developed a wearable band that can help reduce on-the-job accidents. This band records environmental and motion data in real time, reporting not only basic information like changes in temperature and lighting but also any hazardous situations and near-misses. This data is processed in a cloud platform for workplace safety managers to analyze.

How to create a safe environment for workers

Employers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country don't like to miss project deadlines. However, the consequences of a workplace accident could be more significant than missing a deadline because safety rules were prioritized. To ensure that companies are putting the proper emphasis on workplace safety, owners and managers should create and champion a culture that values it. As a general rule, the workers will follow the lead of their managers.

To get employees to buy into a safety program, they should be given the opportunity to give feedback. This can be done through private conversations or through discussions that occur prior to the start of a shift. During pre-shift meetings, managers should emphasize the importance of following safety rules as well as talk about any hazards that have been identified in recent hours or days. To further encourage communication between workers and managers, safety surveys should be distributed to employees.

Worksite safety increased by preemptive safety measures

According to the 2018 Safety Performance Report issued by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Pennsylvania construction sites that use the organization's Safety Performance Evaluation Process (STEP) could see a drastic improvement workplace safety. The report states that job site safety can be enhanced by up to 670 percent more than the average for the industry. Enacting the proactive measures may also lower reportable safety incidents by up to 85 percent.

Leading indicators, or proactive safety measures, like orientations for new hires and substance abuse programs, create safer work environments. Additional leading indicators of the STEP program include toolbox talks, the creation of site safety committees, orientations that are tailored to a specific site and the analysis of near-hits and near-misses. The report also noted that the inclusion of C-Suite engagement was necessary to have an effective safety program. This could lower the total recordable incident rate by up to 70 percent.

Workplace noise linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol

Loud noises in the workplace may be harming the health of Pennsylvania workers, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The research was published in the April issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

For the study, CDC researchers analyzed data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey. They discovered that around 25 percent of American workers, or 41 million people, have been exposed to on-the-job noise at some point in their lives. Of all the workers, 28 percent had high cholesterol levels and 24 percent developed high blood pressure. The study linked 9 percent of the high cholesterol cases and 14 percent of the high blood pressure cases to work-related noise. Meanwhile, 12 percent of the workers had hearing problems. More than half of those cases were linked to on-the-job noise.

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