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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

OSHA alliance aims to reduce entertainment workplace injuries

Many consider the entertainment industry to be exciting and full of glamour. However, the complex set constructions, stunts and other arts projects can also be a source of workplace accidents and injuries. For example, Pennsylvania workers in the entertainment industry could be injured by electrical issues, falls or problems with ergonomics. Because of the concern for workplace safety in entertainment, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is renewing an existing alliance with industry associations and unions to help cut down risks for workers.

The alliance partners OSHA with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology for the next five years. The three organizations will work together to prevent on-the-job injuries and accidents by promoting safety standards and helpful technology like fall avoidance and fall arrest systems.

Black lung on the rise among coal miners

In Pennsylvania and other states with a sizeable coal mining industry, the number of coal miners being diagnosed with black lung disease is on the rise. In 2016, NPR surveyed 11 black lung clinics and found that there were 962 cases that year. Since then, the investigation begun by NPR has tallied over 1,000 more. This can be shocking considering how there were just 31 cases at the end of the previous century.

The NPR report confirms another alarming trend: the coal miners who have been diagnosed with black lung are younger than ever before and have been working for less time than workers of past decades. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also surveyed three clinics for instances of complicated black lung, an extreme form of the disease. It discovered that the three together diagnosed 416 workers with it.

Silica hazard rules to be enforced with tougher fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has instituted penalties for construction companies violating standards for silica in Pennsylvania and across the United States. As of January 2018, OSHA changed the fines that construction companies will have to pay if they violate the standards for crystalline silica that was created in 2013.

Under the revised fine system, companies will have to pay $12,934 for each violation, $12,934 for each day that the company does not make changes to come up to standards as well as up to $129,336 for ongoing and repeated violations, according to OSHA. Since 2013, there have been major changes to safety standards for crystalline silica. This is a form of dust particle created when workers cut into concrete, saw bricks, sand concrete walls or engage in fracking.

Advocates call for improved safety monitoring

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are calling for improved tracking and surveillance of workplace injuries in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. Following a yearlong study of occupational safety and injury information systems, the agency released a study that indicates a need for governmental agencies to implement methods to share data and better monitor work-related injuries.

Analysts say employers should implement improved health surveillance systems and monitor metadata to achieve the goal of fewer workplace injuries and illnesses. Health surveillance is the term for monitoring the health of individuals at risk for injury or disease through exposure to hazardous materials or unsafe work conditions. Periodically checking the health of workers leads to earlier detection of toxic exposure and places an emphasis on prevention as opposed to post-injury treatments. The study also recommends sharing of data between NIOSH, OSHA and the BLS to reduce redundancies and improve overall responsiveness to occupational health and safety concerns.

Regulations meant to reduce black lung disease at risk

Sen. Bob Case, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, joined other Democrat senators to protest the possibility that the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Respirable Dust Rule could be altered or eliminated. The senators sent a letter to Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta to explain the importance of the dust rule for protecting coal miners from coal dust that causes the incurable and sometimes fatal black lung disease.

The appearance of the Respirable Dust Rule on a list of regulations that the Trump administration wants to re-evaluate prompted the senators to highlight the need to protect miners' health. The rule currently sets the acceptable amount of coal dust in the air to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter. This threshold went into effect three years ago and reduced the safety threshold from 2.0 milligrams per cubic meter. In their letter, the senators described how at least 10 years would be needed to determine the efficacy of the rule for reducing sickness among workers.

OSHA and NAWIC focus on safety for women in construction

An increasing number of women in Pennsylvania are choosing to work within the construction industry. Women who work in construction jobs have safety issues that are unique to them.

In order to help to identify safety hazards and to reduce the risk of injury for women workers in construction jobs, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has renewed its alliance with the National Association of Women in Construction. The NAWIC was founded in 1955 and offers educational opportunities to women who work in the construction industry.

Safety risks to watch out for before a plant shutdown

Shutdowns are a routine that many factories in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. engage in. They allow time for maintenance, cleaning, technical upgrades, and other extensive projects. However, the safety risks that come with a shutdown can be different from what workers are used to when the plant is in operation. There are a few non-routine risks that management and personnel should watch out for before shutting down.

Elevated surfaces like ladders and scaffolding may pose a risk for employees, so those who normally don't work at heights should receive training beforehand. There are OSHA regulations concerning fall protection that must be followed. People may be required to work in confined spaces, which could be filled with harmful gases or have a lack of oxygen.

Is new entry on OSHA top 10 violations list cause for concern?

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's list of top 10 violations remains largely unchanged. However, a new entry has emerged in the fiscal year 2017. According to online resources, 1,523 citations were issued in connection with fall protection training between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017. In light of this development, workers in Pennsylvania and other states across the nation who are at risk for fall-related injuries may want to know more.

Assessment of the Top 10 Violations List for 2017 indicates that employees who perform job duties at heights of 6 or more feet above lower levels may be particularly at risk for serious injury or death in some situations. With violations under 'Fall Protection - Training Requirements' assuming the ninth position on the annual OSHA list, some construction, bulk transportation and logistics industry insiders might be concerned about the recent uptick in related citations. In response to OSHA's announcement, officials are urging employers to address the training of workers in the areas of both fall and equipment hazards and fall protection equipment use and maintenance.

OSHA enforcement action to uphold BBP standards

Workers in Pennsylvania, especially those in the solid waste collection and recycling industry, should know about the corporate-wide settlement agreement that OSHA has entered into with TOMRA NY Recycling LLC, a recycling company in New York. In it, TOMRA has agreed to revise its current standards regarding the determination and control of bloodborne pathogen exposure.

Bloodborne pathogens are often transferred through syringe needles since these, if used to inject someone with a drug or medication, are contaminated with blood. Lancets and other sharps can carry these infectious microorganisms, the most common of which are hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. TOMRA has specifically agreed to provide its sorters with puncture-resistant gloves, tongs, and other engineering controls; annual training on OSHA's BBP standards; and vaccinations for hepatitis B.

Keeping things simple may keep workers safe

Pennsylvania employers may be better off by creating simplified safety plans for their employers. The goal should be to create guiding principles instead of trying to account for every situation that may occur. This may make it easier for employees to take ownership of their safety as opposed to having decisions made for them. Of course, different people may have different ideas as it relates to staying safe on the job.

Some may believe that going too fast may increase the odds of making a mistake. However, it is possible to work slowly and cause an accident as well because of a lack of planning for potential hazards or a lack of oversight from management. Workers may believe that accidents happen when employees don't follow the rules or wear the right type of safety equipment. It is also common for workers to say that they have gotten hurt while following those rules.

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