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Harrisburg Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

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.

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