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Philadelphia Workers' Compensation Blog

Safety practices in winter construction work

Construction workers in Pennsylvania face unique dangers on the job during the winter months. Freezing temperatures and slippery surfaces from ice and snow compel workers and employers to take extra safety precautions during winter, according to experts. Preparation for the oncoming cold can begin before winter.

Roadways and parking areas that have potholes or uneven surfaces cannot be fixed when the ground is frozen. Pre-season maintenance of road surfaces can prevent the problem icy surfaces in winter from being compounded by potholes and other surface problems. Site inspections prior to winter should also include considerations for issues that are unique to cold weather, such as tools or equipment that may not work correctly in freezing temperatures.

If you work with cranes, your job may be getting safer

Crane operators and those who work near cranes will soon have more protections at work, thanks to updated certification requirements.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its crane operator certification requirements, which are in effect as of November 10. The rules better establish that it is the employer’s responsibility to guarantee crane operators are properly qualified to safely operate the equipment.

Trenching projects pose a risk for workers

Work can be a dangerous place for construction workers in Pennsylvania and across the country. Because employees in construction handle heavy equipment and deal with incomplete structures, workplace accidents can be devastating. One area of construction is particularly dangerous for employees: trenching and excavation projects. The nature of these projects makes them vulnerable to cave-in and collapse, and too many employers don't abide by safety regulations. The number of fatalities on the job related to trenching projects has drawn concern at a federal level.

From 2011 through 2016, 130 workers were killed while engaged in trenching or excavation projects. Even more concerning, 49 percent of those deaths took place between 2015 and 2016 alone. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that inspections, education and enforcement related to these projects were national priorities. OSHA has already taken action to enforce workplace safety rules. One company was fined $400,000 for safety violations involved in trench cave-ins while another firm was fined $250,000 for failing to use cave-in protective systems while workers were in the trenches.

Being tired and stress is dangerous for workers

It is not uncommon for workers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to feel tired on the job. According to a study from the National Safety Council, 69 percent of respondents said that they were fatigued while at work. It also found that all respondents who worked in construction said that they were at risk for being tired. Transportation workers often said that a lack of sleep and long hours at work lead to their fatigue.

As a general rule, employees and employers had different views as it related to working while tired. Of employees surveyed, 72 percent said that being tired at work was a threat to their safety. However, 90 percent of employers said the same thing. This included 97 percent of employers surveyed in the transportation industry. Working while fatigued could result in accidents, chronic health problems and burnout.

OIG finds evidence of underreporting injuries, deaths to OSHA

In January 2015, some revisions that OSHA made to its injury and fatality reporting rule went into effect. Between that month and April 2017, employers reported 4,185 fatalities and 23,282 severe injuries. They conducted nearly 15,000 investigations to evaluate the causes of those injuries or deaths, and OSHA conducted over 10,000 of its own onsite investigations. Employers in Pennsylvania may think that these numbers are mostly accurate.

According to the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, however, they are far from representing the reality. The OIG refers to a former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, who states that serious injuries in that two-year period have been underreported by 50 percent or more.

OSHA launches Focus Four Hazards campaign

Construction employees and employers in Pennsylvania are probably already aware of the "fatal four" hazards in their industry. For others who are interested, they are: falls, electrocution, caught-in-between incidents and struck-by incidents. Minimizing these is essential because the construction industry is among the most hazardous in the U.S. One in five worker fatalities in 2016 were on construction sites, according to OSHA.

The same organization has set up the Focus Four Hazards campaign to improve communications between employees and safety representatives. This regional campaign, which lasts from March to June, covers Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia.

Injured at work? Accessing SSD benefits and workers' compensation

Workplace injuries affect millions of individuals across the United States. Pennsylvania workers' compensation works to remedy these injuries by providing benefits, so that workers may return to their jobs and have medical expenses paid for. Many injured employees do not know that they can also apply for and receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits in addition to their workers' compensation if they cannot work.

OSHA promotes safety standards for hospital staff

When most people think of hospital safety, they consider the safety of the patients. However, it turns out that working in a hospital is one of the most dangerous occupations around. Hospital staff in Pennsylvania face the risk of sharps injuries, bloodborne pathogen exposure and workplace violence. To make matters worse, most hospitals do not even meet OSHA requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that in 2013, one in five non-fatal occupational injuries occurred in the health care and social assistance industry. OSHA has found that musculoskeletal disorders in particular are common; in 2011, health care personnel reported seven times more musculoskeletal disorders than the national rate. These disorders include back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.

Workplace safety and aerial lifts

Workers in Pennsylvania can face real hazards on the job that put them at risk for sustaining serious, long-term injuries. A lack of safety training and knowledge can lead to severe accidents and even deaths in some cases. For example, people who work on aerial lifts can be seriously hurt if they do not know how to operate them properly and in a safe manner. Every year across the country, around 26 workers lose their lives while using the lifts. There are many issues linked to these deaths on the job, including falls, electrocutions and tip-over incidents. In addition, workers have been trapped or crushed between the bucket or guardrail and another object.

Before workers go up in an aerial lift, they may need to inspect the controls, guardrails and fall protection gear in order to avoid workplace accidents or injuries. Defective equipment can be deadly, so it is important to avoid using lifts with broken or missing parts. In addition, it is key that this type of lift is used in an appropriate area. Aerial lifts should start from a nonshifting, level surface and avoid overhead power lines and other serious obstacles. Even when using the lift on a flat surface, setting brakes and outriggers can help ensure workers' safety.

Ways employers can reduce machinery injury risks

Working around machinery on Pennsylvania job sites can be dangerous due to how fast machines are capable of moving. If an accident involving heavy machinery does occur, any employees involved are at risk for experiencing severe injuries. However, there are some steps employers can take to reduce the risk.

One way employers can help reduce the risk of injuries involving heavy machinery is to ensure that proper guarding is in place. Machine guarding can provide protection for employees from injuries that could be caused by rotating parts, sparks and flying chips. On top of this, employees should be trained to properly focus while using the equipment. This could mean being taught to not interfere with machinery that is moving or in operation. Further, if an employee is focusing while using a piece of equipment, other employees should be prevented from distracting or interfering with that person.

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