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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

National Safety Council promotes safety for agricultural workers

Farms across Maryland contribute to the fundamental needs of society with their food production. This important work, however, involves many workplace hazards. Every year, the National Safety Council reminds farm workers and farm owners to stay alert for dangerous situations while cultivating, harvesting and processing crops.

Citing the thousands of annual injuries associated with farm work, the council urges farmers to put safety first. Safety experts place agriculture among the most dangerous industries. A study done by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013 found that 500 people died while working on farms that year. This translated into a rate of 23.2 fatalities for every 100,000 agricultural workers.

EMS workers more likely to be injured during longer shifts

Maryland EMS workers may be interested to know that a study published on Sept. 15 showed that emergency service members who worked extended shifts were more likely to suffer injuries than those that worked shorter shifts. Essentially, the researchers discovered that employees that worked shifts that were longer than 12 hours were 50 percent more likely to suffer injuries.

The job requirements for EMS workers are demanding. In addition to having to lift and move patients, they must be able to provide medical care in stressful and often chaotic situations. Some of them work up to 24 hours at a time, which could inhibit their ability to provide the best care possible or to avoid certain hazards that could result in serious job injuries. Those who worked 24-hour shifts were more than double at risk for becoming injured that those who worked eight or less hours at a time.

How hearing protectors improve arc flash safety

Electrical workers in Maryland are at risk of hearing loss from arc flashes. They could better ensure their safety by understanding what an arc flash is and following the recommendations for personal protective equipment in the National Fire Protection Association's Standard for Electrical Safety.

An arc flash is a very dangerous electrical event that occurs when two conductors produce an uncontrolled current. An event that is produced with a current higher than 480 volts can create an extreme heat of up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit, propel shrapnel at more than 700 mph and create an impulse sound of more than 160 decibels.

Staying safe while welding in Maryland

Although welding can be a dangerous activity, the odds of injury can be reduced by taking proper safety precautions. Wearing protective equipment, being aware of combustible objects in the welding area and consistently learning about the possible dangers associated with welding can help workers stay safe. While workers should be extra cautious when working in new environments, complacency can lead to injury as well in areas where workers have welded in the past.

What a worker can't see may be as dangerous as what he or she cannot see. Vapors in the air may be flammable, which means it is always a good idea to check for open gas lines or fuel tanks in the vicinity of any welding taking place. Unseen openings can also create a potential fire hazard while welding.

Preventing workplace eye injuries

Each year, many Maryland workers suffer eye injuries while they are working on the job. Such injuries can be devastating, causing partial or total blindness. Some employers have inadequate eye protection requirements in place. In other cases, workers may not comply with eye protection requirements due to problems with fogging of the eyewear.

There are several things employers can do to encourage workers to wear their protective eyewear. When workers will be working in hot environments, their glasses are more likely to fog. When conducting heat stress training, employers can include a section on fogging eyewear. They should also have anti-fogging treatments in place and available for workers to use.

Eyewash stations may be hazardous if not properly maintained

Maryland employees should be aware that, on Aug. 7, OSHA warned that using an emergency eyewash station that has not been properly maintained could lead to infection. These eyewash stations may be found in workplaces where corrosive chemicals are used, in research laboratories that deal with HIV and HBV and in medical facilities.

OSHA found that the water in these eyewash systems may contain certain organisms, such as Legionella, that reproduce and thrive in untreated or stagnant water. If a worker suffers an accident involving a corrosive material, damage to the affected eye may have occurred, allowing the organisms to be able to enter the body. Workers may also be particularly susceptible if they suffered damage to the skin or had compromised immune systems.

OSHA regulation updates for amputation victims

Employees in a variety of industries in Maryland may benefit from a recent adjustment to OSHA's National Emphasis Program on amputations. The program is geared towards reducing the number of workplace amputations across the United States. According to data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,000 workers in the manufacturing industry suffered amputations in 2013.

Sawmills, commercial bakeries, meat processing plants, machine shops and food processing plants are just some of the high-risk workplaces targeted by the new directive. It is based on enforcement data provided by OSHA as well as BLS statistics. According to the BLS, the amputation rate for the manufacturing industry was twice the rate of all private industries as a whole. Unguarded machinery is a common cause of permanent disability or death, according to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Government report shows railroads slow to adopt safety technology

Maryland residents likely recall a train derailment on May 12 that claimed the lives of eight people and injured approximately 200 others. A subsequent inquiry found that the accident was caused by the train rounding a turn at a high speed, and the tragic accident may have been prevented if the train involved had been equipped with an automatic braking system known as positive train control. The system uses GPS and radio to monitor a train's speed, and brakes are applied automatically if the system anticipates a risk of derailment.

A law was passed by Congress in 2008 that gave railroads until the end of 2015 to have PTC systems installed on all of their trains and tracks, but a report issued on August 7 by the Federal Railroad Administration reveals that only three railroads have submitted the plans necessary to meet the deadline. Railroads say that their efforts to comply with the law have met with several challenges, and they have made calls for the deadline to be delayed.

How Maryland employers can protect their lone workers

Many types of occupations carry risks, and it is the employer's responsibility to ensure that each employee stays safe while working. Keeping a solo worker safe may present challenges, however.

Employees who work alone risk a higher chance of becoming hurt because they lack the oversight of others who can assist them to avoid dangers or help them if an accident occurs. Whether working in a warehouse or factory during a weekend or night shift, traveling during work hours or out on a repair, maintenance or other work assignment, lone workers, by law, are supposed to be protected.

Construction workers and workplace injuries

Studies of 2011 and 2012 workplace accidents indicate that self-employed construction workers in Maryland and around the country are more likely to be killed in an on-the-job accident than those who work for a construction company. The studies also reveal that older construction workers are far more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than their younger colleagues.

The figures show that fatalities in the construction industry as a whole increased by 8.7 percent between 2011 and 2012. However, the increase in fatalities among workers between the ages of 55 and 64 was 15.2 percent, but only a 1.9 percent increase was observed among workers between the ages of 18 and 44. Observers say that the statistics show how accidents that may cause injuries to younger workers can be fatal to their older colleagues.

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