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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Maryland drivers warned to stay alert in work zones

Highway officials in Maryland have warned motorists to be vigilant as they travel in work zones. With the large amount of construction and maintenance crews on the roadways, drivers should be on the lookout for orange cones and barrels. While these signs serve to protect employees, their purpose is also to keep drivers and passengers safe.

The report noted that the state will invest $60 million in a construction project on US 301 and MD 304. The project will involve several hundred contractors and state employees who will be doing seasonal repairs as well as extensive construction in the work zones. The various jobs will include basic road and bridge repairs, widening roadways and interchange construction.

Tips to avoid workplace accidents in Maryland

Although accidents can and do happen at work, there are steps that both employers and workers can take to limit their frequency. For instance, while working on a forklift, it is important to look for obstructions and to be aware of uneven surfaces. If an obstruction is located, a forklift operator should get off of the machine and remove whatever is in its path.

When encountering an uneven surface such as a train track, pothole or speed bump, the operator should navigate it slowly and from a 45 degree angle. This lowers the odds of the machine tipping over and hurting the person controlling it. Before operating a floor loader, it is always a good idea to inspect the floor ahead of time to make sure that it can hold the weight of the loader. Workers should acknowledge posted weight limits at all times. Issues regarding weak or otherwise substandard floor conditions should be reported to a supervisor.

The definition of a construction caught incident and examples

On a construction site, Maryland workers may need to be aware that there are two types of accidents that may occur. A struck incident occurs when the impact of an object causes injury to a worker, but a caught incident occurs when a worker becomes stuck or crushed between objects and suffers injury.

While these are the key difference between the two, certain events should be classified as caught incidents such as cave-ins during trenching. A worker being crushed or compressed between shifting, rolling or sliding objects is considered a caught incident. Such objects might be a hydraulic bed and truck frame or a dock wall and tractor-trailer truck. A worker being caught in or pulled into equipment or machinery also falls into this classification, including asphyxiation because a piece of clothing became stuck in running equipment or machinery.

Dangers associated with excessive heat in the workplace

As Maryland workers may know, exposure to heat may have an effect on a person's health. Employers should inform workers about the problems associated with heat exposure and alert workers to the signs and symptoms. In addition, it is important to know what to do if heat exposure causes health problems and structure a plan to prevent or deal with working in a hot environment.

Heat exposure usually occurs under certain circumstances. These include a combination of both humidity and heat with reduced air movement. The workers might not consume adequate amounts of water and might be consistently exposed to the sun. Heat stress may be exacerbated by the worker's physical activity and the use of protective clothing.

Trench collapses can be especially dangerous

Construction workers in Maryland may not be entirely aware of the dangers of trenching and excavation activities. However, working in unprotected trenches can be particularly dangerous and can lead to death if walls collapse.

One reason trenches are so dangerous is that trench walls can collapse suddenly and with no reliable warning. A cubic yard of dirt can weigh over 3,000 pounds, and a worker who does not have time to escape a collapsing trench can suffocate or be crushed to death. Lack of a protective system was cited as being the leading cause of trench-related deaths from 2000 to 2009. Generally, sloping or benching the ground or shoring the trench is required by OSHA for trenches that are deeper than 5 feet.

Skin problems from exposure to toxins or hazards

Maryland workers may encounter a wide variety of toxins and skin irritants in the course of their employment. From hazardous chemicals used in the production of factory products to the wind and extreme cold that must be endured by those obligated to work outside in the winter, it is the business's responsibility to be realistically aware of the hazards to the skin of their employees and to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of their workers.

Toxin exposure in the workplace is a major source of damage and irritation to employee skin. Although governmental organizations are well aware of the prevalence of toxins in the workplace environment, estimating that more than 13 million employees nationwide are undergoing toxic exposure right now, historically prevention and amelioration attempts have centered on inhaled chemicals.

Workplace accident draws public criticism of Maryland gas plant

A representative from the Calvert Citizens for a Healthy Community spoke up at a public meeting of the Calvert County Commissioners in Prince Frederick. Her complaint focused on the worker injury at the liquefied natural gas plant in Lusby that is being converted into an import facility. She used it as an example of lax safety at the facility and questioned the safety of the community once the plant began new operations.

The community activist added that a truck from IHI/Kiewit, the contractor working on the plant, had rear-ended a vehicle on Cove Point Road only days earlier. She accused the contractor of rushing the job and possibly performing faulty work.

Power surge injures worker at Maryland liquor store

After a fire was put out at Lighthouse Liquors in Charlotte Hall, Maryland, construction workers attempted to move a large refrigeration unit. The assistant chief for the Mechanicsville Volunteer Fire Department said that the workers believed the power was off, but somehow an electrical surge shocked one man.

CPR was not needed, but the assistant fire chief could not provide any more details about the injured worker's condition. St. Mary's Advanced Life Support and Emergency Medical Services also responded to the accident before the man was airlifted to Washington Hospital Center.

The risks of falls in residential construction

Fall hazards continue to be a major risk faced by Maryland construction workers. This is especially true on residential work sites where the workers may be framing in a home's walls. While performing this task, workers face the risk that they they could fall from the wall and hurt themselves on the ground below or land on other dangerous items, like tools or pieces of wood. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set out a few guidelines on how construction companies can protect workers and reduce this risk.

Effective advance planning is a crucial step in reducing fall hazard risk. Before starting a job, a construction company should identify the work areas that are most prone to falls. It should then consider steps in those processes that can reduce the risk. One option is to use pre-fabricated walls to reduce the amount of time the worker spends on the task.

More workplace injuries occur right after daylight saving

Workers in Maryland may have been affected by the loss of sleep after the daylight saving time change on March 8. While many people complain about having less time to sleep before work, research shows that the lost hour of sleep increases the likelihood of workplace injuries. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most workers need a few days to fully adjust to the time change.

A study that was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in 2009 showed that there is a significant increase in workplace injuries after the time change for daylight saving. Injury data that was gathered by the U.S. Department of Labor and Mine Safety and Health Administration between 1983 and 2006 demonstrated a 5.7 percent increase in workplace injuries around daylight saving. Workers also experienced 68 percent more lost workdays due to injuries around this time.

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