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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

New OSHA safety rules may impact Maryland workers

A new confined space standard produced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and specifically targeting the construction industry will go into effect in August 2015, supplementing the original standard introduced in 1993 that applies to industries in general. A confined space is defined as any area that is big enough for a person to enter but is not meant for long-term occupation and has limited means of exit. Spaces that could be considered potentially hazardous or contain a material that could engulf a worker require a special permit.

Examples of confined spaces include manholes, tanks and containment cavities. The most common hazard from such a space is the possibility of oxygen deprivation as well as harmful or toxic fumes engulfing the area. Ventilation or removal of toxic liquids are two ways that confined spaces may be made safer for workers.

Protecting workers from falls on construction sites

It is well known that iron workers in particular, and construction workers in general, have very hazardous jobs. Each year, falls consistently rank among the top sources for injuries and fatalities on construction sites in Maryland and around the country. Meanwhile, fall protection violations are the top source of citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration each year. However, employers can greatly reduce these risks by carefully following the agency's fall protection guidelines.

OSHA requires that employers protect all employees working or walking more than 15 feet above a lower level. To protect workers from falls, employers must provide guardrails, fall restraints, safety nets, personal fall arrest systems or positioning devices.

OSHA targeting workplace safety for inpatient facilities

Health care workers in Maryland may be interested to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is currently in the process of scrutinizing their industry. The move comes due to the fact that health care workers are injured at much higher rates than workers in any other industry while they are on the job.

According to OSHA, investigators have been instructed to hone in on five main categories of commonly occurring injuries, including musculoskeletal disorders, illnesses due to exposure to bloodborne pathogens, slips and falls, tuberculosis and workplace violence injuries. Investigators have also been told to rely on the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, since a number of these illnesses and injuries currently do not have specific regulations governing them.

Reducing the risk of workplace injuries in Maryland

According to a study done in collaboration with the University of Illinois School of Public Health, recycling workers face unnecessarily safety risks at work. From 2011 to 2013, 17 recycling workers died around the country, and on average, they are twice as likely as other workers to suffer an injury on the job. The study found that workers in this field contend with safety issues related to the use of heavy machinery. They are also likely to interact with toxic chemicals and hypodermic needles.

One problem highlighted by the study was that many workers in the field are temporary workers. As such, they are less likely to understand their rights and may have fewer protections than full-time workers may have. Therefore, one of the recommendations made by researchers was to eliminate temporary workers to ensure a safer working environment.

Studies show temporary workers at higher risk of injury

Maryland residents may be interested to learn that new research shows that temporary workers face more hazards at work than full-time employees. The information was presented at a joint session of the NORA Manufacturing Sector and Services Sector Council in June.

It was shown that approximately 17 million temporary workers were employed in the United States in 2013. Presenters said that the complex structure of temporary worker arrangements has created uncertainty over who is responsible for ensuring worker safety, which can lead to an increase in on-the-job injuries and other health issues. They cited a study by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration that indicated temporary employees are injured at work more often than non-temporary workers. They also highlighted a study by ProPublica that showed temporary workers were at twice the risk of suffering severe workplace injuries, including bone fractures, lacerations, crushing injuries and punctures.

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