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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Changes in reporting regulations may benefit workers

Maryland employees may be interested to learn about a May 2016 rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding drug testing following a workplace accident. The rule, which was implemented under the name 'Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses," requires employers in certain industries to submit injury and illness data to OSHA electronically and could affect future workers' compensation claims, according to news reports.

Under previous OSHA regulations, employers were required to keep that data on-hand but not necessarily to submit it to OSHA on a regular basis. The specific industries that will be required to submit injury data to OSHA was not reported. Sources indicate that OSHA will take the data submitted by employers and put it on a website that is accessible to the public, but no specific employee names will be used. OSHA hopes that having the data out in the open will improve employer accountability and help protect employee rights.

Reducing financial losses from workplace injuries

When Maryland workers are injured on the job in Maryland, both they and their employer experience financial losses. Injured workers loses income while they are recovering from their injuries, and the worker's employer loses productivity. Financial losses from work-related accidents may be reduced if employers take steps to assess risks and create safer workplaces.

The first step that an employer must take to make sure that its workplace is reasonably safe is to evaluate potential hazards. A common hazard in almost any workplace is repetitive motion injuries from activities like bending and lifting. Workers are also frequently injured by hazards like cluttered work areas and damaged staircases that could cause falls. Equipment that is not operating correctly can also be a common workplace hazard.

Safety experts urge employers to consider aging workforce

Employers in Maryland may have noticed the nationwide trend of an aging workforce. Some safety experts see this as a cause for concern because slips and falls represent the second-leading cause of on-the-job deaths. Since older workers are more prone to such injuries, safety experts are suggesting that employers increase their efforts to identify hazards and reduce the likelihood of falls in the workplace.

According to researchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers can expect a dramatic increase in the number of older employees. The presence of people ages 55 to 64 in workplaces should increase by 36.5 percent. Companies can expect an 83.4 percent increase in workers between the ages of 65 and 74. Researchers have calculated a similar increase of 84.3 percent among workers 75 and older. Meanwhile, people between the ages of 16 and 24 can expect their numbers among workers to decrease by 6.7 percent.

Ventilation key to protecting workers from welding fumes

Welders in Maryland workplaces are usually extremely careful as they know that a stray spark could easily start a fire, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges them to also bear in mind that the fumes created by pressure or fusion welding can also be extremely dangerous. Toxic substances found in welding fumes include traces of dangerous metals like beryllium, lead and arsenic, noxious gases such as hydrogen fluoride and asphyxiants like argon.

Installing powerful exhaust systems is the best way that employers can protect their workers from toxic welding fumes, but breathing equipment may be issued when ventilation is not possible or welding is done in confined spaces. OSHA also recommends that employers consult their training materials to ensure that the dangers of welding fumes are addressed. Regularly removing layers of grime that could produce toxic smoke is also recommended by the federal safety agency.

OSHA urges rest, shade and water in summer heat campaign

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has launched a safety campaign to remind employers in Maryland and around the country about the dangers of working outdoors during the summer months. Heat issues were responsible for the deaths of 18 workers in 2014 according to OSHA data, and more than 2,600 others suffered a heat-related illness of some kind. The federal workplace safety agency is urging employers to pay particular attention to their training and orientation programs, as many of its heat-related investigations involve workers with just a few days of on-the-job experience.

Water, rest and shade is the driving message of the OSHA campaign, which is being supported by a social media push and a redesigned webpage. Training materials include a video and illustrations of the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Employers can also download a heat safety smartphone app.

Being a nurse: health hazards at the workplace

In Maryland and throughout the United States, more than 18 million people work in the health care industry. With so many individuals working in this field, 80 percent of whom are women, it is vital that they have a work environment that promotes safety and health. Nurses face many challenges related to injuries and illnesses. In fact, health care professionals are nearly twice as likely to suffer a workplace injury than private industry employees.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, during 2011 nearly 254,000 reports were made regarding workplace illnesses and injuries for hospital employees. Infectious diseases, needle sticks, back pain and an exposure to allergy-causing materials and toxic substances were the most common work-related illnesses nurses experience. The most common injuries included overexertion, running into something and tripping.

Rules set to improve safety in the mining industry

Maryland miners and their families may be relieved to learn about several new rules being introduced by the Labor Department in an effort to increase mining safety. In fact, with improved workplace examinations, more than half the 122 mining deaths that occurred from 2010 until 2015 could have been prevented, according to a representative of the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

According to the report, the agency's proposed rules would improve the way that inspections at mines are conducted. The mining companies would be required to inspect the workplace prior to allowing their miners to begin working at a location. The improved inspection would have to provide a full description of what locations were examined, the conditions that were discovered and what corrective actions were taken. The companies will then be responsible to warn the miners of any circumstances that could be detrimental to their health or safety.

Employers must record injuries related to alcohol consumption

If a person in Maryland consumes alcohol before they go to work, they could be injured on the job as a result of their intoxication. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to record alcohol-related injuries if the injuries are severe enough that they require more treatment than simple first aid.

Though there are certain exemptions to OSHA's injury reporting rule, the fact that an injury was caused by off-the-job alcohol consumption does not make the injury exempt from reporting requirements. OSHA allows employers to keep injuries that are related to self-medication for a non-work-related condition out of their work injury records. Injuries that are intentionally self-inflicted or directly caused by an employee's personal grooming activities are also exempt from reporting requirements.

Sprains, strains top list of workers' injuries

Maryland workers who are injured on the job may be interested in some statistics to see how their ailments compare to injured workers nationwide. Roughly 3.7 million people suffer workplace injuries across the United States every year, according to federal statistics.

After analyzing 1.5 million injury claims that were filed over a four-year period, the nation's biggest workers' compensation insurance provider found that 30 percent of injuries suffered were sprains and strains, with employees missing an average of 57 work days. Cuts and punctures made up 19 percent of the injuries, accounting for 24 days of missed work. Contusions accounted for 12 percent of the injuries, with fractures and inflammations each accounting for 5 percent. All other injuries not in any of these categories amounted to 29 percent.

Workplace injuries are common and costly

Take care, Maryland workers. According to the National Safety Council, a U.S. worker is injured on the job every seven seconds. That adds up to 12,900 workplace injuries a day and 4.7 million each year.

Young workers should be especially careful. A Travelers Insurance report has revealed more than 25 percent of workplace injuries take place in the first year of employment, when new workers are less experienced. Older workers are also at greater risk, suffering more strains and sprains as their bodies age.

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