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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

OSHA prioritizing nurse injuries in health care settings

Nurses in Maryland may be interested to learn that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has announced plans to crack down on safety practices in the health care industry. Every year, more health care workers incur reported workplace injuries than workers of any other general industry.

The move by OSHA comes on the heels of nurse injury reports reaching almost epidemic proportions. The agency plans to audit health care facilities, investigate and fine hospitals and nursing homes that do not have adequate safety measures in place.

Dangerous nail salon chemicals under scrutiny

Maryland residents may have heard about the purported health risks associated with prolonged exposure to chemicals found in nail salons. New research has linked such chemicals to health issues such as asthma, respiratory disease, miscarriages and cancer. The threat is so concerning that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued emergency regulations protecting nail salon workers in May after The New York Times published a series of articles highlighting the dangers of the chemicals.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that there are at least 12 hazardous chemicals present in nail salon products. Of those chemicals, formeldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene are considered the most dangerous, having been linked with cancer, lung and kidney failure, miscarriages and birth defects. Though several countries have banned such chemicals, the United States still allows their use. That is because the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act of 1938 outlaws the use of harmful chemicals in cosmetics but does not demand that chemical manufacturers test their products or obtain FDA approval before putting them on the market.

2 workers injured in construction accident

Maryland residents may have read that an industrial air conditioner fell 30 stories and damaged the side of a building in midtown New York City on May 31 at about 10:45 a.m. The unit was being hoisted to the top of the building with a crane when a cable snapped. Authorities say that 10 people including two construction workers were hurt by the debris that fell. They were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

New York City Mayor de Blasio said that a full investigation would be undertaken regarding the accident. However, authorities said that the crane seemed to be in good working order and that necessary permits were in place before the work began. Buses that were traveling in the vicinity of the accident had to be rerouted due to the crash.

Workers' compensation benefits for animal-related injuries

Most Maryland residents will likely associate workplace injuries with accidents such as falls and explosions, but they can sometimes be caused by contact with animals. The most common form of animal-related injuries suffered by workers are insect or snake bites, but those who work in close contact with larger creatures such as cattle or horses may sometimes suffer broken bones or concussions.

The way that these workplace injuries are treated will depend largely on how foreseeable the danger was. A ranch worker injured by a cow will likely be entitled to workers' compensation benefits, but an office worker with the same kind of injury may not be. Outdoor workers are prone to contact with Maryland's fauna, and benefits may be paid to workers who develop conditions such as anaphylactic shock or Lyme disease after an insect, snake or spider bite.

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.

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