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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Maryland workers and vibration injuries

Many Maryland workers may be subject to potential injuries caused over time by exposure to vibration in the workplace. Jackhammers, grinders, pneumatic wrenches, saws, sanders, heavy construction equipment and dental tools are all sources of high-rate vibration. Depending on how and where the vibration is focused in the body, the type of vibration is categorized as hand-arm vibration or whole-body vibration. The former can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, while whole-body vibration is a leading cause of lower back pain.

Although vibration monitoring is commonplace in equipment and machinery, relatively few safeguards or safety protocols exist for human vibration exposure. The European Union has set exposure limits for both types of vibration, as well as requiring equipment and tool manufacturers to disclose vibration rating data. Such limits have not been uniformly adopted in the United States.

Workers' compensation and telecommuters in Maryland

The work environment in Maryland as well as across the country has been changing, gradually allowing an increasing number of workers to work at least part time from their home. What people may not know, however, is that in some cases telecommuters may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits even if they are working at home when they suffer an injury.

Two workers' compensation cases underscore the point that benefits may be available to at-home workers. In a case out of Oregon in 2010, a woman who worked as an at-home worker for an interior design company tripped and injured herself while she was walking to retrieve fabric samples from her garage. Although the Oregon Workers' Compensation Board initially denied her claim for benefits, their decision was overturned by the state Court of Appeals. The appellate court found that the woman was entitled to benefits for the injuries she suffered because they occurred while she was working on the job.

Improving employee protective equipment

Employees in Maryland might benefit from understanding more about how compliance and protection can be improved by using better fitting safety eyewear. Government data shows that the demographics of the U.S. labor force are changing significantly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women accounted for 47 of the American workforce during 2010, and are expected to total 51 percent by 2018. As the workplace becomes more diversified, the protection attire and equipment used may need to be redesigned as well.

The changes to personal protection equipment are primarily needed for safety eyewear and other items that fit onto the face in order to work properly for different ethnicities. Other pieces of attire that were designed with traditional sizing, such as boots, clothes and gloves, may not need to be replaced.

Injured Maryland employees deserve compensation

All employees have the right to expect their employers to provide a safe working environment for them to perform their work responsibilities. Depending on the type of work involved, some employees could be at risk of a workplace injury, particularly if there are certain occupational hazards. Some injuries may occur suddenly such as from a fall. Others, however, may develop gradually over time. For example, the repeated exposure to loud sounds during work hours could cause hearing loss before an employee is even aware of the damage.

A commonly reported condition, work-related hearing loss can have the same significant impact as other types of workplace injuries in regards to safe and successful work performance, physical health and the right to workers' compensation. Most likely to occur within the first ten years of exposure, hearing loss could affect the employee's awareness level of occupational hazards or their marketability for other employment opportunities. Employers need to account for the risk of hearing impairment by making appropriate precautionary measures available, such as protective gear, to employees subjected to auditory occupational hazards.

The Maryland workers' compensation process

Employees in Maryland may be interested in learning more about some of the common questions involving certain workers' compensation issues. When a covered worker misses at least three days due to an illness or injury suffered on the job, they are entitled to receive wage replacement benefits. When employees miss at least two weeks due to a condition caused by work, they may be entitled to recover benefits for the first three days missed as well.

Injured workers are assigned a consideration date and claim number once the state Workers' Compensation Commission receives the incident report. The consideration date is the time allotted that the employer or its insurer can dispute or object to the claim. Workers' compensation insurance is designed to cover physical therapy, hospital bills, prescription, doctor bills and other costs related to the injury. The coverage limit for the insurance is governed by the state's Workers' Compensation Medical Fee Guide.

Construction accident kills maryland worker

It has been reported that a worker at a road construction site near Rocks State Park was killed while working on Jan. 16. The incident reportedly happened around 1:30 p.m. at the bottom of a ravine on MD Route 24.

Construction crews were engaged in a project to shore up the road. While in the ravine, two workers were struck when a jersey wall fell. The wall landed on one worker and debris pummeled the other. Three people were transported from the scene for treatment at the hospital, one of them in grave condition.

Fatalities involving construction workers' accidents

Highway work zones are dangerous for both drivers and construction workers. While Maryland is not ranked in the top three states for fatalities involving highway work zone accidents, drivers and workers need to be aware that fatalities too often occur in the state as well.

Road work zones are riddled with barrels and signs to warn drivers about construction coming up and to guide them safely around the workers who repair and build bridges, highways and other roads. The number of road maintenance and construction worker fatalities combined reached a peak of 1,095 in 2003 but declined in 2012 to 609. Work zone crashes caused the deaths of eight workers in Maryland in 2013, and four of them were driving or riding as passengers through construction sites.

New OSHA reporting rules are now in effect

All employers subject to oversight by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, including those located in Maryland, are now required to promptly report fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations related to workplace incidents. A time limit of eight hours has been imposed for employers to make reports for cases involving a death on the job. Loss of an eye, amputation, or hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours of learning of an incident.

Companies of smaller sizes that are exempt from certain OSHA record-keeping requirements, particularly those with less than 10 employees, are also required to comply with this new rule. Previously, hospitalizations for workplace injuries only needed to be reported when three or more workers were involved in the same work-related incident.

Car accidents leading cause of workplace accidents

Maryland readers may be surprised to learn that nearly 40 percent of all work-related fatalities in the country are associated with motor-vehicle accidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition to the personal, human costs of vehicle-related workplace accidents, there is a significant economic impact. The annual cost for United States employers averaged an estimated $60 billion annually between the years of 1998 and 2000.

Average statistics gathered between 2003 and 2010 revealed that 311 workers were killed in accidents on industrial premises or highways, 338 workers on foot were struck and killed by motor vehicles, and a total of 1,275 workers were killed in accidents on public highways. A critical component in the reduction of job-related car accidents are employer safety training and policies. Employers can take steps to manage employees' road risk by making sure that employee vehicles are maintained and safe and implementing safe-driving policies.

The workers' compensation claims process

Maryland workers may be interested in some information regarding the process of filing a workers' compensation claim if they are injured on the job. Depending on how the claim is treated, the employee may need to file for an appeal or attend a hearing.

When a workers' compensation claim form is sent to the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission, the amount of processing time necessary can vary. This depends on whether the form itself was filled out completely and accurately. When there are no issues with the form and the information on it, the processing of the claim usually takes just two or three business days. However, if there is missing information, the claim form will be sent back to the worker for corrections. The commission itself cannot make changes to the form.

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