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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Work-related death statistics released for 2014

Although many types of jobs pose risks of injuries and deaths, construction is one of the more significant areas in which fatality accidents occur on the job. Statistics for 2014 have recently been updated, providing an overview of significant increases in the death rate on construction sites as well as in the mining industry. Across the country, more than 4,800 workers died in 2014, including more than 70 in Maryland.

The increase in deadly workplace injuries in private construction was approximately 9 percent from 2013 to 2014. The total number of fatalities in this sector was 899. Deaths in mining and related industries was 183, the greatest number since 2007. Similarly, the gas extraction and oil industries experienced an all-time high in fatalaccidents.

Month-long electrical safety campaign

Maryland employers are reminded to think more about electrical safety every year during National Electrical Safety Month. Each May, the Electrical Safety Foundation International promotes awareness about electrical dangers through a nationwide campaign. Communities, schools, organizations and employers are reminded to stay safe around electricity with outreach materials that are provided by the ESFI.

The outreach materials offered by the ESFI have been updated for 2016, and new materials have been added to the collection. Individuals and employers that want to promote electrical safety can obtain fact sheets, safety tips, social media content and media outreach materials from the ESFI. One of the items, the 2016 National Electrical Safety Month Electrical Safety Advocate Guide, was written to raise awareness about electrical hazards like building fires.

Injuries to communication tower workers

Maryland workers in high-risk occupations may be able to learn a lesson from a conference spearheaded by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission. The February 2016 workshop brought a number of representatives from the communication tower industry together to highlight ongoing safety issues. Although factors like work-site design were revealed to impact safety, employer operating standards also played significant roles.

OSHA said that 36 workers perished in communication tower falls and other related accidents between 2011 and 2015. One factor that could have contributed to these statistics is the fact that many work sites may lack proper direction due to overuse of subcontracting. Industry safety advocates claimed the situation was so out of hand that in some cases, it was hard to determine who was in charge of a given job or whether they even had the proper insurance and credentials to do the work at hand.

Brain injuries common for construction workers in Maryland

In a study published in the March issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, researchers state that traumatic brain injuries are more common for construction workers than for people in any other U.S occupation. Researchers came to their conclusions based on data recently made available by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

According to the data, between 2003 to 2010, more than 2,200 construction workers died as a result of traumatic brain injuries, which represented more than 25 percent of all construction fatalities during this time frame. Workers who were at least 65 years of age were found to be four times as likely to suffer a fatal injury compared to those between the ages of 25 and 34.

Curbing insurance fraud in Maryland

According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau workers' compensation fraud is almost $7.2 million per year. Therefore, insurance companies are looking to take steps to prevent fraud before it happens. Two tactics that insurance companies may use in the future are social media and surveillance of a claimant. While there may be higher upfront costs related to monitoring someone who may be committing fraud, it could cut down on costs later on.

Looking for signs of a fraudulent insurance claim can make it easier to determine who may be attempting to commit a crime and catch that person in the act. One sign of fraud are claims being made on Monday morning for injuries that allegedly occurred the previous week. If there are no witnesses to the injury or conflicting reports of what caused it emerge, that could also increase the odds that a claim is fraudulent.

In some cases, doctors determine if injuriy is work-related

In many instances, workplace injuries suffered by Maryland residents can be tied directly to their job. Proving other injuries, however, could be linked to the workplace or to a worker's private life.

When a worker breaks a bone or sustains a cut while at work, the injury plainly is related to work, which means that the employee is most likely qualified for workers' compensation. Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, may be open to question, especially if such injuries are not reported immediately, and a decision must be made as to whether the injury is covered by an employee's health insurance rather than workers' compensation. The worker's doctor may make the call as to which insurance covers the injury.

The importance of keeping construction cranes safe

Construction cranes are used in Maryland and throughout the country when construction workers have to scale skyscrapers and other large buildings. While cranes can make a construction worker's job easier, they can also be dangerous. Therefore, it is important that these machines are systematically inspected and construction workers are thoroughly trained before using them.

In many states, construction workers must be licensed in order to operate a crane. For this reason, a nonprofit industry, the National Commission for the Certification of Crane Operators, provides training for people who operate cranes at major construction sites, and the organization works to improve the quality of crane inspections.

The use of hard hats

Hard hats are essential safety equipment for many jobs, especially those on construction sites in Maryland and around the country. They are able to protect workers from falling or flying objects, and they can also help reduce people's risk of burns or electrical shock. However, they are not always used when they should be because they are often uncomfortable.

While people may wear a hard hat when they are doing something that takes a long time, they may neglect to put one on if they are only doing a quick task, especially if their hard hat is cumbersome. The problem is that accidents can occur at any time, so people not wearing a hard hat are putting themselves in danger of being seriously injured.

OSHA regulations regarding recordable injuries

Employers in Maryland face potentially severe penalties if they run afoul of workplace safety regulations, and checking records for accuracy is often among the first steps taken by OSHA inspectors. Employers hoping to avoid fines or other sanctions must keep track of workplace injuries and illnesses if they are considered recordable under OSHA regulations, but employers are sometimes unclear about the line of demarcation.

Sometimes, OSHA guidelines make it very clear that a workplace injury or illness is recordable. Employers must keep records when workers are killed, forced to take time off work or injured badly enough to be reassigned. Injuries must also be recorded when workers lose consciousness for any period of time or require medical treatment beyond what would be considered first aid. Employers must also keep records when a physician or other medical professional diagnoses a serious injury or condition even if none of these conditions apply.

Safer respiratory gear for hazardous workplaces

Maryland workers who deal with hazardous materials at their jobsshould wear respiratory protection. In 2012, 110 people died due to exposure to hazardous substances at work, and lost work days appeared in over 15,000 cases. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking at ways to encourage compliance with respiratory protection.

Workers are more likely to wear respiratory gear that is comfortable, lightweight, and not too difficult to breathe or see out of, so comfort is now a priority in making respirators. Employers have a role to play as well. They need to have a program for cleaning and maintaining respirators. These types of equipment must also be stored correctly, and manufacturers' recommendations must be followed in caring for them.

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