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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

OSHA requires workplace injury data to be public

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has introduced a new regulation, which will be implemented from Aug. 10, requiring employers to make all data public regarding injuries and illnesses. Maryland residents may already know that the agency requires employers to keep records of injuries and illnesses, but it says that it and the public receive little to no information about these records.

The new rule, called Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, is a revision of a regulation and requires high-hazard companies to send OSHA their data on injury and illness cases. The agency plans to post it on its website for the public to see. The data that it posts will be void of personally identifiable information. OSHA compares the approach to public transparency of sanitary conditions in restaurant kitchens, which encourages restauranteurs to maintain food safety.

Workplace safety tips

Maryland employees want to feel safe at the workplace, whether their particular occupation carries obvious hazards or not. They probably anticipate ending their shift feeling healthy and happy. However, with an estimated 3 million occupational injuries that happen annually around the country, this is not the case for many people. There are some safety tips to help employees avoid common work-related injuries that are outlined in an annual report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Research Institute for Safety.

Lower back strains and sprains are often signs of overexertion. This can be avoided if employees work together when moving or lifting extremely heavy things, by using correct lifting practices and using dollies to move the large and heavy items.

Protection from work boots

Maryland residents who are in the construction industry or other occupations in which they need to wear work boots should take care when choosing which ones to purchase. There are state and federal safety standards for work boots, and it is important for people to make certain the ones they are considering meet or exceed them.

While many shoe companies claim that their work boots do meet the standards, that is not always the case. It is important for workers to check the standards that are specific for their individual lines of work along with the standards set out by the state. This can help them with identifying the specific features the boots they purchase should have.

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.

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