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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Construction worker killed in a fall

In Maryland and the rest of the U.S., the leading cause of death in the construction industry is falls. In 2014, about 40 percent of construction worker deaths were caused by a fall.

According to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, if they are not provided with personal fall-arrest systems, scaffolding or guardrails, workers operating at a height of 6 feet are susceptible to falling. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that one in five deaths in the private industry were in construction. OSHA regulations are designed to protect against workplace injuries.

Protecting workers from hand-arm vibration syndrome

According to a Maryland occupational vibration consultant, approximately 2 million U.S. workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration hazards on the job each year. As many as 50 percent of them will develop a condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS.

Primarily an issue in manufacturing and construction environments, HAVS was first identified among limestone quarry workers using air hammers in 1918. The disorder is caused by continuous exposure to vibrating tools, which can damage blood vessels and nerves in a worker's hands. Typical symptoms include a weakened grip and numbness, tingling, pain and loss of color in the fingers. In extreme cases, gangrene may set in.

Workplace injuries to temporary workers

Many Maryland employers rely on temporary workers to fill important roles during employee vacations, family leave periods, and seasons of heavy activity. However, workplace injuries involving these temporary employees can be confusing due to the fact that both the employer and the temporary agency are involved with an individual's work activities. OSHA has provided recent clarification on the issue to assist those responsible for reporting injuries and recording details.

According to OSHA, only one employer can be responsible for the daily supervision of a worker. This means that a temporary worker cannot be supervised by both parties for reporting purposes. Reporting depends on the involvement of the contractor in the daily supervision of an employee. In cases involving a contractor's oversight of day-to-day activities of an employee, the contractor bears reporting responsibility for any workplace injuries or illnesses. If the host employer supervises the employee, then that party is responsible for any necessary reporting. OSHA has further clarified that administrative tasks such as handling vacation needs, drug screening, and other human resources activities do not constitute supervision.

OSHA targets workers safety at health care facilities

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration focused its attention on the conditions found in inpatient health care facilities when it recently issued a compliance memo to OSHA regional offices and state plans. Titled 'Inspection Guidance for Inpatient Healthcare Settings," the June 2015 memo requires compliance staff in Maryland and around the country to make targeted inspections of this industry's employers that have high incident rates of work-related illnesses and injuries.

This guidance memo covers any facility that provides residential or inpatient health care or nursing care, including nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospices, assisted living facilities and psychiatric hospitals. The OSHA guidance instructs regional offices to inspect facilities in their areas that have a high number of workplace injuries.

The danger posed by combustible dust in the workplace

Maryland workers who are employed at manufacturing or processing facilities may be at risk of being injured or killed in an accident caused by combustible dust. Many different materials can become explosive when finely divided into dust, and some substances that are difficult to burn may still become extremely volatile when in particles small enough to hang in the air. Explosions involving combustible dust are often catastrophic and occur without warning, and they have been known to reduce workplaces to rubble. In 2008, an exploding cloud of sugar dust killed 14 workers in Georgia.

Predicting a combustible dust incident can be challenging as the dust can sit undisturbed for years until changes in atmospheric conditions make it volatile. According to OSHA, accidents involving combustible dust claimed 119 lives between 1980 and 2005. These incidents also caused 718 workplace injuries. OSHA is believed to be compiling a list of rules for dealing with combustible dust, and the National Fire Protection Association published a standard dealing with dangerous dust in 2015.

What to do when hurt on a Maryland farm

If a farm worker is struck by machinery or by livestock, it could lead to serious injury or death. Therefore, those under the age of 16 may be prohibited by child labor laws from using certain machinery or handling certain types of chemicals. In some cases, state laws may place additional restrictions on top of those imposed by federal law. Regardless of an employee's age, employers should adopt a safety first attitude to reduce the risk of a farm accident.

In the event that someone has been injured by an animal, it is important to stay calm when dealing with the situation. The animal may be hurt or trying to protect its young, which could make it more aggressive or prone to taking defensive action. Anyone who approaches the animal should wear protective clothing and talk to it in a calm and gentle manner.

Personal lifts offer workers safer alternative to ladders

Facilities managers in Maryland looking to reduce accidents related to ladders see many benefits in personal lift devices. These machines raise and lower a worker who stands inside a railed platform. The design provides workers with a stable platform and 360-degree mobility while at the top.

Some models on the market are even portable. They are easily broken down and moved from location to location. Because employees can quickly see and feel the benefits of working from a secure platform, they report satisfaction with personal lifts and want to use them. While on the platform, they can safely work with both hands, and the lift gives them better access to areas than ladders, which are a well known workplace hazard.

Statute of limitations on workers' compensation

Workers in Maryland who are injured on the job are required to file their claims for workers' compensation within the two-year statute of limitations. In New Jersey, which has the same statutory period, a man who is attempting to collect on a workers' compensation claim after working for a decade at McDonald's is struggling to demonstrate that his torn rotator cuff is the result of an earlier injury caused by his work at the company.

The man did maintenance for McDonald's from 1995 to 2005. He began suffering from pain in his wrists, shoulders and elbow during the first year of his employment. The man was treated several times for shoulder pain during the ten years of his employment and received a diagnosis of bilateral bicipital tendonitis of the shoulder in 2001. He was successfully treated and never filed a workers' compensation claim. In June 2006, an MRI detected a left shoulder rotator cuff tear that led to surgery. The man filed for workers' compensation at that time, but McDonald's successfully argued that the claim was outside the statute of limitations.

National Safety Council promotes safety for agricultural workers

Farms across Maryland contribute to the fundamental needs of society with their food production. This important work, however, involves many workplace hazards. Every year, the National Safety Council reminds farm workers and farm owners to stay alert for dangerous situations while cultivating, harvesting and processing crops.

Citing the thousands of annual injuries associated with farm work, the council urges farmers to put safety first. Safety experts place agriculture among the most dangerous industries. A study done by the U.S. Department of Labor in 2013 found that 500 people died while working on farms that year. This translated into a rate of 23.2 fatalities for every 100,000 agricultural workers.

EMS workers more likely to be injured during longer shifts

Maryland EMS workers may be interested to know that a study published on Sept. 15 showed that emergency service members who worked extended shifts were more likely to suffer injuries than those that worked shorter shifts. Essentially, the researchers discovered that employees that worked shifts that were longer than 12 hours were 50 percent more likely to suffer injuries.

The job requirements for EMS workers are demanding. In addition to having to lift and move patients, they must be able to provide medical care in stressful and often chaotic situations. Some of them work up to 24 hours at a time, which could inhibit their ability to provide the best care possible or to avoid certain hazards that could result in serious job injuries. Those who worked 24-hour shifts were more than double at risk for becoming injured that those who worked eight or less hours at a time.

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