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Baltimore Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

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.

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