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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Overcoming blind spots in the workplace

Oklahoma residents who work at loading docks or deal with heavy equipment are at risk from collisions caused by blind spots. The lack of visibility in one's workplace can result in accidents that cause significant physical injuries and even death.

Even if there are safety measures in place, accidents can still occur because the precautions are not infallible. For example, it is easy for people who work inside or outside a busy and noisy warehouse to ignore the warning sounds emitted by machines like forklifts. Employees can become so used to the sounds that they fail to pay them any attention.

Aging workforce creates new challenges in workplace safety

Oklahomans who have just turned 65 may not be as inclined to retire as their counterparts from previous generations. Financial pressure or the desire to work has prompted people to stay on the job through their 60s and even 70s. According to the Pew Research Center, 18.8 percent of people age 65 and above held full or part-time jobs in 2016. The physical effects of aging and different communication styles across generations have created challenges for workplace safety managers and trainers.

A research scientist who studies workplace health and safety said managers should speak directly with older workers to get feedback about any challenges that they might be experiencing. Physical jobs require particular attention, and safety managers should shape duties to fit the current abilities of older employees.

Workplace safety violations

Oklahoma construction workers may be interested to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has identified falls as the leading contributing factor in accidental fatalities on construction sites. In 2015, out of the 937 workplace fatalities that were reported around the country, 350 of them were attributed to falling. In 2017, construction falls are first on OSHA's list of top safety violations.

To improve safety in the workplace, OSHA has begun assessing large fines for violations like repeat offenses. In one example, the agency fined a roofing contractor in Florida in excess of $1.5 million after it was repeatedly cited for fall-protection violations. The company was also placed into OSHA's Severe Violator Enforcement Program, which means it will be marked for additional inspections and monitoring.

Safety procedures for lifting workers

All Oklahoma workers need to be given the right equipment and training to do their jobs safely. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated an incident in which a 33-year-old man died after falling 7 feet off a pallet that had been raised by a forklift.

In the warehouse where the man worked, it was common practice to raise workers up to high shelves by having them stand on a pallet and lifting the pallet with the forklift. The worker would then stand with both feet on the pallet or one foot on the pallet and one foot on the shelf. However, this was against the manufacturer's instructions. The OSHA report on the incident said that the employer was responsible for making sure workers did not misuse the forklift in this way.

Disaster planning helps employers keep workplaces safe

Oklahoma is famous for severe storms, and employers have an obligation during natural disasters to maintain safe work environments. Ideally, an organization prepares a crisis management plan during good times so that everyone will understand safety protocols during bad weather or other dangerous events. Good planning could prevent endangering employees and subsequent litigation.

After a natural disaster, employers might have to cope with health and safety issues that do not apply under normal circumstances. Employers should consider carefully the decision to ask employees to clean up a mess left by a storm, flood or fire. Employees who do not have training in disaster recovery work might not know how to safely address contaminated or damaged areas. Exposing untrained workers to hazards outside of their normal work duties could cause harm. Hiring a professional disaster response company could allow an employer to avoid exposing employees to unfamiliar duties.

Understanding the effects of working in hot weather

Oklahoma workers may face dangers related to working in hot weather even as the calendar transitions to fall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 37 work-related deaths around the country in 2015 related to heat exposure on the job. Of those deaths, 33 occurred between June and September. In addition, there were 2,830 nonfatal injuries and illnesses related to heat exposure.

To reduce the odds of a worker getting hurt or killed in the heat, companies should allow them to take breaks every 15 minutes to drink water. Workers should also be given shady areas where they can rest if they get too hot. Employees themselves can reduce the odds of someone getting hurt because of hot weather by looking out for their colleagues. These tips are all part of OSHA's Water. Rest. Shade. campaign.

Proactive safety planning can help cut workplace injuries

Preventing serious injuries and fatalities in the workplace should be an important priority for people concerned about safety on the job in Oklahoma. There are different types of potential injuries that can take place during the work day, and safety advocates are urging a prevention-focused approach to protect workers from dangerous accidents.

A prevention program that focuses on serious injuries and fatalities can be one of the most important and effective approaches to safety on the job. Rather than waiting for injuries to occur and then investigating what happened, this kind of approach focuses on proactive behavior to stop fatalities or serious injuries before they take place.

Watch out for computer vision syndrome

People in Oklahoma who use computers at work could benefit from understanding the possible dangers of digital eyestrain, or what the American Optometric Association calls Computer Vision Syndrome. CVS can cause many symptoms that go beyond the eyes.

American workers spend an average of seven hours per day on a computer. Add to that computer time at home plus tablet and cell phone screen time, and that can mean eye strain from looking at digital displays. CVS can cause blurry vision, dry eyes, and it can even contribute to physical pain in the head, neck and shoulders. These symptoms can be exacerbated by using a digital screen in a room that's not properly lit or by glare on the screen.

Study on the reporting and collection of injury data

Some Oklahoma workers may be interested in a report issued by the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability. According to the Need for Standardized Sustainability Reporting Practices, the regular reporting and collection of information on illnesses, injuries and fatalities by sustainable organizations is insufficient.

The report is a supplement to a 2013 study that examined companies in the Corporate Knights' Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. It contains an analysis of the data that was reported between June and December of 2016. The analysis determined that there had been little progress with regard to being compliant with common safety and health performance regulations.

Method for repairing water pipes may be hazardous

Oklahoma construction workers who repair water pipes may be interested to learn that a common procedure used to do the repairs may actually release hazardous chemicals into the air. As such, researchers from Purdue University said that the method should be re-evaluated to determine what the risks are for workers, the environment and the public.

The method involves inserting a fabric tube that has been impregnated with resin into a damaged pipe. The fabric is then cured with ultraviolet light, pressurized steam or hot water. This method, called the cured-in-place pipe repair method, is used in about 50 percent of all water pipe repairs in the nation. The researchers found that the steam plumes that the method causes actually contain organic vapors and compounds. Some of these organic vapors are known endocrine disruptors and carcinogens.

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