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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workplace computer time can cause eye problems

Many Oklahoma employees are required to use a computer at work. While computers are a convenient tool, there are health hazards associated with spending too much time in front of one. Carpal tunnel syndrome is perhaps the best-known computer-related health hazard, but individuals may also develop "computer vision syndrome" as a result of staring at a screen for too long.

Monitor glare and flickering can trigger eye problems, as can the constant change in focus caused by staring at a physical document and then looking back at a screen. Over time, a worker can develop dry eyes and blurred vision. Other possible symptoms include neck, shoulder and upper back pain. This pain is sometimes triggered when a worker continuously leans forward to get a better look at his or her screen.

With Zika here, employers must keep mosquitos away

Oklahoma residents may have heard the news about the Zika virus spreading to the continental United States. In July, four people in the Miami area contracted Zika after being bitten by local mosquitoes. Before the Florida cases, it was only found in South America and the Caribbean, and Americans were only believed to be at risk for Zika if they traveled to those areas.

Now that Zika mosquitoes are in the U.S., employers must be vigilant about protecting their employees from mosquito bites. Though symptoms of Zika are usually mild in adults, the virus can cause severe birth defects in unborn children when a woman is infected before or during a pregnancy. Employers in the southeastern United States should be especially careful about mosquitoes in the workplace.

The financial cost of workplace accidents

Work injuries in Oklahoma cost employees and their families in lost working hours and medical bills. Employers also lose money from the lost productivity that can result from workplace accidents. According to data that was gathered in 2013 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers lost almost $62 billion due to serious workplace accidents.

Some workplace accidents are particularly expensive for employers and account for most of the annual cost of disabling work accidents. Over $51 billion of workplace accident costs in 2013 were the result of the top 10 most common disabling workplace injury causes. Those injury causes include falls, overexertion and repetitive motion. To prevent expensive workplace accidents, employers should make safety a core value rather than just a priority.

Indoor air quality, mold and safety in the workplace

In Oklahoma and elsewhere across the nation, employees who work in buildings that are subject to high humidity levels or dampness from water leaks or flooding may want to be aware of the health risks that could be exacerbated by poor indoor air quality or mold. According to an article published by the National Safety Council on July 24, research studies show that asthma, bronchitis, rhinosinusitis, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and other respiratory symptoms and infections are associated with exposure to these factors. These findings have been noted in a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health alert.

NIOSH directs a number of recommendations to managers, supervisors and building owners regarding mold and improved safety in the workplace. These suggestions include the regular inspection of their building's HVAC system and the timely repair of any problem as well as the cleaning and replacement of any building material that appears to have been compromised by the presence of water or mold. The need for establishment of an indoor environmental quality team composed of a coordinator and representatives selected from among the employees, employers and management officials who work in the building is also indicated.

Workers' compensation and the commute to work

Most Oklahoma employees are covered by their employer's workers' compensation insurance, but understanding how coverage works can be confusing. Most accidents or injuries that are job-related are covered, even if they don't happen on the work site. Injuries that happen while a person is traveling for work may be covered, but injuries on the way to work are for the most part not, due to a provision in the law called the going and coming rule.

The going and coming rule means that workers' compensation does not cover employees while they are using their own vehicle to travel to work or from work at the end of a work shift. In many instances, however, people are covered while traveling for their job. For instance, if workesr must travel from one job site to another during a work shift, they are usually covered. People who must travel as part of their job are also usually covered by workers' compensation. This type of coverage applies where people are using their own vehicle or a company vehicle. People who drive company-owned vehicles as part of their job, such as bus drivers, are also covered while performing their job.

Workers' compensation insurance in Oklahoma

Employers are generally required to purchase workers' compensation insurance that provides financial benefits to workers who are injured or become sick while on the job. Workers are covered while at their workplaces or performing their duties at another location, but coverage is not extended to those injured in automobile accidents while commuting to or from their places of employment.

In return for receiving workers' compensation benefits, injured or sick workers give up the right to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers. However, litigation may be initiated when workplace injuries occur because safety rules are not followed by the employer. For this reason, it is important that employers assess the risk of the work environment in order to implement any necessary safety measures.

OSHA enacts anti-retaliation rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has instituted electronic reporting regulations for submitting sickness and injury information. OHSA will publicize some of the information on its website in order to promote safety in the workplace. The regulations include three provisions that task certain employers with complying with anti-retaliation rules. Oklahoma workers should be aware that they have the right to provide information about workplace injuries or safety violations without fearing retaliation.

Employers are first required to advise their employees of all of their rights pertaining to the reporting of injuries and illnesses that occur while working. This can entail the prominent posting in work spaces of materials that provide the information, such as the workers' rights bulletin issued by OSHA in April 2015.

Dangers of exposure to welding fumes

Welders on Oklahoma job sites need to be aware of the types of toxic fumes to which they may be exposed during the course of their duties. Both pressure and fusion welding produce smoke that contains potentially harmful gas byproducts and metal fumes. Metals contained in the fumes include arsenic, aluminum, lead, manganese and beryllium. Gas byproducts contained in the smoke include carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen fluoride, nitrogen and argon.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these substances can cause workers to experience serious health conditions. Long-term exposure can lead to the development of cancer of the larynx, urinary tract and the lungs. Even short-term exposure to the fumes can lead to nausea, dizziness and irritation of the eyes, throat and nose.

Common hazards faced by health care workers

Health care workers in Oklahoma hospitals face numerous workplace hazards every day. Staff members that work directly with patients are particularly prone to workplace injuries and illnesses. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hospital workers in the United States reported about 253,700 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2011.

Data shows that direct patient care workers have a workplace injury rate that is nearly twice the rate of other private industry workers, including workers in the construction industry. Some of the most common work-related injuries that affect nurses include overexertion, back injuries, needle sticks and injuries from falling or running into objects. Nurses are also commonly exposed to workplace hazards like infectious diseases, toxic substances and allergens.

OSHA reminds employers of the dangers of heat in the workplace

It's no secret that summer temperatures in Oklahoma and across the nation can get pretty high. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiates a campaign each year designed to educate employers and outdoor workers about the dangers of heat-related injuries and illnesses. Data compiled by the agency reveals that heat stroke claimed the lives of 18 American workers in 2014, and a further 2,630 suffered some sort heat-related illness that year.

The OSHA heat safety campaign supplies employers with resources such as illustrations depicting the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, a video tutorial, a smartphone app and a series of training and informational links. The agency places particular emphasis on the importance of providing new workers with sufficient training and acclimation time. Most of the heat-related deaths investigated by the agency involved workers who had been on the job for less than a week.

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