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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Wearables could support workplace safety and injury recovery

Wearable activity trackers that monitor heart rate and count steps have become popular in Oklahoma, but technology developers have proposed expanded roles for smart personal medical monitors in the workplace. A presentation given at a conference described how wearable technology could assist workplace safety managers. More advanced devices on workers could collect data about body mechanics. Managers could use this information to evaluate injury risks and work toward prevention.

The presentation outlined how wearable gadgets could integrate with the workers' compensation process. In addition to alerting people to injury risks, the trackers could play a role in reporting injuries and provide feedback useful in treatment and rehabilitation decisions. A worker recovered from an injury might also avoid another injury with warnings from a wearable device.

OSHA rule on falls questioned due to fall safety provision

Oklahoma workers may be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration updated its rule to help prevent workplace falls. The final rule became effective on Jan.17, 2017. However, one of the key provisions is being questioned as OSHA now allows people to work near the edge of low-slope roofs without proper fall protection as long as the work is infrequent and temporary.

Conventional fall safety systems include a number of equipment that can help prevent potentially fatal falls. This equipment includes a personal fall safety arrest system, a guardrail or a travel restraint system. However, the personal fall safety arrest systems are not required under the OSHA rule if the work is being done 6 to 15 feet from the edge of low-sloped roofs. These designated areas may only be used for work that is temporary or infrequent. The example given by OSHA is annual maintenance or equipment repairs.

Protecting minors from workplace injuries

During the summer, many Oklahoma teenagers opt to get a job to earn some money while they are out of school. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, however, they are at risk for serious injuries due to a lack of inadequate safety training, unsafe equipment and lack of supervision.

In 2015, it was reported that workers under the age of 24 years old made up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. workforce. In the same year, it was reported by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health that 403 people in this age bracket died due to work-related injuries. Of those, 24 were under 18 years old. In addition, between 1998 and 2007, an average of 795,000 nonfatal injuries were reported each year. This number was estimated to be twice as high as the number of injuries reported for older workers.

Many workers not trained to handle cardiac emergencies

According to a report from the American Heart Association, many Oklahoma workers may not be properly prepared to deal with workplace cardiac emergencies due to a lack of CPR and first aid training. This is significant because there are an estimated 10,000 cardiac arrests every single year in workplaces across the nation.

The report indicated that part of the problem was that more than half of the workers surveyed said that they did not have access to appropriate training. If their workplace did offer some sort of training, it was for either CPR or automated external defibrillator use, not both. Further, half of employees surveyed could not located an AED in their workplace. When the hospitality industry was analyzed, 66 percent of workers did not know where an AED was located in their workplace. Further, the survey showed that younger workers may be less likely to participate in training, though this may be due to a decreased sense of risk .

OSHA announced another delay to crane certification enforcement

An OSHA announcement has consequences for some Oklahoma construction companies and workers. OSHA put forth a certification requirement for crane operators in 2010 but then received two consecutive three-year extensions for the enforcement of this requirement. The most recent extension is the third in this series, giving OSHA until November 2018 to oversee the crane certification requirement and enforce compliance.

Many crane operators have dissenting opinions about this third extension. A member of the Crane Institute of America stated that the extensions have led to preventable deaths because crane operators must be trained in order to receive their certification, and trained operators have fewer accidents. An employee of Florida Crane Inspections, LLC also does not agree with the most recent extension because, according to him, if the people operating cranes without certification have not learned to operate them safely and correctly by now, they never will.

Inexperience could be hazardous in coal mines

For Oklahoma miners, a lack of training and a lack of experience can lead to serious injuries or death. According to a division of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, six of seven coal miners who have died in 2017 were at their current workplaces for less than a year. Furthermore, five of those workers had less than a year of experience in their current roles at the time of their death.

One man died when he hit his head on a mine roof or roof support while riding in a supply locomotive. Another died when he made contact with a conveyor belt safety guard drive. At the time of his death, the man was positioned between the conveyor belt and the safety guard drive. According to a representative from the agency, an initiative will begin that seeks to determine if there are issues with how workers are trained.

Lifting and carrying objects while on the job

For Many Oklahoma workers, lifting and carrying heavy objects is often part of the job description. However, if someone lifts a heavy item improperly, he or she is at risk for suffering injuries that could include back strains, fractures, cuts and bruises.

According to the National Safety Council, approximately 25 percent of all work-related accidents involved the manual handling of objects. Therefore, there are certain steps employees should take to keep themselves safe while lifting and handling objects. For example, individuals that regularly lift and move heavy objects should try to stay in good shape. If something is too heavy to be easily moved, employees should use mechanical lifting aids or get help from coworkers. In fact, manual lifting should be avoided whenever possible.

Employees at Telsa plants fainting on the job

As Tesla is set to commence mass production of its first electric vehicle, the $35,000 Model 3, Oklahoma residents may have heard about employees at the California car factory suffering fainting spells on the job. As a result, many of the company's workers have had to go to the hospital for treatment.

According to a May 18 report published in the Guardian newspaper, lengthy hours and stringent productivity goals caused Tesla's assembly-line employees to feel stressed and exhausted in their efforts to accomplish the manufacturing plant's goals. In fact, since 2014, workers have suffered multiple work-related symptoms, including seizures, dizziness and fainting spells, which has led to more than 100 emergency calls for ambulances.

Warning signs play an important workplace safety role

It is probably safe to assume that most Oklahoma employees pay little attention to the safety signs scattered about their workplaces, but a great deal of research has been done into how best to warn them about hazardous conditions and machinery. The standards for safety signs are set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but many of the warning notices at workplaces around the country are out of step with the latest best practices.

Most of these signs provide warnings to workers using words only, and OSHA rules still reference decades-old sign standards. The latest guidelines from the American National Standards Institute recommend signs that communicate information graphically and provide workers with more details about the hazard and what they should do to protect themselves. ANSI has been publishing safety sign standards since 1941 when most workplaces relied on crude arrows to point out dangerous conditions to workers.

Alert issued by mine safety agency

Tractor-trailer truck drivers on Oklahoma job sites should be careful around power lines. After a tractor-trailer that was dumping gravel made contact with an overhead power line, leading to some damage but no injuries, the Mine Safety and Health Administration put out what is known as a "close call alert". This included a list of best practices for safety when working near an active power line.

When possible, the area near the power line should be avoided. If equipment will be operated within 10 feet of the lines, the lines should be de-energized. In the accident that occurred, the truck did not allow the 10 feet of clearance that is recommended. The best practices warned that during transport, some equipment might be higher than usual.

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