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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

OSHA rule bars retaliation for reporting workplace injuries

Oklahoma workers could gain expanded protection after reporting a workplace injury or illness to an employer. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has delayed its implementation until Dec. 1, a new regulation that requires companies to electronically send injury and illness reports to federal regulators includes a provision about retaliation.

Previously, workers needed to file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of an employer acting against them after reporting an injury. The new regulation drops the necessity of a worker informing the agency. OSHA can now investigate retaliation claims at the discretion of inspectors.

The importance of safety procedures in manufacturing

In Oklahoma manufacturing plants, productivity is often seen as one of the highest priorities. However, the plant workers are critical when it comes to a manufacturing plant's productivity as they are responsible for manipulating the machinery and handling a variety of materials. These types of jobs can expose employees to serious injuries.

Every year, it is estimated that four in every 100 manufacturing employees suffer serious injuries or illnesses while at work. Further, manufacturing accidents account for 57 percent of all workplace amputations, and 26 percent of all hospitalizations caused by workplace accidents are in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing plants that fail to put the safety of their workers as a priority often face financial consequences.

How to reduce accidents in trenches

Proper safety and supervision programs are vital to keeping Oklahoma trench workers safe. A single cubic yard of dirt weights about 3,000 pounds, which is enough to crush a person. While fatal trenching accidents doubled in 2016, OSHA says that they can be prevented by following its safety protocols. Keeping employees safe may also be a way for owners and managers to avoid liability.

In April 2015, a 22-year-old man died in a trench collapse, and the company that managed the job site was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. The man worked for a subcontractor that was also fined $10,000 and saw the site foreman sentenced to up to three years in prison. OSHA levied another fine of $100,000 against the subcontractor.

Gates instead of chains for ladder protection

Oklahoma workers who use ladders to perform tasks should know that proper fall protection entails the use of a gate, not chains. This is according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In order to secure a chain, and with his or her back to the hazard, a worker has to stand on the ladder and use one hand to reattach the chain. Instead of forcing workers into a dangerous situation, the use of a gate that automatically closes itself will always protect the worker and the opening and remove any risks of user error.

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.

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