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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Meat plant workers at increased risk for serious injuries

The meat plant industry in Oklahoma can be a dangerous place for workers. In fact, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that serious injuries, including amputations, head trauma and fractured fingers, commonly occur on a weekly basis. This is on top of the fact that meat workers are three times more likely than the average U.S. worker to suffer serious injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration compiled records that showed that amputations occur twice a week on average in the meat industry. From 2015 to 2017, there were 270 incidents that were recorded. Many of these incidents involved the loss of fingers and fingertips, though there were incidents where workers lost toes, hands and even arms. For example, one employee had to have a surgical amputation of his or her arm after it got pulled into a cubing station while the machine was being sanitized.

The signs and symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome

Oklahoma workers who are required to make repetitive movements with their wrists may be at risk of suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve, which controls the movement of the thumb and the fingers with the exception of the fifth finger.

The symptoms can often include burning, itching, tingling and numbness in the palm of the hand or in the thumb and fingers. One of the first signs a person with carpal tunnel syndrome may experience is the feeling that his or her fingers are "falling asleep." This may happen particularly at night while the person is asleep. During the morning, the numbness and tingling may be all the way up the arm to the shoulder. As the syndrome becomes more severe, the person may lose strength and coordination in the hand and wrist.

Why might your workers' compensation claim be denied?

The workers' compensation system protects Oklahoma workers if they experience a work-related injury or illness. If your claim is successful, you may be able to recover medical care costs, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages and payment for permanent disabilities. Additionally, this system pays benefits to family members if they lose a loved one in a work-related accident.

You are protected regardless of fault. However, this does not mean that all workers' compensation claims are successful. Why are claims denied?

Heat presents a threat to workplace safety

Workers in Oklahoma can face particular dangers in the summer months, especially the potential for heat stress on the job. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have a formal regulation in place to cover heat stress, but for several years, it has conducted an awareness campaign that attempts to draw attention to the dangers presented by an overly hot working environment. In particular, OSHA has encouraged employers to take action to prevent heat stress on the job. Even in California, where state law regulates the heat level to which outdoor workers can be exposed, heat regulations are one of the most frequently violated rules.

Heat stress can have a serious impact on workers' health and the ability to perform their tasks. Working in environments that are excessively hot can cause serious workplace injuries as a result. There are a number of ways in which excessive heat can interact with other dangers on the job as well. For example, preliminary studies show that exposure to heat can make workers more susceptible to toxic exposure to chemicals in the workplace due to how changes in the body absorb chemicals in different temperatures. In addition, heat carries its own inherent dangers to workplace safety.

Can you refuse to work on an unsafe construction site?

According to the United States Department of Labor, falls are the most common cause of death in the construction industry. In 2016, over 38% of construction worker deaths were due to falls.

You probably think of a fall as falling off of something, like a ladder or scaffolding, but it can also mean falling into something, such as an opening for a skylight on a roof.

Injuries caused by rear end accidents

There are many consequences you could encounter after being involved in a rear end collision. You may be faced with financial decisions to make or legal aftermath.

One effect you may be feeling concerns your physical health. Being in an accident can have a severe impact on you. You may have suffered an injury after your accident.

Negligence of worker safety continues to lead to deaths

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that every worker's death costs a company about $1 million in workers compensation, hospitalization costs, legal costs, property loss and other expenses. As of January 2018, OSHA fines companies exactly $129,336 for workplace accidents caused by willful neglect. Workers in Oklahoma will be dismayed to hear that many employers continue to disregard safety even when it's so clearly to their disadvantage.

National COSH, the Council for Occupational Safety and Health, has recently put together a list of 12 companies that it considers to be the worst safety offenders. Among this "dirty dozen" are Amazon and Tesla: Since 2013, the former has seen seven worker deaths in its warehouses, and the latter is right now under investigation from the California OSHA branch because it misidentified workplace injuries as personal medical cases. Tesla's incident rate is 31 percent higher than the industry average.

Fall prevention at work requires ongoing focus on safety

Workers in Oklahoma usually have a lot on their minds as they go about their daily duties. People tend to overlook safety hazards in familiar surroundings, but the National Safety Council urges workers to recognize fall hazards and take steps to prevent the serious injuries and deaths that could result. In 2014, falls on the same level claimed 138 lives, and falls from height killed 660 people according to the council's report on workplace injuries. Vigilance plays an important role in safety, and every worker should speak up when a safety problem develops.

Falls on the same level happen when people trip over something or slip on a spill. People should pay attention to the floor and avoid walking quickly, wearing inappropriate shoes or talking on a phone while walking. If someone sees a spill, the person should clean it up or inform the person responsible for cleaning immediately.

Workplace safety and the Internet of Things

Injuries and even death are common in workplaces throughout the world. According to research by the International Labor Organization, more than 500 workers are victims of injury on the job every minute. Workplace injuries seriously affect the health and well-being of employees as well as the bottom line of many companies. The Internet of Things, or IoT, may be one of the ways to improve safety for workers in all types of jobs.

Employees who work alone can be particularly vulnerable to dangers. Smart devices help keep these workers connected to their organization and nearby emergency contacts so that they can get assistance quickly if something goes wrong. IoT geolocation technology coupled with audio alerts and group chat abilities can turn ordinary smartphones into comprehensive safety devices for solitary workers out on the job.

Companies striving for compliance with silica rule

Silica dust can be hazardous to people in Oklahoma or anywhere else who breathe it in. Some of the health hazards include scarred lung tissue, silicosis and the possibility of dying from prolonged exposure. While a new OSHA rule limited the amount of silica to which a worker could be exposed by 80 percent, the construction industry is still figuring out ways to comply with the mandate.

There are many ways in which construction companies can keep exposure to appropriate levels. For instance, it may be possible to vacuum dust to make sure that it doesn't fly away or use water to prevent it from getting into the air. Depending on the conditions at a job site, employees are allowed to use respirators if changing tools or tactics doesn't help mitigate silica exposure hazards.

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