Excavating, particularly trench digging, presents significant risks to workers in Oklahoma. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has charted a significant rise in trench collapse fatalities. In 2011, trench collapses killed two workers every month, and 2016 saw fatalities double compared to the previous five years. The agency intends to make excavation safety a priority in 2018 and encourages excavating companies to participate in the safety stand down planned for this summer by the National Utility Contractors Association.
Oklahoma residents who work in the entertainment industry can expect continued support from OSHA. The workplace safety agency has renewed agreements with both the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). While USITT is a professional group, IATSE is a labor union.
Employers in Oklahoma and elsewhere must generally abide by workplace standards set by OSHA. However, companies with a proven safety track record may have the opportunity to opt to participate in Voluntary Protection Programs. According to the former assistant secretary of OSHA, there has been no rigorous study proving that VPP is effective. In most cases, VPP participants were larger companies that had the resources to create quality safety programs.
Oklahoma maritime and general industry employers should be aware that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a compliance fact sheet on standards for worker exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Studies have shown that crystalline silica, which is found in stone, artificial stone and sand, can cause cancer. Exposed workers can also develop a chronic lung disease known as silicosis.
A survey conducted by Rave Mobile Safety resulted in some statistics that may be helpful to Oklahoma employees and employers alike. The survey provides insight into how workers and companies handle workplace safety communications. Among the conclusions drawn from the survey was that Generation Z and Millennial workers were less informed regarding matters of workplace safety than were Baby Boomers. About 53 percent of Millennials who responded were unaware of their workplace's emergency plans, compared to 34 percent of respondents who were 45 or older.
Oklahoma EMS workers may be interested to learn that a new set of guidelines has been established to reduce their on-the-job fatigue levels. The guidelines were created by the National Association of State EMS Officials and the Univesity of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and they were published in the journal Prehospital Emergency Care on Jan. 11.
Oklahoma workers should be aware that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that the number of job site deaths caused by backing vehicles has been constant across the country from 2012 to 2015. To remain safe at work and to avoid being injured or killed by vehicles that are traveling in reverse, there are some best practices that can be used.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal agency responsible for protecting workers, has lost a total of 40 inspectors during President Trump's first year in office. By early October of 2017, the number of OSHA inspectors fell below 1,000. This should be of concern to residents of Oklahoma who work in high-risk industries like construction and manufacturing as the decrease in inspectors has affected regional OSHA offices as well.
Oklahoma employees who have to work around silica should be aware of a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It rejected the challenges from industry groups regarding the silica rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The court also required the agency to explain why medical surveillance provisions were left out of the silica rule.
As many as 13 million workers in Oklahoma and throughout the country may be exposed to chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin. Although many chemical safety programs have focused on preventing chemicals from being inhaled, less has been done about preventing absorption through the skin. If a chemical does make contact with a worker's skin, he or she could be at risk for developing conditions such as infections or skin cancer.