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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

What employers should know about safety signs

Texas employers that have not yet adopted the current American National Standards Institute workplace safety poster designs may be unwittingly putting their people in danger. This is because the old signs were written in English only, which means that those who are not fluent in that language may not benefit from them. Furthermore, they only identify what the danger is while neglecting to mention the consequences of such a hazard. These signs also do nothing to help a person avoid the hazard.

Older signs may not stand out from other objects on the wall, which may render them useless. As the newer signs are better at communicating what a person can do to avoid a hazard, it may protect a company from financial loss if an accident occurs that leads to injury. In addition, employers are encouraged to use these signs because doing so puts them in compliance with OSHA standards while also working to improve worker safety.

Hazardous working conditions cause 150 deaths daily

Texas workers may be dismayed to learn that about 150 employees lose their lives daily because of a preventable occupational injury or illness, according to a report compiled by the AFL-CIO. However, the report also noted that since the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was passed, the lives of roughly 553,000 employees have been saved.

In its report, the labor union said that 50,000 to 60,000 employees lost their lives because of a work-related disease in 2015, and nearly 5,000 employee fatalities occurred because of on-the-job injuries in that year. In regards to immigrant workers, the amount who suffered a fatal workplace injury or illness was the highest within about a decade. The AFL-CIO report states that weak safety laws and corporate negligence are to blame for the workplace tragedies.

Stopping chemical plant injuries

Workers in Texas who are employed at chemical manufacturing plants are exposed to many dangers. Understanding the different types of injuries that can occur and why they take place is necessary to learning how to limit accident hazards.

The flammable nature and toxicity of chemicals are two of the reasons chemical plants are so dangerous. Employees can be exposed to the harmful chemical via inhalation or skin contact. They can also trip and fall, overexert themselves or incur cuts and abrasions. In order to prevent accidents in chemical manufacturing plants, it is important to know why and how they occur. Even when safeguards are in place to limit accidents, the workers can still sustain injuries.

Texas lawmakers introduce workers' compensation bills

In Texas, two bills have been introduced to help firefighters and law enforcement personnel. One bill would help first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder related to their jobs to get workers' compensation for PTSD if they can present evidence showing that their condition was largely caused by their job. The existing law states only that compensation can be obtained in the case of mental impairment. According to the representative who introduced the bill, this introduces financial obstacles and a stigma that could prevent some from seeking help. Another bill will create a liaison that assists first responders whose disputes over workers' compensation claims has caused them distress.

A number of specific examples were cited to support the bills. For example, in 2016, five officers died in a shooting and another nine were wounded. Law enforcement and firefighting also has a high incidence of suicide. More officers committed suicide in 2015 than died in motor vehicle accidents or in the line of duty.

Training key to construction safety

The construction industry is set to boom in 2017. While this is good for construction employment in Texas and shows a positive trend in the economy, construction firms must keep a keen eye on the safety of their employees. Construction safety has increased dramatically in the last few decades, but 2015 was still one of the most dangerous years for construction work compared to nearly all other professions, including manufacturing. Professionals specializing in safety report that training and experience of employees are essential.

According to OSHA, there are four important types of construction accidents: caught-in or caught-between, electrocution, falls and struck by. The good news is that this means workers and managers can be specially trained to avoid these high-risk accidents so the workplace is safer.

Solicitor's office voices commitment to employee safety

Texas workers may be interested to learn that the U.S. Department of Labor is fully committed to workplace safety. It accomplishes this through legal actions and by participating in alternative resolution options with employers and developing new regulations that could help keep the workplace safe for both workers and employers.

The deputy solicitor of labor stated that the main priority was to ensure that the workplace was safe for workers. This goal was to be accomplished by enforcing the Occupational Safety and Health Act. When a workplace violation is found, investigators will examine the entire business to determine if the problem can be found in other parts of the enterprise. If this is the case, employers are able to fix the issues.

OSHA says use gates instead of ladders for fall protection

Some Texas workers might not know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has deemed chains unsafe as fall protection for ladders. According to an OSHA rule from 2016, either an offset or a self-closing gate must be used at entrances to ladder holes.

The confusion about the safety of chains is because of an OSHA letter of interpretation from 1982. This letter stated that if chains were at least as safe as a gate, they could be used instead. Manufacturers then began using chains in order to save money, and people became accustomed to seeing the chains on equipment and continued to assume they were safe.

Loading dock safety

People who work on loading docks under certain conditions may be at risk of slipping and falling and incurring serious injuries while performing routine tasks. However, there are certain things Texas workers can do to avoid slips, such as ensuring that each loading dock opening is properly sealed to prevent the infiltration of weather elements.

Identifying the areas on a closed loading dock door where light is able to seep in can help locate gaps from where snow, dust and other contaminants can enter. The type of products that are used to seal the gaps will depend on what type of gap exists. A complete seal also requires that the top of the trailer is impenetrable. If there is an existing dock seal, an additional overhead sealing product that is heavy enough to form a solid and consistent connection with the trailer while it is being jostled during loading may work.

OSHA rule aims to improve injury reporting policies

There are numerous state and federal regulations that employers in Texas and around the country must abide by, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration began enforcing a new one on Dec. 1, 2016. OSHA uses workplace accident and injury data to identify areas of concern and develop strategies to address them, and it is crucial that this information accurately reflects what is going on in workplaces around the country.

The new OSHA rule addresses company policies that could deter employees from reporting workplace injuries or punish them for doing so. Federal and state regulations call for certain workers, such as pilots or railroad engineers, to be tested for drug use after an accident, but many companies have far more sweeping drug testing policies in place. Under the new rule, employers are only able to order these tests when they reasonably believe that drug use may have contributed to a workplace injury accident.

OSHA pushes to expand definition of work-related hearing loss

If proposed clarifications to rules governing the reporting of work-related hearing loss become effective, more Texas workers might have access to workers' compensation benefits. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has proposed revisions to existing rules that could influence how many people can claim hearing loss as a workplace injury.

Current regulations create confusion about whether an employer needs to record a worker's hearing loss if a noisy work environment only aggravated the condition. One rule declares that an employer does not need to report someone's medical problem if a health care provider determined that the workplace did not significantly contribute to it. Another section, however, refers to an employer's need to record an illness or injury even if on-the-job exposure only contributed to it.

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