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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

Providing workers with double hearing protection

OSHA has a permissible exposure limit in place that's meant to protect all workers in Texas and across the U.S. from overexposure to loud noises. The safety organization also has a hearing conservation program requirement. Employers are to train employees on how to monitor noise levels and safeguard themselves. This naturally means providing the right hearing protection devices.

In some cases, employees may need more than one hearing protection device. They may, for example, have to wear both earmuffs and earplugs. This is called double protection, and NIOSH generally recommends it when workers' exposure to noise exceeds a time-weighted average of 100 A-weighted decibels over a single eight-hour shift. The Mine Safety and Health Administration recommends that miners wear double protection when that average is 105 dBA.

OSHA makes safety training ruling

Employers in Texas and throughout America must offer safety training to any workers who may face hazards on the job. Generally speaking, they may use computers as part of employee training efforts. While these can help workers learn important skills, OSHA says that computer or online training courses are not acceptable on their own. Instead, workers must be taught skills such as putting on protective equipment in an interactive and physical setting.

According to OSHA, not allowing workers to train with qualified professionals can make it harder for them to learn important safety lessons. By working with professional trainers, workers can learn new skills or ensure that they have not forgotten skills learned in the past. Furthermore, trainers can help to correct any mistakes that a worker may be making. However, OSHA has said that it may be acceptable to offer online training as long as workers have access to a trainer if they have any questions.

Workers' compensation insurance: the basics

In Texas, as in other states, most employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. In the event that employees are injured on the job, this insurance can cover a portion of the wages they lose as well as help them pay for their medical treatments. The insurance also covers funeral and burial expenses in case of a fatality. Death benefits can be paid out based on length of employment and annual income.

Workers' compensation insurance has existed in some form or another since the time of the ancient Sumerians. In the 1900s, the U.S. passed the Employers' Liability Act, which granted workers "on-the-job" financial protection. Workers' compensation is used to cover both full-time and part-time employees across the nation. Freelance workers are not covered and must get workers' compensation from a private insurer.

True workplace safety requires more than reactivity

Worker's compensation was designed as a system to address the inevitability of on the job accidents and provide the injured worker with medical treatment, wage replacement and retraining if necessary without the need to prove the employer's negligence or fault. In turn, the employee cannot file a personal injury suit against the employer. However, in Texas, worker's comp is optional for most types of business. This has resulted in most Texas employers opting out of worker's comp, but they must have some means available to compensate injured workers.

Workplace safety analysts maintain that a safe work environment is not merely one with a system in place that reacts to and cares for injured workers but is one that proactively creates a culture of safety with the goal of prevention. Management must be invested in creating an atmosphere where workers look out for each other, follow safety guidelines and are not afraid to report non-compliance issues when observed.

How job quality affects workers' health

Workers in Texas and other states may be interested in the results of a study that analyzed how the work that people do and the way it is organized influence their wealth and health. Employment relationships are complex and determine opportunities for advancement, work schedules, salary and protection against dangerous or adverse working conditions.

In the study, individuals with dead-end jobs, like working in a manufacturing assembly line and having little room for new opportunities, and those with precarious jobs, like retail workers or janitors, were more likely to report poor mental and general health and workplace injury. Individuals in skilled positions with inflexible hours, like physicians, and gig workers had increased injuries and worse mental health when compared to those with standard employment.

OSHA: employers must measure respiratory hazards

Under OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard, all employers must evaluate respiratory hazards in the workplace before determining if their workers need respirators. This, as employers in Texas should know, was the decision that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit came to back in September 2019.

The court made its decision after hearing a case about inadequate tests that were being made of respiratory hazards in a marine vessel repair facility. The superintendent, who was designated as the "competent person" to conduct tests, had failed to consider the hazard found in welding fumes. OSHA inspectors also found that the workers there were suffering due to improper ventilation.

Dosimetry limits radiation risks to Texas workplace safety

Though low, the risks of radiation exposure are cumulative and severe. This is due in part to the fact that some types can cause negative health consequences 10 years or longer after exposure. Workers exposed to too much radiation may face an increased risk of several types of cancer and other negative health outcomes. El Paso employees who work around radiation sources will benefit from an understanding of how dosimetry can limit health risks.

The most common exposure threat is found from ionizing radiation devices. These are in widespread use in dental and medical offices. All employees in settings with an X-ray machine are considered to be at risk. OSHA publishes a number of standards regarding radiation exposure. However, one industry author maintains that while workplace safety standards for radiation do exist, none tell "what is too much for each person."

Be aware of new EPA labeling requirements

Texas workers must often be concerned with the safe handling of hazardous materials while on the job. New guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency are designed to increase awareness and improve workplace safety. Becoming familiar with these guidelines is the best way to ensure materials are properly handled, stored and disposed of.

The EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act governs the labeling of hazardous materials. Until recently, waste generators were not required to identify hazardous materials or warn others about their dangers. The latest mandates, however, require labels that clearly state 'hazardous waste" along with a description of what is in the container. The date on which waste began accumulating must be included as well.

How to be proactive about worker safety

All Texas employees face the risk of getting hurt on the job, even if they work indoors. For those who work in office settings, they could experience neck, back or leg injuries if they don't sit at their desks properly. Ideally, individuals who work at their desks will make sure that their feet are firmly on the floor. Furthermore, their arms and back should be fully supported.

If a person is working at a computer, the computer screen should be at eye level. This eliminates the need for that individual to crane their neck. Those who work inside could also get hurt or sick because of air quality within a building. Some workers experience nosebleeds, fatigue or dizziness because of airborne contaminants.

Keeping flaggers safe in work zones

Roadway work zones can be a dangerous place for flaggers, the ones who control the flow of traffic. Car crashes in work zones are nothing new in Texas. According to WorkZoneSafety.org, 2017 alone saw a total of 132 crash fatalities in roadway work zones. The Center for Construction Research and Training states that most of these crashes occur because of aggressive or speeding drivers.

The CPWR has a host of safety tips that flaggers will want to take into account. Some of the most important tips involve clothing. To prepare for adverse weather, flaggers should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hard hats. Their clothing should be high-visibility, and when they work at night, they should wear a reflective vest over it.

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