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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

OSHA may revise Lockout/Tagout Standard, faces challenges

Workers in Texas, especially construction workers, know that some machines and equipment are liable to start up on their own or release stored-up energy, causing harm. This is why OSHA has developed what is called the Lockout/Tagout Standard. In May 2019, OSHA issued a Request for Information that would help modernize this standard in two ways.

The first is to use control circuit type devices as an alternative to full energy isolation. OSHA wants to find out, then, what control circuit type devices would be reasonably safe in this role. This will clear up any legal concerns for those employers who already use such devices. With OSHA requesting information on control circuits, they could become more widely used across various industries. Then, the second way to update the standard is through robotics.

Five steps to improving loading dock safety

Texas residents who work in manufacturing plants or warehouses are probably aware that the loading dock is the center of the action. For this reason, many accidents can take place around the loading dock. Slips, trips and falls, which account for more than 25% of workplace injuries every year, are especially common. By following five easy tips, though, employers can improve loading dock safety and reduce injury risk.

To begin with, preventing slips, trips and falls is not so hard; employers simply need to ensure regular repairs and inspections for the loading dock. Worn bumpers, potholes and other noticeable damage should be addressed as soon as possible. Employees should be trained to sweep up debris and mop up spills. Signs and cones should be placed around spills.

OSHA's requirements for machine guarding

Plant employees in Texas often spend a lot of their time operating machinery. For this reason, OSHA has machine guarding requirements meant to keep industrial workers safe while on the job. With movable machines, employers are required to provide some type of guard. Barrier guards, electronic safety devices and two-hand tripping devices are among the many options available.

Proper machine guarding doesn't prevent all potential hazards, but it may provide added protection against injury risks related to sparks, rotating parts and flying chips. OHSA requires many different types of machines to be fitted with appropriate guarding devices. In addition to milling machines and power saws, guillotine cutters, shears, portable power tools, jointers and foaming rolls are some of the many machines that need to sufficiently guarded where specific tasks are performed, referred to as the point of operation.

NIOSH fact sheet may help prevent falls in construction

Construction workers in Texas and elsewhere are often injured in falls from scaffolds, roofs and ladders. In fact, the majority of such falls (86%, 81% and 57% respectively) occur in the construction industry. Falls, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are the leading cause of death in the industry. They are behind an average of 310 deaths and 10,350 serious injuries every year.

NIOSH hopes to prevent falls in construction with its new fact sheet, which comes with several recommendations. Together with OSHA and the CPWR, the organization is also helped employers prepare for the National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which took place May 6 to 10, with free online resources.

Workplace safety rules can also boost efficiency

Electrical accidents can cause serious injuries or even fatalities to Texas workers, which is one reason why a standard has been developed to help enhance workplace safety for employees dealing with electricity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), charged with regulating safety on a federal level, requested industry itself develop a standard for electrical safety on the job. The result has become known as NFPA 70E and provides a framework for safer dealings with electricity at work.

NFPA 70E can provide guidelines for workplace safety around electricity as well as a series of rules and procedures that also make the job more efficient. Even those employers who begin with the premise of safety find that following these rules can enhance productivity. Most importantly, following these safety guidelines can prevent the most severe impacts to productivity on the job: serious workplace injuries and deaths related to electricity.

Analyzing risk versus safety at work

Simply creating safety rules and procedures may not be enough for Texas companies to keep workers from getting hurt. Instead, it may be better to consider strategies that favor specific outcomes as opposed to completing tasks. It is also a good idea for companies to think of ways to remain productive without putting their employees in danger. Often times, companies will try to prioritize safety or production as opposed to focusing on how to do both.

It is important to note that a lack of reported accidents doesn't mean that employees are safe. Ideally, employees and managers will continually be on the lookout for hazards as they emerge. This can put everyone within an organization in a proactive mindset as it relates to reducing risk. By eliminating or managing known risks within an organization, it can result in a better safety record.

Study finds high vibration levels on some types of farm machinery

Anybody working with farm machinery in Texas must take proper precautions when working with such equipment. However, in some instances, it's the machinery itself that increases the risk of people sustaining work-related injuries. A study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that whole-body vibration levels on 30 percent of the farm machinery tested exceeded the European Union's "action level" exposure limit for vibrations.

Tractors, combines, forklifts and skid loaders were among the various pieces of farm equipment tested by researchers, who attached sensors to the floors and seats. The concern is that exposure to excessive vibrations could increase workplace injury rates. Researchers looked at how well the seats minimized vibration levels along with the posture of the farm workers when they were on the machinery.

Ladder Safety Month aims to reduce workplace injuries

Each year, over 300 Americans are killed in home- or work-related ladder accidents. In order to raise awareness about ladder safety in Texas and across the United States, the American Ladder Institute is holding its annual National Ladder Safety Month in March.

According to the ALI, most on-the-job ladder accidents can be prevented by providing safety training to workers. It is also important for workers to have access to the correct type of ladder required for each job. The non-profit organization has also found that most ladder injuries fall into one of three major categories. If employers and workers understand these categories, they should be able to avoid them.

How to keep temporary workers safe in Texas

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 856 workplace fatalities involving contracted workers in 2016. That is about 16.5 percent of all workplace deaths throughout America in that year. A contracted worker is someone who is employed by one company but is controlled by another. Contracted workers may be vulnerable to injury or death because they aren't familiar with their environment and the issues that they could encounter.

Furthermore, employers don't always think of temporary workers as a part of their overall workforce. Instead, they think of them as a separate component of the workforce, which may mean that they don't receive proper training or other resources. Ideally, temporary workers will be treated by an organization the same as anyone else who is employed by a company.

Many workplace accidents still occur in confined spaces

In Texas and other states, permit-required confined space entry (PRCS) injuries and fatalities still occur fairly frequently. This is based on both new and old statistics regarding workplace injuries of this nature. Each year, roughly 2 million individuals enter confined spaces to perform some type of work-related tasks.

While industrial workers' accidents sometimes take place in areas with limited space, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that the majority of employees entering confined areas are rescue workers. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) adds that multiple fatalities involving rescuers often include victims that are considered "would be" rescuers who attempt to support rescue efforts. Also with confined space incidents, NIOSH investigations show that more than 80 percent of the times accidents occurred a supervisor was in the confined space. In fact, stats from past accidents show that nearly 30 percent of fatalities were supervisors.

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