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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

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.

New cranking techniques could reduce injuries for Texas truckers

Millions of men and women across the country drive trucks for a living. They spend long hours behind the wheel as they carry loads from one city to another. Though federal laws limit how long and how far they can drive, injuries may still occur. The long hours they spend at work often lead to repetitive injuries and other damages that can cost thousands in medical expenses and lead to workers' compensation claims.

New research found that proper cranking techniques can reduce the risk of injury to drivers. Cranking is a relatively common task that involves raising or lowering trailers. Researchers with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and North Carolina State University observed drivers in the field and found that those who stood parallel to their trucks while cranking their loads did less damage to their bodies.

2017 sees slight dip in work-related fatalities

Texas residents who work in the transportation and construction industry should know that work-related deaths around the country declined from 5,190 in 2016 to 5,147 in 2017, though their industries still compose the majority of fatalities. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its annual report, states that the number is still high compared to the previous low of 4,551 in 2009.

Transportation, material moving, construction and extraction workers composed 47 percent of the deaths in 2017. On the other hand, the private manufacturing industry and wholesale trade industry saw their lowest number of fatalities since 2003. Workers older than 44 composed 2,989 of the fatalities, which represents little change from 2016. Workers 65 or older made up 15 percent of fatalities, the highest that percentage has been since 2003.

Most contract worker electrocution deaths are in construction

After analyzing electrocution deaths among contract workers from 2012 to 2016, the National Fire Protection Association found that the majority of them are in the construction and extraction fields. Specifically, of the 13 percent of contract workers who died from electrocution, 68 percent were in those industries. Almost 30 percent of the deaths took place on construction sites. Contract workers in Texas will want to know what is causing this trend.

Contract workers are either self-employed independent contractors or employees of another firm; both are represented in the figures. Of the construction contract worker electrocution fatalities, 57 percent were construction trade workers, 31 percent were electricians and 11 percent were construction laborers. Roofers and supervisors both made up 5 percent of the total. Approximately 42 percent died through direct exposure to electricity greater than 220 volts while 37 percent were killed through indirect contact.

OSHA proposes rule changes for electronic submissions

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is proposing a rule change that would no longer require large employers to electronically submit the private health data of employees. OSHA introduced this proposal at the end of July 2018, and the organization has received thousands of comments about the issue from businesses and advocacy groups throughout Texas and the rest of the country. The rule change specifically affects Forms 300 and 301.

Many businesses have applauded OSHA's proposal as it releases a large regulatory burden due to the large amounts of health records that needed to be sent to the government. Other proponents feel that this is a win for the privacy concerns of employees. Some labor unions have described the action as cynical. They believe that the government can adequately protect the private data, but there have been incidents where government records have been breached.

OSHA renews focus on trench safety with updated national program

Plumbers, construction workers and utility workers in Texas sometimes need to excavate trenches, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wants to make sure that employers and workers take the risks seriously. In October, the agency enhanced its National Emphasis Program on Trenching and Excavation to increase resources available to help employers comply with regulations and educate workers.

The program seeks to improve compliance by distributing educational materials, such as a trenching safety poster and a new web page with information about preventing soil collapses that can injure or kill workers. Employers can also discuss specific concerns with compliance assistance specialists who can inform them about safe work practices.

OSHA on how to protect temporary workers

To protect temporary workers from exploitation and unsafe job sites in Texas, OSHA requires certain requirements to be met. The responsibility of meeting these requirements falls with both the staffing agencies and host employers. First, both sides should know that they have a joint liability to temp workers and that this should be laid out clearly in their contract.

The main responsibility is to ensure a work environment that is safe and OSHA-compliant, especially in regard to hazard training and communication as well as recordkeeping whenever incidents arise. Staffing agencies must provide health and safety training, general though it may be, while host employers must be more specific so that temp workers are trained for that particular workplace.

Failure to provide fall protection tops OSHA violations list

OSHA strives to help both workers and employers in Texas enjoy safe workplaces. Nevertheless, there some work environments where established regulations haven't been implemented or properly followed. In order to shine a spotlight on such issues, OSHA has issued its list of the most common workplace violations found in 2018. Accounting for more than 7,000 citations, fall violations, which often involve contractors working on steep roofs and other high surfaces without protection, once again topped the list.

At No. 2 on the list was hazard communication violations. These are issued for failing to have a written program in place to deal with known hazards. Failure to maintain or develop safety data sheets is a related issue that also resulted in multiple violations.

OSHA initiative for safer trench work

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is releasing new guidelines that could make trenching and excavation work safer for employees in Texas. This National Emphasis Program (NEP) comes as a response to a number of trench-related deaths and accidents in recent years.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Data, there were 130 fatalities linked to trenching and excavation between 2011 and 2016. Most of the deaths (80 percent) were in the private construction industry.

CDC identifies which jobs are riskier for carpal tunnel

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which a compressed median nerve causes pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the hand or wrist. Anyone who engages in activities that put the hands and wrists in awkward postures or that involve forceful, repetitive tasks is at risk. Unfortunately, some Texas jobs have a high rate of CTS among employees.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified what industries and occupations see the highest CTS rates. Its data was culled from the California Department of Public Health, which analyzed workers' compensation claims for CTS in that state.

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