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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

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.

DOL report criticizes OSHA data gathering practices

At least half of the severe injuries suffered each year by workers in Texas and around the country are not reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to a report released on Sept. 13 by the Department of Labor. The DOL's Office of Inspector General concludes in the report that changes made to OSHA's record-keeping rules, which were implemented in January 2015, have done little to address the issue.

The OIG audit report criticizes OSHA for not doing enough to gather information about work-related illnesses and injuries and questions the number of citations handed out to employers that do not take the filing requirements seriously. The OIG says that OSHA could improve workplace safety significantly by training employers to detect and prevent underreporting as the information currently being gathered is not sufficient to effectively guide the agency's enforcement practices.

The top five hazards that affect construction workers

OSHA has stated that there were 1,000 construction deaths in 2016. Moreover, 60 percent of the deaths were preventable. Construction workers in Texas should be familiar with the five leading causes of death in the construction industry: they are falls, struck-by incidents, electrical accidents, caught-in-between incidents and exposure to hazardous materials.

Falls account for a third of all construction deaths. Such deaths could occur because of unstable work surfaces, a lack of fall prevention equipment like guardrails and safety nets or a lack of personal protective equipment like hard hats and non-slip work boots. Ladders and scaffolding that do not comply with safety standards will also increase the risk.

Amazon called out for worker injuries

Companies in Texas and every other state have an obligation to keep workers safe. However, Amazon was a part of the April 2018 "dirty dozen" list created by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. According to the list, there were seven deaths at Amazon warehouses since 2013, and three of those deaths took place within a five-week period in 2017.

While the company touts its safety record, one employee claimed that he was terminated after a back injury. His lawsuit claims that a manager said the 43-year-old man was too young to have back problems. The man was terminated before he was even able to see a doctor. An employee in Pennsylvania was terminated weeks after getting hurt while working in a fulfillment center. There have also been reports of employees quitting because of the stress and exhaustion that they experience while on the job.

Tree care workers face high risks and patchy safety regulations

On-the-job hazards come at tree care workers in Texas from all directions. They can get hurt or killed by falling from high places, getting struck by falling limbs, coming in contact with electrical utility wires or encountering problems with chainsaws or wood chippers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not have regulations specifically for tree care workers. They work under rules developed for various occupations like loggers or construction workers. Although OSHA plans to create safety standards for tree workers, employers currently observe a patchwork of OSHA rules, state regulations and Arboricultural Operations--Safety Requirements.

Employers and employees can work together to promote workplace safety. Managers of a tree company could meet with workers to gather information about hazards and ideas for improving safety. Training should aim to inform workers about how to recognize power line dangers and use fall protection equipment correctly.

OSHA guidelines on preventing struck-by injuries

Being struck by objects is one of the four most deadly hazards in the workplace according to OSHA. Struck-by injuries can be caused by a range of objects, including falling, flying, rolling, swinging and slipping objects. Employers and employees in Texas will want to know what OSHA guidelines are regarding the prevention of these injuries.

The first step is for workers to wear the personal protective equipment that's required in their respective industries. This can include hard hats, goggles and steel-toe shoes. Workers should never work on machinery unless they have received the proper training. They should also make sure the safety devices on their equipment are functional.

Logging, fishing top list of most dangerous jobs in US

Not only are some industries more hazardous than others, but some are more dangerous than might be expected. Employers and employees in Texas should consider the list of the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S., which were recently compiled based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS, in its 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, has also calculated the fatal work injury rate and the number of deaths in each industry listed.

Logging workers, fishers and fishing workers, aircraft pilots and flight engineers, roofers and trash and recycling collectors formed the top five categories. The riskiest industry, logging, had a fatal work injury rate of 135.9 per 100,000 workers (full-time or the equivalent). The last five in the top 10 were iron and steel workers, truck and sales drivers, farmers and ranchers, construction managers and grounds maintenance workers.

Reducing slip, trip and fall hazards in the workplace

Slip, trips and falls that occur in Texas workplaces can result in serious injuries for workers. Because these types of injuries can have a major impact on an employee's health and ability to work, employers should be diligent in uncovering and preventing these types of injuries from occurring.

Although inspections may be time consuming, employers should conduct a comprehensive safety audit in order to identify any unsafe workplace conditions that the workplace may have. It should be noted, however, that many safety audits do not focus on floor safety. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, floor safety audits are not required although employers are responsible for inspecting all walking-working surfaces. Regardless, conducting a floor audit could save the company money and provide a safe workplace for employees.

Calculating the cost of a workplace accident

Employers in Texas could pay a high cost for failing to keep their workers safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of a worker's life is about $1 million. This takes into account legal fees, medical costs and workers' compensation expenses. Furthermore, an accident that is caused by an employer's willful negligence could lead to an OSHA fine of $129,336.

There are also many hidden costs that are hard to put an exact price on. For instance, a company could need to replace damaged property or deal with lower productivity because of a loss in employee morale. An accident could also lead to poor publicity for the business, which may result in losing current clients or future job opportunities. Large companies are not exempt from having policies that don't take worker safety into account.

Sanitation Workers Face Dangerous Work Conditions

Sanitation workers are a necessary part of the workforce, helping to keep cities in Texas and across the United States free of trash. While seeing a sanitation worker collecting trash from homes and business is a fairly common sight, it is not commonly known the dangers that many workers face in their jobs. According to the Solid Waste Association of North America, seven sanitation workers were killed during the first 10 days of 2018.

Additionally, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that recyclable and refuse material collectors had the fifth highest rate of fatal work injuries in civil occupations in 2016. This amounts to 10 times higher risk compared with other occupations. Injuries and fatalities have been found to occur before, during and after each work shift.

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