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El Paso Workers'' Compensation Law Blog

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.

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.

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