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Pittsburgh Workers' Compensation And Personal Injury Blog

The holidays create incentive for worker safety measures

Pennsylvania employers and others throughout the country must protect workers regardless of the tasks that they perform. This is according to a statement released from OSHA. It is timed to coincide with the holiday season, which is among the busiest shopping times of the year. Employees have the right to a safe workplace whether they are employed by the company throughout the year or are just hired for the holidays.

Employers that don't typically hire part-time or seasonal help can find guidance from the Department of Labor as to how workers should be paid. OSHA has tools that can help companies keep their workers safe at all times. Among the recommendations are to hire extra security and install ropes to manage the number of people inside a store at any given time. Businesses have an obligation to keep all of their people protected whether they work in a store, in a warehouse or in transportation as a driver.

Trucker speeding may be linked to increased fatalities

Truck accidents can be particularly dangerous for others sharing the Pennsylvania roadways. Because of the size and mass of large commercial vehicles, other people in a crash are at a higher risk of severe injuries or even death. In 2017, deaths associated with semi-truck crashes reached the highest point in 29 years according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some of these crashes may be caused by speeding truck drivers aiming to make up time before taking a mandatory rest break after eight hours of driving.

Some truck drivers say that an increasing number are speeding as they reach the end of an eight-hour shift, which could lead to serious trucking crashes. In 2017 alone, 37,133 people lost their lives in motor vehicle accidents. While overall crashes showed a minor downturn, fatalities due to trucking accidents rose by 9 percent to 4,761. Around 1,300 of the dead were truckers; the others were drivers and passengers in other vehicles, amounting to 72 percent of the total.

Be prepared for the perils of bowhunting this season

The well-known Pennsylvania bow manufacturer Fred Bear once said: "Not only is bowhunting fun and a real challenge, but it's good for you. The exercise in the fresh air, the chance to get away from everyday pressures and problems, a return to the basic relationships between man and his environment."

Many bowhunters in Pennsylvania share his opinion, and without taking essential safety precautions, this is an activity that could cause severe or even fatal injuries. It is hunting season, and you will want to return home safely. Whenever deadly weapons form part of hobbies or sports activities, there will be situations in which unanticipated tragedies can strike. Your life could change in the blink of an eye if even one member of the hunting party is negligent.

OSHA warns about 10 most common safety violations

Workers in Pennsylvania may face an array of dangers on the job, especially those who work at heights and face the risk of falls and the resulting severe injuries. At the 2018 National Safety Council Congress, a deputy director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed the regulator's top 10 workplace safety violations for the previous year. The statistics were calculated between October 2017 and September 2018, and the results reflected some persistent safety problems that have continued over the years.

The citation issued most commonly for employers violating federal safety rules was the same as it has been for the previous several years: failure to provide fall protection. Employers have a responsibility to provide workers operating at heights with protective equipment that can help to prevent falls or lessen their effects when an incident occurs. However, 7,270 citations were issued in the past year for employers that failed to provide necessary gear to workers near unprotected edges or working on roofs. Fall protection also came up in eighth place on the list as 1,982 violations were issued for employers that failed to provide proper training. In some cases, workers did not receive necessary training; in other cases, the training was not provided by a qualified person.

Common causes of workplace accidents

Workers in Pennsylvania may face a number of risks on the job on a daily basis. People who are hurt in workplace accidents could lose wages and businesses lose revenue as a result. However, many on-the-job injuries are preventable. In many other cases, the severity of the injury can be lessened by taking proper safety precautions.

One of the most common workplace injuries is a slip-and-fall accident. According to some figures, one-third of all on-the-job injuries are caused by slips, trips and falls. While they may sound like relatively minor incidents, they can be serious and lead to back and spinal cord injuries, head trauma and traumatic brain injuries, pulled muscles, sprains and broken bones. Approximately 15 percent of all accidental workplace fatalities are caused by falls and slips while they comprise 17 percent of permanently disabling workplace injuries. Businesses can reduce the risk of these potentially devastating injuries by properly cleaning up, warning and labeling slippery areas. Uneven or damaged walkways should also be repaired to avoid workers slipping and falling.

Despite decrease in small vehicle fatalities, truck deaths are up

Pennsylvania motorists will be happy to learn that overall driving fatalities have dipped over the past year. That is the good news. Unfortunately, not all classifications of driving deaths have dropped. One notable exception is deaths involving large trucks.

According to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, there were slight decreases in deaths caused by car, van and SUV accidents. Motorcycle fatalities showed a significant decrease of 8 percent. However, the number of large truck-accident fatalities showed a relatively significant increase for 2017. According to the Administration, these fatalities increased by 9 percent.

OIG calls out OSHA for underreporting of workplace injuries

In January 2015, certain changes to OSHA's injury and illness record-keeping rule went into effect. However, according to an audit report from the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, OSHA may not be doing enough to keep thorough records of serious and fatal workplace injuries. The audit was released in September 2018 and may be of interest to employers in Pennsylvania.

The OIG estimates that OSHA may have let 50 percent or more injury cases go unreported and that it is inconsistent in the way it issues citations against late reporters. The OIG also points out a lack of training regarding the detection and prevention of underreporting. There may be a lack of resources on OSHA's part that limits its ability to provide enforcement and compliance assistance.

Shield yourself from the hazards in the oil and gas industry

If you work in the petrochemical industry in Pennsylvania, you already likely know that it is a potentially hazardous occupation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has industrial standards that govern safety protocols in this industry, and compliance with the regulations can minimize the risks.

Your employer is responsible for your health and safety on the job. However, he or she will expect you to take some responsibility as you navigate the hazards of your allocated tasks in the oil patch. A good start might be never to miss any safety training. Even if you think you have heard it all before, it will continue to test your knowledge, and re-training can prevent you from becoming complacent — and even more vulnerable.

Most construction accidents can be prevented

Pittsburgh construction workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in America. While construction workers make up only 6 percent of the U.S. workforce, they account for over 20 percent of all worker deaths in the private sector. In 2016, nearly 1,000 construction workers lost their lives in job-related accidents, according to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Workplace safety advocates say that more than 60 percent of construction accidents are preventable. For example, falls are one of the most common causes of worker injuries and deaths in the construction industry. However, they can be easily prevented by following basic industry safety standards, including the consistent use of fall protection equipment, properly sized ladders and stable work surfaces. Another common cause of injuries and deaths is workers being struck by objects, including work vehicles. These accidents can be prevented by creating clear vehicle routes on worksites and training workers on the proper use of equipment.

Investigation reveals unsafe conditions at Amazon warehouses

A media outlet has launched an investigation into alleged unsafe working conditions at Amazon's fulfillment warehouses in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. There have been numerous reports of worker injuries and mistreatment at the facilities.

The Guardian reports that its investigation revealed multiple cases of workplace accidents at Amazon warehouses. The newspaper further claims that Amazon's poor treatment of injured workers has pushed some of them into poverty and homelessness. For example, one worker at a Pennsylvania facility was fired just five weeks after suffering an on-the-job injury. In another case, a former worker filed a lawsuit claiming that Amazon fired him and denied him workers' compensation benefits after he hurt his back at a Florida facility.

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