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Chambersburg Injured Workers Blog

Seasonal workers have a right to a safe workplace

Workers in Pennsylvania may face unexpected dangers on the job, especially part-time seasonal workers who take an extra job during the holidays to supplement their income. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is issuing reminders to employers about their responsibilities for workplace safety and fair pay. An OSHA official emphasized that workers have a right to a safe environment on the job, including people doing escalated seasonal work including home deliveries, retail sales, shipping and packing or shelf stocking.

OSHA noted that retail stores have a responsibility to make their stores safe for workers. This includes having plans in place to manage large crowds during major, well-publicized sales to prevent trampling or other workplace injuries. For example, OSHA noted that stores can hire trained security guards and place physical barriers like barricades or rope lines to increase crowd control efficacy. In addition, OSHA provides guidelines for workplace protections in a number of industries affected by the holiday rush, including warehousing and truck driving.

Increasing awareness of workplace safety issues specific to women

According to experts who spoke at a women's workplace safety summit, safety issues faced by working women in Pennsylvania and other parts of the country are not being sufficiently addressed. It's an important issue due to the fact that 70 percent of the nearly 17,000 employees who experienced trauma as a result of workplace violence in 2016 were female according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. Topics covered during the gathering included ill-fitting personal protective equipment and workplace violence affecting women working in healthcare and retail occupations.

A senior loss control consultant for a workers' comp insurer said she frequently sees claims concerning violence in the healthcare and social services sectors that significantly impact women. A technical safety specialist at a leading industrial supplies and equipment provider spoke about under-reported issues with violence experienced by women working at late-night gas stations. With regards to ill-fitting personal protective equipment, a different group of experts noted that part of the problem may be that not many manufacturers make the equipment with women in mind.

Robotics safety in the workplace

As automation has changed many industries for workers in Pennsylvania, it can also have effects on workplace safety. Industrial robots have been a part of the manufacturing and production process for decades, and there are a number of laws and regulations that address the safety issues associated with them. In 1987, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration first issued its guidelines on robotics safety. It noted that as the use of robotics in industry continues to rise, workers could face injuries without sufficient guarding and training.

Robots are often used to perform tasks that would otherwise be unsafe, repetitive, unpleasant or dangerous. This is why automation is often credited with improving workplace safety in many cases. For example, the United Mine Workers Union supported increased automation in the mining industry as it helped to reduce certain hazards to workers from underground mining. However, early robots also created a number of hazards for workers. Testing, cleaning, inspection and repair could be particularly precarious times for workers handling the robots.

Pallet safety

When you see and use pallets every day, they can seem harmless. It’s just another thing that helps you get your job done.

Of course, there are also the days where there are so many pallets laying around the warehouse, that it can get overwhelming.

Winter weather can pose risk to construction workers

Construction workers in Pennsylvania often face dangerous conditions on the job that can all too easily lead to workplace accident or injury. This is especially true in the winter season when dark skies, cold temperatures and snowy precipitation may add extra risks to a construction area. Workers may be more vulnerable to frostbite, and equipment could be damaged in winter weather. Safety measures help make winter construction safer for everyone involved.

As winter approaches, it is important to inspect road and parking areas to repair potholes or other damage before snowfall or a frozen ground settles in. Maintenance will be easier if the surface below is repaired prior to heavy winter weather. In addition, holes, ditching and excavations should be clearly marked, particularly if they run the risk of being obscured by snowfall. Sites should be sure to have salt, sand or grit on site and ready to apply in case of frozen or slippery passageways. In addition, construction equipment should be using oils and fluids that are rated for winter temperatures.

Fall protection issues lead workplace safety violations

Pennsylvania workers can face an array of dangerous conditions in the workplace, some of which are caused by an employer's neglect of federal safety standards. At the 2018 National Safety Council Congress, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration deputy director unveiled the agency's top 10 violations of workplace safety rules for the prior year. The statistics covered the period beginning in October 2017 and ending in September 2018, and they highlighted certain common hazards on the job.

The top item on the list has remained the same for the past several years, and violations can lead to serious workplace injuries and even deaths: failure to provide fall protection. Employers have a duty to provide proper protective equipment to prevent falls from heights or to minimize risk if they occur. However, 7,270 violations were issued for failing to provide fall protection to workers operating on roofs or unguarded edges. In addition to failing to provide fall protection equipment, employers' training methods were also lacking. OSHA issued 1,982 violations in the past year for failure to meet training requirements for fall protection. Employers failed to provide training or make sure that a competent person was providing it.

Former couple from PA accused of massive SSD fraud

In closing the estate of a disabled veteran early this fall, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania became alerted to a case of fraud that has now resulted in charges being filed against a formerly married couple. The two are accused of defrauding a disabled veteran of $316,360 in VA and Social Security disability benefits over the course of twelve years.

In 1985, a man serving in the U.S. Army was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His conditioned worsened over time until his permanent hospitalization at the VA in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, in late 2004. Two years later, VA staff examined the veteran and deemed him incompetent to handle his own finances. Two months later, one of the accused applied to become the veteran’s financial and legal custodian. Per the Fiduciary Agreement that one of the accused signed, all disability benefits were to go solely to the veteran. Not even a month after gaining control of the veteran’s benefits, the charges state that the couple begun their spending spree.

OSHA's NEP for trenching and excavation safety begins

Employers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. know that trenching and excavation operations can be fraught with hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there have been 130 trenching- and excavation-related fatalities between 2011 and 2016. Nearly half of these occurred between 2015 and 2016, revealing an upward trend. Also, 80 percent of these fatalities were at private construction sites.

In response to the trend, OSHA has instituted a National Emphasis Program in regard to trenching and excavation safety that went into effect on Oct. 1. This same date marks the start of a three-month outreach period where OSHA's area and regional offices provide compliance assistance to employers. Employers can also consult OSHA's newly updated Trenching and Excavation Quick Card to make sure they follow the safety guidelines.

OIG: Employers underreporting severe workplace injuries

Workers in Pennsylvania may face more risks on the job than is immediately apparent when looking at published statistics and reports. The Department of Labor's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that employers have underreported workplace injuries and even fatalities on the job. In 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enacted a rule to strengthen requirements for correct employer reporting about serious workplace incidents, including accidents, illnesses and fatalities. Still, the OIG found that OSHA data continues to be deficient as does its information indicating that employers have addressed the issues that caused the incidents.

Before the 2014 update, OSHA required companies to report all work-related fatalities as well as inpatient hospitalizations affecting at least three workers. After the updates, however, employers also were required to report all inpatient hospitalizations related to work within 24 hours as well as amputations or losses of an eye. According to OSHA, employers reported 4,185 workplace deaths and 23,282 severe injuries on the job from 2015 through April 2017. After the incidents, OSHA carried out 10,475 inspections and employers undertook 14,834 investigations to delve into the causes of the accidents.

Survey shows workers may be ignoring fatigue on the job

Work-related stress affects 94 percent of workers in Pennsylvania and the rest of the U.S. Stress can lead to burnout, fatigue and chronic health conditions like depression and anxiety. It also leads to numerous accidents and a loss of productivity that costs employers from $450 billion to $550 billion every year.

A survey from the National Safety Council found that 69 percent of employees feel fatigued at work. The report goes on to say that there is a discrepancy between how employers perceive fatigue risk and how employees perceive it. 90 percent of employers said they recognize the impact of fatigue on their organizations, whereas only 72 percent of employees believe fatigue is a safety risk.

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