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Chambersburg Injured Workers Blog

Enforcement for new crystalline silica rules begin June 23

Starting on June 23, employers in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. must comply with new rules limiting workers' exposure to respirable crystalline silica. To prepare employers and workers, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a memorandum outlining the agency's enforcement schedule.

The new silica rule limits worker exposure to an average of 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air per 8-hour shift. It also mandates that employers install engineering controls for silica in their facilities, create silica control plans and offer medical exams to employees. Over the first month of enforcement, OSHA will offer compliance assistance to employers who make a genuine effort to follow the new standard. The agency will then offer interim enforcement guidance until it issues a final compliance directive.

Preventing fatalities among sanitation workers

According to the Solid Waste Association of North America, 7 sanitation workers were killed in the first 10 days of 2018. The Bureau of Labor Statistics date shows that sanitation workers ranked fifth among civilians with the highest workplace fatality rates in 2016. Anyone in Pennsylvania who is connected to this industry will want to know what has been done to keep it safe and what can still be done on the part of employees and employers.

The American National Standards Institute has provided some basic guidelines for sanitation workers to follow, and these have even been cited by OSHA. Workers are told to ride either in the vehicle cab or on specially designed steps, remain inside the cab until the vehicle has stopped and ensure that fellow workers are not on the riding steps when reversing. Employees should make sure that no one is on the loading sill or in the hopper.

Preventing workplace struck-by-object injuries

Being struck by an object remains the second-leading cause of death among construction workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. But the construction industry isn’t the only one that has concerns about such fatalities.

The manufacturing, farming and food industries, which are alive and well in Franklin County, are among the many sectors that understand such risks as well as the importance of proper storage and security, safety training for employees, and maintaining a consistent culture on safety.

Qualifying for SSI

Pennsylvania residents who are elderly or living with disabilities sometimes struggle financially. For those who have very low incomes and few or no assets, the Supplemental Security Income program, also known as SSI, provides monthly cash payments that can help recipients meet their expenses. Those who receive SSI benefits may also automatically qualify for other social assistance programs.

Most people who apply for SSI must be able to demonstrate that they are completely disabled and unable to earn a living. Individuals who are over the age of 65 are generally not held to the standard of disability. Likewise, disabled children may also be able to qualify for SSI benefits without having to prove that they are unable to work.

Supreme Court to review attorneys' fees for Social Security cases

People in Pennsylvania sometimes seek legal help when pursuing Social Security benefits. Two federal laws guide compensation for attorneys working on these cases, but the decisions among federal appellate courts have been split on the issue, and now the Supreme Court of the United States has accepted a case to resolve the confusion.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th, 9th and 10th Circuits ruled that only cases involving Social Security benefits argued in court must cap attorney compensation at 25 percent. The 4th, 5th and 11th Circuits, however, decided that legal fees must also be capped on cases presented at only the administrative level.

Falls and construction claims: how to prevent both

Nationwide Insurance has just reviewed the more than 10,000 construction industry workers' compensation claims that it processed in the past five years, and it found that nearly a third were due to falls from elevated surfaces. Construction employers in Pennsylvania will want to know how to prevent falls in their workplace.

The first important step would have been to participate in the Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction, which took place from May 7 to 11. This nationwide event, which was sponsored by OSHA and supported by Nationwide and other organizations, gave employers the chance to focus on training employees and raising their awareness of safety issues.

Guidelines worth following when applying for disability benefits

Social Security Disability Insurance provides a necessary safety net to many people. Pennsylvania residents and others who believe that they are entitled to benefits are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. When applications are completed and sent in a timely manner, they are more likely to be processed quickly. This means less time relying on personal assets to pay medical or other expenses.

Since it could be months or years before an application for benefits is approved, it will be necessary to learn how to budget. It will also be necessary to accept that lifestyle changes could be forthcoming as well. This is because SSDI benefits are not meant to fully replace the salary a person earned while working. Disabled individuals can also look for assistance from the United Way or through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Why some workers face more risks than others

A study from the AFL-CIO discovered that 5,190 workers died in 2016 because of hazardous work conditions. This number was up from 4,836 in 2015. The construction sector saw the highest number of deaths at 991, which was up from 937 in 2015. Transportation and warehousing workers experienced the second-highest number of deaths with 825 in 2016.

In addition to one's industry, a worker's attributes could point to a higher likelihood of an on-the-job death. Of those who died, 36 percent were age 55 or older, and those who are 65 and older were 250 percent more likely to die at work. The national average work fatality rate was 3.6 per 100,000 workers. However, Latino workers died at a rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers, which was the highest in the country by group. Workers were most likely to die because of motor vehicle accidents or workplace violence.

Hazards faced within the lumber industry

The lumber industry’s importance to the Franklin County region cannot be overlooked as the area is home to a number of lumber-related companies and manufacturers. It’s a solid contributor to the region’s economy and will continue to be as suppliers to homebuilding and professional contractors.

As an example, a hardwood-cherry lumber manufacturer recently agreed to take over a long-abandoned factory in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. The move will eventually lead to more than 40 new jobs in the region with the company’s plan to produce kiln-dried black cherry lumber by January.

Proactive workplace safety reduces construction accidents

Heavy machinery, power tools and working in high places create many workplace hazards at construction sites in Pennsylvania. Employers have an obligation to inform workers about the dangers and train them in safety procedures. According to the 2018 Safety Performance Report from the Associated Builders and Contractors, proactive efforts to prevent accidents produce substantial results. The organization's Safety Performance Evaluation Process has been shown to improve safety by as much as 670 percent above the industry average.

A central component of the process requires employers to provide safety orientations that address specific onsite hazards. Approaches to training can include toolbox talks and setting up a safety committee. When accidents occur, managers should analyze what happened and learn from mistakes. Engaging employees in the process represents an important element, but the report highlighted the need for upper management to make safety a priority as well.

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