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Tulsa Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workplace injuries: The hazards of road construction zones

Road construction zones in Oklahoma and other states will always be hazardous areas. This was underscored again when two workers were struck by cars moving through construction zones in another state. The accidents occurred within three days of one another. It is not only the heavy equipment that these workers use that pose risks of workplace injuries but also the vehicles that travel through the areas.

A coordinator for road safety in that state said this is a particularly busy time for work crews because many projects must be completed before winter. One man was fixing potholes years ago when he was struck by a drunk driver. His son says he is often amazed at the disregard other drivers show for the safety of road construction workers. He says these workers put their lives on the line to make the roads safer for those who do not consider the safety of the workers.

Workplace injury: Scaffold collapse kills 3 TV tower workers

Oklahoma workers whose jobs involve working on communications towers will be aware of the dangers to which they are exposed every time they are working at extreme heights. Three workers recently lost their lives when a scaffold structure on which they were standing collapsed. The chances of suffering a fatal workplace injury increase significantly when great heights are involved.

The investigators of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are working on finding the reason for the collapse of the scaffolding at a 100-story TV tower in another state. The federal agency said they have not had to investigate a broadcast tower accident of such magnitude in over five years. Reportedly, the work crew's job involved the replacement of an antenna when the collapse occurred.

Workplace injury: Know the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning

Employers in Oklahoma must ensure the safety and health of employees. Compliance with safety regulations is necessary to avoid workplace injury. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health points out the dangers of carbon monoxide as an area of concern.

NIOSH says employers and workers do not realize that even areas that seem well ventilated pose risks of carbon monoxide poisoning if gasoline-powered equipment is operated there. Generators, pumps, cutting saws and other tools or engines produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Because it is odorless and colorless, employees can be overcome before they even realize the danger. CO overexposure is possible even with open windows and doors and using a fan to ventilate the area.

New silica rule may reduce workplace injuries on the oil fields

In June 2018, the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration silica rules will become effective for pressure pumpers and exploration and production companies in the oil and gas industry. Until then, employees in the Oklahoma oil fields will remain exposed to respirable crystalline silica in dangerous levels that can cause severe workplace injuries to lungs and kidneys. From that date forward, the allowed exposure limit will be drastically reduced.

The new rule will protect workers who are exposed to the dangers presented by silica dust, which is present at all sites where hydraulic fracturing is done. The masses of fracturing sand that is pumped into the crevices of the earth release those dangerous silica particles that workers inhale to cause life-threatening diseases. The health risks include silicosis, kidney disease, tuberculosis, lung cancer and other diseases that affect the airways of exposed workers.

Workplace injuries: Hearing loss develops over time

Some industries are known for exposing workers to excessive noise levels. Hearing loss is similar to workplace injuries caused by repetitive stress in that it develops over time -- victims are often unaware of the problem until it gets severe. Oklahoma employers are responsible for protecting employees from harm by complying with the regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and providing the appropriate protective equipment.

Sources of dangerous noise levels exist in most industrial facilities, as well as in construction and other occupations. To determine the need for ear protection, advisors say that if one person cannot hear what another person says who is standing an arm's length away, the noise level is likely above the prescribed 85-decibel limit. However, some workers feel earplugs can put them in harm's way.

Tower climbers at risk of suffering fatal workplace injuries

Servicing broadcasting towers and working at heights of up to 1,500 feet have cost the lives of 34 tower climbers since 2013 -- according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Not only is this a highly specialized job, but it is also dangerous, and workplace injuries can easily be fatal. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of people doing this job nationwide, including in Oklahoma, is 14,000.

One climber explained that although there are elevators inside the broadcast towers, they only go up to certain levels. If a camera at the top of the tower must be repaired, or a spring has to be replaced, it is the job of a tower climber to climb the rest of the way up the outside of the tower. If the elevator only goes up to 750 feet, the special equipment, skills and experience of the climber must take him the rest of the way.

Proper training of young workers can prevent workplace injuries

It can be exhilarating for teenagers to join the Oklahoma workforce -- either as permanent employees or temporary workers taking on summer jobs. At that age, many young workers think they are invincible, and it is up to their employers to teach them that they are as vulnerable as seasoned workers are. In fact, safety advisors say teens are twice as likely to suffer serious workplace injuries.

Sadly, hundreds of young workers lose their lives in fatal on-the-lob accidents every year. These incidents are typically preventable. Many business owners fail to provide adequate safety training, and teens are frequently tasked with operating dangerous equipment -- often without proper supervision. Federal and state regulations prohibit the operation of certain kinds of machines by young workers, but these rules tend to be ignored in some workplaces.

How should hazardous materials be labelled?

If you are one of the many Oklahoma residents who work in manufacturing or industrial positions in which you may come into contact with, use or simply be around hazardous materials, you should know about the chemicals in order to help yourself and others stay safe. One of the ways that you can do this is to understand the labels that should be on any and all packaging containing these hazardous items. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration outlines exactly what every label should include.

There are six specific elements that must be on every hazardous item's label. One of these is an icon or graphical representation of the type of hazard the item may be associated. For example, if the material is flammable, the icon may be a flame. Along with the visual cue should be a single word that identifies whether or not there is an imminent danger or whether the label provides cautionary warnings. The product itself should be clearly identified so you know what you are working with or near.

Oklahoma one of the worst states for workers' compensation

A recent report released by the National Security Council on "The State of Safety" gave Oklahoma an F overall and for protecting residents in the workplace. The state was also ranked as one of the worst in the nation for worker's compensation. It was listed as "off track" along with 15 other states who the report did not find had adequate protection for workers.

In fact, the report found Oklahoma to be "off track" in all three areas of measurement for workplace safety. The state was not found to be effective in "prevention, preparedness and enforcement," which includes training employees and proactively trying to manage emerging issues in the workplace, such as workplace violence. Likewise, Oklahoma was lowly rated for "worker health and wellbeing, " which includes having state laws that mandate workplace as both smoke and drug-free areas. 

Preventing heat-related work illness

As temperatures rise across Oklahoma, employees who work outside are more at risk of getting a heat-related illness while on the job. As Occupational Health & Safety reports, these illnesses can result in hospitalization or even death for those affected. In 2013 there were 16,320 cases of heat illness that kept employees from missing work, and 20 incidences of heat illness mandated federal citation between 2012 and 2013.

Due to the serious stress heat can put on the human body, employers are required to protect their employees from extreme temperatures. Although there is not a federal limit to how high the temperature can be while still running a worksite, OSHA regulations do require employers to have a safe work environment for their employees. Maintaining safety in extreme heat is part and parcel of that requirement. As EHS Today explains, taking extra precautions for workers in heat over 85 degrees can keep people safe, and when humidity pushes the heat index even higher, which prevent sweat from cooling the skin, this is even more important. For those directly in the sun, the heat index plus 15 degrees is likely what workers are actually feeling.

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