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Hazardous chemicals cause many workplace injuries in agriculture

According to agricultural safety and health authorities, more attention should be given to the hazards posed by the chemicals used in this industry nationwide. Safety data sheets are crucial, and they must be easily accessible to workers and emergency personnel. Employers in Oklahoma and elsewhere should base their safety protocols on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazard Communication Standard to limit the risks of workplace injuries.

OSHA requires that responsible staff must be identified to coordinate the implementation of chemical safety plans. Each section of the farm that uses hazardous chemicals must have an inventory of those substances, and each container must be labeled. Workers must receive training on the unique hazards posed by each chemical to which they will be exposed, including additional training whenever new chemicals are introduced.

Workplace injuries in construction industry are preventable

Safety authorities assert that employers nationwide, including Oklahoma, can keep workers safe by investing in training and materials. Along with established safety standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides support and guidance, along with training materials to the construction industry. Safe scaffolding seems to be a significant concern because of the number of fatal workplace injuries linked to these structures.

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, scaffold falls caused the deaths of 60 workers in 2016. That is one in five of all construction industry deaths in that year. It was also reported that scaffold-related safety violations have ranked among the top three of most cited violations during the past decade, and even though the latest records show it dropped from first to third, it remains a matter of significant concern.

Workplace injuries: Disinfectants cause respiratory problems

International researchers recently reported their findings after studying the health effects of frequent exposure to cleaning materials and disinfectants, specifically among health care workers. The results raised concern among employers in the health care industry in Oklahoma and elsewhere because they are responsible for protecting employees from workplace injuries and illnesses. Indications are that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is prevalent among nurses and for workers in other professions in which exposure to cleaning products and disinfectants is common.

Safety and health authorities say even weekly exposure to products like hydrogen peroxide, bleach and alcohol in disinfectants and cleaning compounds increases the health risk of COPD by about 25%. These numbers do not involve asthma or smoking harm. They say it is a significant concern because health care workers represent one of the largest sectors of employment in the United States.

Similar risks for workplace injuries in nail salons, oil fields

Few people likely realize that workers in the cosmetology industry, such as nail salon workers, face some of the same hazards as workers in the oil fields and those who work in auto garages. In all three of these industries, exposure to BTEX -- benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes -- can cause workplace injuries with long-term, life-threatening consequences. Nail technicians in Oklahoma and across the country are exposed to these harmful compounds as they breathe in the salon air for hours each day.

The dangers arise from the noxious odors emanating from the polishes, removers and acrylic nails that fill the air in salons with volatile organic compounds that become gases and vapors, easily breathed in by workers. Although the nail salon customers are exposed to the same VOCs, they spend only short periods of time in nail salons. Researchers have linked the exposure to headaches, reproductive problems, respiratory irritation, eye and skin irritation and even cancer.

Nail guns increase both productivity and workplace injuries

Nail guns are frequently used in construction projects and other industries in Oklahoma. Although they are known to increase productivity, the ease of operating nail guns has sent many construction workers to hospitals. They are powerful tools, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 37,000 nail gun injuries are treated in emergency rooms nationwide each year. Almost 70% of those are workplace injuries, with the rest reported by consumers.

Safety authorities say the primary risk factors include unintended discharge of nails when the operator accidentally hits the safety contact while his or her finger is on the trigger. Accidental double-fires can also cause unintentional nail discharge. A nail that penetrate right through the workpiece is another common hazard, as is a nail that ricochets when discharged onto metal frames or hard surfaces. Inaccurate work and missing the target is dangerous, and this often happens when working in awkward positions.

Workplace injuries: Lead can harm workers and their families

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that employers nationwide, including Oklahoma, must inform workers of all the hazards they might encounter on the job. They must also provide safety training to teach them how to mitigate the risks to which they are exposed and avoid workplace injuries or illnesses. Workers in many occupations risk not only their own health but also the safety of their families. This happens when they take dangerous lead particles home on their work clothes.

Jobs in which lead exposure is possible include demolition, building renovation, painting, ceramic work, radiator repair and soldering. Also, workers involved in metal production, cutting and recycling of metal, shooting range work, bridgework, and battery manufacturing can be at risk. Workers in these jobs must always wash or shower and change clothes and shoes before they go home. Lead-contaminated clothes must be washed separately.

Critical workplace injury follows forklift accident

Forklifts are valuable tools in various industries in Oklahoma, from construction sites to fulfillment centers. Unfortunately, the dangers posed by these machines are not always recognized. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety standards related to the operation of forklifts. However, sight must not be lost of the workplace injury hazards these machines pose to other workers who share work areas with forklifts.

This danger was recently underscored by a forklift accident on the site of a museum renovation in another state. Reportedly, in an attempt to lift a vault, a metal access panel on the floor gave way, causing a 51-year-old worker to fall six feet into the basement below. To add to the tragedy, the 2,000-pound forklift also tumbled down onto the worker, crushing him.

Workers escape workplace injury in trench collapse

Trenches are some of the most dangerous areas on building sites nationwide, including Oklahoma. Employers must comply with strict safety standards to protect workers from circumstances that could lead to a workplace injury, and noncompliance can lead to citations and stiff fines. However, that does not seem to concern many construction company owners who continue to prioritize profits over employee safety.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors saved the lives of three construction workers when they ordered the workers out of an unprotected trench. The incident occurred during an OSHA review of a worksite. They reported that the trench was close to 13 feet deep, with no means of stabilizing the walls.

Top 10 safety violations that cause workplace injuries

Each year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports the top 10 safety violation citations that were issued nationwide, including Oklahoma. This analysis serves different purposes, one of which is to underscore the importance of safety standard compliance in the prevention of workplace injuries. Safety authorities say the top 10 list also shows the level of compliance among U.S. business owners.

However, announcing these numbers seems to make little difference because the results for the fiscal year 2019 were very similar to those of FY 2018. The top 10 positions remained the same, except for last year's fourth and fifth positions trading places. This makes lockout/tagout citations number four and respiratory protection number five in FY 2019. The most prevalent category remained fall protection violations at number one; however, violations related to fall protection safety training came in number eight. It is also interesting to note that numbers three, five and seven -- scaffolds, ladders and industrial trucks -- also pose fall hazards.

Workplace injury causes death of welder with 25 years experience

An Oklahoma worker with 25 years of experience on the job has likely seen it all, but that doesn't mean that accidents can't happen. Sometimes, after so many years of doing the same work, it's easy to become a bit complacent. Many workers start taking shortcuts, and some even tend to disregard safety standards to get jobs done quicker, only to suffer a workplace injury.

A 46-year-old mechanic on a farm in another state succumbed to an occupational injury three months after an incident that involved a plasma torch and a drum that contained remnants of a flammable substance. Reportedly, the welder used the plasma torch to remove the drum lid without first checking whether the drum had been cleaned. A spark was caused upon the first contact of the flame with the drum, resulting in an explosion that caused the bottom of the drum to be blown off.

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