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Workplace injuries: Farm workers face life-threatening hazards

Farm workers in Oklahoma are not always fully informed about the many hazards they face. Many workplace injuries could have long-term consequences, and many are life-threatening. Some employers in the agriculture industry neglect to ensure that employees understand the risks posed by grain bins and silos.

Along with engulfment and suffocation hazards, bins and silos used for grain storage also pose risks of grain dust explosions and lung damage due to dust inhalation. Safety authorities say engulfment is the primary hazard for workers who enter grain bins. Every year engulfment accidents are reported, and some victims do not survive.

Workplace injuries are par for the course for turkey processors

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the pressure and demands on workers in turkey processing plants in Oklahoma and other states might ease slightly. However, the worldwide market for these birds is snowballing, and economic researchers estimate global production in 2019 to be about 30 million pounds. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says poultry processing shows a rate of workplace injuries and illnesses that is 60 percent higher than in other industries.

Safety authorities say the pressure placed on workers to speed up processing and increase production while conditions are rough and hazardous give rise to the majority of injuries in turkey processing plants. They say amputations are the most significant risks during manual slaughtering and cutting up of birds that weigh around 16 pounds each in cold and wet environments. If employers fail to provide adequate safety training and workspaces that comply with safety regulations, poultry plant workers will continue to lose limbs in amputation accidents.

Workplace injuries can happen despite zero-incident goals

Regardless of how effective the safety protocols of any Oklahoma business are, accidents will happen. Some types of workplace injuries are more common than others, and compliance with the guidelines and regulations set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration might limit occurrences. An effective near-miss report system might also keep workers out of the hospital.

Overexertion and repetitive stress injuries cause some of the most frequently reported work-related injuries. Pushing, pulling, carrying, lifting, throwing and holding objects of varying weights, shapes and sizes often lead to overexertion, especially when workers do not take frequent breaks. The lack of rest periods can also cause repetitive stress when workers repeat similar motions for hours on end. These injuries can cause long-term health consequences.

Workplace injuries suffered in confined spaces can be fatal

Oklahoma workers in all industries face work-related hazards, some of which involve confined spaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict regulations that could prevent workplace injuries to workers who have to work in these dangerous areas. A confined space is an area with limited exit and entry means -- often a single way in or out, and workers must spend limited periods inside. When specific hazards exist, it becomes a permit-required area that is clearly signposted with warnings and entry requirements.

Safety and health threats that define a confined space as a permit-required area include atmospheres that are oxygen deficient, flammable or toxic. Furthermore, permits are required for spaces in which physical or mechanical hazards exist, or where loose flowing materials such as grain could cause engulfment or suffocation. Special care is necessary for areas where oxygen might be sufficient until a worker does welding or other tasks that use oxygen.

Concern over number of trench cave-ins causing workplace injury

Construction workers in Oklahoma will likely all be exposed to the hazards associated with excavations, but not all of them realize that they are entitled to refuse to enter unprotected trenches. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, every excavation has the potential to collapse or cave-in. Safety authorities are putting additional emphasis on trenching hazards and steps required to prevent incidents of workplace injury.

Due to the number of trench-related injuries and deaths nationwide, Compliance and Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) have been instructed to inspect any open trenches they come across in their day-to-day travels or during inspections. This is regardless of whether any safety violations were readily evident. According to OSHA standards, before the start of work every day, the protective systems in every trench must be inspected by a competent person because changing conditions could compromise the stability of trench walls overnight.

Workplace injuries caused by heavy machines could be catastrophic

Heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, dump trucks, front loaders, excavators and cranes, are present on almost all construction sites in Oklahoma. Safety authorities say a significant number of workplace injuries and fatalities involve mobile equipment. They say that construction workers who work on and around these big machines every day often become complacent, and that is when they are most vulnerable.

While heavy equipment poses an endless list of hazards, the two most common ones are struck-by and caught-in or caught-between accidents. An example of a struck-by accident is a swinging excavator bucket that strikes a worker on the ground or a dump truck that knocks down a pedestrian worker. A caught-in or between accident could be one in which a piece of heavy equipment pushes a worker and crushes him or her against another stationary, solid object.

Violations of LOTO procedures can cause workplace injuries

Industrial facilities in Oklahoma pose multiple equipment hazards, and violations of safety regulations can lead to electrocution, amputations and other catastrophic injuries. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, almost all workplace injuries can be prevented. When it comes to the risks related to industrial equipment, compliance with lockout/tagout regulations is crucial.

Safety authorities say workers must be monitored to ensure they take no shortcuts. Complacency and rushing to get work done quicker often lead to workers disregarding LOTO regulations. Examples include a worker who goes home without removing a lock and another worker having to cut the lock to be able to use the machine.

Workplace injuries: OSHA says all fatal falls were preventable

Construction workers in Oklahoma and elsewhere earn their livings in some of the most hazardous work environments in the country. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, falls remain the cause of a significant portion of workplace injuries in this industry. They report that most of the fall victims wore inadequate or no fall protection

OSHA says all fatal falls were determined to have been preventable, and employers are advised to reduce fall accidents by establishing safety protocols and training workers in proper safety techniques. Safety starts at the beginning stages of any project when safety plans for the particular project must be incorporated. The necessary safety equipment such as personal protective equipment, scaffolds, ladders, guard rails and more must be specified in the plans.

Hazard awareness on the oilfields might limit workplace injuries

Following the fatal Oklahoma oil field accident in January, safety in the oil and gas industry has been the subject of many discussions and reports. Some suggest that awareness of typical hazards of the industry might save lives. Workers on oil fields might take precautions if they are fully informed of potential risks they will face. Surprisingly, vehicle accidents -- something to which most people would hardly give a second thought -- causes most workplace injuries on oil fields.

Burns are also frequently suffered by oil industry workers, typically caused by flammable liquids and vapor, hot work operations and hazardous chemicals. Communication and training programs for handling chemicals are crucial, and being equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment is vital. Caught-between, struck-by and slip-and-fall hazards make up a group of accidents that can cause severe injuries, although they are mostly preventable.

OSHA blames employer for fatal workplace injury that killed 2

Grain bin operators in Oklahoma and other states are responsible for the safety of their employees. The most significant hazard these workers face is engulfment. For this reason, compliance with the safety regulations prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is essential. The slightest safety violation could cause a fatal workplace injury.

Sadly, noncompliance by a business owner in a neighboring state resulted in the deaths of two employees. Following an investigation, OSHA has added this grain bin operator to its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. A spokesperson for the safety agency says grain is like quicksand, and any worker risks his or her life by entering a bin without the necessary personal protective equipment.

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