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The role of traction in slip-and-fall workplace injuries

Workers in most industries in Oklahoma are exposed to circumstances that could lead to slip-and-fall accidents. A significant number of lost workdays and workers' compensation claims follow workplace injuries that were caused by same-level falls. While neglected housekeeping can cause slip and trip hazards, footwear with the correct soles can provide enough traction to prevent falls.

Backward falls typically happen when the worker's heel of one foot is placed ahead during the walking motion. If the walking surface is wet or highly polished, that front foot's heel can slip, causing the worker to fall backward. A variety of injuries, some of them serious, could be caused, depending on how the person lands. Traumatic brain injuries can occur if the worker's head strikes a hard object. If the worker's rear foot slips while he or she walks on a slippery surface, a forward fall can result.

Ladder-related workplace injuries cause 100s of deaths each year

Throughout March, the American Ladder Institute will promote ladder safety across the country. Raising awareness helps to underscore the need for monitoring ladder safety in the workplace, including appropriate training procedures. The goal, of course, is to reduce deaths and workplace injuries linked to ladders. Oklahoma workers should know that a fall from the second or third rung of a ladder can be as dangerous as from the top of the ladder.

Each ladder has a duty rating, which indicates the maximum weight the ladder can support. There are several misconceptions about this rating. The weight limit includes not only the worker's weight but also his or her clothing, personal protective equipment, and any accessories, equipment or tools that are carried on the ladder.

NSC says 13,000 preventable workplace injuries occur each day

The National Safety Council notes that focusing on workplace safety instead of the bottom line can prevent thousands of occupational injuries nationwide, including in Oklahoma. The council says work-related injuries should not be seen as a cost of business. Certain safety hazards are present in just about all workplaces, and focusing on that could bring about a significant drop in workplace injuries.

Fatigue and the lack of sufficient sleep increase not only the risks of workplace injuries but the overall health of workers. Fatigue can be linked to a variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Drug use is also a significant concern. The NSC says substance disorders cause workers to lose almost two weeks of work per year due to injuries, illnesses and other reasons not linked to holidays and vacation.

Most loss of limb workplace injuries are preventable

Equipment guarding and hazardous energy control are both near the top of the list of most frequently cited safety violations in the wood processing industry nationwide, including Oklahoma. Although manufacturers include many more safety features than in past years, the safety of employees remains the responsibility of the employers. This responsibility starts with a thorough risk assessment to determine and eliminate hazards that could cause workplace injuries.

The risk assessment must form the basis of a written safety program to manage the company's overall protocols for the prevention of employee illnesses and injuries, with a re-evaluation at least once a year. Each worker must receive safety training relevant to his or her job, with annual refresher training. Whenever new equipment is installed, thorough safety training is crucial.

Workplace injuries to hands can affect quality of life

Some workers in Oklahoma don't take sufficient care of their hands, which are obviously a crucial part of performing most job responsibilities. Workplace injuries can cause amputations of fingers and even entire hands, often leaving workers unable to continue working in the same occupation. Amputations and other serious injuries have a significant impact on the victim's overall quality of life.

Hand injuries are among the most frequently reported workplace injuries even though gloves are often included as personal protective equipment on work sites. Lacerations and puncture wounds make up the majority of work-related hand injuries, followed by crush injuries and fractures caused by blows to the hand or when a worker uses his or her hands to brace against a fall. Hands are also injured in many work-related motor vehicle accidents.

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.

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