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Workplace injuries: Firefighter's workers' comp claim denied

Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to save others. While most workers in Oklahoma can find comfort in knowing that the workers' compensation program would have their backs if they should suffer workplace injuries or occupational illnesses, firefighters might find it difficult to obtain benefits. Certain diseases are presumed work-related for firefighters, but the claims process could be daunting.

Under Oklahoma laws, respiratory system injuries, heart disease, infectious diseases and development of any type of cancer in firefighters are presumed to be conditions that result from workplace hazards inherent to their occupation. However, claims for compensation can be denied if contrary evidence can be shown. This could significantly complicate the claims process for affected firefighters.

Outdoor workers exposed to an endless list of workplace injuries

Outdoor workers in Oklahoma face countless hazards, depending on the type of work they do, the amount of time they spend working outside, the season and the particular region in which they work. Employers must inform workers of all the potential risks they may encounter. Employees must also receive safety training that will teach outdoor workers how to prevent workplace injuries.

The physical dangers of outdoor work include extreme heat that could lead to heat-related illnesses, some of which could be fatal. Excessive exposure to the UV rays of the sun could cause skin cancer. During winter, they will risk exposure to extreme cold, with consequences including frostbite, hypothermia and more. Extended periods of exposure to loud noise can result in irreversible hearing loss and tinnitus.

OSHA says safety violation caused fatal workplace injury

On May 22, an employee of an antenna and tower service provider based in Oklahoma lost his life while working in another state. The 47-year-old worker suffered a fatal workplace injury when he fell from a broadcast tower. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reported that the agency's investigators determined that this fatality could have been prevented.

According to an accident report, the worker was doing repairs 1,000 feet above ground level. While working on a process to hooking up an existing antenna, the worker reportedly had to reposition himself. To do that, he had to disconnect and reconnect his lanyard. For an unknown reason, he slipped and fell to his death.

What are the most prevalent causes of fatal workplace injuries?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 466 lives are lost per day in accidental deaths. While these numbers are not limited to occupational deaths, workplace injuries make up a significant percentage of the fatalities. The National Safety Council responded by stating that there are no such things as accidents. A spokesperson says not enough is done across the U.S., including Oklahoma, to prioritize workplace, home and road safety.

Of all the fatal injury categories, the only one to show an increase when compared to previous years is preventable injuries. Safety authorities say the opioid crisis is to blame for this. Reportedly, drug overdoses, auto crashes, falls, drownings, choking incidents and other preventable incidents are the causes of deaths, one of which is reported every three minutes.

Most construction site workplace injuries are preventable

Seeing a building project coming to fruition after months of planning is undoubtedly a satisfying experience for everybody involved in the undertaking. However, if proper planning is not continued throughout all stages, including construction, preventable workplace injuries can hurt the bottom line. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration tasks employers in Oklahoma with protecting employees from known workplace hazards.

Any job that involves physical work activities and various types of equipment and tools pose enormous risks of nonfatal injuries. These dangers are raised by both power and hand tools, heavy equipment, noise, pollution, flammable liquids and more. Struck-by and crushing hazards are significant, along with slip-and-fall risks, repetitive motion and musculoskeletal injuries caused by lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling heavy objects.

Workplace injury: What are the major hazards of trench work?

Construction workers in Oklahoma and across the country put their lives on the line when they work in trenches. Safety authorities hold an annual stand down in June each year, during which time they urge employers to remind workers of the hazards of excavation work. They must emphasize how compliance with safety standards can prevent trench-related workplace injury or death.

Cave-ins are the most significant hazards, and workers must never enter trenches when the walls are not secured by sloping, benching, shoring, or fitted with trench boxes. Accumulated water in an excavation must be pumped out because it can jeopardize the integrity of the walls. Atmospheric testing is crucial to monitor oxygen levels and the presence of toxic gases, which are known to collect in low-lying areas, and utility lines must be located and marked to prevent accidental strikes.

Window washers miraculously escape workplace injuries

Every worker who is involved in washing the windows of tall buildings has likely had a near-death experience in the course of his or her career. On a recent Wednesday, two window washers in Oklahoma came away from one such an incident without any workplace injuries. This was an on-the-job accident that could have claimed the lives of both workers had it not been for the skills of the rescue workers.

According to the chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department, the workers were in a scaffold basket that was suspended on crane cables from a height of 20 to 30 feet above the tallest building in Oklahoma City. Reportedly, they were cleaning windows near the 50-story skyscraper's roof at about 7:45 a.m. when heavy winds developed. The winds caused their suspended basket to swing uncontrollably while the workers likely clung on for dear life.

First day back at work is a risk factor for workplace injuries

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, returning to work after a period of absence come with many risks. Recorded injury data of workers nationwide, including Oklahoma, shows an increased likelihood of workplace injuries on Mondays, which is often the first day back at work after absence due to days off, vacation or an injury. Safety authorities say one of the reasons for this could be a lack of focus and low energy levels.

It is noted that the first few hours on most Mondays are hectic in most workplaces, and workers who return after an extended period might not be focused on safety just yet. Things that happened during their time away from work could occupy their minds. In some cases, circumstances at home can create stress that might be distracting.

Fatal trench-related workplace injuries are preventable

One of the goals prioritized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is preventing trench-related deaths nationwide. Unfortunately, many employers and construction workers in Oklahoma and elsewhere fail to recognize the inherent dangers linked to trench work. Complacency plays a significant role in the number of lives lost as the result of workplace injuries suffered in unprotected trenches.

Looking at four preventable deaths that occurred between April 6 and April 16 underscores the gravity of the negligence when it comes to trench work. In the first incident, a 43-year-old worker was found dead in a collapsed 14-foot deep trench where he was working alone at a construction site in a residential area. Another tragedy occurred two days later when the collapse of a 20-foot deep trench killed a 34-year-old worker.

Workplace injuries are not unusual in construction zones

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation recently urged drivers to be cautious when they travel through the construction zones of the project at the interchange of the I-235 and I-44. In an attempt to cut down on the number of workplace injuries that happen all too often in construction zones, safety authorities are asking vehicle operators to look out for workers and not to exceed the posted speed limits. One construction worker likened working in a construction zone to having a big rig drive through an office or another workplace at 75 mph.

This man says a co-worker was killed in a construction zone in 2015, and most workers have experienced near misses. He says workers never know whether they will return home safely every night. They are vulnerable and exposed to the negligence of vehicle operators who travel through the construction zones.

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