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Many workplace accidents involve forklifts

Forklifts are essential in various industries in Oklahoma and across the country. Unfortunately, the dangers posed by these vehicles do not always receive the necessary attention. Employers are responsible for the health and safety of employees, and providing adequate safety training forms a part of that responsibility. However, lives continue to be lost in preventable workplace accidents.

A forklift accident that claimed the life of a 32-year-old construction worker in another state underscores the hazards posed by these machines. Reportedly, the man was operating the forklift on a construction site. During an attempt to lower a pallet loaded with steel beams from a tractor-trailer, the forklift pitched to one side, ejecting him from the machine.

What if a workplace injury happens at home?

The amount of inherent risk for injury varies according to what type of work an employee does each day. There are certain industries, such as construction, agriculture or logging, that are known to be among the most dangerous types of work in Oklahoma and elsewhere. If a workplace injury occurs, one of the first questions that needs to be answered is whether the employer may have failed in its obligation to maintain a safe working environment. Things become a bit more complex, however, if the employee in question works from home.

Nowadays, many people work from home. Advanced technology has made mobile employment a convenient and profitable means of earning an income. If a person is on the clock while working from home and an accident occurs that results in injury, is it considered a work accident or a home accident?

Workplace injuries: UV rays can cause eye damage

The sun is an essential element required for all life. However, excessive exposure to UV light can be harmful. In Oklahoma, workers might be aware of the potential workplace injuries of sunburn and skin cancer, but prolonged exposure could also compromise workers' immune systems and damage their eyes and vision. UV light can cause various eye diseases.

Excessive exposure to the sun can cause the natural lens of the eye to become cloudy -- a condition known as cataracts. The conjunctiva or the covering of the eye's white area can develop two types of growths. The first is a yellow bump or spot that can grow in the eye, and the second growth is fleshy and could expand to cover the cornea and limit vision. UV rays reflecting from snow or ice can cause snow blindness, indicated by blurry vision, watery eyes and swelling. Ocular melanoma is a cancer in the eye that can develop from UV light exposure.

Concern over workplace injury-related amputations

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the number of occupation-related amputations gives rise to concern. A workplace injury that leads to an amputation can happen in the blink of an eye. The agency says that over 90% of amputations nationwide, including in Oklahoma, involve fingers. However, amputations of other body parts like hands, feet and toes are also cited in workers' compensation claims. Too many workers are unable to continue working in their chosen occupations after amputation injuries.

Employers must protect the health and safety of workers by ensuring that the necessary safeguards and lockout/tagout devices are in place and used appropriately. Common hazards include mechanical presses, razors cutting fabric, and drill bits used for cutting holes. Also, energy transmitting equipment components, such as chains, belts, pulleys, connecting rods, flywheels, gears and cams can cause amputation injuries.

Most workplace injuries are preventable

Employers in Oklahoma and across the country must provide employees with work environments that are free of known hazards. Federal law mandates that employers must address any dangers that threaten the health and safety of workers. Furthermore, employees are entitled to speak up and report workplace injuries or unsafe conditions and near misses without fearing retaliation.

It is never a bad idea for workers to gain knowledge about their rights in the workplace, and to learn the procedures for reporting unsafe work conditions. Understanding potential hazards is vital, and for that reason, employers must provide safety training in a language understood by the workers. Machines and equipment must be equipped with the necessary safety devices, and be in good working order.

Most workplace injury incidents are preventable

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, compliance with safety standards can prevent almost all workplace accidents. Unfortunately, many employers in Oklahoma and elsewhere do not realize that every workplace injury can adversely affect morale, productivity and insurance premiums while also risking OSHA fines. Safety authorities say four hazards cause the most prevalent work-related injuries.

Slips, trips and falls make up a significant percentage of debilitating workplace injuries. Proper housekeeping can eliminate wet and slippery surfaces and randomly place objects that pose trip hazards. Musculoskeletal injuries are also far too common, and learning safe lifting techniques could reduce the risk of strains and sprains. Repetitive strain injuries fall in this category, and taking frequent breaks can prevent them.

Top 3 causes of workplace injuries are all preventable

Oklahoma employers are responsible for the safety and health of employees. They must provide safe work environments that are free of known hazards. Yet, despite strict safety standards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that over 80% of nonfatal workplace injuries nationwide are made up of three preventable work-related accidents. These are bodily reactions to overexertion, falls caused by slips and trips, and struck-by or caught-in injuries caused by contact with equipment or objects.

Overexertion follows non-impact injuries caused by physical effort exerted to lift, push, turn, hold, carry and throw objects. Tasks that require repetitive motions also fall into this injury category. Slips and trips can cause injuries even if the worker does not fall but attempts to prevent the fall. Falls from heights without wearing a fall harness can cause catastrophic injuries, and neglected housekeeping can expose workers to wet and slippery walkways or debris and randomly placed objects that can cause slips, trips and falls.

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.

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