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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.

Workplace injuries to the hands can be life-changing

Strangely, most people will take precautions to prevent all kinds of workplace accidents without protecting their hands, which are essential for almost every job they do. Severe workplace injuries to a person's fingers or hands will not only limit his or her ability to continue working but also affect the individual's quality of life. Safety authorities say that as many as one million work-related hand injuries are treated nationwide every year, including in Oklahoma.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that approximately 70 percent of workers with hand injuries wore no gloves or other hand protection. The other 30 percent wore damaged or inappropriate gloves. Lacerations are the most frequently reported hand injuries, and in many cases, adequate gloves could have prevented the injury. Gloves that can avoid damage by slicing motions of a sharp knife or tool might not be sufficient to prevent penetration by a stabbing motion.

Know the steps to take after workplace injuries

Every workplace poses safety hazards regardless of the industry. Working on an oil rig or a construction site might be hazardous, but so is working in a hospital or an office. All Oklahoma workers must be familiar with the steps to take in the event of workplace injuries. Even if injuries seem minor, hidden symptoms might lead to workers' compensation claims down the road.

Reporting the injury to a supervisor or employer is crucial and should be done as soon as the injured worker has received the necessary medical care. It is also important to know whether an injured worker can go to his or her own doctor or a doctor chosen by the employer. The doctor must be informed that it is a work-related injury to ensure the necessary documentation will be available if a claim arises.

Workplace injuries to hands can be life changing

Workers in Oklahoma often do not stop to think about the importance of their hands, which are essential for every job they do. Employers often fail to include hand and finger safety in safety training, while serious injuries that could have life-altering consequences can happen in the blink of an eye. Safety authorities say that about one million employees nationwide get treatment for hand-related workplace injuries each year.

Even while gloves are the most generally used personal protective equipment in all industries, hand injuries remain the second most frequently reported occupational injury. However, many hand injuries occur because workers did not have gloves or their gloves provided inadequate protection. Hand injuries can be penetration wounds or lacerations as well as crush injuries or fractures of the bones in the hands or fingers.

Painters' fall harnesses save them from workplace injury

Construction workers face numerous safety hazards whenever they are on building sites. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety standards, many of them dealing with working at heights and on scaffolding. Sadly, not all employers prioritize employee safety, often with catastrophic consequences. However, two Oklahoma workers have their employer's compliance with fall protection regulations to thank for saving each of them from suffering a fatal workplace injury.

Reportedly, Oklahoma City firefighters received an emergency call shortly after 6 p.m. on a recent Tuesday. They rushed to the scene to find the two workers suspended in their fall-arrest harnesses. The workers were painting the multi-story hotel building when one end of the scaffold structure collapsed while they were working at the level of the 12th floor. Firefighters gained access to the two workers from inside the hotel by breaking through glass windows.

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