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Media Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Trump administration cuts number of OSHA inspectors

In the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, 16,000 federal employees have been removed through attrition, including 40 inspectors at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is responsible for protecting workers safety and health, especially in high-risk environments like manufacturing plants and construction sites, so the decrease has had major, and possibly long-term, effects. Workers in Pennsylvania will want to know what these effects are.

The removal of federal employees is part of a larger effort to slow down the growth of the federal workforce. While the Labor Department has shown that the number of OSHA inspections has actually increased in the past year despite the cuts, it is clear that many regional OSHA offices that were already understaffed are in further danger. Mississippi, which has the highest workplace injury and fatality rates in the U.S., saw four of its inspectors let go.

Hospitals: surprisingly dangerous places to work

Pennsylvania readers know that working in the health care industry comes with its challenges, and one of these may include the increased risk of becoming ill due to exposure or suffering an injury on the job. Many people overlook another danger that health care workers face, and that is the threat of violence in the workplace.

These individuals have to work with patients with a variety of physical and mental conditions, as well as their family members. In many cases, emotions and stress are high, which could lead to people lashing out. If you work in health care and you suffered an injury due to violence in your workplace, you have the right to seek certain types of benefits.

Coal mining deaths increased in 2017

In 2017, coal production spiked in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. Unfortunately, coal mining deaths also increased over the same period.

According to federal statistics, 15 coal miners died in U.S. mines last year, compared to eight in 2016. West Virginia led the nation with eight miner fatalities, and Kentucky came in second with two fatalities. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming reported one miner fatality each. Accidents involving hauling vehicles killed eight coal miners, and machinery accidents killed two others.

OSHA allies with NAWIC to improve female worker safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is known for its regulations and guidelines on workplace safety. Through the OSHA Alliance Program, it partners with other organizations at the national level to focus on specific issues and provide greater access to safety tools and information. One such issue, which many workers in Pennsylvania may be aware of, is how to address the hazards that face women in the construction industry.

In this industry, women represent a small but growing segment of the workforce. In response to the various safety concerns that women have brought up, OSHA has renewed a five-year alliance plan with the National Association of Women in Construction. NAWIC was founded in 1955 to provide female construction workers with educational and professional development opportunities.

What the numbers say about worker safety

In 2016, there was a 7 percent increase in worker fatalities compared to 2015. Pennsylvania workers and others throughout the country were most likely to be killed while transporting something. Workers were also most likely to die in instances of workplace violence as well as by overdosing while on the job. Workplace violence incidents increased 23 percent in 2016 while overdose incidents increased by 32 percent.

Representatives from both OSHA and the AFL-CIO said that the data revealed workplace trends that need to be stopped. The OSHA statement said that the organization will use a mixture of education and compliance assistance with increased enforcement to help improve worker safety. The AFL-CIO representative pointed out that industries that OSHA had allocated resources to had seen steady or declining fatality rates. Health care and food service were industries in which OSHA provided little oversight, and they are also among the fastest-growing sectors of the economy.

Hazards to look out for during a plant shutdown

Temporary plant shutdowns are a common way to make time for maintenance, housekeeping, upgrades, and other projects. However, they can create a work environment full of unfamiliar safety risks. This is why factory owners in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. need to be aware of some non-routine hazards during shutdowns and how to address them.

The first are hazards related to elevated work surfaces. When ladders and scaffolding are set up, certain fall protection guidelines must be met. Secondly, confined spaces normally get cleaned out during shutdowns but could endanger workers with a lack of oxygen or profusion of hazardous vapors. The same goes for pipelines, which can be filled with flammable gases or liquid even after they've been drained. Before anyone gets a hot work permit, pipelines should be tested for these elements.

Neglected ergonomics may rob you of health and peace of mind

Regardless of your occupation, you could be at risk of suffering ergonomic injuries that are preventable if you know the danger signs. The hazards of different types of jobs can vary. Physical demands of your job may pose ergonomic risks, which could cause injuries and time off work. The origin of the danger could be the equipment or tools you use or the awkward body position you must maintain for extended periods.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires Pennsylvania employers to provide safe work environments that will not threaten the health and safety of employees. However, many business owners do not prioritize employee safety, and if you know the danger signs, you may avoid the pain that typically accompanies injuries caused by ergonomic hazards.

Plant workers may be scared to speak out

Pennsylvania workers and others who work in meat or poultry facilities may fear retaliation from their employers. This may prevent them from reporting injuries or other unsafe conditions that they experience while on the job. According to a survey from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, OSHA may have a harder time helping employees because they won't reach out for assistance because they fear they'll lose their jobs if they do.

Common complaints among employees that were interviewed include a lack of access to restrooms and medical care where they worked. In some cases, workers wore diapers because they didn't think that they would be able to get to a bathroom on time. Oxfam America also released a report saying that fear was prevalent among those who worked in poultry plants. In a statement, trade groups representing the poultry industry said that it was looking into ways to improve worker safety.

TB transmission still a risk in many workplaces

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease usually affecting the lungs or larynx and caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, a bacterium that easily spreads in areas where many people are together for long periods of time. This includes everything from hospitals to prisons, jails and homeless shelters. Residents of Pennsylvania should know what the dangers are and what can be done after a TB diagnosis.

Usually, those who transmit TB are unaware that they have it or they are the recipient of ineffective or incomplete treatment. The bacterium is expelled through coughing, sneezing, talking and even normal breathing, and it stays in the air in the form of dried particles called droplet nuclei. Infection occurs when other people inhale these particles. Infection normally happens after prolonged sharing of airspace.

Technology and training can prevent trucks from hitting workers

A busy construction site in Pennsylvania could have trucks moving near workers on foot. Whenever people and heavy equipment mix, the risk of a backover accident could be high. In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 70 people died on the job when they were hit or crushed by moving vehicles. Employers have several strategies to draw upon to reduce these workplace hazards.

Often, these accidents occur because drivers cannot see workers. Additionally, warning signals on vehicles might malfunction, or a worker will not hear the backup alarms because of other noises. Technology can help people avoid mistakes. Outfitting trucks with cameras or sensors that warn drivers about objects behind them could mitigate the dangers of driver blind spots. Tag systems that equip vehicles and workers with sensors that warn them of each other's proximity and movements present a safety solution in some situations.

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Law Office Of Deborah M. Truscello
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Media, PA 19063

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