Articles Posted in Construction

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Federal investigators have charged a Williamsport bridge contractor in a trench collapse in 2015 that led to the death of one of its employees.  The employee was killed when he was crushed by dirt at a jobsite near Millville in Columbia County, PA.

Susquehanna Supply Company was charged Tuesday with violating an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirement that resulted in the death.  Among those OSHA guidelines was a requirement that trenches have an adequate protective system, such as sloped walls.

osha citationsOn July 7, 2015, while rehabilitating a bridge over Little Fishing Creek, the employee entered a trench to remove additional soil. The trench was approximately 12 ft. deep. The company’s site-specific safety program addressed the applicable OSHA regulations. However, they had not implemented a protective system in the trench. One of the trench’s dirt walls collapsed, burying the employee up to his chest and crushing him against the bridge’s concrete support. The collapse killed the employee almost instantly.

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Eye injuries are very common in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers suffer work-related eye injuries that require some form of medical treatment. However, eye specialists and safety experts believe the proper eye protection can decrease the severity or even prevent 90% of these injuries.

During Workplace Eye Wellness Month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology hopes to spread awareness to employers and workers and promote the importance of wearing certified and approved eye protection in the workplace.  Maintaining your vision must be a top priority at your job. Damage to the eye is often an irreversible injury.  So preventing it can avoid a lifetime of struggling with a serious and life-altering disorder.

Eye safety is something that should be taken seriously in all professions.  Even those working in an office setting can be subjected to vision damage.  Office workers are most at risk of what is called Digital Eye Strain.  This is eye and vision-related problems that result from lengthy computer, tablet, cell phone, and other electronic device use.

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Forklifts are widely used in many industries. Warehouses, distribution centers, production facilities, and construction sites use forklifts to complete numerous tasks primarily moving heavy and large products.

Since they are used so often (OSHA estimates there are 1.5 million lift operators in the United States) and are often used to move heavy objects, they are a constant danger to all workers on the job site.  The operators, bystanders, and pedestrians are all at risk of injury in an area with forklift traffic. FEMA_-_37931_-_Meals_Ready_to_Eat_being_moved_by_fork_lift_in_a_Texas_warehouse

According to OSHA, there is an estimated 97,000 injuries (35,000 serious and 62,000 non-serious) involving forklifts that occur annually.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 96 U.S. workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts in 2015.  The most common types of forklift related fatalities are overturns and struck-by incidents.

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Lifting and carrying heavy objects is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace.  It affects workers in almost every industry, not only the “blue collar” ones.  Lifting injuries can affect all areas of your body especially your back, neck, shoulders, and hands.

There are 2 types of injuries when it comes to lifting/carrying, sudden trauma and repetitive.  A sudden trauma injury is one that comes about quickly and unexpectedly.  It can occur even if it is only the first time you ever lifted a heavy object.  Repetitive injuries are caused by overuse/stress on the muscles and tissues in the body over the course of time.  This is more likely to occur if your job requires you to lift a lot during your workday.  Many of these injuries are difficult or even impossible to avoid but there are many steps you can take to help avoid self-inflicting these work injuries.

Tips for Safe Lifting and Carrying

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The percentage of older workers continues to rise as more and more Americans work past the traditional retirement age of 65. This also means that older workers are experiencing more and more serious workplace injuries.  Many would argue that workers should just simply retire when they reach 65 to avoid the increased risk.  However this isn’t financially feasible for many people.  As the life expectancy is on the rise so is the amount of savings people need to fund their retirement.  That forces many individuals to stay on the job longer than they would have in the past.  25% of Pennsylvania’s workforce are aged 55 or older.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers age 55 and older accounted for 36% of all fatally injured workers in 2016 even though that age group only made up 23% of the workforce that year. The 1,848 deaths of workers 55 and older in 2016 is the highest ever recorded for that age group since the reporting of this national data began in 1992.  Even though younger workers have proportionately the same number of job accidents, they experience significantly lower death rates.  The fatality rate for workers age 65 and older was 9.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers compared to 3.6 for younger workers.

Some of the reasons for older workers suffering serious even fatal injuries on the job include weaker bones and muscles, diminishing eyesight and hearing, slower reaction times, and a declining sense of balance making them a higher risk of falls.

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A backover incident occurs when a vehicle is backing up and hits a worker who is standing, walking, or kneeling behind the vehicle.  Backover fatalities and injuries are most prevalent in the construction industry.  While many people only think of construction workers being struck by passing motorists, road workers are also at risk of being killed or seriously injured by construction vehicles.  The biggest contributing cause to backover accidents is that rearview mirrors or backup cameras on vehicles have blind spots.  With large vehicles such as dump drunks commonly found on construction sites those blind spots are significantly larger than your everyday car.

These incidents can be prevented but still happen far too often.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 326 backover fatalities from 2011 to 2015.  Dump trucks were the construction vehicle involved in the most backover accidents.  With the right training, proper equipment, and maintenance, backover injuries can be avoided.  The following are some of the common causes of backover accidents, and some tips on how they can be prevented.

How do backover accidents occur?
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said in a news release that it has issued a “serious citation” to Stalwart Films LLC. OSHA said it proposed the maximum allowable fine of $12,675 for “failure to provide adequate protection from fall hazards” while filming the popular television show, “The Walking Dead.”

John Bernecker, the 33 year old stuntman, died last summer from injuries suffered in a 20 foot fall on the set in Georgia.

The citation read that “the employer did not furnish employment and a place of employment which was free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm in that employees were exposed to a fall hazard.”  The citation also gave some feasible and acceptable means of reducing the fall hazard including reducing the fall distance, using a freefall catch system, and providing and requiring the use of appropriate personal protective equipment.

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Earlier this week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ released their annual census on fatal occupational injuries for 2016.  According to the report, there were 5,190 workplace fatalities in 2016, a 7% increase from 2015 and the highest since 2008. The fatal injury rate also increased from 3.4 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2015 to 3.6 in 2016.

Transportation incidents were once again the leading cause of workplace fatalities.  They were responsible for 40% of worker deaths (2,083). Workplace violence injuries were the second most common cause of workplace deaths with 866 (up 23% from last year).  The third most common was injuries from falls, slips, or trips with 849 (6% increase).  Fatal falls, slips, and trips have seen a continued upward trend since 2011.  Arguably the most alarming trend is that the number of overdoses on the job increased by 32% in 2016, and the number of fatalities has increased by at least 25% annually since 2012.

Two other workplace injuries that saw drastic changes in fatalities between 2015 and 2016 were exposure to harmful substances or environment (22% increase) and fires and explosions (27% decrease).

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The winter season has arrived in Pennsylvania and the nasty weather that it brings.  Winter weather presents many hazards for workers including slippery roads/surfaces, strong winds and low temperatures.  The dangers are significantly more prevalent for those employees who work outdoors in the winter season.  However, you don’t need to work outside to suffer a winter related workplace injury.  Slip and falls can happen in numerous places including the parking lot or walkways coming into your building.

It may be tempting for workers to “work through it” or “gut it out” but lengthy exposure to wet, cold, and windy conditions, can be hazardous, even if the temperatures aren’t below freezing.

150204-F-ZB121-001According to the U.S. Department of Labor there were 42,480 work injuries involving ice, sleet, or snow in the United States in 2014.  Pennsylvania was the 2nd highest state in terms of those injuries with 2,390 (behind only New York).

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The summer heat is in full force and every year dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat and/or humid conditions.  The construction industry is the occupation that is the most affected by the summer heat accounting for more than 40% of heat-related worker deaths.  However, workers in every field are vulnerable to heat related illness, injury, or death.  In 2011, OSHA launched a Heat Illness Prevention campaign which educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat.  OSHA, through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances have informed millions of workers and employers on how to protect from the extreme heat on the job.  OSHA’s safety message comes down to 3 key words: Water. Rest. Shade.

The reason the heat is so dangerous to workers is because when you’re working in a hot environment, the body must work harder than normal to get rid of the excess heat to maintain a stable internal temperature. This is mainly done through circulating blood to the skin and through sweating.  If the fluids and salts that are lost are not adequately replaced it results in dehydration.  If the body is unable to remove the excess heat, it will be forced to store it. If the body starts storing heat it will raise the body’s core temperature and the heart rate will increase.   The worker will then begin to lose concentration, have difficulty focusing on the work, and may become irritable or sick.  The next stage will often be fainting and even death if the person is does not cool down.170627-F-LR947-1022

Dangers of Working in the Heat