Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Flooding
Here in Pennsylvania we have had some of the heaviest rains in recent memory. Flooding and damage due to these rains have been widespread across the state and it seems to be getting worse and worse as the late summer progresses. Most people do not consider heavy rains to be much of a health concern, but flooding can lead to a variety of injuries for people at work.

Washed out or flooded roads can easily cause car accidents for people whose jobs involve driving. Car accidents during work can lead to a workers’ compensation claim when the worker is injured in a car accident during their normal job duties.

Floodwaters will often be mixed with hazardous materials such as sewage, farm waste, chemical waste, and others. These have a potential to cause negative health effects for those who come in contact with the water. Any employee who is charged with the task of cleaning up flood damage should make sure they have their shots up to date, especially their tetanus shot.

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Falls from an elevated position continue to the leading cause of death for construction employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 37% (370 out of 991) of construction fatalities recorded in 2016 were caused by a fall. The overarching goal of the National Safety Stand-Down campaign is to raise fall hazard awareness across the country in an effort to eliminate fall fatalities and injuries.

Even though falls are the leading cause of construction fatalities, those falls are preventable.  The use of hazard elimination, proper planning, training, and use of proper fall protection equipment can decrease and even eliminate these alarming statistics.Residential_construction_fall_prevention_system_%289253638891%29

The term “safety stand-down” is used to describe an event when normal work is paused and so the entire work site can focus on a specific work safety issue.

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National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is a campaign held every year in the spring at the beginning of construction season to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety issues and encourage safe driving through highway work zones. The key message is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones. The campaign is a partnership between state departments of transportation, national road safety organizations, government agencies, private companies, and individuals.

MUTCD_G20-5aPAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 136 construction worker deaths caused by roadway incidents involving motor vehicles in 2015.  Being struck by a vehicle is a leading cause of fatalities for roadway construction workers and the ultimate goal of this campaign is to eliminate the risks that cause those deadly accidents.

The outlined goals for NWZAW efforts:

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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.

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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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An independent medical examination (IME) is a medical evaluation performed on an injured worker by a doctor at the request of the employer/insurance company.  It is done to show that a work-related injury no longer exists, that it has decreased in severity, or that the injury isn’t actually work-related.

It is probable that at some point an injured worker receiving workers compensation benefits will be asked to undergo an IME.  Under Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Laws, if you are receiving benefits for a work-related injury your employer/insurer can request you to be examined by a doctor in an attempt to limit or eliminate those benefits.  The employer/insurer is entitled to have the injured worker undergo an IME every 6 months.

If you are requested to attend an IME it is mandatory that you do so.  If you do not attend, without reasonable cause or excuse, your benefits can be denied during the period of your refusal to attend and possibly forfeit your future benefits.2017-03-27-13-56-58-725x483

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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.

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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?