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Slidell Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Adapting to age diversity in the workforce

In Louisiana and around the country, more and more people are putting off retirement. The Pew Research Center has found that the workforce percentage of Americans 65 and older who work full- or part-time increased from 12.8 percent in May 2000 to 18.8 percent in May 2016. This has led to greater age diversity in the workplace, especially in the construction industry and other fields involving manual labor.

To adapt to the needs of both older and younger employees, employers are encouraged to do several things. First, they should bridge the communication gap by bringing together employees for group activities. Second, they should regularly check in on elderly employees and assign new tasks when current ones are becoming too strenuous.

The importance of proper equipment in the workplace

Louisiana warehouse workers who need to reach items on high shelves need to be provided with the proper equipment and training to be lifted to those shelves safely. A warehouse worker was fatally injured when he fell 7 feet to a concrete floor after standing on a pallet that had been lifted by a forklift to a top shelf. This was common practice in his workplace, and the workers did not have another way to safely access high shelves.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident and found that the employer should have prohibited this practice, which was against the forklift manufacturer's instructions. It also said that the employees should have been provided with training and with equipment that would allow them to be safely lifted. One option is a personnel platform. Requiring written approval from the manufacturer of the forklift, this platform comes with fall protection such as a guardrail. Another option is a high-lift order picker. This is an industrial truck class that includes fall arrest equipment.

Debate rages over hiding names of deceased workers

On Aug. 25, the names of thousands of workers who died on the job were removed from OSHA's website. Three of the victims were killed while they were welding a 30-foot tank for the Packaging Corporation of America in Louisiana. The men were thrown 200 feet when the tank exploded.

The company was fined $63,375 by OSHA, and the association added the workers' names to an online scrolling list of workplace victims. OSHA says that their names were later removed to protect the privacy of their family members. However, some of the victim's relatives said that their names should remain as a way to hold employers accountable for their actions. One said that choosing to remove this information makes victims seem more like statistics.

Preventing computer vision syndrome in the workplace

Louisiana employees who spend a significant amount of time in front of their computers while at work may suffer from computer vision syndrome, also known as digital eyestrain. The syndrome encompasses a variety of vision-related problems that can occur from prolonged digital device use.

According to the American Optometric Association, American workers spend an average of seven hours each day on the computer. Prolonged exposure to digital devices, such as computers, tablets and smartphones, can cause a series of eye problems. These eye problems can include blurry vision, headaches and dry eyes. Some workers may also experience back, neck and shoulder pain. Although many of the symptoms associated with digital eyestrain are temporary, they can make it difficult for workers to get their work done in a timely manner. Further, some workers may also experience these symptoms well after they stop using the computer or other device for the day.

Struck-by fatalities prevalent in construction work

Louisiana construction workers may be interested to learn that "struck-by" deaths are one of the leading causes of construction work fatalities. From 2011 to 2015, more than 800 construction workers were killed as a result of these accidents.

A struck-by accident occurs when a person is struck by materials during the building of concrete or masonry walls. For example, the accident can occur while the worker is using a machine to lift the heavy slabs into position. An accident can also take place if materials are not shored up properly. It was reported that approximately 52 percent of struck-by fatalities involved being hit with equipment or objects while the remainder were caused by being struck by vehicles. Of these vehicle accidents, 57 percent occurred in work zones.

The importance of safety in trench work

Trench accidents on Louisiana construction sites can result in catastrophic injuries or deaths to workers who are involved in them. Because of the dangers that are posed by working in trenches, there are safety regulations that employers are mandated to follow. Because a cubic foot of dirt can weigh more than a ton, it is easy to understand how workers can be crushed when trenches collapse.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, trench fatalities more than doubled in 2016 from the previous year. Trench collapses that result because of safety violations may lead to criminal prosecutions of those who are responsible. Experts report that there are three primary reasons for the increase in trench deaths, including using untrained workers, trying to cut corners to get jobs done quickly and inadequate safety measures.

Wearable technologies can assist injury rehabilitation

The management of workplace injuries is changing due to smart technologies and wearable options. These technologies are being used to improve the quality of care and rehabilitation for Louisiana workers who are injured on the job.

While wearable devices originally became known as fitness or activity trackers helping people engaging in an exercise program to track their steps or measure their heartbeat, health care providers are using these items for other purposes. The wearables can help to monitor other major health data like blood pressure or respiratory rates. They can also be used to sense body mechanics in order to help prevent on-the-job injuries and cut down on risks.

Healthcare workers face on the job violence

People who do not work in the medical field might not expect some of the hazards nurses are exposed to while on the job. Nurses in Louisiana hospitals sometimes experience back strains from lifting patients and other similar work-related injuries, but the biggest danger workers in this field face is violence, primarily from patients.

Healthcare violence causes almost the same amount of injuries as from all other occupations combined. Between 15,000 and 20,000 injuries happened yearly from 2011 to 2013. These instances only represent the occasions when the damage was serious enough to require recovery time and days off work, so the actual number is likely to be larger.

Workplace safety

Employee safety should be a main priority for Louisiana companies as people are the cornerstone of their business. However, survey results from the National Safety Council indicate that many people believe that employee safety is not as important as it should be.

Thirty-six percent of the survey respondents stated that they at least somewhat agreed that safety was secondary to completing their work tasks. Many of the surveyed workers have jobs considered high-risk. Sixty-eight percent worked in the forestry, fishing, agriculture and hunting industries, 58 percent are in employed in the construction industry and 45 percent are in manufacturing. The perception held by these workers indicate that there is an urgency for companies to allow human resources and safety professionals to take the necessary steps to help improve workers' health and safety and the environment.

Teens face rising injury rate on the job

When it comes to work-related injuries, teens who hold summer jobs may be especially at risk. In 2015, slightly more than 400 people under the age of 24 suffered fatal injuries while on the job, according to an Occupational Safety and Health Administration report. Although these findings are not specific to the state of Louisiana, research supports at least one child labor specialist's belief that teens and young adults are more likely than older employees to be injured at work.

Statistics show that an increasing number of teen workplace injuries occurred from 1998 through 2007. Teens holding positions in retail sales, food service, office work, janitorial work and outdoor jobs remain exposed to hazards ranging from slippery floors and hot cooking equipment to biocontamination and violent crime. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that the more than 2 million teens who work in the agriculture industry alone each year are exposed to a variety of farm-related safety hazards on the job.