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Slidell Workers' Compensation Law Blog

OSHA announces top work-related violations for 2018

Employers and workers in Louisiana are generally in agreement when it comes to doing everything possible to maintain safe work environments. During a recent safety event where this particular topic was addressed, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a preliminarily listing of the agency's top violations for 2018. The majority of the issues documented involved fall hazards and failure to take sufficient preventative actions.

A failure to provide sufficient fall protection tops the list. Many citations issued for this reason involved contractors working around unprotected sides or edges on steep or low-sloping roofs. A lack of sufficient hazard communication is another oversight that led to many violations. OSHA noted that individuals working at auto facilities and hotels or motels were more likely to be carrying out duties without a written safety program, proper training or required safety data sheets (SDSs) on file.

Most workers' comp claims result from routine activities

Certain accidents that occur while engaged in work-related activities can be serious. Catastrophic injury or death can be the result in the worst-case scenarios. Fortunately, however, the vast majority of claims filed under Louisiana workers' compensation laws involve less severe accidents or no accident at all. Isolated incidents or recurring, repetitive movement can lead to workers' injuries as well.

The workers' compensation system was established to remove fault as an issue in resolving injury claims by workers against their employers. Liability is not an issue as long as the injury is work-related and the employer and employee are covered under the relevant state workers' comp statutes. The injured worker could potentially recover for medical expenses and treatment, lost wages and rehabilitation services where appropriate. Most claims result from everyday activities performed routinely on the job.

Updates made to OSHA's trenching and excavation NEP

There has been an increase in the number of workers killed during trenching and excavation operations. OSHA reported 130 such fatalities between 2011 and 2016. Nearly half died between 2015 and 2016, and about 80 percent were in the private construction industry. Construction workers in Louisiana should know that OSHA has taken an important step to increase enforcement of trenching and excavation safety standards.

On October 1, 2018, OSHA released an updated National Emphasis Program for trenching and excavation. For 90 days following that date, OSHA's regional and area offices will be providing outreach to employers who need help with compliance.

OIG: work-related injuries underreported by OSHA

An audit report from the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General states that OSHA may be underreporting severe and fatal workplace injuries by 50 percent or more. Employees in Louisiana may know that OSHA made changes to its injury and illness recordkeeping rule, which went into effect back in January 2015. Despite these changes, OSHA is inconsistent in issuing citations against employers who report an injury late, the OIG continues.

The report, which was released on Sept. 13, also calls attention to a lack of guidance and training among OSHA staff members when it comes to detecting and identifying underreporting. It points out that OSHA has limited assurance that employers have corrected hazards and that this could be due to OSHA not having enough information to aid in enforcement and compliance assistance.

OSHA tries to reduce fatal construction accidents

About 20 percent of worker deaths that occurred around the country in 2016 were in the construction industry according to OSHA. Louisiana construction workers are generally hurt or killed by four major types of hazards. These include falling, being electrocuted and getting hit by objects. Getting stuck between objects was another typical way in which a construction worker was killed on the job.

To help workers stay safe, OSHA has started the Focus Four Hazards campaign. It aims to partner with private companies to create greater awareness around these hazards and how to mitigate them. One of the ways that this was accomplished was by managers holding toolbox talks with employees. These talks provided an opportunity to remind workers of the importance of workplace safety. It also gave managers and employees the chance to discuss safety plans or ways to avoid potential hazards on a job site.

Amazon warehouse workers report adverse conditions

In July 2018, the Guardian launched an investigation into claims of adverse conditions at Amazon warehouses. There have been multiple claims from former employees that they were treated improperly by management after getting hurt on the job. Many of these workers, some of whom could be in Louisiana, may be left without injury benefits.

Amazon currently runs more than 140 fulfillment centers across the U.S., and it employs over 560,000 people worldwide. A spokesperson insists that the company's employee safety is a top priority, but former employees tell a different story. Some report that Amazon warehouse conditions left them excessively fatigued and exhausted and that they chose to quit rather than put themselves at risk for an accident.

11 safety rules for chemical handlers in Louisiana

Ensuring the safe handling of hazardous chemicals is an essential part of the environment, health and safety field. Employees and employers alike can benefit from considering the following 11 safety rules. The first rule is for workers to perform their duties according to the training they received. Second of all, workers must be alert to any potential hazards when working.

Personal protective equipment is essential, and it must not be worn or damaged in any way. Fourthly, employers should have emergency procedures for times when employers are covered in chemicals or start a fire. The procedures should cover the evacuation and reporting process too. Fifth, it's critical to ensure a clean work environment. Employees should clean work surfaces once during their shift to prevent contamination.

Grace period ends for compliance with silica dust standards

Louisiana workers whose duties might expose them to crystalline silica dust should expect their employers to comply with the new safety standards developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The agency had delayed full enforcement of the rules meant to prevent unhealthy exposures to respirable dust until July 23 for companies showing a good faith effort to comply with regulations. With full enforcement now in effect, employers will need to offer their workers medical surveillance under certain circumstances to detect silica disease early.

Employers must provide medical evaluations at no cost to employees when silica dust exceeds permissible levels for 30 or more days during a 12-month period. The 30 days do not have to be consecutive. Dust exposure that occurred while working with a previous employer will not carry over to count toward the 30 days with a current employer.

BLS data used to rank US jobs with the worst fatality rates

In late 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued its 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. This data was used to rank the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. If Louisiana employees are not familiar with the ranking, now is the time to review it; some of the listed jobs may be surprising.

The top three were logging workers, fishing workers and aircraft pilots and flight engineers. The logging industry experienced 135.9 fatalities out of 100,000 full-time or equivalent workers. The fishing industry, which held the No. 2 position, had a fatal work injury rate of 86. While logging and fishing may have had the highest rates based on total workforce, the most overall fatalities came from the truck and sales transportation industry. This group saw 918 deaths in 2016.

Black lung report encourages more monitoring, research

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has published a new report that may be of interest to Louisiana miners. Black lung disease, caused by the inhalation of coal mine dust, has long been a problem with people in the mining industry. Despite advances in technology, there has been a steady increase in black lung cases across the nation.

The report goes into the ways that companies can reduce exposure to respirable coal dust. This could be done after a careful monitoring of the mine via a continuous personal dust monitor. However, these monitors have several issues. For instance, they may include limestone and other materials in their measurements. In addition, cost and size may keep many miners from wearing them.