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Chicago Workers' Compensation Blog

BLS releases work-related fatality rates for 2017

In its occupational fatality report for 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted several trends good and bad that should be of interest to workers in diverse industries in Illinois. The good news is that work-related fatalities declined from 5,190 in 2016 to 5,147 in 2017. More than half of the states had fewer injuries in 2017 than in the previous year.

Injuries and illnesses in the private sector saw a decline for the fourteenth year in a row. Employers recorded 2.8 total cases per 100 workers, which is half what the rate was in 2003. Work-related deaths saw their lowest rates since 2003 in the private manufacturing industry and wholesale trade industry.

These jobs are what make the construction industry dangerous

If you are new to the construction industry in Chicago, you may not know how dangerous your job really is. Unfortunately, construction workers suffer injuries every day even when they follow every required safety measure. In other words, sometimes things simply go wrong either due to equipment malfunctioning or another worker's mistake or negligence. When this happens, you could not only end up injured enough to miss work, but, if the injuries are serious, you might end up having to learn alternative skills in order to reenter the workforce.

Having a solid understanding of where the most dangers lurk can help you stay safe while you are on the job. These are the construction jobs that have the highest risk factors.

Scaffolding accidents often caused by safety violations

Construction workers in Illinois may be concerned about their safety on the job, especially if they work on scaffolding and at heights. In the construction industry, accidents involving scaffolds are among the most common. In addition, workplace safety practices for scaffolding are often poor and in violation of federal regulations. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), scaffolding problems are the third most common violation found by the agency. In 2016 alone, 3,900 citations were issued for dangerous scaffolds.

Since scaffolding often is positioned at substantial heights, falls and other incidents could lead to catastrophic injuries or even fatalities. Scaffolds are common in construction; indeed, 65 percent of workers in the industry frequently operate on them. Every year, 4,500 employees are injured on scaffolding and 60 lose their lives in fatal workplace accidents. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that 72 percent of these incidents can be attributed to falls and dangerous or deficient platform structures.

Increasing safety for outdoor workers during winter months

Outdoor workers in Illinois often have to continue their jobs even when temperatures drop and conditions become potentially hazardous. In an effort to help employers in the Prairie State keep their outdoor workers safe, OSHA is spreading information about ways to prevent winter accidents.

Employers are urged to reduce the risk of on-the-job injury incidents by ensuring that workers have proper personal protective equipment. This includes personal fall protection systems for employees working from high locations during winter months. While rooftop snow removal accidents contribute to several injuries and deaths annually, OSHA doesn't have specific snow removal standards. However, guidelines are in place for ladders and aerial lifts. Furthermore, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires that employers provide reasonable protection against cold weather, snow, ice and similar hazardous conditions.

Taking precautions during holiday season may reduce injuries

During the holiday season in Illinois, many stores hire temporary employees to keep up with the increased number of shoppers. Employees may work additional hours and have an increased workload as they deliver purchases to customers, stock shelves and sell merchandise. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is reminding employers to ensure that precautions are taken to keep workers safe and that the proper steps are taken to make sure that employees are paid the correct amount on payday.

According to a study done by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the additional hours and increased workload may increase the stress of employees, which may lead to declines in health. The NIOSH study reported that in 2016, 24 percent of employees said that their work interferes with their family and personal obligations. This stress may lead to injuries while on the job.

OSHA specifically addresses safety rights of temp workers

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established rules to protect temporary workers in Illinois and nationwide. Temporary workers sometimes receive incomplete information about job safety because they work for a staffing agency that sends them to perform duties at a host employer. As a result, temporary workers sometimes find themselves in the most hazardous jobs without adequate training. Although employers might expect to dodge safety regulations through the use of temporary workers, the law still requires both staffing agencies and host employers to maintain safe workplaces.

OSHA regulations clearly state that both entities share joint responsibility for worker safety. The contract between the staffing agency and host employer should state which party will conduct safety training, inform workers about hazards and keep records. Regulators have the power to hold both employers accountable for violations.

Ladder safety for all workers

Imagine going to work on Monday, ready for a busy week of wire installation at a Chicago construction site. Unfortunately, the installation requires you to spend a significant amount of time on a ladder which is where things can get tricky. As you climb the work ladder for the thousandth time, a rung breaks and you fall. While this may seem like a rare scenario, a ladder fall is actually a daily occurrence.

Whether you spend enough time on a ladder that it seems like second nature or you're new to a job that requires daily ladder use, it is important to remember ladder safety techniques every time you use one. Falls from ladders are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries.

OSHA's petroleum refinery regulations scaled back

Workers at Illinois petroleum refineries may be concerned about their safety on the job, especially after an administrative review decision that reduced charges against an employer regarding workplace safety violations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration uses safety standards for petroleum refineries that have been challenged on the basis of vagueness. In the case at hand, OSHA fined BP $2,870,000 for violations of Process Safety Management rules for the handling of highly hazardous chemicals at a refinery in Ohio. This included 65 different violations enclosed in one willful citation.

However, on appeal, an administrative law judge upheld only five of the citations, reducing the massive fine to only $35,000. While the Secretary of Labor appealed the decision, it was upheld by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Some workers are concerned that this decision could give employers the green light to maintain unsafe working conditions at refineries. The most prominent issue in the case concerned the use of the term "Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Engineering Principles", or RAGAGEP. While the term is widely used in the OSHA regulations, it is not defined in the text.

Rotator cuff tears can be painful and damaging

Shoulder injuries can be a major threat to the health and well-being of workers on the job in Chicago. For people who do a lot of heavy lifting or use machines repeatedly, an injury to the shoulder can cause serious pain and even disability. Rotator cuff injuries can also keep people out of work while they heal. Despite their severity, these kinds of injuries are all too common in the workplace; every year, around 2 million Americans see a doctor due to a rotator cuff problem.

A torn rotator cuff can make it difficult to engage in everyday activities like dressing or showering, let alone lifting heavy items or operating equipment. This type of injury takes place where the arm sits in the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff itself is made up of four muscles that come together as tendons to cover the humerus, the upper arm bone. This cuff attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade, allowing the arm to lift and rotate.

OSHA to enforce compliance with trench and excavation standards

In Illinois and across the U.S., more workers are dying in trenching and excavation operations. Between 2011 and 2016, 130 such fatalities were reported to OSHA with 49 percent occurring between 2015 and 2016 alone. The private construction industry accounted for 104 of these deaths. OSHA believes that trench collapsing is a risk in virtually all excavations.

To better enforce safety standards, OSHA updated its National Emphasis Program on trenching in excavation. The revised NEP went into effect Oct. 1. For 90 days following that date, OSHA's regional and area offices will reach out to employers who need help complying with the standards.

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