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Chicago Workers' Compensation Blog

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.

Promoting workplace safety with signs and labels

Illinois companies are required by law to provide employees with a safe place to work. Despite the efforts of OSHA, injuries continue to occur each year. Signs and labels at the workplace play a key role in promoting worker safety. The way that employers communicate the importance of safety to workers is key. A sign or message will not do any good to prevent injuries if it means nothing to the workers. Therefore, utilizing signs, labels and other displays with a clear meaning can go a long way toward reminding workers to use proper precautions.

Technology has evolved to become a great tool for promoting workplace safety. For example, digital signs can be displayed that count the number of days that there have been no accidents encourages workers to stay committed to keeping the workplace accident-free. Technology can also be used to remind workers to use personal protection equipment. For example, technology that detects noise levels can help remind workers to wear noise-protection gear when the level becomes potentially unsafe.

How workers' compensation protects families after a work fatality

When you kiss a loved one goodbye and send them off to work, you assume they will come home safely at the end of the day. Sadly, people do die on the job in Illinois despite workplace safety standards. There are many different kinds of jobs that pose risks to workers, from construction work to delivery driving.

Regardless of what kind of career your loved one had, losing someone to a work injury or illness can utterly change your life. If the death was the result of an accident, you likely did not have the opportunity to seek closure with your loved one before they passed on. Even in cases where you saw your loved one again before they died, a work-related loss can leave a particularly large hole in your heart and cause financial distress.

The top 5 causes of construction worker deaths

Construction workers in Illinois are probably aware that the industry they work in is one of the most dangerous around. OSHA states that there were almost 1,000 construction worker deaths in 2016 and that roughly 60 percent of these could have been avoided with proper training and equipment. It can be good, then, to recap what the most common hazards are in the industry.

Falls account for approximately one third of construction deaths. Workers often fall through holes or fall from an elevated surface that's slippery or unstable. Not wearing hard hats or non-slip work boots (or not getting them from the employer) can increase the risk. The unsafe use of ladders and scaffolding also results in falls.

Free OSHA resources aid contractors with silica dust compliance

There are new rules regarding exposure to crystalline silica dust that contractors and construction workers in Illinois and elsewhere around the country must follow. To aid with training and safety compliance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created free instructional videos and other informational materials about the threats of respirable crystalline silica.

Regulations require contractors to educate their workers about how to identify silica threats and limit exposure. Employers can customize slideshows so that they can train workers about problems that are specific to their worksites. A short video available on YouTube informs employees about methods for protecting themselves from breathing the dust. Small- and medium-sized construction businesses have access to free on-site consultations with OSHA inspectors.

Working with hazardous materials

Employers in Illinois are obligated to make sure that their employees know how to safely handle hazardous materials. An ideal place to inform employees about the basic rules for handling hazardous materials in the workplace is at a safety meeting, during which employees can be encouraged to make their own contributions to a list of safety rules.

Employees should execute their job duties as they have been trained and adhere to the workplace procedures that are in place. They should also work carefully with and around hazardous materials, making sure to pay careful attention to what they are doing while they are working.

OSHA updates guide for assessing workplace safety

Due to changes in workplace conditions and the nature of employer-employee interactions, OSHA has updated its recommended practices for safety and health programs. Employers in Illinois should know that these updates affect how to identify and assess safety hazards. Thankfully, OSHA provides six action items, or steps, to help employers implement the recommended practices.

The first step is to collect, organize and review information on any preexisting workplace hazards. Employers can survey their workers or gather input from safety and health committee meetings. The next step is to conduct regular inspections of the workplace. Employers should invite employees along and afterward review with them any photographs or videos taken during the inspection. These inspections should be documented, making it clear that any hazards were promptly dealt with.

Protect your back at work with these safe lifting techniques

If your job in Chicago often involves lifting heavy objects, you probably only feel like it is a matter of time before you start experiencing back pain or suffer a severe injury. When you bend over to lift an item, the natural forward curve of your spine can straighten or even reverse and put extreme pressure on the discs in your spine. This can lead to the discs becoming displaced, herniated or ruptured.

If you have already experienced back pain due to lifting heavy objects, you should visit your doctor immediately to start treatment. In addition, the following safe lifting techniques can help you protect your back.

Reviewing the 10 most dangerous jobs in the US

In late 2017, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its 2016 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The bureau's data on the 10 most dangerous jobs in America should be of interest to both employers and employees in Illinois. While some of the listed jobs are expected, others are not. This shows that all potential causes of danger must be considered to ensure workplace safety.

At the top of the list were logging workers, fishers, aircraft pilots/flight engineers and roofers, respectively. Trash and recycling collectors, who came in fifth, may be the most unexpected in the list. They were followed by iron/steel workers, truck/sales drivers, farmers/agricultural managers, construction supervisors/extraction workers and, lastly, groundskeepers.

Training employees to wear safety gear

OSHA guidelines require workers in a range of industries to wear personal protective equipment such as gloves, hard hats and safety glasses. However, some Illinois employers may have a hard time getting their workers to wear such equipment. The usual advice is to provide new, more comfortable PPE. When this fails to improve compliance, employers may need to consider the following tips.

One major reason why workers don't wear their PPE is because they think they don't need it. This mindset might be the result of inadequate training. Training should cover not only how to put on PPE but also why it is necessary. PPE trainers can create value propositions (as they say in marketing) through the use of personal stories that make an urgent appeal. These anectdotes will show workers that their employers actually believe in the value of PPE.

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