Manufacturing processes often expose workers to toxic fumes in the workplace. For example, vehicle manufacturing and fuel unearthing processes can expose employees to various chemical vapors as a part of their daily work. OSHA requires employers to provide safety training and equipment to workers. OSHA rules and regulations are designed to protect workers from toxic exposures.

Protecting Employees Against Toxic Fumes

Toxic fumes can cause a wide variety of work-related injuries and diseases, including urinary tract cancer, lung cancer, kidney damage, respiratory disease, and nervous system disorders. To help keep workers safe from these and other hazards, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has put certain rules and regulations in place. The administration requires employers to provide sufficient training and equipment to help protect against toxic chemicals in workplaces where they’re often produced.

Toxic fumes continue to be a problem in many workplaces, despite OSHA’s efforts. Earlier this year, one Iowa worker was overcome by fumes while working at a food packaging manufacturing plant.

To prevent factory accidents like this, OSHA put into place Hazard Communication Standards (HCS) that require employers to collect and disseminate data about the various hazards and identities of chemicals that put their workers at risk. Under these standards, chemical manufacturers and importers also must prepare labels and safety information that properly communicate information about the hazards their products present to end consumers.

Additionally, employers with employees who work in environments that contribute to toxic fume exposure need to identify and assess these hazards, ensuring that they don’t go over the Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs). They also need to provide free respiratory protective equipment to all employees, along with sufficient education and training around their proper use.

Industries and Occupations That Put Workers at Risk

Several occupations put workers at risk more than others for toxic fume exposure. For instance, oil and gas workers may encounter airborne silica while performing hydraulic fracturing processes, which can lead to lung diseases and other respiratory issues. Hairdressers may also breathe in toxic hair products that cause lung problems over time. Healthcare workers also frequently gain exposure to biological agents and other dangerous substances that may lead to infections.

The risks of toxic fumes make it necessary for employers and employees to adhere to OSHA rules and regulations around these fumes in the workplace, which can keep them safer and healthier.

Teams should implement a variety of safety measures to help save lives and keep workers safe during trenching projects. Trenching is vital for many construction projects. It involves digging into dirt to form a narrow passage for workers and equipment. Trenching can be dangerous like other aspects of a construction project. Cave-ins and collapses often leave injuries and death in their paths.

The following are safety tips to help protect teams while trenching.

Implementing Protective Trenching Systems

The right protective systems will keep workers protected from potential construction accidents involving cave-ins, which are often fatal. Generally, protective systems are necessary for trenches that are deeper than five feet, and professional engineers must design these systems for trenches deeper than 20 feet.

One common type of system used is shoring. This system consists of timber, hydraulic systems, or mechanical components to keep the trench walls from caving in. Additionally, sloping and benching are often used to create an angled slope and/or steps to travel up and down the trench wall. Trench shields are also used to shield workers from debris in the event of a collapse.

Inspecting Trenches Regularly

To help minimize the risk of cave-ins and collapses, professionals must routinely inspect the trench. Inspections should be performed before work begins and repeatedly throughout the day as work takes place. 

It’s also important to inspect the trench following any type of natural event such as a storm. If any other work takes place such as blasting, inspection will be required again. 

Upon inspection, if any issues are discovered with the integrity of the trench, safety measures must be in place before work in the trench can resume.

Testing the Atmosphere

If a trench is deeper than four feet in a potentially hazardous atmosphere, atmospheric testing will be required. Testing can detect dangerous levels of oxygen deficiency along with the presence of methane or other dangerous gases.

If a test finds that hazards are present, employers will need to supply workers with protective gear such as basket stretchers and breathing devices.

These are some of the many ways in which employers and workers can create a safe trenching environment. With the right safety measures in place, employees can avoid work-related injuries and deaths.

Developments in construction worker safety wearables have been helping to keep employers safer and bring them home. With the many risks associated with construction projects and sites, organizations such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have worked to implement policies and encourage the use of safety gear, including wearable devices using innovative technology. As a result, advances have been made to help protect construction workers from serious injuries.

The following are some of the specific construction safety wearables that may be the key to keeping construction workers safe.

Smartwatches

Smartwatches are becoming increasingly popular among regular consumers and seeing increased use among construction workers. Construction workers can use smartwatches such as Apple Watches and FitBits to perform several tasks.

For instance, construction workers can monitor their daily health and activity to determine if they’re experiencing overexertion. Additionally, they can detect falls and automatically alert emergency or site personnel in the event of an accidental fall. Construction sites often require the use of hands-free devices for communication. These are available in the form of smartwatches with hands-free communication capabilities.

Smart Hard Hats

In addition to smartwatches, smart hard hats can help keep construction workers safe. Although hard hats have already helped prevent many work-related injuries, innovative technologies are enhancing them with new capabilities. Sensors within hard hats can help monitor workers and keep them fully functioning on the job.

Through the use of a sensor, hard hats will be able to detect fatigue in the wearer and indicate when it’s time to go on break. In addition, the hard hat will be able to detect microsleeps before they occur, preventing workers from falling asleep on the job. Proximity sensing will also detect workers, equipment, and pedestrians nearby to help prevent collisions.

While these technologies are still in development, they’re likely to be deployed in the near future.

Innovative Bodywear

Some construction wearables include gear that construction workers can wear all over the body. Using these wearables and powerful sensors, bodywear would be able to track heat and let workers know when to take a break out of the sun or consume water to prevent dehydration. Other sensors could detect dangerous gases and alert workers to protect them from exposure. Some “exoskeleton” technologies would also help prevent workers from experiencing muscle fatigue when handling tools or lifting heavy items.

Smart Boots

Construction workers’ boots are about to become a lot more capable with the introduction of new developments. Using wearable technology, boots can detect pressure and location in several ways.

For example, sensors in the sole of the boot would be able to detect certain shocks or falls and immediately notify site managers or emergency services. These boots would also be able to track the worker’s location with unmatched precision and accuracy, which can help site managers keep track of all workers and alert workers if they’re in unsafe areas. Built-in charging could also enable these smart boots to charge themselves as workers move in them, eliminating the need to recharge them at any point throughout a shift.

AR Glasses

Augmented reality is making waves in many industries and for the average consumer, but it’s also quickly becoming an invaluable asset for construction workers. Smart glasses with AR technology would be able to overlay digital information in real-world settings, essentially enhancing reality with more data. These goggles would, in turn, not only provide physical protection but would also be able to keep workers more aware of their surroundings in the workplace.

One advantage of using smart glasses in construction sites would be to detect leading edges, which could help prevent falls by alerting workers when they’re close to a ledge. These goggles could also detect certain hazardous materials and visually alert the user of them. Managers could even upload safety protocols for workers to follow, as the goggles remind them of specific protocols based on the equipment they’re using or their location.

Keeping Workers Safer with Wearable Technology

Through the use of these and other possible developments in safety wearables, construction workers can more effectively avoid construction accidents. With innovations that provide alerts when workers are in danger along with notification of certain personnel, workers can benefit from an overall safer work environment. Subsequently, construction-related accidents are likely to see a notable decrease in the coming years as technology assists these workers.

However, while these technologies are on the way and can help protect employees and pedestrians, managers will still need to do what they can to create a generally safer workspace with the right protocols and physical safety gear. When these technologies roll out, they’ll be able to supplement employers’ efforts.

A pressing issue Iowa workers face is workplace violence, which is why standards are required to maintain a safer work environment. Professionals, such as nurses, social workers, and emergency responders, are often at risk of harm. A recently introduced federal standard would help give Iowa’s workforce the protection they need.

Is Workplace Violence on the Rise?

Many healthcare and social service employees are exposed to harm and are without sufficient protection against workplace violence. The numbers reflect a serious problem when it comes to violence: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) found that 450 homicides resulted directly or indirectly from workplace violence in 2017. Additionally, the organization determined that there was an 80% increase in serious workplace violence injuries for healthcare and social service employees in the last decade.

Healthcare and social service workers are also 4.7 times more likely to sustain injuries as a result of workplace violence than other employees. Women are most frequently affected, with female workers harmed in two out of three workplace violence events.

With the growing epidemic of workplace violence and subsequent work-related injuries, it’s important for businesses to take the necessary steps to protect their employees.

A New Proposed Standard to Prevent Workplace Violence

The AFL-CIO introduced new legislation that would help make the workplace safer for many vulnerable employees. The Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act would put into place a new Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard to minimize the risk of workplace violence.

The standard would specifically work to reduce and prevent injuries to workers that are serious, life-altering, and foreseeable in nursing homes, social service facilities, and hospitals. Once implemented, health care and social service sectors would be required to implement an actionable plan to keep workers consistently safe from violence. In turn, protecting workers more effectively would help keep patients safer in many of these environments.

Taking Steps to Reduce Workplace Violence

In introducing the new standard, the AFL-CIO hopes that workers will have a chance to remain safer on the job while patients benefit from a safer environment. While more work is needed to significantly reduce workplace violence, the legislation is a step in the right direction in giving workers sufficient protection in particularly dangerous sectors.

In Iowa, eight workers filed federal complaints against the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) claiming that the agency practiced gross negligence that put workers at risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. The workers represent employees in various industries, including health care, meatpacking, nursing homes, transportation, and others.

An Alleged Failure to Protect Workers

With the help of civil rights groups, the workers filing the complaint against Iowa OSHA want to force the agency to take steps to protect workers from potentially deadly working conditions. These workers and groups filed a Complaint About State Program Administration (CASPA) in the hope that it would encourage federal OSHA to investigate the alleged negligent practices of its Iowa branch.

The complaint, filed in November 2020, specifically claims that several Iowa workplaces failed to put proper protections in place for workers and that Iowa OSHA failed to investigate complaints regarding those workplaces. Iowa OSHA has previously come under fire for failing to investigate potentially life-threatening conditions that could result in construction accidents and other incidents.

The groups filing the CASPA complaint include the American Friends Service Committee Iowa, the ACLU of IOWA, the Iowa AFL-CIO, Forward Latino, and others. In addition to groups in Iowa, the Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting (IIIFFC) are also involved.

Violating Rules Regarding On-Site Inspections

Iowa OSHA has specific rules in place for conducting on-site inspections. The agency is required to conduct an investigation if:

  • A formal complaint that a worker has signed contains allegations of dangerous working conditions that may lead to serious physical harm
  • A formal or informal complaint submitted by a nonworker or unsigned by a worker claims that working conditions pose an imminent danger

Despite setting these rules, the agency has failed to provide a satisfactory response to previous complaints about dangerous workplaces. In October 2020, workers had filed a total of 148 complaints around COVID-19, 36 of which were formal complaints. A mere five of these complaints led Iowa OSHA to conduct an on-site investigation, while the others were simply closed and dismissed.

While Iowa OSHA wound up inspecting seven other meatpacking plants, the agency only took this course of action when the media or state lawmakers encouraged it.

With the issuing of this complaint, workers in Iowa hope to make sure that OSHA does its job in keeping workers consistently safe, whether from COVID-19 or other potential dangers.

Although there’s been progress in reducing work-related injuries and deaths, AFL-CIO’s 2021 workplace safety report has shown that there’s still progress left to make. The introduction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has contributed to safer work environments in the U.S. for the last 50 years, but many workspaces are still far more dangerous than they should be, according to the recent report.

A Recent Stall in Workplace Injury Reduction

According to the AFL-CIO’s 2021 Death On The Job report, the Occupational Safety and Health Act has helped reduce work-related deaths to 3.5 per 100,000 in 2019 from nine per 100,000 in 1991. However, the report also revealed that the death rate has remained at the current level since 2017 under the Trump administration.

The 3.5 per 100,000 rate means that around 275 workers die on a daily basis from dangerous work conditions, while another 95,000 workers die every year from occupational illnesses. These deadly accidents disproportionately occur to people of color in the workplace, according to AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler.

Minimal Penalties May Contribute to Steady Worker Death Rates

The current penalties in place for worker deaths are lighter in some states than others, which may help keep worker death rates level. Currently, the maximum federal fine for a worker’s death on the job sits at $12,788, with a maximum jail time of six months. To complicate matters, both federal and state OSHAs have a mere 1,798 inspectors, which is a significantly lower number from 30 years ago, and corporations have fought against implementing new rules for safety in the workplace.

Optimism for the Future of Worker Safety

Despite the ongoing issues present that are putting workers at risk, Shuler remains positive about the future of workplace safety. “We have a pro-worker president, a pro-worker vice president, and a pro-worker majority in Congress,” she stated.

With a new president in office and the world recovering from a devastating pandemic, Shuler and others hope that workplace safety will become a top priority for policymakers. However, corporate opposition is likely to make it difficult for policymakers to overcome the challenges in place, as up-to-date and accurate information around workplace safety and occupational health are limited. In fact, the current data is outdated by at least a year.

In addition to other causes of workplace deaths and illnesses, the AFL-CIO report included a section on COVID-19-related illnesses and deaths, even though businesses aren’t required to report these items. Enforcement became so lax under the Trump administration that it was a challenge to trace sources of the COVID-19 infection and subsequently protect workers against the virus.

Meatpacking plants were among the few types of businesses that kept track of COVID-19 cases in 2020. The four states with the highest number of cases that developed in meatpacking plants were Nebraska with 7,236 cases, Iowa with 6,609, Arkansas with 6,600, and North Carolina with 4,803.

Taking Steps to Combat COVID-19 and Work-Related Injuries and Deaths

In April, OSHA sent a proposal to President Joe Biden’s Office of Management and Budget to implement standards for COVID-19 reporting and enforcement. California recently implemented new standards for protecting employers and employees based on the introduction of the vaccine, but there are currently no federal OSHA standards in place for reporting cases and maintaining proper safety protocols.

Nursing homes are especially in need of standards to create a safer workplace. In the AFL-CIO report, nursing homes in the first week of collected data in June 2020 showed 8,773 cases of COVID-19. By December 23, that number had increased to 22,751.

The healthcare industry also saw the highest number of federal OSHA complaints regarding the coronavirus, with 3,103 complaints total. On the other hand, state OSHAs didn’t collect any data around statewide cases, even though OSHA is present in a majority of states. Despite the complaints, state and federal governments only issued 2,421 and 1,133 violation citations, respectively.

The Need for Improved Reporting and Safety Measures

With a new administration replacing former President Donald Trump and a more pro-worker government in general, many workplace safety advocates are hoping that the future will be brighter for employees across a wide range of industries. While COVID-19 is one of the biggest issues affecting healthcare workers and employees across the nation, the AFL-CIO report makes it clear that many other changes need to take place to make workplaces safer.

If new standards are integrated and corporate opposition to COVID-19 reporting and other measures is mitigated, workers may be able to benefit from safer work environments. In the process, the number of work-related injuries and deaths that appear in future AFL-CIO reports may continue to drop as they had in previous years.

Some of the most common causes of crane accidents include getting struck by objects, a lack of situational awareness,¬†and improper crane operation. These and other causes are often avoidable and could be caused by one or more individuals’ negligence. The following is a breakdown of these common causes.

Struck By Objects

One of the most common causes of crane accidents occurs when someone is struck by a dislodged falling object that detached from either the crane or the load the crane carried. Victims in these cases are underneath the crane at the time of the accident. This is a position in which individuals should never be. Oftentimes, these accidents crush workers and result in permanent disability or even death.

Insufficient Situational Awareness

In other types of crane accidents, workers and other individuals may not be aware of the crane’s position and walk into its path of travel. As a result, people could be struck or crushed by the crane, the crane’s load, or the crane’s hook. However, workers and others should be able to avoid these accidents with adequate safety measures and precautions.

Improper Use of Cranes

Accidents and injuries could also result from the improper use of a crane. This is why crane operators need to be properly trained and practice extreme caution during use. Cranes can be misused in a number of ways. For example, improper loading could lead to tip-over accidents, endangering workers as the crane or crane loads could crush and strike them. Crane operators may also crash the crane or load into nearby equipment, heavy machinery, or individuals if they fail to ensure their path of travel is clear before moving the load or crane carriage.

Determining Liability in Crane Accidents

Crane accidents are often chaotic in nature. This can make it harder to determine who is liable for injuries resulting from them. Many workers injured in crane accidents seek legal assistance from personal injury or workers’ comp attorneys for help with investigations.

Like with other types of work injuries, victims of crane accidents are often entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages from time taken off from work to recover, medications, rehabilitation, and other damages.

To prevent these and other types of construction accidents in the workplace, it’s important for employers to ensure that proper crane safety protocols and training programs are in place.

Every year, thousands of workers sustain injuries as a result of loading dock accidents. Several types of hazards are commonplace on loading docks, from large loads and congested workspaces to deafening noise levels and large trucks. With so many risks in place, it’s important for employers and employees to practice extra caution and have safety guidelines in place in these environments.

The following are some of the most common dangers that workers face at loading docks.

Falling Off the Loading Dock

Many workers including forklift operators, dock workers, and truck drivers could sustain serious injuries after falling from a dock.

Loading docks are intended to expedite the transference of goods, which is why they are located at a height that allows workers to easily reach semi-trailers. Typically, the height of a dock is around 48 inches, but they can be as high as 55 inches in some cases.

Serious injuries often occur when dockhands or truck drivers loading or checking the trailer fall off the dock. Forklifts could also slip into the gap between the truck and the dock, particularly if the truck driver prematurely detaches the trailer from the dock.

Caught in or Between Equipment

In some cases, workers might get caught in or between pallets and forklifts. They could also become pinned between a truck’s trailer and the loading dock. Another type of incident that could take place is crushing beneath improperly secured loads.

Struck By Equipment

Certain types of equipment such as falling pallet jacks or debris could injure workers. These injuries could be mild or severe depending on the weight of the equipment and the force of impact.

Determining Responsibility in Loading Dock Accidents

One of the most common contributors to loading dock accidents and injuries is inadequate load safety. This often falls under the responsibility of the truck driver. Drivers need to inspect cargo to make sure it’s properly loaded. It’s equally important for manufacturing facilities and warehouses to ensure that loads are secure and adhere to load safety guidelines.

Employers responsible for workplaces with loading docks also need to make sure safety protocols are in place and that hazards aren’t present.

With the proper precautionary measures and mitigation of the risks at loading docks, employers, dock workers, truck drivers, and others can maintain a safer work environment.

Electrical injuries are the third-leading cause of fatal construction worker injuries. Understanding the nature of these injuries can help workers avoid them on construction sites.

Types of Electrical Injuries in Construction Accidents

There are several types of electrical injuries that workers may sustain in a construction accident. These may include:

  • Injuries resulting from falls after a worker loses balance from an electric shock
  • Flash burns due to arc flash
  • Mild to severe burns caused by flames when arc flash sets clothing on fire
  • Heart damage or damage to other internal organs or the central nervous system as a result of high voltage electric shock

Certain types of workplace hazards can cause these injuries. These hazards could include buried or overhead power lines, improperly grounded power tools, and heavy equipment such as moving trucks. Additionally, inclement weather, working at elevated heights, defective equipment, exposed and unsafe wiring, unfinished electrical systems, and working with gas-powered combustion engines can cause electrical injuries.

Even if these injuries aren’t fatal, they can be serious and cause debilitating disabilities. Fortunately, these types of hazards and injuries are avoidable on construction sites with proper safety measures.

The Risk of Electrical Burns on Construction Sites

The most common type of non-fatal electrical injury that occurs on construction sites is burns, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). These injuries are often responsible for causing long-term damage that may not be noticeable until long after the initial accident.

Some of the types of damage resulting from electrical burns are disfigurement and scarring, which typically affect the head, hands, and feet and may require both physical therapy and reconstructive surgery. Electrical burns may also cause damage to muscles and ligaments, tissue damage that’s prone to infection, impaired hearing, lung damage, and psychological distress caused by the trauma of the experience.

Another disorder that may develop as a result of electric shock is reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), which is also referred to as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). This disorder entails the contraction of blood vessels at injury sites without the ability to reopen. The condition causes persistent pain and the sensation of being cold.

Preventing Electrical Injuries in the Workplace

There are certain steps that both companies and employees can take to prevent electrical injuries.

For instance, employers and employees should make sure that low-voltage electrical systems are sufficiently grounded, while de-energizing high-voltage power lines. It’s also important to regularly inspect power cords and wiring to ensure they’re in good condition. To further provide a safe environment for construction workers, employers should provide and employees should learn reliable tagout or lockout systems.

Finally, employees should avoid operating electric power tools near gas-powered combustion engines or other locations where they may be exposed to flammable or combustible substances, including gas, liquids, or dust.

Power lines are especially dangerous, functioning as magnets that are drawn toward nearby metal. As such, all front loaders, cranes, and backhoes need to be at a great enough distance from power lines to avoid contact with them.

What to Do After Suffering Electrical Injuries on a Construction Site

Without proper measures in place to create a safe environment, construction workers are often at risk of mild to severe injury from electrical shock and other hazards. However, there are certain steps that injured workers can take to recover compensation if another party’s negligence was responsible for the accident and subsequent injuries.

If construction workers sustain electrical injuries on the job, they may qualify for workers’ compensation to recover damages such as medical bills and lost wages due to time taken off from work to recover. Additionally, if a negligent party caused the accident and injuries, workers may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the liable party to recover greater compensation.

Although workers’ comp may help protect employers from liability for electrical injuries or other work-related accidents, some other parties may be deemed liable for these accidents and resulting damages. Some of the liable parties may include contractors and subcontractors, manufacturers of defective construction equipment, or the owners of the building undergoing construction. For example, certain equipment may be found to have caused electrical shock due to defective design and safety features, in which case the manufacturer of this equipment could be required to cover the damages if the equipment causes injuries.

Employers and employees should try to maintain a safe work environment on construction sites, where hazards are often present more frequently than in other workplaces. If electrical injuries occur, employees may be able to recover compensation through workers’ comp or personal injury claims.

According to a recent Scientific American study, nursing homes were the second-deadliest workplace throughout the pandemic in 2020. However, the data collected was limited and certain elements may make it the deadliest place to work in the U.S.

What Makes Nursing Homes Dangerous

The Scientific American study published in February found that nursing homes in the U.S. had logged 80 deaths per 100,000 full-time employees in 2020. The only industry to have a higher rate was the fishing industry in 2019, with 145 deaths for every 100,000 that year. The numbers put nursing home staff in a position that’s more dangerous than that of loggers, pilots, and roofers.

Although it would appear that nursing homes are the second-deadliest workplace, the Scientific American study suffered from insufficient data, much like many other studies attempting to calculate the impact of COVID-19 on workplace illnesses in nursing homes. Part of the reason for this is that national COVID reporting was only made mandatory by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as of May, which led to the omission of a lot of data around the initial effects of the outbreak at the start of 2020. Based on that missing data, there’s speculation that nursing homes may have actually been deadlier in 2020 than the fishing industry.

How Vaccination Issues May Factor into a Deadly Workplace

In addition to the findings in the Scientific American study, another potential factor contributing to a dangerous workplace in nursing homes is staff’s hesitation when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 37.5% of nursing home staff received the vaccine in the first month of the vaccine’s circulation. One of the key reasons for this reluctance was a general lack of trust among workers who have struggled during a taxing year.

The first month also saw many nursing home staffers expressing skepticism regarding the safety of the vaccine. Experts found that nursing staff were distrusting of the vaccine in its early days and worried that they were essentially serving as guinea pigs in its initial distribution. There is scant data available at this time to determine precisely how the delay in vaccination among nursing home workers could have made these workplaces even deadlier.

According to the data currently out there, nursing homes are officially the second-deadliest workplace. However, certain other contributing factors may place them in the number-one spot.