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Minneapolis Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Noise, blind spots may be factors in workplace accidents

In some Minnesota workplace environments, the risk of injury or death lies around every corner. Many industrial facilities and large fulfillment warehouses are inherently busy and noisy places comprising numerous intersections, docks and blind spots. When forklift operators and runners on foot are also part of the mix, collisions involving employees, equipment or both may occur due to the compromised visibility and lack of reliable safety enhancements at the site.

Even a near miss can have serious ramifications. In some situations, employees could fall, or they might drop any materials that they are carrying in the process of avoiding a crash. In addition to physical injury, the spilled chemicals, products or production materials could result in additional issues, including the loss of productivity, the cost of litigation and a rise in insurance rates.

Workplace risks faced by mechanics and automotive technicians

The jobs done by mechanics and automotive technicians in Minnesota pose many safety hazards. It is the responsibility of every workshop owner to protect the health and safety of his or her employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines and regulations to prevent workplace injuries in every industry. However, it is up to the employer to provide safety training and ensure compliance with safety regulations.

If auto mechanics is your line of work, working with caustic chemicals and heavy equipment will be only some of the safety hazards you will face at work. Your employer may not prioritize employee safety, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Construction worker falls to his death in Minnesota

On Oct. 5, a Minnesota construction worker was killed when he fell from an elevator while on the job. The incident occurred at around 2:45 p.m. in Tenney, according to the Wilkin County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said that the male victim, age 21, was adjusting a platform atop the Wheaton Dumont Co-op Elevator with two co-workers when he plummeted to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

OSHA focuses on fall accident prevention

Minnesota construction workers face many dangers. Among all of the other potential causes of serious injuries and fatalities, falls are the leading factor. Because of the dangers posed by falling accidents to construction workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has focused on strict enforcement of its fall prevention safety regulations.

According to OSHA, 937 construction workers died in workplace accidents in 2015, and 350 of the fatalities happened in falling accidents. OSHA mandates that construction companies use fall protection systems whenever their workers have to work at certain heights. Workers are also supposed to be supplied with safety equipment to protect them if they do fall.

Safely lifting workers in warehouse environments

Minnesota workers may need certain types of tools, equipment and training in order to do their jobs safely. In one warehouse accident that resulted in a fatality investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a man was standing on a pallet raised by a forklift. This was common practice in this workplace in order to reach high shelves. The man fell 7 feet to the concrete floor and subsequently died.

OSHA noted several things that the employer failed to do that might have prevented the accident. Employees did not have equipment that would allow them to get to high shelves. They were not prohibited from using the forklifts and pallets to get to these shelves even though this is against the manufacturer's instructions. Finally, forklift operators were not properly trained and certified. This would have included training on the necessity of a personnel lifting platform to raise workers instead of a pallet.

Dealing with a natural disaster as a business

Although Minnesota businesses were not at risk, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma were major reminders that employers have certain legal obligations to employees when natural disasters occur. As such, employers are responsible for having a plan in place when natural disasters could occur.

When preparing for a natural disaster, employers are required to use caution when asking employees to assist with getting the business ready for it or cleaning up after it. Even if the business has sustained damage, employers are still required to ensure that the employees are properly trained to perform the work that the employers are asking them to do. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration does have a guide for employers to help with determining how to handle hazardous conditions while preparing for and recovering from a natural disaster.

The nursing profession grows more perilous

When people in Minnesota think of workers with dangerous jobs, they usually list roofers, loggers or police officers, among others. It is not likely that nurses come to mind. Nevertheless, the nursing profession is quickly rising as one of the most hazardous jobs in the country. As a professional nurse, you are probably quick to agree with that assessment.

The long hours and poor staffing alone may create an environment conducive to injury, and the fact that you work around sick people makes you susceptible to illnesses. However, this is only the beginning of the risks you face on the job each day. There are many reasons why your job is dangerous that the average person would not consider.

Understanding just how important worker safety is

Warehouses and distribution centers are important components of business supply chains. However, they may also pose a variety of risks to those who work in such settings. Minnesota loading dock workers could be vulnerable to falling or being victims of forklift accidents. Those who work from heights may also be vulnerable to falls, and some warehouses and other similar facilities use pit areas to minimize the impact of a fall.

To protect workers from getting hurt, employers may benefit by conforming to OSHA fall protection standards. This is because falls account for 20 percent of all deaths and injuries that result in lost days at work in general industry on average. OSHA has updated its rules related to walking or working surfaces, and employers are now required to provide protection whenever a worker is walking on a surface more than 4 feet above a lower level.

How employers can help prevent injuries or fatalities

While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a system for recording events in the workplace that could result in a serious injury or fatality, there are potentially dangerous events that occur that are never reported. These often include near-misses that could have resulted in serious harm. However, because the event went unreported, employers miss the opportunity to fix the situation and potentially prevent future accidents.

There are safety experts who argue that serious injury and fatality prevention programs are the most effective way to reduce or prevent workplace accidents. These programs focus on events that occur in the workplace that could lead to life-altering or fatal accidents. Even if these events did not cause an accident, employers who have effective SIF prevention programs can investigate the incident and correct it so that the risk of future incidents is mitigated.

Reducing digital eyestrain and computer vision syndrome

When Minnesota workers are required to spend long work days staring at a computer, they can suffer from what is known as computer vision syndrome or digital eyestrain. There are a number of symptoms associated with CVS, including blurry vision, headaches and eyestrain. While these symptoms are usually temporary, they can become recurring problems that could continue to worsen over time.

There are certain things that employers and employees can do to reduce the symptoms of CVS or digital eyestrain. For example, employers can ensure that company computers are positioned about 20 to 28 inches away from the employee. An antiglare screen can reduce eyestrain. Employees should also be encouraged to rest their eyes using the 20-20-20 method. This method has employees stop every 20 minutes to look at a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Employees should be reminded to blink regularly to help prevent their eyes from drying up.

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