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Minneapolis Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workers may face hazards during pipe repairs

Minnesota construction workers may be surprised to learn that a method of repairing water pipes that was once considered safe may actually result in toxic materials being thrown into the air. This was the finding of Purdue University researchers who studied seven sites that used the cured-in-place pipe method. It was once thought that plumes released during the CIPP process contained harmless water vapor.

However, research found that the plumes may actually contain compounds thought to cause cancer. Data shows that this process is used in 50 percent of all pipe repairs, which means that workers across the nation may be in danger. The researchers acknowledge that there is no known safe limit when it comes to potential exposure to chemicals used in the CIPP process. Furthermore, they also acknowledged that it was a great piece of technology.

Your life may be in your own hands -- protect it

There is no getting away from it -- working at any height is dangerous. It is as dangerous to work on the roof of a single story residence as it is to work on the top floor of a high rise. A fall from any height can have devastating consequences.

Employers in Minnesota must protect the health and safety of employees, and in doing so, they must provide frequent safety training to maintain awareness of the dangers workers will face in carrying out their various duties. Furthermore, the safety protocols must include regular evaluation of equipment to prevent malfunctions, and if you are a new employee, it might be wise to work with an experienced and responsible employee until you learn the ropes.

The disclosure of workplace safety concerns

A large majority of companies in Minnesota and across the United States see public disclosure as important to improving safety on the job. The results of a survey carried out by a provider of operational software and information services show that more than three-quarters of respondents see public disclosure as positive for workplace safety initiatives.

The survey was conducted in May and June 2017 and focused on record-keeping standards and electronic submissions under an upcoming Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule. Nearly half of the participants said that they plan to use the information collected from similar firms to make benchmarks for their own companies in the realm of safety.

Fatal workplace injuries result in jail time and fines

Production incentives for managers may be increasing the risk of workplace accidents for Minnesota employees. Construction is widely understood to be one of the most dangerous industries, and those involved in excavation and trenching take on even more risk. The fatality trend has gone up and led to jail time for at least one supervisor. An official at a risk management firm pointed to three reasons for the increased risk.

From 2015 to 2016, the number of fatal workplace injuries for employees involved in trenching more than doubled to over 20. In one incident, two workers died during a collapse. OSHA hit the contractor with nearly $1.5 million in fines for 18 violations, and the state filed criminal charges. Prosecutors may have been following the lead of criminal convictions handed down in 2015 against a contractor, sub-contractor, foreman and supervisor in a different trenching fatality.

How to keep manufacturing workers safe

Minnesota residents who work in the manufacturing sector may face a higher level of danger compared to other workers. According to data from the Department of Labor, there are roughly 10,000 severe injuries that occur in U.S. workplaces each year. The manufacturing sector is responsible for 57 percent of those that result in amputation and 26 percent of the injuries that result in hospitalization.

Among the ways that companies in the sector can improve worker safety is to create a series of best practices. For example, there should be guards or body shields that can help protect a worker against falling or being crushed by a moving object. Workers should also be trained as to how they can safely work with live electrical sources and other live power sources.

Smart tech brings advances to occupational disease

Technological improvements in healthcare are expected to yield recovery improvements in even the worst workplace injuries. A presentation on wearable technologies shared both current and future applications expected in the field. A major topic of relevance to Minneapolis employees seeking workers' compensation was how these wearable technologies coincide with the needs of those who have experienced catastrophic and chronic injuries.

Also termed assistive technology, the wearable technology industry has begun addressing the needs of workers with orthopedic injuries. Large exoskeletons are under development for providing increased mobility in cases of paralysis. The presentation pointed to use of smaller scale exoskeletons now being used to address damaged knee and hip joints. The devices could be cost prohibitive on the open market, but workers' compensation may be able to help with the medical expenses.

Administrative and engineering controls can save your back

One of the primary safety challenges in all industries in the country, including in Minnesota, is to prevent back injuries. Not only do these cause business expenses totaling billions of dollars each year in workers' compensation claims, but they also result in much pain and suffering to millions of employees. Safety authorities identified manual materials handling as the primary cause of back injuries -- the majority affecting lower backs -- with most injuries occurring during lifting.

If your job requires you to lift, place, carry, hold and lower objects of different shapes, sizes and weights it can cause excessive strain on your lower back muscles. To manage this workplace injury threat, your employers must evaluate factors such as the frequency, duration and types of lifts, along with your body size, age, gender, and overall level of health and physical fitness.

OSHA clarifies rule about workplace falls

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations regarding workplace falls are designed to protect Minnesota workers in construction and other industries from on-the-job injuries. However, they are raising some questions with workplace injury watchdogs.

OSHA updated its Industry Walking-Working Services standards on Jan. 17, 2017, to permit "temporary, relatively infrequent" work on low-slope roofs without fall protection systems in place. The standards only apply to work that is being done between 6 and 15 feet from the edge of the roof, but the types of jobs covered have caused some concern among trade associations.

Possible higher risks for younger workers

Minnesota teens and other younger workers may be at a greater risk for injury than older workers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that on-the-job injuries that must be treated in emergency departments are approximately two times higher for workers under 24 than for older workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has outlined some of the dangers faced by young workers in certain fields. The biggest employer of teens is the leisure and hospitality industry. Food service falls under this designation, and hazards teens may face there include slippery floors, hot cooking equipment and violent crime. Slippery floors are also a hazard in the second-largest industry to employ teens, retail, along with heavy lifting and dangers from equipment. Other dangers include potential exposure to chemicals or other hazards in janitorial, agricultural and outdoor work or ergonomic injuries in office work.

Some dental offices do not have bloodborne exposure plans

Minneapolis dental patients and employees might be interested to learn that 28 percent of privately owned dental practices do not have a written bloodborne pathogens exposure control plan. The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, which is required by OSHA, is meant to protect health care workers from diseases that are transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids.

To determine the number of private dental practices that did not have a written exposure control plan, OSHA surveyed a total of 1,059 participants all over the nation. The participants included dentists, dental hygienists and other staff members who work at the non-franchised practices. The survey asked if the participants knew about the requirement, if they knew whether or not their practice had a written exposure control plan and if they could identify potential problems should the practice be interested in implementing an exposure control plan.

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