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Minneapolis Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Workplace noise linked to heart disease

Workers in Minnesota may find risks of occupational disease coming from an unexpected source. In particular, one study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that loud and noisy places of work are associated with high blood pressure and high correlation among workers who experience repeated exposure to these sounds. Not only are these disorders highly correlated with noisy workplaces, but in many cases, those workplaces were responsible for the development of these conditions. Both pose a significant threat of heart disease, the leading killer of Americans.

While many people know that loud noises in the workplace can pose a risk of hearing loss, the health costs can be far broader. Around 41 million individuals, or 25 percent of the country's workforce, have common, regular exposure to loud noises on the job. Some effects of this type of noise are also well-known, including sleep disruption, reduced cognitive function and the triggering of migraine headaches among those who suffer. Hearing protection and the reduction of loud noises are not only important to protect workers' hearing but also in preventing the development of occupational disease.

Construction industry may benefit from new safety tech

Construction workers in Minnesota are exposed to dangers at the work site day after day. Each year, an average of 1 in 10 construction workers is injured. The year 2015 saw a seven-year high in fatalities in the private construction industry with 937 workers losing their lives in the U.S. Preventing accidents has become a little easier, though, with the help of new technology.

Global safety firms like Brigade Electronic have come out with new reversing alarms, for instance, that emit the sound of white noise. This poses a great advantage because construction workers can become easily confused with alarms that all share the same beeping noise. With the white noise, workers will know which alarms are coming from what direction and can duly exercise caution.

Workplace safety a focus in entertainment industry

While many people may associate the entertainment industry with exciting and glamorous tasks, the reality can involve serious physical labor as well as the potential for major workplace injuries and damaging accidents. Many workers in the entertainment industry are injured on the job due to electrical issues, falls and other hazards that are commonly found in theaters, concert venues and on movie sets. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is renewing an alliance with several major organizations in the industry in order to help address the potential for workplace accidents and improve safety for wokers in the industry.

OSHA has formed the alliance with the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), a professional and networking association, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada (IATSE), the major trade union in the industry. The purpose of the alliance is to facilitate communication and information-sharing to help reduce the number of workplace accidents and injuries in the entertainment industry as well as developing better understanding of enforcement actions and regulatory processes.

Balancing worker safety on anchor points

Minnesota workers in construction industries are often at risk of workplace accidents and injuries associated with falls. Due to the danger of elevated work spaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has created standards for anchor points that serve as fall arrest systems for workers on the job. Many believe that these rules require each anchor point to support 5,000 pounds per employee attached to the point. However, the actual regulation requires something slightly different.

OSHA's regulation requires each anchor point to support a capacity of either 5,000 pounds per person attached or twice the amount of force in pounds incurred by a worker in free fall at that location. Many have speculated that 5,000 pounds represents that figure for an average worker, which weighs 220 pounds per OSHA. However, when a worker who weighs 220 pounds uses fall arrest equipment, the force incurred may actually range between 900 and 1,800 pounds.

Paramedics risk long-term harm to save the lives of others

If you are a paramedic in Minnesota, you are one of a special group of people who put their lives on the line to save others every day. Furthermore, you likely encounter situations that can have a long-term effect on your physical and mental health. Paramedics face occupational hazards that are unique to their jobs.

Every time you respond to an emergency, you race toward unknown circumstances that might include hazardous chemicals, violent bystanders or other dangers. Once you get there, you might have to make quick life-or-death decisions with hardly any information on which to base them.

Former OSHA official favors enforcement over voluntary programs

Many workers in Minnesota rely on the standards imposed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on employers. The safety agency's former assistant secretary of labor, who served from 2009 to 2017, informed the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections that OSHA should apply its limited resources to enforcement instead of Voluntary Protection Programs.

The voluntary programs require OSHA agents to inspect and verify employers' eligibility for programs that recognize them as safety leaders. The former OSHA official said that these inspections take resources away from confronting employers that are failing to meet safety laws. As a result, efforts directed at maintaining voluntary programs do nearly nothing to prevent workplace injuries and illnesses. He said that no studies have been conducted to verify the effectiveness of voluntary compliance programs.

Black lung still a serious problem for coal workers

Although Minnesota has no real history of coal mining, some people might be interested in an alarming report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Cases of black lung disease, which dropped to all-time low numbers in the late 20th century, have increased sharply in the past few years.

Black lung is a term that encompasses several lung diseases that are caused by the inhalation of coal dust. Coal miners are susceptible when they cut into coal seams and dust particles are released into the air. If dust particles enter the lungs, the immune system is triggered as it would be for bacteria or a virus, but it cannot effectively combat minerals like coal dust. Eventually the lungs deteriorate, and a lung transplant is the only cure. But even when a lung transplant is possible, it usually only extends the patient's life for a few years.

Sulfur dioxide can pose a danger on the job

Sulfur dioxide is generated in a number of industrial environments where Minnesota employees work on a daily basis. Combustion of fossil fuels produces around 75 to 85 percent of all sulfur dioxide emissions. However, the substance is also produced through chemical manufacturing during the bleaching of wood pulp and paper, through the bleaching and disinfecting of food products, during wastewater treatment in metal and ore refining industries, and in oil refining. Sulfur dioxide is a major contributor to air pollution and can pose a danger when workers are exposed to the substance while on the job.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, sets stricter standards for sulfur dioxide exposure than those espoused by OSHA. NIOSH says that exposure to 100 parts per million of sulfur dioxide poses an immediate threat to life or health and has set a recommended exposure limit of two parts per million when averaged over a 10-hour work shift. On the other hand, OSHA has set a permissible exposure limit of five parts per million when averaged over an eight-hour shift on the job. These figures establish limits for air exposure to sulfur dioxide; skin contact with the substance can rapidly lead to overexposure.

Silica dust safety violations face increased fines

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor, or OSHA, has increased the penalties for construction contractors who fail to uphold safety standards for dealing with silica in Minnesota and across the country. In January, OSHA changed the fine structure that companies will deal with if they do not abide by the safety standards drafted in 2013 for handling crystalline silica.

Crystalline silica dust particles are brought into the environment when workers sand concrete walls, engage in fracking, saw bricks or cut into concrete. In the five years between 2013 and 2018, there have been major changes in how this dust is handled. Around 2.3 million people throughout the United States are exposed to silica dust, according to OSHA. This exposure can lead to occupational disease and a series of severe consequences, including lung cancer, silicosis, kidney disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Long-term exposure to silica dust can lead to clogged lung nodules and a worsening inability to breathe freely.

Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome the office boogeyman?

Are you working in the technology industry in Minnesota, typing away on your computer keyboard for hours on end every day? Then you might soon notice the first signs of a painful and debilitating repetitive motion injury. Repeating the same motions over and over again can cause overexertion of the affected joints and other areas of your body until the physical strain becomes too much. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive strain injury that is prevalent in your field of employment.

CTS can present serious problems for both workers and businesses in the tech industry. It is a debilitating injury that can adversely affect workers' lives and workplace productivity. Ergonomic changes to the work stations are among the things that may help with fighting off this threat.

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Law Office of David M. Bialke
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Fridley, MN 55432

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