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Minneapolis Workers' Compensation Law Blog

How high are your standards when you choose an employer?

If you are looking to enter the job market in Minnesota, you are entitled to choose your employer with as much care as he or she takes when considering you for a position. In fact, the higher your standards in this process, the lower the chances that you will suffer a severe workplace injury. If a safe workplace environment features high up on your list of requirements, you are almost sure to avoid the stress and trauma associated with occupational injuries.

Company owners who do not prioritize employee health and safety provide environments at which risks are high for injury, illness and even fatalities. The fact that all employers are subject to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's regulations is not enough. Compliance is what matters, and it may be wise to research a potential employer to make sure the company has the necessary financial resources to cover the costs of safety equipment and devices.

OSHA ranks the top 10 safety violations in 2017

Business owners in Minnesota, as elsewhere in the U.S., are probably aware of how OSHA regulates workplace safety. This is especially true in construction and other environments where workers are in danger of falling from high elevations.

It's unfortunate that for the sixth year in a row, the violation of fall protection guidelines topped the organization's list of top 10 workplace safety violations in fiscal year 2017. Over 6,000 citations were issued because companies did not, for instance, install railings and safety nets for elevated work areas or provide their workers with harnesses and lines when necessary. The top 10 list went on with other items also seen in previous lists, such as violations of hazard communication, scaffolding, respiratory protection and lockout/tagout requirements.

How workers can prevent injuries and illness in winter

Working outdoors in the winter, especially in Minnesota, is a potentially life-threatening task. Most injuries and illnesses that arise in the winter are the result of the interplay between three things: Air temperature, wind, and the moisture from snow, ice or perspiration. It is moisture that both employers and employees should watch out for.

Experts from NIOSH state that wind and perspiration on the skin can cause the body to lose heat. This is why dressing properly is the critical first step. Workers should layer their clothing without making it too tight or difficult to put on personal protective equipment. Hats, hoods, and insulated, waterproof boots and gloves are also a must.

How the gig economy puts workers at risk

Gig workers earn income by contracting with employers, employment agencies or digital platforms for short-term projects. Sometimes, gig work refers specifically to jobs acquired by logging onto an app. However, the difference between working for a rideshare service and setting up an e-commerce site can make the term "gig economy" broad and vague. Nevertheless, all Minnesota gig workers should understand that the economy often comes with unique safety risks.

Gig work is considered the most popular alternative to traditional employment arrangements. A survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that independent contractors account for 7.4 percent of the total workforce. A 2016 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 8 percent of U.S. adults earned income from online gig work in 2015, with 29 percent saying that the work was necessary for their basic needs.

OSHA settlement suggests change in sharps handling rules

According to a recent legal settlement between a recycling company and the Occupational Safety Health Administration, workers who work in Minnesota and national recycling centers or whose jobs involve handling sharp objects may receive better protection in the near future. The settlement between TOMRA, a Norwegian company that operates a recycling center in New York, and OSHA includes an acknowledgment that employees who sort bottles and cans are effectively exposed to blood-borne pathogens.

The TOMRA sorters will now have to be given a series of three vaccinations against the hepatitis B virus, and they will also have to be provided with gloves and tools that are resistant to punctures; this is part of the OSHA standard for workers who are at risk of coming into contact with sharp objects that may be contaminated with blood. In the past, OSHA has decided that the blood-borne pathogen standard did not apply in cases when conveyor belt operators spotted a hypodermic needles in a recycling plant; only a supervisor had to be protected since she would be the one responsible for needle disposal.

Patient handling and the risk of health care worker injury

Health care workers face exposure to a number of risks every time they clock in and show up for their shifts. The risk of injury and exposure to various illnesses is an inherent part of choosing a career in this field, yet this risk does not mean that these individuals do not have the right to a workplace that is as safe as possible.

One of the main issues affecting health care worker safety is patient handling. Moving patients from one bed to another, pushing wheelchairs, moving heavy equipment and other tasks place these individuals at a great risk for musculoskeletal injury. If you are a doctor, nurse, nurse assistant or other type of health care worker in Minnesota, you have rights.

Preventing slips and falls with proper matting

If an employee slips or trips on a workplace floor, it could result in significant injuries. That may cost Minnesota employers and others a significant amount of money. Specifically, American employers lost $62 billion from injuries that caused workers to miss six or more days of work. However, the use of floor mats may make it safer for workers to walk or do their jobs in general without getting hurt.

Standing for long periods of time can result in significant workplace injuries. In addition to general fatigue and discomfort, employees may be at risk of back and leg pain if they stand on a hard surface for too long. Padded matting can add extra comfort for those who must stand to do their jobs. Mats may also be able to drain fluid until spills can be properly cleaned by an employee.

New OSHA rules seek to protect construction workers from silica

Dust is a fact of life at construction sites in Minnesota, but breathable dust from crystalline silica presents a significant hazard to workers' health. New rules from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration place strong requirements upon employers to reduce exposure and educate workers about the dangers of breathing silica dust.

The permissible exposure limit for silica has been reduced by 80 percent from previous guidelines. To meet this standard, construction companies need to prepare written plans that address how their work practices and housekeeping approaches will reduce dust. Every employer must assign a competent person to develop and maintain safety guidelines concerning silica dust. Additionally, workers frequently exposed to silica need to have employer-paid medical monitoring that includes chest X-rays.

Ensuring that clothing protects against workplace injuries

Minnesota electricians may be some of the estimated 2,000 individuals who annually suffer serious arc flash injuries, which occur when people work on energized electrical units without proper protective clothing. Of the injured individuals, it is estimated that 400 become burned so severely that they do not survive.

Arc flash clothing is made from fabrics that prevent severe and potentially deadly electrical burns. The clothing is quickly becoming more fashionable and more comfortable for workers to wear. Arc flash clothing is required to have a resistance to flame and insulation. The flame resistance aspect of the clothing allows the fabric to self-extinguish. When it comes to installation, the clothing must protect against second-degree burns.

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.

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Law Office of David M. Bialke
7260 University Avenue NE
Suite 160
Fridley, MN 55432

Phone: 763-571-2410
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