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Minneapolis Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Film company cited by OSHA after stuntman death

TV fans in Minnesota might have heard about the tragic accident that occurred on the set of 'The Walking Dead" that claimed the life of a professional stuntman. The 33-year-old man was killed in July 2017 after he fell while filming a scene. The film company in charge of production has recently been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to provide adequate fall protection.

OSHA has proposed that Stalwart Films LCC be fined $12, 675, which is the maximum penalty allowed. The company issued an email statement on January 5 that said it disagrees with the citation. The company claimed in the email that all of its sets comply with or exceed safety standards. However, the OSHA citation lists several methods the company could have utilized to offer more protection from falls.

Will the Minnesota snow put you in a hospital bed this winter?

Do you live and work in Minnesota? Then you likely know that this state is one of the coldest U.S. states every winter. With the cold comes multiple workplace hazards. While snow poses a significant fall risk, even work environments that are snow-free see more falls in winter. This is because the cold weather can drain your energy and reduce blood circulation, causing your feet to lose sensation and prevent your toes from maintaining your balance.

Authorities say a significant percentage of occupational fatalities and serious injuries result from slip-and-fall accidents. Reportedly, falls are the primary cause of workplace deaths and lost workdays for those who survive fall accidents but suffer injuries.

Workers afraid to report poultry, meat processing injuries

According to the Government Accountability Office, poultry and meat processing is one of the most dangerous occupations for workers in Minnesota and other states across the nation. A GAO report released in January 2018 indicates that workers in the industry commonly face hazards such as cuts, amputations and repetitive motion injuries, as well as respiratory illnesses from an antimicrobial chemical that is sprayed on the meat during processing. Some workers also report that they often are not allowed access to bathroom facilities, which could lead to kidney and other health problems.

The GAO found that the fear of retribution from employers has kept some workers from reporting the delayed or denied bathroom access. Employees who fear retribution also appear hesitant to report any injuries suffered while on the job. Although knives, hand saws and other manual tools are used in the workplace, first aid stations and on-site medical professionals are not readily accessible or even available in all situations.

Alliance aims to keep female workers safe on the job

Construction workers in Minnesota and elsewhere may face safety hazards whenever they go to work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has aligned itself with the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) to focus on ways to make construction work safer for females. They will focus in tandem on ways to resolve issues related to workplace violence and sanitation on job sites.

The OSHA Alliance Program partners with a variety of groups that target many different audiences. However, OSHA provides all of its partners with access to educational materials and other guidance to promote workplace safety in all industries. Through its partnership with NAWIC, OSHA will provide information about how to recognize and reduce workplace hazards. It will also share information related to its campaigns to prevent injuries or illnesses from falls or heat stroke.

Loading dock safety

Minnesota dock workers should be aware of the dock loading requirements established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Of particular importance is knowing when a loading dock requires a guardrail and the situations in which a visual barrier is appropriate.

Nearly 25 percent of warehouse injuries that are reported take place on loading docks. In addition, there are hundreds of very close calls that don't lead to injuries.

Reducing accidents and injuries in the workplace

Each year, many Minnesotans are seriously injured or killed while they are working at their jobs. A Safety Leadership Conference that was held in Atlanta looked at how the safety culture of companies might be improved so that the risk of injuries might be minimized.

The conference was held by a food services company and was geared towards a safety initiative with multiple goals, including improving the life quality of its workers, improving the life quality of its customers, increasing value, and reducing costs in the context of safety. The conference leaders indicated that in order to improve the safety culture in the workplace, workers must learn how their behaviors might influence the culture and be willing to advocate for improvements.

Meatpacking workers at high risk for injuries

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office has brought some needed attention on the safety concerns of meat and poultry plants. It turns out that meatpacking workers tend to have the highest injury rates, yet many of the injuries that take place in this industry go unreported. This should be of interest to workers in Minnesota and across the country.

The safety concerns brought up by the GAO include a lack of restroom breaks, exposure to dangerous chemicals and cases of workers being denied medical treatment. The GAO speculates that many workers choose not to report injuries out of the fear that their employers will retaliate. The GAO's findings indicate that meat and poultry factories are cutting corners in the effort to keep production lines running.

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.

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Law Office of David M. Bialke
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