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Sauk Rapids Workers' Compensation Law Blog

While safer than forklifts, tugger trains can injure workers

If you work in a manufacturing facility, you likely share floor space with at least one forklift. You may also regularly drive one when performing your job duties. As you likely know from your safety training, forklifts can be dangerous. In fact, in2018, nearly 8,000 individuals sustained an on-the-job injury when working in or around a forklift.   

To improve worker safety, some manufacturers have swapped their forklifts for tugger trains. With these, a forward-facing tug pulls a series of reinforced carts. While anecdotal evidence suggests that tugs are safer than forklifts, they do not eliminate a worker’s chance of injury. Here are some ways you may suffer an injury when working on or near a tugger train: 

Improving safety at the Minnesota workplace

With all the advancements in technology today, workplace leaders have no excuse for exposing their employees to unsafe workplace environments. Electronic devices that can efficiently alert all employees to immanent dangers and emergencies can play a key role in keeping everyone safe, no matter how large the campus or employee population may be.

The ability to communicate effectively in workplace environments during an emergency is a challenge that requires reach and speed. Regarding reach, workplace leaders must ensure that all their employees can receive a message through a mass communication system, such as a text message. However, there is the danger that not everyone will receive the message in a timely fashion. One solution is to have in place several systems of mass messaging working simultaneously. Mass notification systems such as text and audio alerts compatible with IP speakers and desktops, mobile devices, digital signage and desktop computers can catch the attention of employees, who can then easily broadcast the notifications by configuring their devices.

Laboratory responsibilities to protect workers

Laboratory workers in Minnesota may face serious dangers at work, especially if they handle biological, chemical, radioactive or other toxins on the job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are over 500,000 lab workers in the United States. OSHA has issued laboratory standards to provide federal guidelines for workplace safety in order to protect these workers from physical injuries, toxic exposure and occupational disease. The guidelines apply to a variety of laboratory settings, including academic labs, chemical storage rooms and loading docks for laboratories.

These OSHA regulations are mandatory for employers operating labs where hazardous chemicals are used. Employers have a responsibility to make a plan for the management of toxic substances and train employees to handle them properly. In some cases, they may need to provide personal protective equipment in order to minimize the risks of exposure. Workers also need to be trained on maximum exposure limits and other specific guidelines. In some cases, there are specific OSHA regulations for the use of chemicals like benzene or methylene chloride, while workers engaging with reproductive toxins or carcinogens may also require higher levels of protection.

Entering the highly regulated world of workers’ compensation

If you sustain an on-the-job injury, you should qualify to submit a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

However, considering that this line of insurance is highly regulated, you may hesitate to file a claim on your own, even if your injury is a minor one.

Three-step plan for fall prevention in the workplace

Fall protection violations are the most widely cited of all OSHA violations. This is unsettling when one considers how falls are responsible for 15% of worker deaths in general and 33% of construction worker deaths in particular. Every year, work-related falls cost Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. around $7 billion in workers' compensation claims and medical care.

OSHA and three other government agencies have come up with a three-step plan for preventing fall injuries and deaths. It all starts with planning. Employers should know ahead of time when employees will be working on elevated surfaces. People can be injured or killed even 6 feet off the ground, so employers should not underestimate the safety risks in a given job. Elevated surfaces include ladders, scaffolding, cranes and trees.

Silicosis causes severe lung damage in workers

Construction workers in Minnesota need to be aware of the dangers of inhaling crystalline silica. Crystalline silica is a dangerous mineral that causes a condition known as silicosis. Over 2 million construction workers and 300,000 workers in the hydraulic manufacturing, maritime and general industry fields are exposed to it.

Crystalline silica is found in both crystal and non-crystal form and is typically found in sandstone, shale, sand and granite. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that when these materials are drilled into, crushed, broken or chipped they form dust. The dust particles are so small that they are easily inhaled, penetrating the worker's lungs and causing breathing difficulties.

A spinal cord injury could change your life in an instant

Suppose that you are a long-time construction worker. You have had few injuries, but when you fell off a ladder and suffered damage to your spinal cord, you began looking at life in a new light.

A spinal cord injury can dramatically change your life. Treatment is often a long, slow process and extremely expensive. You will need help to cover the costs both now and in the future.

OSHA on roof safety requirements

Many building owners in Minnesota are not aware of OSHA's requirements for roof safety. There are roughly four requirements that owners should keep in mind. They should also look out for the most common safety hazards that workers encounter on roofs.

The first roof safety requirement has to do with fall protection. Professional roofers need fall protection equipment once they are working six feet off the ground while the rest need it once they are four feet off the ground. This equipment can include harnesses and lanyards. Second, OSHA requires roofers to close the roof hatch. Third, one must designate work areas on low-slope roofs.

Workplace deaths rise, shows need for culture of safety

From 2017 to 2018, the number of work-related fatalities in the U.S. rose 2% from 5,147 to 5,250. This is according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS states that the rate of work-related fatalities remains the same: 3.5% per 100,000 FTE (full-time equivalent) workers. Employees in Minnesota, regardless of their industry, will want to know more.

Drivers, sales workers and truckers saw the most number of work-related deaths. Transportation incidents were the most common of all fatal incidents, making up 40% of them. There was an increase of 12% in the number of deaths arising from unintentional non-medical drug overdoses or alcohol overconsumption and of 11% in work-related suicides.

Hazards workers may face in warehouses

As the retail business model evolves, it may place warehouse workers in Minnesota and throughout the country at a greater risk of injury. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the injury rate for warehouse workers is 5.1 per 100 workers. There were 22 warehouse fatalities in 2017, which was double the number recorded in 2015. One risk that workers may face is increased interaction with robots and other autonomous machines.

As the pace of technological change increases, it is important that organizations take steps to keep their workers safe. Ideally, they will take safety metrics as seriously as they take productivity metrics, and this means ensuring that they spend both time and money looking for and eliminating hazards. Companies should also be wary of events that almost result in injuries as they could provide clues about hazards that need to be mitigated.

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