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Hackensack Workers' Compensation Law Blog

OSHA reveals top 10 safety violations

New Jersey workers often face dangerous environments on the job, especially if their employers violate federal workplace safety regulations. At the 2018 National Safety Council Congress, a deputy director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration revealed the federal agency's top 10 safety violations uncovered during a year of inspections. The statistics were gathered from October 2017 through September 2018, yet the results often mirrored those of previous years.

For example, the first-place position was held by the same kind of safety violation that has occupied the top spot for several years: failure to provide fall protection. Employers have a responsibility to provide protective gear to workers operating at heights that could help to prevent falls or limit the damage in case of an incident. However, 7,270 violations were found in the past year; in most cases, employers failed to issue protective gear to employees working near unprotected edges or on rooftops. Other issues related to fall prevention were also prominent on the annual list. For example, the eighth place on the list noted that 1,982 violations were found for training issues related to fall protection. In some cases, employers failed to provide required training while in other cases, unqualified people delivered it.

Teen drivers more dangerous when passengers are teens

Research prepared by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety highlights the importance of adult supervision while teens develop their driving skills. Parents in New Jersey should aim to accompany their teen drivers for at least 100 hours behind the wheel before allowing them to drive with only teen friends. The foundation measured substantial increases in traffic fatalities when teens drove without anyone age 35 or older in their vehicles.

When teens drive with only members of their peer group, their accidents result in 51 percent more deaths compared to older drivers. An analysis of teen accidents showed that deaths among occupants of vehicles hit by teen drivers went up by 56 percent. Teen drivers themselves experienced a 45 percent higher death rate, and fatalities among bicyclists and pedestrians rose by 17 percent.

The importance of filing your workers' compensation claim quickly

Perhaps you were utilizing your company’s heavy machinery when you faced an insignificant injury. You worked within the scope of your employment, you utilized the equipment correctly, but an accident caused you to need a quick doctor’s visit to ensure that your injury was not severe. After x-rays, doctors determine that the injury’s effects proved minor, and you can return to your position.

Because the doctor decided that your injury did not need further analysis, you decided not to tell your employer. Unfortunately, two years after the incident, you begin to feel recurring pain, you have lost full mobility in the area, and you need to take frequent vacation days to rest. Now, you want to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer’s insurance to pay for your associated medical costs and loss of work.

OSHA revises NEP for trenching and excavation

In response to the increase in worker injuries and fatalities from trenching and excavation operations, OSHA has revised the National Emphasis Program that it set up specifically for this field. The revised NEP went into effect Oct. 1, and now OSHA's area and regional offices are providing outreach. Employers in New Jersey will want to make sure they comply with OSHA's safety standards.

This outreach effort lasts for 90 days following Oct. 1. Afterward, Compliance and Safety and Health Officers will be conducting inspections on open trenches and excavations regardless of whether they present safety violations. They may also inspect operations based on any incidents, referrals or complaints and expand the scope of inspections when health hazards and other violations are clearly seen.

OSHA 300 log meant to aid identification of workplace hazards

Most employers in New Jersey with 10 or more employees must fill out a 300 log from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration when a worker illness or injury occurs. The details required by the 300 log could aid employers in spotting trends that are contributing to incidents that harm workers.

The log gathers information about the types of injuries and illnesses that occur, including the location, time, types of workers involved and whether they involved any equipment or material. The report also notes the amount of time that an injured or sickened worker missed work or had reduced duties. Employers must keep these logs on file for five years.

Construction workers' top five safety hazards

New Jersey construction workers know that they must be alert for on-the-job dangers at all times. There are five major hazards in construction work, but most accidents and deaths are preventable with knowledge, proper equipment and strict adherence to safety guidelines.

Falls are the number one hazard in construction work. Statistics show that falls account for around one-third of construction industry fatalities. Falls often occur because of misuse of safety equipment or failure to use it at all. Unsafe scaffolding or ladders and unstable working surfaces also lead to falls.

Avoiding pinch point accidents

OSHA has addressed the topic of pinch point protection in its standards for general industries as well as agriculture, marine terminals, longshoring and construction. New Jersey residents who work around machinery should be familiar with pinch points and what OSHA has to say about them. Pinch points are areas in machinery where workers can get caught: between two moving parts, a moving and a stationary part, or a part and a material.

Installing guards on machinery, which prevent workers from getting their hands and other extremities caught, is an essential first step. OSHA also recognizes the use of "devices." There are, for example, devices to stop machines in the case of a pinch point accident, devices that withdraw employees' hands from a danger area and safety devices that require operators to have both hands on the machine controls.

Legal Marijuana Complicates Workers’ Compensation

As New Jersey considers the legalization of marijuana, its residents can look to the experience of other states in this area. In Colorado, for instance, recreational marijuana may be legal, but its effects are felt in other areas as well.

One of those areas is Colorado’s workers’ compensation law. A Colorado widow recently had workers’ compensation payments to her halved as a result of her deceased husband’s legal marijuana use.

The danger of drowsy driving

Half of all adults in New Jersey and the rest of the U.S. admit to driving drowsy, according to the American Sleep Foundation. About 20 percent even admit to falling asleep behind the wheel. Drowsy driving is a serious issue; a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that there are 328,000 drowsy driving crashes every year, resulting in 109,000 injuries and about 6,400 deaths.

The symptoms of drowsiness are easy to spot. Drivers may, for example, miss turns and exits, yawn frequently, have trouble keeping their eyes open and constantly drift out of their lanes. Some drivers become drowsier than they think and undergo periods of micro-sleep, where they suddenly become inattentive for 4 to 5 seconds. This is like driving blindfolded for the length of a football field.

How to identify and assess workplace hazards

Thousands of New Jersey workers face significant job-related hazards each day. Many of these hazards occur in traditionally dangerous industries, such as construction and agriculture. However, statistics show that people working in industries that are generally considered safe, such as health care, retail and transportation, also face considerable on-the-job risks.

To help workers stay safe, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration published a workplace safety guidance called "Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs". First released in 1988, it is designed to help employers and employees create a safe and healthy work environment. In 2016, it was updated to reflect modern workplace conditions.

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