The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory NC Personal Injury Law Blog

How nurses can stay safe in North Carolina

According to OSHA, there were 253,700 reports of workplace injury or illness related to health care workers in 2011. That translates to 6.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 full-time workers. Typically, injuries occur when a worker falls or overexerts himself or herself while on the job. Illnesses generally occur because of interactions with allergens or coming into contact with needles that carry infectious materials.

The good news is that there are many ways in which nurses and other health care workers can keep themselves safe while at work. First, they should take care to stay away from sharp objects or understand how to handle them with care. Each year, there are 385,000 injuries reported that were caused by such objects, and hospitals now use needles with caps on them as part of the Needlestick Prevention and Safety Act.

The Department of Labor proposes new mining regulations

Workplace safety advocates in North Carolina and around the country will likely be in support of new mining regulations proposed by the Department of Labor on June 7. The proposal was made in light of 122 mining industry fatalities between 2010 and 2015 and the widespread disregard of current regulations by mine operators. According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, violations of current safety standards were linked to more than 60 percent of these fatalities.

If implemented, the new regulations would protect mine workers by requiring their employers to inspect workplaces prior to work commencing and inform miners of any potentially unsafe conditions. The new rules would also require mine operators to keep records of these inspections listing the dates of all inspections, reports of any unsafe conditions that were noticed and details of any corrective action that was subsequently taken. Under the proposed regulations, a competent individual would be required to sign and date this examination record at the end of each shift.

Improving safety at work

Workplace safety is a major cause for concern in North Carolina as well as across the globe. Worldwide, around 6,300 people are killed on the job every day. However, there are many things employers can do to help improve safety in their workplaces in a cost-efficient manner.

One mistake some employers make is adding too much administration. Instead of doing so, employers should consider developing improved safety systems. They should also make safety a concern for all of the employees rather than making it the job of a single department. This can be accomplished by providing all employees with regular safety training and good safety equipment.

Slaughterhouse injuries may be underreported

North Carolina has a thriving meat and poultry processing industry. A report issued by the Government Accountability Office in April 2016 shows that slaughterhouses around the country are less dangerous for workers than they used to be. However, there are concerns that injuries to meat and poultry workers may be underreported.

According to the GAO report, 151 meat and poultry workers died on the job between 2004 and 2013. While that number is better than it was a decade ago, the injury rate for industry workers is still higher than that of other manufacturing occupations and the independent agency believes some slaughterhouse injuries go unreported. For example, the report found that sanitary workers who are injured or killed in meat processing plants are not always counted by the meat industry because many are employed by outside contractors. It also found that slaughterhouse medical personnel sometimes send injured workers back to the processing line without seeing a doctor. As a result of these and other reporting discrepancies, the agency believes the government needs to do a better job collecting safety data from meat companies.

Most common workplace injuries

Most North Carolina employees know that there are certain risks that they face, no matter what their occupation. In May, a major workers' compensation insurance company provided a five-year report to see where the injuries were occurring and why workers were being injured.

According to the report that the insurer released, the most common workplace injuries tended to be simple. For example, strains and sprains from lifting and lowering objects were common. These injuries, in addition to bruises and inflammation, accounted for about 33 percent of all the reported injuries. Slips and falls accounted for about 16 percent of the injuries. Injuries caused by the workers being struck by objects and cumulative trauma that resulted from repeated overuse were even less common. Tool accidents rounded out the top five most common causes of workplace injuries.

New accident reporting regulations

Over the next two years, many companies in North Carolina and throughout the country will be required to comply with new injury reporting standards. While most employers are already required to report on-the-job injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to publicly post injury data from companies that are in certain high-hazard industries. The agency hopes that the reporting requirements will work in much the same way that public posting of health department restaurant ratings encourage cleaner kitchens.

Opponents say that the measure will punish workplaces that have unfortunate accidents or worker injuries that employers are not responsible for, such as heart attacks. They also have expressed concern that the reporting will result in the release of proprietary information and believe that the new reporting regulations violate the previous policy of no-fault accident reporting.

Staying safe at the workplace

No matter what type of occupation a North Carolina resident has, workplace injuries can occur at any time. Whether it is tripping at an office job or falling off a ladder on a construction site, there are various hazards resulting in different degrees of harm. There are roughly 3 million workplace injuries that transpire annually across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A study conducted by the BLS and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company shows some of the most common accidents and injuries people experience at the workplace and what steps they can take to avoid them. The leading on-the-job injury the study found was overexertion from excessive physical work. Overexertion happens when employees carry, pull, lift and push things that are too heavy and result in lower back strains and sprains. Employees can avoid overexertion by lifting properly and getting other employees to help them move heavy objects. Employees who feel pain in their lower abdomen and soreness should stop what they are doing, as these are first signs of overexertion.

Choosing a safe pair of working boots

Foot injuries can be extremely painful, and they can also take a great deal of time to heal. North Carolina construction workers who suffer such injuries on the job could go months without a paycheck, so they tend to choose their work boots with great care. This is a decision that should be based more on durability and strength of construction than style or designer cachet, and there are a number of federal and state safety standards that can whittle down the options and make the choice an easier one.

Employers also have good reason to see that their workers are protected against injury. Studies have found that workers are more productive and happier when workplace safety is a major priority, and taking steps to ensure that employees purchase or are provided with sufficiently protective shoes or boots is a cost-effective step that can boost productivity and improve morale. Several footwear manufacturers claim that their work boots meet all applicable safety standards, but workers who want to be sure may wish to become familiar with these regulations before making their final choice.

Worker statistics worth knowing

The number of work fatalities around the country in 2014 was 4,821, which was the highest total since 2008. That translates to a rate of 3.4 fatalities for every 100,000 full-time workers, which is higher than the 3.3 per 100,000 in 2013, and it is the first increase since 2010. More than 100 such deaths took place in North Carolina. In the private construction industry, there was a 9 percent increase around the country in work fatalities in 2014 from 2013.

The number of deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry was at its highest level since 2007 with 183 recorded deaths. Workers who were age 55 or older accounted for 1,691 deaths in 2014, which is the highest yearly total recorded. That number was 8 percent higher than the previous high. When broken down by race, almost all groups experienced a higher number of fatalities in 2014 when compared to 2013.

ESFI promotes workplace, home and school safety during April

Many North Carolina residents have been injured or killed in electrical accidents. The Electrical Safety Foundation International promotes electrical safety in workplaces, homes and schools, and the nonprofit organization has designated April as National Electrical Safety Month. The effort provides parties interested in increasing safety with resources such as lists of safety tips, templates and infographics.

Efforts to improve workplace safety are an important part of the ESFI campaign. The organization says that thousands of workers suffer shocks each year after touching circuits that they thought had been turned off. Workers are urged to check any circuits they may come into contact with as well as the equipment they use to test them. The ESFI also calls on employers to properly train all workers about the dangers of electricity and provide them with the appropriate tools and protective equipment.


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The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory, NC 28601

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Hickory, NC 28603

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