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

Contaminated eyewash endangers workers

Employees in North Carolina may benefit from learning more about the warning for contaminated eyewash water that was recently issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to OSHA, employees who use an emergency station that been improperly maintained may be at risk. The eyewash station is required at job sites where employees may be exposed to corrosive or hazardous chemicals. Employees working with formaldehyde, HIV labs and HBV labs must also have access to eyewash equipment.

When the eyewash station is not properly maintained, there is a higher probability that it contains organisms that form in untreated or stagnant water. Employees exposed to these conditions are more likely to contract an infection. The dangerous organisms may be inhaled or come into contact with the eyes and skin. If the employee has already sustained an injury that they are trying to clean with eyewash equipment, they may be more susceptible to contracting an infection.

Amputations program updated by OSHA

Both workers and employers in North Carolina need to be aware that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently revised its procedures and policies for how its National Emphasis Program on amputations is to be implemented. The agency reviewed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in order to determine which work sites will be targets of inspection.

According to OSHA, industries with the highest risks of amputation include commercial bakeries, sawmills, machine shops, food manufacturers and meat processing companies. The highest rate of amputation injury accidents in 2013 was in the manufacturing sector, which suffered more than twice as many amputations than did all private sector industries as a whole.

Most railroads unlikelky to meet federal safety deadline

North Carolina residents may recall the deadly railroad crash on May 12 that claimed eight lives in Philadelphia. An Amtrak commuter train derailed as it rounded a corner at high speeds, and a subsequent inquiry revealed that the tragedy could possibly have been prevented if the train involved had been equipped with a safety system known as positive train control. The technology automatically slows trains in danger of derailing by monitoring their speed using GPS coordinates and radio waves, and Congress passed a law in 2008 that gave railroads until the end of 2015 to install the systems on all of their tracks and trains.

However, a Federal Railroad Administration report released on Aug. 7 reveals that only three railroads have submitted plans to install the safety systems before the Dec. 31 deadline. Among the railroads lagging behind are the nation's leading freight railroad and Amtrak. However, Amtrak officials said that they expect to have PTC operational on busy northeastern commuter lines before the deadline.

Lone worker safety is employer's responsibility

Job safety reports have shown that, while the "buddy system" helps reduce workplace injuries, worker safety for so-called "lone workers" still remains difficult. When workers are forced to do their jobs in isolation, there is a greater chance that they will be injured on the job.

According to experts, a key factor in workplace accidents is whether a worker is required to do his or her job alone. A "lone worker" is identified as anyone who works away from a typical base or location or who is required to work out of sight and sound of other workers. This type of situation is more common to certain industries such as maintenance, utilities, construction and agriculture. It is also more common for those who work on nights or weekends, especially in large facilities such as factories or warehouses.

Workers may sue employers for opioid addiction

Many workers in North Carolina who are injured on the job receive a prescription for painkillers. In fact, 25 percent of the drug costs associated with workers' compensation claims are for opioids. While the use of these drugs may help an injured worker to tolerate pain from an accident, it can also lead to a serious addiction.

Now, more and more injured workers and their families are pursuing compensation for the damage caused by opioid prescriptions. In a report entitled 'Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure for Injured Workers," the National Safety Council pointed out that there have been 15 court cases between 2009 and 2015 in which a lawsuit was filed against an employer because of an opioid prescription.

Workplace safety involving robots

As the use of robots increases in workplaces in North Carolina and around the country, so does the risk of injuries to employees working with them or in their proximity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking a renewed look at the issue, and some observers think that the agency may be issuing new standards in the future in an attempt to increase workplace safety.

Robots are extremely useful, especially in industrial applications, but their speed and strength give them the potential to inflict serious injuries on any workers unfortunate enough to get in their way. The first robot-related fatality in America occurred in a factory in 1984, and OSHA responded over time by issuing some guidance.

Chain of custody processes and hazmat transport

The transportation of hazardous materials represents a serious danger to the public health of North Carolina residents as well as the safety of the people who deal with this as part of their jobs. Innovative solutions are being sought for the improvement of hazmat transportation techniques, and experts are turning to a concept known as the chain of custody process.

Chain of custody is often thought of as a way to preserve and protect evidence in criminal investigations, but authorities hope that by applying these rules to the transport and storage of hazardous materials they may be able to prevent a large number of toxic spills that can often lead to workplace accidents. The process requires that every hazmat container be continuously monitored through its whole journey and only handed off to responsible and prepared individuals at the proper locations.

OSHA's stricter enforcement policies for health care facilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released new stricter enforcement policies for hospitals and long-term care facilities in order to reduce some of the most common workplace hazards. Injuries in the health care industry are a serious concern in North Carolina and in other states. OSHA is responding to the very high incidence of injury in these workplaces, as compared to other industries nationwide.

The new policy focuses on five specific hazard areas, including safe patient handling, workplace violence, bloodborne pathogens, tuberculosis and slips and falls. These five areas lead to many workers' compensation claims every year, and OSHA is inspecting facilities in these particular areas even if an inspection began for an unrelated reason. The federal agency plans to conduct employee interviews and examine employment records to seek more information regarding these areas of concern.

Recycling workers twice as likely to be injured on the job

Recycling may not be what first springs to mind when North Carolina residents think about dangerous occupations, but those who work in this field are injured on the job more than twice as often as the average American worker. While these injuries are sometimes minor in nature, 17 recycling workers lost their lives in workplace accidents nationwide between 2011 and 2013. The dangers of working in the recycling industry were highlighted in a report compiled by researchers at the University of Illinois and safety and environmental experts that was released on June 23.

Many workplace accidents involving recycling workers are caused by exposure to hazardous items or toxic substances on the sort line. Recycling bins sometimes contain hypodermic needles, broken glass or dangerous chemicals, and many recycling workers are hired on a temporary basis and lack the training and experience that could help them avoid to avoid injuries. Some of the most serious accidents at recycling facilities occur in close proximity to heavy machinery and equipment.

Collection of workplace data for compliance with executive order

Safe North Carolina workplaces are important not only because of the safety needs of workers but also for the purpose of promoting positive worker morale. However, government contracts could lead to cutting corners on issues such as safety in order to meet deadlines or curb costs. Executive Order 13673, signed by President Obama in July 2014, is designed to promote both fair pay and safe working conditions through the monitoring of relevant data for companies holding or seeking certain federal contracts.

Compliance records of those who bid on such contracts are to be accessible to the Department of Labor as well as to other relevant agencies so that compliance can be evaluated before the contracts in question are awarded. This is reportedly the first time that these details will be available to the entities making decisions about federal contracts.

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Hickory, NC 28603

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