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Jerome, Gibson, Stewart, Stevenson, Engle & Runbeck, P.C.
Helping Injured Workers In Arizona Since 1973

Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Gradual injuries: The hazards faced by paper and pulp workers

Workers in the paper and pulp manufacturing facilities in Arizona face significant health risks. While many occupational hazards involve physical injuries, the exposure these workers face can cause gradual injuries to their health. The work environment in this industry typically contain paper dust, sulfur dioxide, chlorine compounds, and there could even be risks of asbestos exposure.

Exposure to these substances could cause chronic and acute respiratory disorders, and some hazards could be life-threatening. Years of asthma suffering can follow exposure to chlorine and chlorine dioxide, and it could even cause severe lung injuries. Respiratory diseases, some of which can be fatal, can also result from exposure to paper dust and sulfur dioxide.

Workplace accident victim thanks rescuers who saved his life

An Arizona restoration technician recently met with those who provided emergency treatment and saved his life earlier this year. The man suffered injuries in a workplace accident that occurred while he was assessing a flood-damaged assisted living center to determine whether it could be restored or whether it had to be demolished. The building had extensive water damage, making it extremely hazardous for workers to be inside.

Reportedly, the worker noticed some rusted drywall anchors, and while inspecting the bathroom, a large mirror became dislodged from the wall. Activities of a co-worker in another room caused the mirror to fall and shatter into pieces as it hit the counter. The man used his arm to shield his face, but he suffered severe injuries as mirror shards cut into his forearm. His co-worker rushed him to his vehicle and proceeded to drive him to the hospital.

Work injuries could have been worse if victim was without PPE

Construction workers face an endless list of hazards -- many of them life-threatening -- and those who are not alert at all times might be caught unawares. However, it is not uncommon for workers to come away from potentially deadly accidents with work injuries that are less severe. Many employers in Arizona take particular note of these near-misses to prevent potentially traumatic consequences in the future.

One such accident occurred at a building site on a recent Monday morning. Officials of the Phoenix Fire Department reported that an emergency call came in at about 7 a.m. They rushed to the scene to find a construction worker who had fallen from street level into the basement of a building under construction. They learned that the man was safely strapped into the seat of a front-loader when he proceeded to pour a load of dirt into the basement.

Winter weather could cause slip-and-fall industrial accident

Winters in Arizona can pose additional hazards for Phoenix workers in all industries. Even in a warm climate like Arizona, the weather can still turn colder in the lower desert valleys at night. Whenever temperatures drop below freezing point, the risks of slip-and-fall accidents in industrial facilities will be higher than during other seasons. Even without snow, other weather-related hazards can cause a slip-and-fall industrial accident.

Safety authorities suggest precautions that might avoid serious fall injuries. The first rule is not to rush, as running or fast walking allows no reaction time in the event of a slip. Holding onto rails on stairways might help, and taking shorter steps can reduce risks of falling. Extra care is necessary when workers carry heavy items, which can jeopardize their sense of balance.

Electrician accidents can cause extended hospital stays

Electrical hazards exist in almost every workplace in Arizona. However, safety authorities say most electrician accidents occur on construction sites. They say many workers suffer electrical shocks that are never reported, and for that reason, the existing records indicate only serious and fatal electrical injuries.

The hazards include overhead power lines, faulty equipment, lightning, damaged insulation, improper grounding and doing maintenance or repairs without de-energizing the equipment. An electrical shock happens when an electrical current passes through a worker's body, causing him or her to become a part of the electrical circuit. For that to happen, the worker must touch two electrical currents with different voltages, or be in contact with an electric current and a ground without being protected by shoes with rubber soles -- for instance.

Traumatic amputations: Victim urges all to obey safety rules

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that almost 5,200 work-related fatalities occurred nationwide in 2016, and millions more in Arizona and other states suffered injuries. Many of the injured victims suffered traumatic amputations. A welder in another state whose hands were both amputated in a preventable accident now spends his time warning others to comply with safety regulations.

While holding up his prosthetic arms for all to see, his message is clear. He explains to other workers how he lost his hands in 2007 when he was employed as a welder in a manufacturing facility. He recalls how co-workers who were busy shredding drywall in a special shredder called him over and asked is help to clear a blockage while the shredder was running. He says although he knew that it was wrong to do this without switching the machine off, he still went ahead and stuck his hands in the machine.

Work injury: Chemical hazards in the meat packing industry

Based on information provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the meat packing industry is exceptionally dangerous, with an injury rate that far exceeds all other sectors nationwide. In Arizona, these workers are exposed to knife cuts, falls, musculoskeletal disorders, cumulative trauma disorders, infectious diseases and toxic substances. The latter is often not given the necessary attention, and many workers are unaware of the work injury dangers posed by chemicals, one of which is known as the silent killer.

Ammonia is used as an aqueous solution for cleaning and as anhydrous ammonia gas in refrigeration pipes. Contact with the skin can cause corrosive burns, and inhalation can damage the respiratory tract and the lungs; the gas can also injure eyes. Thermal degradation products can affect workers' noses, eyes and throats. This hazardous product is produced during the process of heat-sealing polyvinyl chloride film for wrapping meat.

Beware -- a strike of lightning can cause a serious work injury

Employees in the landscaping and tree care industries are more vulnerable than most to be struck by lightning. This is a work injury that could be fatal, and all possible precautions must be taken to avoid the outdoors during thunderstorms. Stormy weather patterns are common in Arizona during the summer months, and employers must ensure that employees know the risks, and know what to do when they are caught in such hazardous weather conditions.

The National Weather Service says approximately 25 million lightning flashes between clouds and the ground occur nationwide each year. Further data reveals that over 1,000 people are victims of lightning strikes per year, and an average of 50 of those incidents are fatal. Many others who survive are left with neurological disabilities that are irreversible.

Losing the use of one's hands in a workplace accident

Most people take their hands for granted. Workers in Arizona protect their heads with hard hats, eyes with safety goggles, ears with plugs and feet with safety boots, but they often forget to wear safety gloves. Every occupation poses some hand injury risk, ranging from bruises and minor cuts to amputations in a serious workplace accident.

Lacerations might be the most common hand injuries, and while treating most of them might be easy, deep cuts can damage tendons or nerves, which might cause long-term damage. Puncture wounds are narrower and often deeper than cuts. They can be caused by machinery or tools and sharp objects like tacks, knives, needles and nails. A crush injury occurs when the hand, arm or wrist catches between two hard surfaces such as a between a door and a wall or in the mechanisms of heavy equipment. When the pressure prevents the blood from reaching the muscles, damage could be permanent.

Proper risk assessment might prevent an industrial accident

Workers in the factories of Arizona face numerous hazards every day. Advisers say incorporating a detailed risk assessment procedure in the safety schedule helps to limit the risk of an industrial accident. However, this can only be effective if employees are involved in the assessment. Establishing a structured process and providing sufficient guidance can lessen potential dangers.

To measure a plant's level of safety, employers and employees must be up to date with the latest safety regulations. Frequent safety training and refresher courses are prerequisites for industrial workplaces, and only qualified workers must operate specific machines and equipment. Encouraging employees to be part of the risk assessment process can help with identifying potential problems, and such empowerment could make them more responsible and less inclined to undertake activities that will risk their safety.

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