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

Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Work injury: UV exposure can cause much more than heat stroke

The summer heat in Arizona poses risks to all, especially those who work outdoors. Although safety authorities issue warnings about prevention of heat exhaustion, dehydration or any other heat-related work injury, the long-term damage caused by the sun does not receive enough attention. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun increases the risk of skin cancer -- the most common type of cancer.

Workers who are exposed to the sun's UV rays while they work are at significant risk, and employers must encourage them to take the necessary precautions as part of their responsibility to provide safe work environments. Clothing blocks off UV rays, so covering as much skin as possible can help. Skin surface that is exposed must be covered with sunscreen with a protection factor of at least 30 -- reapplying at frequent intervals.

Work injury: Some safety hazards exist in all industries

While many people in Arizona may think only workers in industries such as construction and manufacturing are at risk, occupational hazards exist in all sectors. They may be surprised to learn that there is more than one work injury that can happen in an office just as quickly as on a construction site. For that reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration expects employers in all industries to establish safety protocols that will address all known hazards.

Although it is true that chefs in busy kitchens face risks of being injured by sharp objects and hot steam, they face the same slip-and-fall dangers as office workers, construction workers and many others because spillages of liquids pose the same threat to all. The same goes for randomly placed objects that can cause workers in any environment to trip and suffer serious injuries. The risk of suffering musculoskeletal injuries are also as likely to affect an office worker who attempts push, pull or lift a heavy desk, carry office equipment or stretch to reach boxes of stationery on high shelves as a warehouse worker with similar duties.

Gradual injuries can develop with wrong lifting techniques

Arizona workers need to learn proper lifting techniques. Whether they are working in offices or the construction, warehousing or transport industry, lifting heavy or awkwardly shaped objects can lead to the development of gradual injuries. The National Safety Council says over 300,000 musculoskeletal injuries like strains, sprains or tears caused workers to lose workdays in 2014.

Safety authorities advise workers always to use safe lifting techniques and start by planning lifts before they go into action. By sizing it up, a worker can determine whether the object can be easily lifted by one person, or will it require help such as a hand truck or a co-worker's assistance. Furthermore, before lifting an object, it should be checked for exposed staples, nails or other things that can cause injuries. Lastly, before lifting the object, he or she must make sure the path along which it must be carried is clear.

Safety precautions can prevent a manufacturing accident

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, most workplace injuries are preventable. The owners of industrial facilities in Arizona must comply with safety regulations to protect the health and safety of employees. Disregard of safety rules can cause a manufacturing accident with devastating consequences. Collaboration between employers and employees can protect workers and company profits.

Safety training is essential, and it must cover safe operation of equipment and also equip workers with basic first-aid knowledge, which could save a co-worker's life. Providing the appropriate personal protective equipment is also crucial. Safety glasses, gloves, aprons and boots can prevent contact with hazardous chemicals, and applicable safeguards and lockout/tag-out devices on machinery can avoid contact with dangerous moving parts.

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