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

Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Truck driving accidents are not the only hazards truckers face

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says truckers in Arizona and elsewhere face significant safety risks whenever they navigate their big rigs on the busy highways. The health and injury risks they face involve much more than truck driving accidents. Authorities say statistics show that automobile drivers contribute to approximately 70 percent of fatal truck accidents, with speeding cars playing a role in a significant percentage of those fatalities.

Along with transportation accidents, truck drivers often work on their own, loading and offloading shipments, lifting and carrying heavy objects which makes them vulnerable to musculoskeletal injuries such as sprained, strained and torn muscles and ligaments.

Work injury: Hazardous material spillages a problem in Arizona

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and its Department of Public Safety recently noted that hazardous material spills cause many problems each year. They were involved in cleanups of hazardous materials across the state in 2,000 incidents or accidents from 2007 through 2017. While the environmental consequences of hazardous material spills can be devastating, many result in work injury, and even death.

A few incidents that were mentioned in the report include a 2007 accident in which the driver of an 8,500-gallon diesel fuel tanker died when the truck caught fire after flipping over. In another incident in 2011, a fuel tanker driver was fortunate to escape with only a fractured pelvis and wrist when his truck also burned out. A pickup truck driver died after colliding with a tractor-trailer last year. The 4,500 gallons of fuel that spilled also ignited in that accident.

With robotic colleagues come a new set of machinery safety rules

With the advances in technology, industrial workers in Arizona have to learn a whole new set of safety precautions. While machinery safety previously applied to workers operating equipment, it now includes collaboration with machines -- or robots. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has established the Center for Occupational Robotics Research that will work on developing safety protocols for the interactions between humans and robots.

NIOSH says 61 workers lost their lives in robot-related workplace accidents from 1992 through 2015. However, robotic equipment has always been kept isolated in cages with little direct contact with workers. With rapidly evolving technology, more and more manufacturing plants now have collaborative robots that work alongside human employees.

Taking shortcuts can result in catastrophic work accidents

Construction workers in Arizona and elsewhere know the hazards posed by trenches. However, many of them still enter unprotected trenches, even when their employers fail to provide adequate support to prevent cave-ins. A construction worker who was one of the few survivors of a trench collapse in 2002 now explains his experience in an effort to create awareness of the dangers of taking shortcuts that could cause fatal work accidents.

He says he was 27 years old, newly married and planning to leave on his honeymoon with his new bride that afternoon. First, he had to lay a waterline at a depth of six feet in a trench. There was no time to wait for the protective trench box that was due to be delivered. He was crouching down when the trench walls collapsed, and he was crushed by the soil that engulfed him.

Health care workers have access to workers' compensation benefits

Hospital workers and nurses have to cope with excessive workloads, which frequently lead to debilitating stress and physical injuries. Some may not realize that they are entitled to the same workers' compensation benefits as all the other workers in Arizona. By understanding the hazards that typically cause harm, home health aids, nurses and other workers in the health care industry could reduce the likelihood of suffering occupational injuries.

Heavy lifting of injured patients or twisting their bodies into awkward positions is par for the course for health care workers. Along with needlestick injuries and infections or exposure to allergens, musculoskeletal and repetitive injuries are the most frequent causes of absence from work. Many of these injuries have long-term consequences, and some can cause chronic pain.

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