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

Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Industrial accident or chemical exposure -- protection imminent

The University of Arizona received a grant of $3 million from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This is to finance a study of the chemical hazards faced by workers in auto repair shops and beauty parlors. While most people would associate an industrial accident with a large manufacturing plant, hazardous chemicals in small businesses can also cause incidents with severe consequences.

An associate professor at UA said that the leading cause of fatalities nationwide is of occupational nature. Both diseases and injuries that are work-related make up a majority of deaths in the country. However, it was noted that a significant number of reported occupational illnesses affect minority workers with marginalized statuses. The aim is partly to educate these workers about the risks and to help them understand their rights to protection.

Workers' compensation claims come from all industries

Many workplace injuries in Arizona are avoidable. Typically, employers can reduce workers' compensation claims by carefully complying with federal and state safety regulations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top five injuries that lead to claims can happen in any industry.

Slippery or damaged floors in any workplace cause falls, and so do random objects or debris on walkways. Typical injuries of this kind damage muscles, cause fractures and could even result in brain injury when the victim's head strikes something hard. Frequent claims result from lifting, lowering, pushing and carrying objects, often leading to musculoskeletal injuries. When it comes to workplace deaths, vehicle accidents are reported to be the primary cause of occupational fatalities.

Gradual injuries can cause long-term pain and income loss

While industries in Arizona such as construction, transport and manufacturing pose significant hazards, workers in the tech industry and clerical positions are also at risk. However, except for slip-and-fall and other unanticipated events, they are more susceptible to gradual injuries. One of the most prevalent of these is carpal tunnel syndrome, which results from repetitive use of the wrists over an extended period.

The syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs in the carpal tunnel from the arm, through the wrist, and into the hand. Victims typically experience numb, swollen or itchy fingers with a gradual decrease in strength of grip. The condition can develop into chronic pain in the employee's hands, wrists or arms. Although many occupations involve repetitive motions, employees in the tech industry are especially vulnerable.

Construction accidents happen despite precautions

Construction workers in Arizona and other states will always be at risk of suffering injuries, regardless of the safety precautions taken by their employers. This is underscored by the death of a construction worker in another state. The owners of the construction company claim they are serious about protecting the safety and health of their employees, and say they work to avoid construction accidents.

Reportedly, a 39-year-old man lost his life when he was struck by a ceiling beam at a construction site where he worked. The cause of the incident is still under investigation. Apparently, none of the deceased man's co-workers witnessed the incident. They reported hearing the noise and discovering the worker with severe head injuries.

Roofing accidents make up a significant percentage of fatalities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration places the burden of protecting workers from harm on employers. They could face OSHA fines and citations for unsafe facilities. Of the thousands of workplace fatalities nationwide every year -- including in Arizona -- many involve roofing accidents that could have been prevented if property owners had adequately maintained their buildings.

In any event, employers must comply with OSHA regulations to prevent workers from falling from ladders or roofs, through skylights, hatchways or other hazards on rooftops. Whenever employees access roof environments, they must be equipped with personal protective equipment such as fall protection. Furthermore, each worker must be adequately trained in the proper use of a fall harness and the safe securing of lanyards to anchor points.

Safety precautions can prevent warehouse workplace accidents

Warehouses in Arizona are minefields of safety hazards, and business owners must protect the health and safety of workers. However, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes guidelines to cover every dangerous situation, and compliance can prevent a workplace accident from happening. Some precautions apply to all such facilities, regardless of the industries they serve.

Signage and labels are essential and will allow employees to know what they work with, where everything is located, what the storage temperature should be and whether products are hazardous. This will also ensure that everybody knows exactly where the fire exits and extinguishers are. Falls frequently cause injuries in warehouses where workers move about on elevated areas and use lifting devices. For that reason, strips of non-slip tape and guardrails must be installed in danger zones.

Proper safety protocols may prevent an industrial accident

Arizona employees who earn their livings in manufacturing plants may have reason to be concerned about their safety. There are multiple safety hazards in these facilities, any one of which can cause an industrial accident. Things that may lessen the likelihood of injuries include wearing the appropriate safety equipment and avoiding loose clothing and jewelry that can get caught in moving machine parts. Tying back long hair may also be wise.

Frequent evacuation drills must be part of the safety protocol, and hazards that are identified during regular risk assessments can be addressed immediatelyy to prevent work accidents. If all employees receive adequate safety training, they could avoid injuries but also know what to do in emergencies. A power tool accident may be prevented if such equipment is kept clean, in working order and stored properly.

More than 2,000 employees' eyes are hurt at work every day

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), occupational eye injuries cause production losses to the value of $300 million each year nationwide, including in Arizona. An estimated 700,000 employees' eyes are hurt at work each year, equaling about 2,000 such injuries per day -- or one every 45 seconds. That is alarming considering that the simple solution is to wear eye protection.

Safety authorities say most eye injuries happen because workers wear inappropriate eye protection or none at all. Reportedly, the industry with the highest occurrence of eye injuries is manufacturing, with over 8,000 reports per year. In about seven in 10 cases, the injuries are caused by objects that are smaller than pinheads.

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