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OSHA proposes fines in workplace fatality case

Employers in Florida and around the country must meet standards laid down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and obtain permits before asking workers to enter confined and potentially toxic environments, and the penalties for failing to meet these requirements can be severe. An industrial contractor and a petroleum refiner in Alabama were recently reminded of this when OSHA proposed that they be fined more than $100,000 for not securing an area where a worker asphyxiated after losing his air supply.

The workplace accident took place at a Tuscaloosa refining facility. OSHA cited the industrial contractor for not taking steps to ensure that rescue teams could reach workers in confined spaces and allowing workers to enter these areas with inadequate lighting equipment. The company has also been cited for placing workers in danger by giving rescue teams other duties to perform.

Study: all employment conditions affect workers' health, safety

Florida workers know how there are different forms of employment in the modern economy. In addition to traditional full-time jobs with regular hours and job security, there are gig economy jobs, jobs with short-term contracts and jobs with flexible employer-worker relationships. The employment conditions of each of these, taken altogether, can have a big impact on employee health and job safety.

Many studies, though, have not analyzed these conditions as a whole but rather individual factors like pay and shift length. A new study from the University of Washington has striven to correct the skewed view of employee health that results from such studies. It involved some 6,000 working U.S. adults.

Court upholds OSHA's requirement on respiratory hazard testing

In September 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decided a case involving the right interpretation of OSHA's Respiratory Protection Standard. Florida employers may be interested to learn that the court ruled in favor of OSHA and against the owner of a marine vessel repair facility in Alaska who argued that it's unnecessary to evaluate respiratory hazards until after it's clear that respirators are needed.

The OSHA standard specifically requires that potentially harmful environments be evaluated before the employers decide for or against the use of respirators. This is the requirement that the court upheld; though, one could point out that it is confusing for the requirement to be under a section titled "Selection of Respirators."

Safety benefits of floor markings in the workplace

To improve the operation of their facility, employers in Florida are encouraged to lay down the appropriate floor markings. They will find that floor tape is especially easy to use as well as affordable; it can mark not only floors but also walls, pipes and work equipment. The point is not just to create a more efficient workplace, though. Workers' safety must also be taken into account.

For example, employers could use pre-cut shapes like footprints to direct workers and visitors through high-traffic areas. But there should also be markings that highlight areas where worker errors are most likely to occur. Markings should make certain hazardous structures more visible, including beams, bollards and loading docks.

The dangers of lead exposure in the workplace

People in Florida who encounter lead in the workplace are protected by standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to OSHA, there is a limit to the exposure a worker can have over an eight-hour period. There is also a limit at which employers are required to comply with certain safety standards.

Lead is far from a new workplace danger. In fact, a metal worker from the 4th century B.C. was found to have lead colic as a result of exposure to the metal. In 1977, lead was banned in paint for use in public and residential buildings. Leaded gasoline was phased out during the 1980s due to environmental concerns. However, the aviation industry uses lead in some types of aircraft fuel.

Preparedness is the key to workplace safety

Employers in Florida should always be prepared when it comes to keeping their employees safe. It all begins with knowing what hazards an industry faces. The following are a just a few key factors that employers in any industry might need to address.

The first is indoor air quality. A poorly ventilated office building might make the workers sick through pollen and mold exposure. If more than 20% of a building's occupants become sick, then employers are probably facing something called sick building syndrome.

Safety tips for nursing professionals

Nursing is among the world's most noble professions, but the job can be genuinely hazardous. Luckily, there are several safety tips nurses in Florida can follow to help reduce their risk of work-related injuries and illnesses.

One of the most important safety tips is for nurses to regularly wash their hands to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria. This is a basic task that most nurses take seriously, but it can sometimes be overlooked in a busy work environment. Another critical tip is for nurses to use lift and transfer equipment when moving patients. This is essential for avoiding back injuries, muscle strains and falls. Along the same line, nurses should always practice good body mechanics, be on the lookout for trip hazards and be sure to ask for help lifting patients or objects if they need it.

Workplace hazards to account for during the summer

During the summer months, workers in Florida and most other states contend with hot and humid weather. Employers need to create safety plans to ensure that workers don't get hurt or sick because of heat stress or heat stroke. To keep workers safe, they should be allowed to work during the morning or evening hours when it tends to be cooler outside. Furthermore, they should be allowed to work in shaded areas.

Workers should be given frequent rest breaks in shaded areas and access to plenty of water. Those who are showing signs of fatigue should be allowed to rest immediately. Fatigue should be thought of as a mental impairment that can make it harder to work safely. Drinking water can reduce the risk that a worker becomes dehydrated while on the job. Those who don't like the bland taste of water can add some lemon or other natural fruit flavors to make it more palatable.

OSHA seeks to educate employers about electrical hazards

In many Florida industries, electrical hazards are common. However, injuries from electrical accidents can be extremely serious or even deadly. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is hoping to raise awareness among electricians, engineers and other employees who regularly perform electrical operations.

According to OSHA, there were two amputations and 15 hospitalizations from January 2015 through September 2018 that were caused by electrical accidents. Additionally, from October 2012 to September 2018, six contractors who were involved in electrical and wiring installation suffered injuries that were ultimately fatal.

Safety violations in the workplace

Workers in Florida should know that one of the standards for which worksites are cited for most frequently by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is that for respiratory protection. The OSHA estimates that five million workers in 1.3 million workplaces in the United States are required to wear respirators. Respirators protect the workers in shops from hazardous mists, vapors, dust, gases and sprays. If workers do not wear the protective respirators, they can incur lung impairment, cancer and even die from the effects of the harmful materials they breathe in. Employers should make sure that workers are wearing respirators when necessary.

Another standard for which worksites are commonly cited is related to control of hazardous energy and lockout/tagout procedures. Workers who have to work with machines or equipment can be severely injured or even killed if there is no proper control of hazardous energy. Accidents in which hazardous energy is the cause make up 10 percent of the serious accidents in several industries. Implementing the appropriate lockout/tagout procedures correctly can help protect workers from hazardous energy incidents.

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