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Miami Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Hospitality and service workers face unique challenges

If you work in a Miami restaurant or hotel, the types of injuries that you can suffer on the job are very different from most other industries. For instance, a sous chef or a line cook might have to cope with serious cuts or burns after an accident prepping food or cooking on the grill.

Someone working in a hotel could be left to contend with the psychological repercussions after an assault on their person by a hotel guest or even a co-worker. These workers may be encouraged to continue to work after the accident or incident that harmed them. They may not be offered time off to recover or to seek treatment that should be covered by workers' compensation benefits.

Shame may convince companies to do better

In 2009, OSHA instituted a rule that said any company in Florida and around the country that was fined more than $40,000 would be mentioned in a press release. The goal was to shame businesses into taking steps that would lead to safer workplaces. An economist from Duke University did a study into whether shame was an effective tool for getting organizations to change their ways. The study results suggest that the answer was yes.

After a company was publicly shamed, violations at companies within five kilometers of that organization went down by 73%. It is estimated that OSHA would need to do 210 inspections to achieve such a decline in violations if it wasn't able to issue press releases. One of the reasons why shaming is effective is that no business wants to receive negative press. Ultimately, companies want to avoid the negative consequences that others had experienced after incurring a major OSHA violation.

Keeping workers safe while working in mines

Those who work in closed spaces in Florida and throughout the country could be exposed to harmful chemicals and other hazards caused by the use of heavy machinery. It is not uncommon for dust and toxic smoke to be kicked up by conveyor belts or other tools used to extract materials from a mine. Companies that use equipment that is not up to MSHA standards could also be putting their workers at risk.

There are several steps that employers can take to minimize the risk of a potentially fatal underground fire. For instance, modern ventilation systems can detect where potentially toxic air may need to be replaced with clean air. Employees should be allowed to wear gas detection units or tools that allow them to breathe in potentially hazardous environments. Finally, it is important that workers are trained to identify hazardous situations, use their equipment and find an escape route in case a fire occurs.

Supervisor training important to improving safety

When Florida construction workers are on the job, they may face a risk of a severe workplace injury. Across the country, construction repeatedly shows up on lists of the most dangerous professions, often simply because there are so many opportunities for harm. Employees may work at heights, with heavy machinery or in unfinished buildings, all of them posing risks for machine accidents, falls or other incidents. When companies fail to train workers who are newer to construction, they may face an even greater risk of a serious injury on the job.

According to one study, there is a shortage of skilled construction workers, and many companies seek to retain these highly trained employees. When companies hire more inexperienced workers, they may need to provide training in order to improve workplace safety and aim to prevent serious accidents. There are a number of factors that can contribute to a safer workplace, including involving workers in safety programs, holding regular safety meetings and providing ongoing training. One of the most important aspects of improving workplace safety is ensuring that supervisors and team leaders are highly trained.

NIOSH releases construction air quality recommendations

Hundreds of construction workers are injured in workplace accidents each year in Florida and around the country, and thousands more develop work-related illnesses after being exposed to dust or toxic materials during renovation, repair or demolition projects. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict standards that limit the amount of lead, asbestos and hazardous air pollutants construction workers can be exposed to, but complying with these regulations is not always easy. This is especially true when older buildings are being refurbished or demolished.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducts frequent health hazard evaluations at building projects to identify these risks, and the agency has released a list of recommendations that are designed to help general contractors and construction companies meet indoor environmental quality standards. The recommendations urge employers to anticipate potential hazards, communicate the risks to workers and supervisors, and conduct regular air quality checks.

Six common OSHA violations in craft beer industry

The craft beer industry is growing in Florida and across other states, but like any other industry, it has its fair share of employers who do not live up to OSHA safety standards. The following are six of the most common OSHA violations that craft breweries are cited with.

First, craft breweries are often violating OSHA's guidelines on entering and working in permit-required confined spaces. Companies are supposed to have a program in place that contains, among other things, an emergency rescue plan and provisions for monitoring atmospheric conditions in the confined space.

Statistics show slight rise in workplace deaths

Florida residents may be interested to learn that the number of work-related fatalities in the U.S. went up slightly from 2017 to 2018. According to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that was released on Dec. 17, there was a 2-percent rise overall in work-related deaths last year. There were more dramatic increases in some specific types of fatal workplace accidents.

Forty percent of workplace fatalities last year were caused by transportation accidents, with truckers and driving sales people accounting for most of the deaths. Another type of accident that caused a lot of workplace deaths was accidental overdoses of drugs or alcohol. This type of accident has increased for six years running. The number of work-related suicides went up by 11 percent last year.

Burnout among workers now a diagnosable condition

Chronic and ill-managed workplace stress can cause employees to suffer burnout. The condition can be seen across a wide range of industries, and it has become so widespread in recent years that the World Health Organization has officially called it a diagnosable condition. Florida workers should know that it has not necessarily been called an occupational illness yet.

Still, this step could prompt employers to do something about managing and treating burnout among their workforce. WHO defines burnout as a syndrome characterized by three things: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, a growing detachment from one's work and a decline in one's ability to get the job done. Burnt-out workers can be irritable, anxious and prone to cynical or negative thoughts about their work.

Safety managers say Amazon hid warehouse injuries from OSHA

Warehouse workers must pack and ship the orders placed on Amazon when consumers in Florida shop at the online retail giant. A media investigation of warehouse working conditions has revealed how the company buried information about worker injuries. Up until 2015, three safety managers formerly employed by Amazon said that they were instructed by upper management to find reasons to avoid recording injuries.

The most egregious incident uncovered by the investigation alleged that the government of a Midwest state interfered in the investigation of a workplace death. The investigator from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the state's labor commissioner told him to place the blame for the fatal workplace accident on the worker. This was done because the state was trying to convince Amazon to base its second headquarters in that state. The OSHA investigator had found that the worker who died had not been sufficiently trained. The state's governor attended a meeting with the investigator when he was told to skew the report in Amazon's favor or resign. The investigator left his job as a result.

OSHA: Employees need hands-on training, not just online training

OSHA requires that employee training must result in mastery of the training material. Recently, the safety organization stated that for this reason, online and computer training alone does not suffice. Workers in Florida who rely on their computers and smartphones on a regular basis may disagree, but they will likely agree that online training gives few opportunities for workers to ask questions of qualified trainers.

Even delayed and limited interaction are unacceptable, OSHA says, because they can hinder the worker's ability to learn and retain the information. OSHA recommends hands-on training with a qualified trainer. Workers will then be handling the actual equipment found on the job site, and trainers will be able to tell when workers have grasped all the proper techniques.

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