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Miami Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

Workers' comp can help injured workers

Workers' compensation can be critically important for Florida workers who have been injured on the job. These payments cover lost wages and medical treatment when an employee is unable to work due to an accident or injury. Workers' compensation can also cover funeral costs when a worker is killed due to an on-the-job-incident. Most workers' compensation benefits go to cover medical costs, including emergency care, testing, ongoing treatment and health care transportation. In some cases, workers may be directed to go first to a specific list of doctors for non-emergency care.

Lost wages are another major factor for injured workers. When workers are hurt so badly that they are unable to work, the lost income may affect their ability to pay bills. Workers' compensation payments do not cover the full cost of an injured workers' wages. However, they can help by providing up to 66% of lost wages while the worker is injured. In Florida and 48 other states, companies must carry workers' compensation insurance to cover these costs in case of an injury. While workers' comp laws vary from state to state, they are backed up by federal legislation that has been in force for over a century to mandate employer liability.

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.

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