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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.

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.

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