Published on Jan 13, 2017 by Edgar Snyder

The Top 5 Workplace Hazards of 2016

Top Workplace Hazards of 2016

Accidents happen and they can happen anywhere. Our workers' compensation attorneys know it too well: Accidents often happen on the job.

The prevalence of workplace injuries brings an old saying to mind: Luck favors the prepared. That's because workplace injuries can often be prevented altogether through education and training, as well as the proper use of personal protective gear.

With that in mind, before we close the doors on 2016, we want to make sure everyone knows the top workplace hazards of the year—as well as ways to prevent being injured by them in 2017:

#5 Lockout/Tagout

Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA) statistics reveal that the fifth-most common workplace hazard deals with lockout-tagout procedures. These procedures ensure that dangerous machinery and equipment is properly shut off—and cannot be reactivated—while maintenance functions are being performed.

Sadly, thousands of workers are injured—some fatally—because of lockout/tagout accidents that happen when workers:

  • Come into contact with moving parts of a piece of equipment
  • Come into contact with an energized part
  • Come into contact with burners or other hot or hazardous liquids

Lockout-tagout accidents most frequently happen when a worker is:

  • Unjamming equipment
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Repairing equipment

It should be noted that in the majority of lockout-tagout accidents, the piece of equipment that caused the injury was not turned off when the incident occurred. Injured workers said they did not turn off the equipment because:

  • It would take too long
  • Turning off the equipment prior to servicing it was not part of their company's procedure
  • A whopping 61 percent of those injured said their companies did not properly educate them on proper lockout procedures

When it comes to lockout-tagout accidents, the importance of proper training can't be overstated: According to OSHA, 33 percent of fatal lockout-tagout accidents were caused by an employee's failure to follow safe operating procedures.

According to statistics:

  • 25 percent of fatal lockout-tagout injuries were caused by accidental machine activation
  • 18 percent were caused by a machine that was not properly deactivated
  • 17 percent were caused by equipment failure

The takeaway for employees? Preparation is the key to staying safe. Before you attempt to clean or service equipment, make sure you understand not only how to properly operate the machine, but how to safely deactivate it. In addition to wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment, it is also important to make sure you understand your company's lockout-tagout procedures.

#4 Respiratory Illness/Disease

More than 5 million workers in the United States are required to wear respirators at more than 1 million workplaces—which is just one of many ways employers help protect their employees from job-related respiratory illnesses.

Job-related respiratory illnesses are those associated with inhaling hazardous biological agents, chemicals, vapors or fumes—and were the fourth-most common workplace hazard in the U.S. last year.

Common respiratory hazards include:

  • Dusts and metal fumes
  • Solvent vapors
  • Bacteria and other biological infectious agents
  • Chemicals
  • Lack of oxygen

As we continue into 2017, workers who deal with any of those on-the-job respiratory hazards should be aware that respirators aren't the only way employers need to protect them.

Employers must also:

  • Have a written respiratory protection plan in place
  • Provide medical evaluations to employees
  • Provide respirator fit testing
  • Provide for the maintenance and storage of respirators—as well as proper training about their use

It's important to note that employers must have a formal, written respiratory protection program—and you absolutely have the right to review it.

#3 Scaffolds

More than 2 million construction workers—more than 65 percent of those working in the industry— use scaffolding, which was listed as the third-most common workplace hazard in 2016.

Falls are the number-one cause of death in the construction industry, so preventing scaffolding accidents is a priority for OSHA officials.

To combat the more than 4,500 injuries and 60 deaths blamed on scaffolding accidents each year, OSHA advises a three-step plan for fall prevention:

  • Plan. Before embarking on any work that involves scaffolding, make sure you have a plan for what tasks need to be completed, as well as what type of protective equipment will be necessary.
  • Provide. Employers must provide employees with the proper equipment and protective gear.
  • Train. The sad truth is that most falls can be prevented. Employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are trained to recognize fall hazards and to understand how to safely utilize equipment and personal safety gear.

#2 Hazard Communication

Employees who regularly work with chemicals should be aware that poor hazard communication was listed as the second-biggest on-the-job danger in 2016. Sub-standard hazard communication can put workers at risk for a wide range of ailments—from chemical inhalation injuries to burns.

If you work with hazardous chemicals during the course of your job please know that your employer is required to:

  • Identify and classify dangers associated with the chemical compounds.
  • Properly label all hazardous chemicals, and make safety data sheets available to you.
  • Train you on how to appropriately handle hazardous chemicals.

#1 Fall Protection

The number-one workplace hazard for 2016 was inadequate fall protection. Workers in many fields—construction, fracking and mining—are injured each year after suffering a fall from:

  • Overhead platforms
  • Elevated work stations
  • Holes in floors and walls

No matter the field, employers must protect employees from fall hazards. If you are required to work on ladders, roofs or scaffolding, please know that OSHA requires employers to:

  • Provide safe working conditions
  • Keep floors in the work area clear and dry
  • Provide personal protective equipment
  • Train employees about fall hazards

Falls, while preventable, can be devastating. Common fall injuries include:

Hiring a Workers' Compensation Attorney

If you were hurt on the job after a fall, or because of another workplace hazard, you probably have many important questions. If so, we can help. Call our experienced workers' compensation attorneys today. We're available 24/7, the case review is free, and there's never an obligation to use our services.

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