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Injured workers may be entitled to multiple benefit packages

Georgia residents may be able to get both workers' compensation and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. Workers' compensation programs are run by the state while SSDI is a federal benefit program. As such, there may be different rules as to whether a person qualifies for a particular benefit. It is also important to point out that workers' compensation benefits only apply if a person is hurt while at work.

The definition of disabled is different for those applying for workers' compensation benefits and those applying for SSDI. Workers' compensation is generally available on a temporary basis to injured workers during their recovery period. To receive SSDI benefits, an individual must be incapable of doing any job that he or she may be suited for over the next 12 months.

The number of OSHA inspectors has decreased in recent months

Over the course of the last three months, the total number of workplace safety inspectors with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has declined sharply. According to data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, OSHA has lost over 40 inspectors due to normal attrition in the last few months. However, the federal government has not moved to fill any of these vacancies since October 2, 2017. This decline has accounted for a 4 percent drop in the total number of OSHA inspectors.

OSHA inspectors are tasked with the enforcement of federal safety requirements in the workplace. They review employers for possible safety hazards, investigate worker complaints and reported violations and record any violations they uncover. These violations can lead to hefty fines levied against an employer.

Multiple hazards impact meat and poultry processing workers

All agricultural jobs in Georgia include safety dangers, but a report from the Government Accountability Office highlights the numerous problems that confront workers in meat and poultry processing plants. Knives and hand saws result in cuts and sometimes amputations. Exposure to peracetic acid that is sprayed on meat to kill germs causes respiratory illnesses.

The GAO report also revealed that many workers feared retaliation from employers if they reported job injuries or spoke to inspectors. Workers often lacked access to appropriate first aid on the job or unbiased medical evaluations. In one case, a plant physician found nothing wrong with a woman's wrist when she reported severe pain. When she went to a physician not affiliated with her employer, she learned that she had a broken bone.

Court tosses objections to OSHA rule

Workers in Georgia who are concerned about workplace safety may be interested in the recent ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit regarding the Occupational Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The court threw out industry challenges to the rule and asked the agency to explain why medical removal provisions were not included.

The rule cuts the amount of crystalline silica to which construction workers can be exposed to during an eight-hour work-shift to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air, an exposure limit that is 20 percent of what was previously permissible. The revised allowed exposure limit is also the same for the general and maritime industries and represents 50 percent of what was the previous maximums.

What are the symptoms of a herniated disc?

Herniated discs, which are also sometimes referred to as slipped discs, occur when a crack develops in one of the discs in the spine. Every spine has vertebrae, which are held together by discs that essentially act as shock absorbers. People become more prone to herniated discs as they get older, but they can also occur by repetitive motions placed on the spine over time, such as performing a certain task at a job site for years on end. 

If you suffered an injury at work, you need to see a doctor immediately. Occasionally, herniated discs will not display any symptoms at all, so you need a professional to look at your spine to tell you if something is wrong. In the event you do not see a doctor, you need to remain vigilant of the common symptoms of herniated discs. 

Worker deaths increased in 2016

Georgia employees may be concerned to learn that workplace fatalities increased by 7 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency also found that the rate of fatal injuries jumped from 3.4 to 3.6 per 100,000 full-time workers during the same period of time.

The BLS reported that transportation accidents were the top cause of fatal work-related injuries in 2016, accounting for approximately 25 percent of all worker deaths. Workplace violence, which spiked by 23 percent last year, ranked second, coming in at 500 fatalities. Meanwhile, workplace drug and alcohol overdoses jumped 32 percent between 2015 and 2016, accounting for 217 deaths.

White House announces review of coal dust regulation

Georgia residents may be interested to learn that President Trump is considering relaxing regulations that were written to protect miners from coal dust and black lung disease. The Respirable Coal Mine Dust Rule, which was introduced during the Obama administration, requires mine operators to sample air quality more frequently so that miners have more accurate information about coal dust levels. A Dec. 14 statement from the White House indicates that the rule is being reviewed to find out if it can be made less burdensome.

Black lung disease is a debilitating condition that claimed the lives of more than 76,000 miners between 1968 and 2014, and many of the miners who died after contracting the disease did not even begin their careers until after the passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act in 1969. Enforcing workplace safety regulations in the mining industry is the responsibility of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, which is part of the Department of Labor.

Understanding OSHA reporting rules

As of January 2017, some companies in Georgia and elsewhere have been required to submit injury and illness data electronically to OSHA. In many cases, these and other companies have been required to keep injury and illness records on file before the electronic filing requirement was adopted. However, this rule has been challenged in court since it went into effect. Therefore, businesses may be even more confused as to what their reporting obligations are.

Employers required to comply with the electronic submission rule were given until Dec. 1 to do so. However, a combination of lawsuits and outcry from the public has created uncertainty as to whether the rule will actually take effect. It is important to note that reporting dates will change going forward. Forms 300, 300A and 301 for 2017 are due by July 1, 2018 and will be due by March 2 in subsequent years.

Fall protection tops OSHA's list of safety violations

For the sixth year in a row, fall protection violations were number 1 on OSHA's list of the 10 most common workplace safety violations. The list is a summary of data from fiscal year 2017, which spanned from October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. While many other violations are not new to the list, others are, which should be of concern to business owners in Georgia and the rest of the U.S.

The failure of companies to follow general fall protection requirements led to more than 6,000 citations in fiscal year 2017. This meant that many companies did not, for example, provide railing and safety nets for elevated work areas or give workers safety harnesses and lines. The list continues with violations in the areas of hazard communication, scaffolding, respiratory protection, and lockout/tagout requirements to control hazardous energy.

What CNAs should know about back injuries at work

While many people may not think of health care as a physically demanding field, as a nurse or nursing assistant, you know better, and the statistics validate your experience.

In a 2015 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributes almost 60 percent of workplace injuries over a two-year period to the area of nursing. It also notes that health care workers experience a noticeably higher rate of musculoskeletal injuries compared to workers in other sectors.

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