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How to stay safe on a dangerous job site

Workers in Georgia and throughout the country who don't feel safe on the job may refuse to carry out a given task. Furthermore, those who encounter unsafe work conditions have the right to report them to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers are free from dangers that could cause them to become injured or acquire an illness.

Companies must generally keep records of any employee injuries or deaths that occur. They must also provide safety training to their employees if there is a need for it. How a worker handles a dangerous condition depends on whether it presents an immediate threat to his or her safety. If it doesn't present an immediate threat, that person should report the condition to an employer first. If that doesn't resolve the issue, a complaint can then be made to OSHA.

Oil industry can be dangerous for workers

For workers in Georgia and across the country, jobs in the oil and gas industry can pay well and make use of their skills. However, they can also pose a threat of serious accidents and injuries. Even workers who pay close attention to safety rules may be at risk due to shoddy equipment, shifting weather or the inherent danger of oil and gas extraction. Drilling for oil is dangerous; workers in the industry face a fatality rate almost five times as high as all other industries combined. When the industry is on the upswing, it can mean more jobs and more income; however, it can also mean dangerous safety violations and cut corners.

Oil and gas extraction often takes place in extreme temperatures far outside the normal range, another serious danger. Between 2008 and 2017, 1,566 workers died from injuries in the oil and gas fields. Less fatal but still harmful violations are also prevalent. From 2008 through mid-2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited extraction companies 10,873 times. Of these, 64 percent were defined as serious violations, meaning that they were likely to lead to serious physical injury or death. In 3 percent of cases, the violations were repeated, meaning that the company had been cited in the past about the same danger.

Georgia construction workers are vulnerable to electrocution

From 2012 to 2016, 8 percent of contract worker deaths throughout the nation were caused by electrocution. Of those workers, 68 percent of them were in the construction industry. These figures were gleaned from an analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Construction trade workers were victims in 57 percent of fatal accidents caused by an electrical event.

These fatalities were caused by both direct and indirect contact with more than 220 volts of electricity. Specifically, 42 percent of those deaths were caused by direct contact while 37 percent were caused by indirect contact. According to the NFPA, companies that use contract workers may not train them as well as employees on the company's payroll. The NFPA suggests that contract workers take additional steps to remain safe on the job.

AFL-CIO reports on rise in workplace fatalities

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations has released a report called, "Death on the Job, The Toll of Neglect, 2018." Among its findings is a rise in workplace fatalities from 4,836 in 2015 to 5,190 in 2016. This comes to 150 employees dying every day due to hazardous working conditions. The report also estimates that there were between 50,000 and 60,000 deaths in Georgia and across the U.S. due to occupational diseases.

Some workers were more likely to die than others. Latinos saw the highest fatality rate with 3.7 per 100,000 workers (the national average is 3.6). Workers aged 55 or older composed 36 percent of the fatalities. The agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industry is the deadliest with a fatality rate of 23.2 per 100,000 workers.

Injury risks associated with working on or near scaffolding

When you earn your living working at Georgia construction sites, chances are, you have a solid understanding of the injury risks you face in your line of work, and you probably do your best to mitigate them. Working in construction is inherently dangerous, and you and others in your industry typically face a higher risk of an on-the-job injury than those in numerous other fields.

While your injury risks are considerable simply because of your line of work, working on scaffolds can prove particularly dangerous. The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that many scaffolding-related construction accidents result from similar circumstances, so recognizing where your risks lie may help you work to avoid them. As someone who relies on scaffolds in your line of work, it is important to understand that many scaffolding accidents and injuries result from:

Construction deaths down, but more needs to be done

Construction workers in Georgia face many risks while they are on the job, and they have a greater risk of suffering serious injuries or fatalities in workplace accidents. A recent report revealed that construction workplace fatalities decreased by 2 percent in 2017. However, the number of workers who were killed in 2017 was still higher than the numbers in 2013 and 2014.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 971 construction workplace fatalities in 2017. The fatality rate fell to 9.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, which was down from 10.1 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2015 and 2016. While there were some improvements, construction-related jobs still had a much higher fatality rate than the industry average, and certain categories of construction jobs had even higher rates.

OSHA and MSHA struggle with underreporting of injuries

Georgia residents with questions about workers' compensation should be aware that the underreporting of injuries is an obstacle faced by both OSHA and MSHA. When employers are not reporting injuries, employees are losing opportunities for compensation.

The Department of Labor Office of Inspector General's semiannual report to congress states that OSHA's efforts to force employers to report injuries and fatalities lack sufficient guidance on both preventing and detecting underreporting. The report states that OSHA should focus on targeting the most persistent violators. OIG has doubts that OSHA is able to adequately measure the impact of its policies and notes that there are employers who are refusing to correct hazards. OSHA has tightened its regulations and requires employers to report specific injuries and fatalities within designated time periods, but it has issued thousands of citations for failure to report or late reporting.

OSHA uses holidays to highlight safety rights of temp workers

The holiday shopping season brings additional business to the retail and warehouse sectors in Georgia. Employers tend to hire temporary workers to manage heavy seasonal workloads, and a news release from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration emphasized that these interim employees have the same rights to a safe workplace as permanent workers.

The statement encouraged employers to make workplace safety a priority for all staff members. Retail establishments should use appropriate methods to manage large crowds attracted by special sales. Effective strategies to prevent accidents include deploying trained security officers and setting up barricades or rope lines to designate areas for pedestrians and shoppers.

OSHA safety tips for outdoor winter work

Georgia employers that have their employees working outdoors in wintry conditions should take a few extra steps to ensure safety. OSHA gives tips for keeping workers safe at its Winter Weather resource site. For starters, employers must know their legal duty to protect employees from recognized hazards. In the winter, these include the cold, ice, snow and wind.

Employers must ensure that workers wear the right personal protective equipment, such as insulated gloves and steel-toed boots. Workers may also require eye, ear and head protection if they are, for example, removing trees or tree branches. Tree branch removal, a common winter activity, can lead to workers being engulfed in snow or slipping and falling, so training is essential.

Temporary workers deserve protection too

If a company in Georgia hires a temporary worker, it has an obligation to treat that person just like a full-time employee. Furthermore, the temporary agency has an obligation to ensure that the worker is being placed in a safe working environment. Both parties could experience negative repercussions if a temporary worker is hurt or otherwise placed in harm's way. This is because both sides have responsibility over that worker.

It is important to note that temporary staffing agencies are not required to be experts on workplace hazards. What they are expected to do is to see if any hazards exist before placing the worker. The company that employs the temporary worker is then required to follow state and federal regulations related to safety measures on a job site. This includes ensuring that a temporary worker is trained for the role that he or she is to fill.

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