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Occupational Injuries

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Crane Injuries

The main four causes of crane accidents are contact with power lines, overturns, falls, and mechanical failure. Improper maintenance and failure to conduct regular inspections can also be harbingers of trouble, and dropped loads, boom collapse, rigging failures, workers being struck by the chassis as it rotates, lack of training, lack of communication, and other mishaps cause accidents as well. Following safe work practice and complying with OSHA’s standards for crane safety can help minimize these risks. 

According to OSHA safety guidelines,  the “Seven Sisters of Safety” include the following:

  1. Level the crane and ensure the support surface is firm and able to support the load. 
  2. Contact power utility owners and determine precautions, including whether lines will need to be de-energized for safety’s sake. Know the location and voltage of the overhead power lines! 
  3. Know the capacities of your crane and its limitations, as well as any restrictions particular to your job site such as unstable soil, the location of underground power lines, utilities, or a predisposition for high winds. 
  4. Make sure other personnel on the site are aware of hoisting activities and the operational range of the boom (swing radius). 
  5. Barricade areas within the swing radius of the boom. 
  6. Ensure cranes have been properly maintained and inspected. Remember that the competent person must inspect all machinery and equipment prior to and during each use to make sure it is in safe operating condition. If it needs fixing, take it out of service and don’t use it until it is fixed! 
  7. Determine safe areas to store materials and place machines.

 

From 2011 to 2017, the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 297 total crane-related deaths in the United States, an average of 42 per year over this 7-year period. Men accounted for 293 of the 297 fatal injuries involving cranes. White, non-Hispanic workers accounted for 72 percent of fatal injuries involving cranes, while 15 percent involved Hispanic and Latino workers.

Forklift Inuries

Forklifts or lift trucks, are used in many industries, primarily to move materials. They can also be used to raise, lower, or remove large objects or a number of smaller objects on pallets or in boxes, crates, or other containers. Powered industrial trucks can either be ridden by the operator or controlled by a walking operator. 

What are the hazards associated with forklifts?

There are many types of powered industrial trucks. Each type presents different operating hazards. For example, a sit-down, counterbalanced high-lift rider truck is more likely than a motorized hand truck to be involved in a falling load accident because the sit-down rider truck can lift a load much higher than a hand truck.

Workplace type and conditions are also factors in hazards commonly associated with powered industrial trucks. For example, retail establishments often face greater challenges than other worksites in maintaining pedestrian safety. Beyond that, many workers can also be injured when: 

  1. lift trucks are inadvertently driven off loading docks; 
  2. lifts fall between docks and an unsecured trailer; 
  3. they are struck by a lift truck; or 
  4. they fall while on elevated pallets and tines.

 

From 2011 to 2017, 614 workers lost their lives in forklift related incidents and more than 7,000 nonfatal injuries with days away from work occurred every year. Events that led to the most workplace deaths were non-roadway incidents, struck by powered vehicle, non-transport cases, struck by falling object cases, falls to lower level, and pedestrian vehicular incidents.

Scaffold Inuries

An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents may prevent some 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year (Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2003 and 2004 data for the private sector).

According to a BLS Study, 72% of scaffold accidents can be attributed to 1 of the following 3 causes:

  1. Scaffold support or planking gives way due to defective equipment or improper assembly
  2. Slipping or tripping while on a scaffold due to factors such as slippery surfaces or lack of guardrails
  3. Falling objects hitting either a worker on a scaffold or those below

 

As for the other 28%, scaffold accidents can be caused by:

  • Electrocution as a result of scaffolds and equipment being too close to power or utility lines
  • Environmental conditions, such as wind, rain, and the presence of hazardous substances
  • Inadequate fall protection
  • Collapse of scaffold due to overloading
 
Common cumulative trauma injuries include:

Due to the fact that scaffolds are used to get access to heights that are otherwise too high to reach, most scaffolding accidents result in serious injuries or death. The most common scaffold injuries include:

  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations

 

Despite how dangerous scaffolding might look, serious injuries and fatal falls can be prevented. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends taking the following safety measures:

  • Comply with current and proposed OSHA regulations for working with scaffolds.
  • Assure that the design and construction of scaffolds conform with OSHA requirements.
  • Keep scaffold suspension ropes and body belt or harness system drop lines (lifelines) protected from hot or corrosive substances.
  • Wear personal fall protection equipment.
  • Inspect all scaffolds, scaffold components, and personal fall protection equipment before each use.
  • Use structurally sound portions of buildings or other structures to anchor drop lines for body belt or harness systems and tiebacks for suspension scaffold support devices.
  • Follow scaffold manufacturers’ guidance regarding the assembly, rigging, and use of scaffolds.
 

Slip & fall injuries

Slips, trips, and falls cause many fatalities per year and many more injurious accidents in the workplace according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall injury and over 17,000 people die in the U.S. annually because of these injuries. Slip, trip, and fall injuries make up 15 percent of all job-related injuries.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that there are 110,000 injuries to the feet and toes of U.S. workers annually accounting for 19 percent of all disabling work injuries.

Slip and falls accidents can cause other complications including:

  • Death
  • Incapacitation
  • Broken bones and fractures
  • Long-term medical complications
  • Head trauma
  • Spinal cord injuries


Slips

Slips can be caused by wet surfaces, spills, or weather hazards like ice or snow. Slips are more likely to occur when you hurry or run, wear the wrong kind of shoes, or don’t pay attention to where you’re walking. According to OSHA, you can help avoid slips by following these safety precautions: 

  • Practice safe walking skills. Take short steps on slippery surfaces to keep your center of balance under you and point your feet slightly outward.
  • Clean up or report spills right away. Even minor spills can be very dangerous. 
  • Don’t let grease accumulate at your workplace.
  • Be extra cautious on smooth surfaces such as newly waxed floors. Also, be careful walking on loose carpeting.


Trips

Trips occur whenever your foot hits an object, and you are moving with enough momentum to be thrown off balance. According to OSHA, to prevent trip hazards: 

  • Make sure you can see where you are walking. Don’t carry loads that you cannot see over. 
  • Keep walking and working areas well lit, especially at night. 
  • Keep the workplace clean and tidy. Store materials and supplies in the appropriate storage areas.
  • Arrange furniture and office equipment so that it doesn’t interfere with walkways or pedestrian traffic in your area. 
  • Properly maintain walking areas, and alert appropriate authorities regarding potential maintenance-related hazards.


Falls

According to OSHA, to avoid falls consider the following measures: 

  • Don’t jump off landings or loading docks. Use the stairs 
  • Repair or replace stairs or handrails that are loose or broken 
  • Keep passageways and aisles clear of clutter and well lit. 
  • Wear shoes with appropriate non-slip soles.

 

Machine Injuries

Heavy equipment and machinery accidents are common in construction, manufacturing, warehousing, and various other industries According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and OSHA, workers that operate machinery experience approximately 18,000 amputations, crushing injuries, lacerations, and abrasions each year. In addition to these incidents, there are over 800 fatalities.

Heavy equipment and machinery accidents can result from an endless list of factors. From operator error to equipment and machinery defects, if just one thing goes wrong, the consequences can be devastating. Some types of heavy equipment and machinery most commonly involved in workplace accidents include:

  • Backhoes and loaders
  • Bulldozers
  • Cherry pickers
  • Combines and other farming equipment
  • Cranes
  • Dump trucks
  • Electric hand trucks
  • Excavators
  • Forklifts
  • Industrial and factory machines
  • Trenchers
  • Warehouse equipment and machinery


Some of the most-common factors involved in heavy equipment and machinery accidents include:

  • Backing up
  • Colliding with a stationary object
  • Colliding with another piece of equipment
  • Dropped loads
  • Machinery entanglement
  • Failure to check blind spots
  • Objects falling from forklifts and other equipment
  • Pinning workers between the equipment and stationary objects

 

Falling Equipment

Per the CDC, struck-by injuries are the leading cause of nonfatal injuries and the second most common cause of fatalities among construction workers, costing over $1.7 billion in workers’ compensation costs in 2016. These injuries occur when a worker is struck by a moving vehicle, equipment, or by a falling or flying object. 

For construction workers, the risk of nonfatal struck-by injuries is twice the risk of all other industries combined, and construction workers have the highest number of fatal struck-by injuries compared to any other industry. Employers and employees can work together to raise awareness and prevent struck-by injuries.

Compared to all other industries, construction workers have the highest rate of nonfatal struck-by injuries at 2.7 per 10,000 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) workers. The most common sources of nonfatal struck-by injuries involved solid building materials, powered and non-powered hand tools, and scrap/waste/debris. The rate of nonfatal struck-by injuries is highest among helpers, sheet metal workers, heating and air conditioning mechanics, and ironworkers. Most nonfatal struck-by injuries (96%) are caused by falling or flying objects, or equipment. The most common events leading to a non-fatal injury include being struck by handheld objects or equipment (36%), falling objects or equipment (29%), and discharged or flying objects (14%).

Employers are responsible to do their part in reducing struck-by injuries. Scheduling pressures and lack of training can create barriers to focusing on prevention efforts. OSHA offers training modules to reduce struck-by injuries as part of the Focus Four Fatal Injuries in construction. This training provides focused information and case studies of real-life fatalities, along with the relevant OSHA regulations on the four worst hazards that construction workers face: falls, struck-by, caught-in/between, and electrocutions.

The Center for Construction Research and Training offers more detailed work practices and prevention methods to reduce the risk of struck-by injuries, by type of hazard. Use the following best practices to reduce the risk of struck-by injuries due to equipment and falling or flying objects:

  • Ensure comprehensive training, including on the safe operation of power tools and equipment, and encourage earning appropriate certifications.
  • Tether smaller tools to work belts to prevent dropped objects.
  • Wear appropriate protective gear (safety glasses, hardhat, face shields, etc.).
  • Use pedestrian walkways and exercise caution when working near heavy equipment.
  • Inspect all tools and equipment before use.
  • Use sequential triggers (instead of contact triggers) for nail guns.
  • Never work under a load, especially during lifting.
  • Secure all loads and lift evenly to prevent slipping.

Head & Traumatic Brain Injuries

A traumatic brain injury or TBI affects how the brain works. TBI, is an injury that affects how the brain works. It may be caused by a:

  • Bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or
  • Penetrating injury 

There are three main types of TBI:

Mild TBI or concussion

Most TBIs that occur each year are mild TBIs or concussions. A mild TBI or concussion is caused by:

  • A bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or
  • By a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move quickly back and forth


This sudden movement can cause:

  • The brain to bounce around or twist in the skull
  • Chemical changes in the brain
  • Stretching and damaging brain cells
  • These changes in the brain lead to symptoms that may affect how a person thinks, learns, feels, acts, and sleeps.


Moderate or Severe TBI 

A moderate or severe TBI is caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or by a penetrating injury to the head. In the United States, severe TBIs are linked to thousands of deaths each year.

For those who survive, a moderate or severe TBI may lead to long-term or life-long health problems that may affect all aspects of a person’s life. These health problems have been described as being similar to the effects of chronic disease. 

Falls lead to most moderate and severe TBIs and are one of the leading causes of TBI-related hospitalizations among Americans.

24% of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are work-related injuries (Colantonio et al., 2016), yet concussions in the workplace are often overlooked. Concussions in the workplace are most commonly caused by falls, getting struck in the head by falling objects, or motor vehicle accidents.
 
Compared to other work-related injuries, concussions are very complex and can result in time lost from work. That’s why it’s critical for injured workers to get immediate care from healthcare providers who are specially trained in diagnosing and treating concussions from workplace injuries.

Why You Need a Construction Injury Attorney

If you get hurt on the job, your employer is required by law to pay for workers’ compensation benefits. You could get hurt by:

One event at work. Examples: hurting your back in a fall, getting burned by a chemical that splashes on your skin, getting hurt in a construction accident. 

OR 

Repeated exposures at work. Examples: hurting your wrist from doing the same motion over and over, losing your hearing because of constant loud noise on a construction site.

 

What are the workers’ compensation benefits?

  • Medical care: Paid for by your employer, to help you recover from an injury or illness caused by work. 
  • Temporary disability benefits: Payments if you lose wages because your injury prevents you from doing your usual job while recovering. 
  • Permanent disability benefits: Payments if you don’t recover completely. 
  • Supplemental job displacement benefits: Vouchers to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement if you don’t recover completely and don’t return to work for your employer. 
  • Death benefits: Payments to your spouse, children or other dependents if you die from a job injury or illness. 

What should I do if I have a job injury?

Report the injury to your employer 

Tell your supervisor right away. If your injury or illness developed gradually (like tendinitis or hearing loss), report it as soon as you learn or believe it was caused by your job. 

Get emergency treatment if needed 

If it’s a medical emergency, go to an emergency room right away. Your employer may tell you where to go for treatment. Tell the health care provider who treats you that your injury or illness is job-related. 

Fill out a claim form and give it to your employer 

Your employer must give or mail you a claim form (DWC 1) within one working day after learning about your injury or illness. Use it to request workers’ compensation benefits. 

Obtain immediate medical care 

Obtain immediate medical care to help you recover. You should be treated by a doctor who understands your particular type of injury or illness. Tell the doctor about your symptoms and the events at work that you believe caused them. Also describe your job and your work environment.

When to Hire a Work Injury Attorney

Lawyers who specialize in helping injured workers with their California workers’ compensation claims are called applicant’s attorneys. Their job is to plan a strategy for your case, gather information to support your claim, keep track of deadlines and represent you in hearings before a workers’ compensation judge at your local Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board office. For example, if your medical treatment has been denied, your attorney will request an expedited hearing before a workers’ compensation administrative law judge to get the situation resolved.