Top Workplace Safety Hazards
February 19, 2021
Each year, various worker safety and health agencies like the National Safety Council (NSC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) publish lists of the most common workplace safety and health failures that consultants observe while performing jobsite audits. Despite the fact that there are numerous federal and statewide standards in place to protect workers from known industrial dangers, year in and year out consultants identify the same problems. Not only is it illegal for employers to fail to recognize and address known hazards that endanger workers, but it also leads to thousands of preventable illnesses, injuries, and deaths every year.
According to OSHA, the most common safety hazards in the workplace are slips, trips, and falls, fires and explosions, transportation and vehicle-related accidents, caught in or struck by moving machinery or objects, and confined spaces. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that more than 2.8 million nonfatal injuries occurred in private and public industries in 2019 and that one worker died from a work-related injury every 99 minutes. Altogether, more than 888,000 of the nonfatal injuries resulted in days away from work due to their severity.
Slips, Trips, and Falls
Generally, slips, trips, and falls account for somewhere between 25% and 30% of total nonfatal work injuries per year. OSHA reports that the most well-known contributing factors to slips, trips, and falls are the following:
- Bad storage and poor drainage systems can cause an array of problems, including compromising critical emergency systems like sprinklers if someone piles objects too high, fire hazards, and ground clutter (like electrical wires, tools, and other items) that results in trips and falls. Poor drainage systems can make the floors wet and slippery, which makes falls more likely to occur
- Fall protection. Employers must provide workers with fall protection, particularly if they are working at height. Adequate fall protection can save a worker’s life if he or she falls off a ladder or scaffold
Fires and Explosions
Not only do workers require training on emergency procedures in the case of a fire or explosion on the job, but also on how to recognize and report fire and explosion hazards. Some of the most common industrial fire and explosion hazards are overloaded or damaged electrical circuits, dust, combustible materials like paper and cardboard, and flammable liquids like gasoline, acetone and various alcohols. To reduce fire and explosion risks, employers must know what the common hazards are and create a plan in order to address and rectify them. Another effective way to prevent industrial fires and explosions from happening is to maintain compliance with OSHA’s fire and explosion safety standards.
Transportation and Vehicle-Related Accidents
The BLS reported 2,080 worker fatalities resulting from work-related crashes involving motor vehicles in 2018. That number represents nearly 40% of the annual fatalities for that same calendar year. Some of the most high-risk professions for sustaining transportation and vehicle-related accidents are truck drivers, oil and gas extraction workers, emergency medical service personnel, law enforcement employees, and light-vehicle drivers. Light vehicle drivers are individuals who work in sales, health care, or real estate and travel regularly for their jobs.
Factors like fatigue, driver distraction, and age play a large role in occupational vehicular accidents. Older drivers, for example, are more prone to undergoing physical (i.e. eyesight and hearing) and mental changes that may affect their driving abilities. On the flip side, younger drivers are more likely to speed, drive aggressively, or engage in distracted behaviors when behind the wheel. OSHA recommends that employers promote and that workers observe the following safe driving practices to limit preventable accidents from happening:
- The driver and passenger(s) should wear a seat belt at all times
- If possible, avoid taking medication(s) that cause drowsiness
- Make sure you are well-rested before getting behind the wheel
- Set a realistic goal for the number of miles you can drive safely each day
- Stay focused. Avoid distractions like eating or drinking, using a cell phone, and adjusting the radio or other controls
- Keep a careful eye on the roadway ahead to stay alert to situations that may require a fast response
- Reduce your stress by planning your trip ahead of time. Map your route and bring directions, allow for plenty of time, and try to avoid driving during the busiest hours, like during rush hour
- If possible, take a break every two hours. Get out of the vehicle, walk around, and stretch for a few minutes to refresh yourself
- Do not drive if you are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
Caught in or Between Moving Machinery/Objects
OSHA defines caught in or between hazards as injuries that result from a person being squeezed, caught, crushed, pinched, or compressed between two or more objects or between different parts of one object. Some examples of caught in or between events include when a trench worker gets caught in a cave-in and trapped beneath falling earth or debris, when shifting objects like a truck frame and a hydraulic bed that is lowering compresses or crushes an employee, or when moving machinery or equipment pulls a worker’s body part(s) or clothing into it’s parts.
Some known factors that contribute to caught in or between moving machinery or object hazards include unguarded machinery, machinery that has not been de-energized (also known as “locked out”), machines that are not sufficiently supported or secured (and are therefore prone to tipping or falling over), and a lack of safety training. As you can see, the majority of these hazards that result in injury or death are preventable so long as employers uphold their legal and moral obligation to follow federal and state safety guidelines.
A confined work space is an area with a small opening for a worker to enter and exit. Some common examples of confined spaces are manholes, silos, and sewer digesters. According to Safety and Health, many of the injuries that occur in confined spaces result from the failure of an employer to carry out a risk assessment and procure a permit before beginning the job. Working in a confined space can be inherently dangerous due to hazards like:
- Physical hazards like extremely hot or cold temperatures, slippery or wet surfaces, and very loud noises
- A lack of oxygen that sometimes results in workers falling unconscious or dying. If there is too much oxygen, it can cause a fire or explosion
- Poisonous gases and vapors (e.g. hydrogen sulfide or carbon monoxide) that build up in a confined space
- Cave-in and suffocation dangers that result from grain, sand, or gravel. These materials can bury or trap workers who get stuck underneath them
Conducting a risk assessment prior to initiating a job is critical. Confined space risk assessments ensure that adequate safety protocols are in place. They also establish appropriate evacuation protocols should an emergency arise.
You are Entitled to a Safe Workplace: Filing a Third Party Liability or Workers’ Compensation Claim
All workers are entitled to a safe and healthful workplace that is free from recognizable hazards. Employers must ensure that they provide a safe workplace by maintaining compliance with federal and statewide safety and health standards. When an employer fails to provide a safe workplace and it leads to a worker being injured, the employer can be held liable for those preventable injuries. To obtain compensation for his or her injuries, the victim can file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to injured workers.
Depending on the circumstances that surround a worker’s injuries, he or she may also be able to file a lawsuit against other responsible parties. An injured individual can file a third party liability claim when their work injury is the result of negligence on the behalf of an individual or entity that is not their employer. Here are a few examples of scenarios where someone could file a third party liability claim:
- One of the most common third party liability claims stem from design, manufacturing, or marketing defects that compromise the safety or efficacy a product or equipment used on the job. For example, a faulty ladder, scaffold, or forklift that leads to serious injury or even death
- If a worker slips and falls on a work site, he or she may be able to file a premises liability claim against the site’s property owner or other contractors if they failed to maintain the property and remove known hazards
- Acute or long-term exposure to toxic chemical substances like silica, asbestos, lead, radium, benzene, and other chromium compounds that causes injury. Sometimes injuries show up right away and in other cases, they can take years to appear. Injured individuals can file a claim against the manufacturers of these chemical substances
- Work zone accidents. Employees who work in roadway work zones and who are struck by a driver can file a third party liability claim against the responsible party. If the driver works for a company (like a trucking company, for example), the injured party may also be able to file a claim against the driver’s employer
An experienced workplace accident attorney is best equipped to investigate an incident and determine liability after an injury occurs. If you were injured at work and you would like to learn more about filing a workers’ compensation or third party liability claim, someone at our firm can assist you. To learn more, contact a representative who can assist you online now.
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