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Harness can arrest fall from scaffolding but cause fatal injury

Construction workers in Arizona face the same hazards as those in other states. They are also entitled to equal protection from workplace hazards under state and federal laws as prescribed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Two construction workers in another state were fortunate to be rescued from where they were suspended from safety harnesses after the scaffolding on which they were working collapsed.

According to the incident report, the workers were on a scaffold when it collapsed for reasons yet to be determined. Fortunately, they were equipped with fall arrest harnesses, and they knew how to operate the protective gear. The harnesses arrested their falls, but it left them suspended approximately 35 feet above the ground.

Fatal workplace accident leads to prison sentence for employer

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict safety standards with which employers in Arizona and other states must comply. Employers who violate those standards put the lives of workers at risk. A victim of a workplace accident is typically eligible for workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages regardless of who was at fault.

However, if it can be shown that a workplace accident resulted from an employer's gross negligence, criminal charges might be filed. If there is probable cause for criminal charges, there might also be grounds for a civil lawsuit. One such a case followed the 2017 death of a 39-year-old roof worker in another state. OSHA investigators found that the roofing contractor failed to provide the worker with fall protection while he worked on the roof of a three-story building.

When construction workers return to work too soon

It can take weeks, even months to fully recover from a severe physical injury. But, in some circumstances, workers may be back on the job before they can mentally and physically perform their duties.

When construction workers are doing dangerous and physically intensive labor before they are fully healed, it can lead to problems for both the worker and their employer down the road, particularly if the employer is pressuring them to return to work.

Which types of construction jobs are the most dangerous?

If you think cranes, scaffolding and heavy equipment have seemingly been everywhere recently, you’re not imagining it. According to a report from ABC 15, the construction industry in the Phoenix area has been booming. From March 2018-19, the Phoenix area added just under 14,000 construction jobs – and didn’t even fill all openings.

There are many good jobs in construction, and they often pay well. But before you or a loved one takes a gig, it is important to be fully aware of the potential dangers.

Scaffolding remains a major safety hazard in construction

Workers on construction sites in Arizona face an endless list of safety hazards, regardless of the project on which they are working. Safety authorities say that scaffolding violations lead to a significant percentage of all citations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Research has also shown that the costs related to scaffolding injuries average over $45,000 each.

OSHA emphasizes scaffolding safety when they do investigations and inspections. The agency requires construction company owners to provide the necessary safety training. Along with hazard training, safety plans must include maintenance and operations related to scaffolds, such as the proper use of fall arrest equipment and how to prevent dropped tool incidents that could injure workers at lower levels.

A torn rotator cuff can cause significant pain and discomfort

Workers in Arizona whose jobs require frequent lifting of heavy objects can suffer shoulder and back injuries with long-term consequences. One of the most painful of these injuries is a torn rotator cuff. The shoulder is a highly complex joint, and few people stop to think about the wide range of movements this joint allows until they suffer such an injury.

Rotator cuff tears can be partial, complete or acute, all of which cause significant pain and discomfort. In some cases, it is a degenerative injury that develops over time with the gradual wear of the shoulder tendons. This type of tear typically affects the dominant arm of a worker after years of repetitive stress on the shoulder joint.

Drone technology might limit workers' compensation claims

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, after vehicle accidents, falls and confined spaces result in most workplace fatalities nationwide, including Arizona. With the rapid advancement in drone technology, many of the life-threatening risks are eliminated, along with workers' compensation claims. The Insurance Journal's 2018 numbers show that the Federal Aviation Administration has 277,000 registered commercial drones on its books.

More and more companies invest in drones to do the jobs that previously put the lives of human workers on the line. Instead of sending workers hundreds of feet up into the air to inspect towers and risk deadly falls, drones can inspect areas at dangerous heights from all angles. When it comes to risking lives in confined spaces, drones can be sent into tanks and other spaces where hazardous atmospheres can cause death within moments.

Heatwave conditions threaten health of landscapers and others

Record-breaking temperatures across the western United States during the recent heatwave put the lives of many outdoor workers at risk, including Arizona. Landscapers are particularly vulnerable because of the nature of their work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines to help employers to ensure that outdoor workers are protected. The agency's message is based on three words -- water, rest and shade.

Thousands of workers suffer heat-related illnesses each year, and some do not survive. Most vulnerable are those who work in extreme humidity and heat. Excessive exposure can affect all workers, regardless of physical condition or age. Those whose occupations keep them out in the sun for extended periods must take particular care. Under OSHA law, the burden to protect workers from heat-related hazards is on the shoulders of employers.

Workplace injuries: What threats do ototoxicants pose?

Some of the hazards employees in various industries in Arizona face are hidden. If workers are not aware of all the workplace injuries that threaten their safety, they could suffer long-term, life-changing health consequences. One such danger involves hearing loss that could be caused by exposure to certain chemicals. The chemicals can also cause balance problems, and these risks exist even in conditions that do not involve exposure to excessive noise.

The chemicals are called ototoxicants, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns that research has identified certain solvents, pharmaceuticals and pesticides that contain them. Industries in which workers are at significant risk of exposure to ototoxicants include mining, agriculture, ship and boat builders, metal workers, painters and textile workers. These chemicals reach the inner ear via the bloodstream, and there it causes damage to the ear and the neural pathways to which it is connected.

Electrical worker suffers fatal workplace injuries

Working in electrical vaults poses all the usual confined space hazards along with multiple electrical risks. The Arizona Public Services Co launched an investigation after an electrician recently succumbed to fatal workplace injuries while working in such a confined space. A second worker suffered severe burn injuries in the same incident.

A spokesperson for the contractor says workers who enter underground vaults to do electrical work have to deal with high voltage hazards. Specific precautionary steps must be taken before workers may enter these spaces. The vaults could vary in size from only about four feet tall to those that allow workers to stand up while they work. Each vault is inspected by taking video footage of the inside to detect water accumulation and other potential hazards. Once the confined space is deemed safe, all power will be switched off before workers receive clearance to enter.

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Phoenix, AZ 85014

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