Rios Law Firm PLLC

Phoenix Workers' Compensation Law Blog

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.

What to do after a workplace injury

Suffering an injury at work can put you in a difficult position. Depending on the severity, you may have substantial medical bills and be out of work for an extended period of time. There may be concern about where your next paycheck is going to come from or potentially if you’ll ever be able to return to work.

As you take steps to recover, you may worry about your bills stacking up. This can all take a significant toll on your quality of life. Fortunately, there is a way to help you through this tough time. Workers’ compensation can make a big difference in your ability to maintain stability in your life while you heal.

Severe workplace injuries by arc flash lead to OSHA citations

Employers in Arizona and across the country must protect the health and safety of their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety standards, and whenever workers suffer severe workplace injuries, or if lives are lost, investigators will assess the employer's compliance with those regulations. If safety violations led to the injuries or fatalities, citations may be issued, and fines will be proposed.

A metal extraction facility in Arizona is facing proposed fines totaling almost $278,500 along with multiple citations after an OSHA investigation. The inquiry followed an incident in which three workers suffered severe burn injuries that were caused by an arc flash. Investigators reported that the incident occurred after a breaker was inserted into an energized switchgear.

Trench safety can prevent a potentially fatal workplace accident

June is the month in which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration focuses on reminding the construction industry in Arizona and across the country of the importance of trench safety. Every trench-related workplace accident is potentially fatal, and that is what the National Trench Safety Stand Down from June 17 to June 21 seeks to prevent. A cave-in can happen in the blink of an eye.

Construction workers can benefit from gaining knowledge about trench-related safety standards and their rights to refuse to work in unsafe excavations. Every construction site must have a designated "competent person" to test and assess the stability of trench walls daily, and also after changing conditions such as the weather. He or she should do soil tests to determine the type of protection necessary to prevent cave-ins of trenches with depths of five feet or more. Methods include shoring, sloping and trench boxes.

What benefits are available for injured workers?

If you are injured on the job, you could face unexpected medical bills, which might be especially difficult to pay if your injuries prevent you from working. However, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, which could cover your medical expenses and some of your lost wages.

Workers’ compensation benefits may be awarded regardless of who caused the work accident. However, the benefits that you are eligible to receive will depend on your situation.

Can working alongside robots lessen risks of workplace injuries?

Workers in Arizona might fear that automation, artificial intelligence and robots in their workplaces will make their jobs obsolete. Technology and innovation have brought burger-flipping robots, stock pickers in warehouses and fulfillment centers, assembly line workers and more. However, authorities say robots are employment creators rather than job killers, and with them doing the mundane and often dangerous jobs, many workplace injuries can be prevented.

Amazon says that the initial 1,400 robots that were introduced in its facilities nationwide have grown to 45,000, without reducing the numbers of human workers. Machines do not get sick, need vacations, become bored and unmotivated with repetitive and mundane tasks, and they do not need sleep. However, they do become fatigued, and they need caretakers in the form of technicians, programmers and a team of others to diagnose problems and find solutions.

Workers' compensation and the rights of young Arizona workers

Summer is here, and thousands of young Arizona workers start their first jobs or fill temp spots in summer jobs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminds employers of their responsibilities to provide safe work environments. It is crucial for young workers to receive safety training and learn about the recognition and mitigation of safety hazards. Employers must also inform new workers of their rights to workers' compensation benefits.

Typical workplace injuries follow inadequate supervision and safety training. Unsafe equipment poses many safety hazards, often exacerbated by having young workers do jobs that are dangerous and prohibited for workers younger than 18 years. The pressure to increase productivity and work faster can lead to dangerous short cuts and also increase work stress and the chances of on-the-job injuries.

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