January 2011 Archives

January 25, 2011

Hazardous chemicals present risk in the Georgia workplace

Employers have a responsibility to assure their employees are not overexposed to hazardous material. Exposure to such material can be in the form of ingestion, contact or inhalation. Our Georgia workers' compensation lawyers are aware of the risks and dangers of long term exposure to hazardous materials.

Recently, Aerospace/Defense Coating of Georgia Inc., a plating company in Macon was fined by Occupational Safety & Health Administration over $300,000 for exposing its employees to hazardous chemicals. Cited violations are for overexposure to chromium, respirator protection, failure to carry out periodic monitoring of chromium and personal protective equipment.
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"The employer had ample information alerting him to the hazards posed by hexavalent chromium, yet allowed his employees to continue to be exposed," said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA's Atlanta-East Area Office. "OSHA will not tolerate this type of inaction."

When handling hazardous material, appropriate gloves must be worn to avoid employees from ingesting hazardous material. Hand washing is essential after glove removal. Also drinking, eating or putting on make-up should never be allowed in places where there are hazardous chemicals.

A few things to consider when selecting the kind of gloves to wear:

-What are the type, concentration and temperature of the chemical to be handled?

-How long will you be in contact with the chemical? Will your hands be totally immersed?

-Do the gloves need to be tear resistant, abrasion or puncture resistant?

-What type of grip do you need to have? (oily, dry, wet)

Isolating employees from areas where hazardous chemicals are kept is the best method for avoiding accidental chemical contact. However, if personnel need to be around hazardous material then the appropriate level of personal protective equipment must be used. Items to protect your clothing, your face, eyes and hands must be conveniently available at all times.

Air quality monitoring protects employees from inhaling high concentrations of hazardous airborne chemicals. Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) can be obtained through Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) for airborne chemicals. If OSHA doesn't have an acceptable exposure standard check the manufacturer's recommended limits.

For further reference a vast number of chemical exposure limits and quite a few substance specific standards can be found here .

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January 17, 2011

OSHA cites Georgia post office for repeat work-safety violations

We place a lot of trust in the U.S. Postal Service to keep our mail safe and secure each day. And thousands of hardworking men and women support their families as postal employees. Yet the post office is frequently cited for work safety violations from one end of the nation to the other. A USPS center in Duluth, Georgia is the latest site facing serious citations and $80,000 in penalties.

Our Georgia workers' compensation attorneys are aware of all the dangers workers face in the workplace and encourage employees to voice their complaints about job safety. Laws are in place to prevent employers from retaliating against employees for reporting safety risks.
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The U.S. Department of Labor for Occupational Safety & Health Administration has recently released the safety violations for the post office in Georgia. The fines will be imposed as a result of a site inspection where numerous violations were found in the Boggs Road office in Duluth. The postal service facility was found negligent for five repeat violations which include:

-Deficiency in lockout/tagout mechanism which prevents accidental start-up on machinery.

-Storing items in front of the electrical and circuit breaker panel.

-Electrical, fire, and receptacle boxes exposing unutilized openings.

-Utilizing bendable cords rather than fixed wiring as required.

-Electrical strain prevention clamp was absent on the dock lights.

Repeat violations are issued when an employer has prior knowledge that there was a deficiency or problem in the past and was cited with a previous violation within the last 5 years. Repeat violations bring heftier penalties, which in this case is $75,000.

In addition to the repeat violations, OSHA has cited the Duluth post office with two serious violations proposing another $5,000 in penalties. Serious violations are incurred when there is a possibility of death or serious injury as a result of the employer having previous knowledge (or should have known) of a hazard in the work environment. The two serious violations the Duluth post office was cited for were: exits not being visibly marked and exposure to electrical wiring on broken dock lights.

The U.S. Postal Service has their own campaign slogan "Safety Depends On Me" in which USPS companies propose safety in the workplace on their Letter Carrier Network website. Their employees can refer to this website for safety information. Other programs the U.S. Postal Service has worked closely with OSHA on are: Voluntary Protection Program; Ergonomic Risk Reduction Process; and joint safety initiatives with employee unions.

Most jobs have some sort of risk involved when performing them. The key is to know what your rights are and make sure the employer keeps you safe in the performance of those duties.

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January 11, 2011

Atlanta roofing accidents a common cause of Georgia construction injuries

Roofing accidents in Atlanta are a real concern for residential construction workers. Falling from a roof can cause catastrophic injuries including broken necks, spinal cord injuries and death.

"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. "Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof. We can stop these fatalities, and we must."
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A new directive, announced at the end of 2010 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that about 40 fatalities occur each year due to falls from residential roofs. Over one third of all construction workers are Latino and they represent one third of the deaths. Latino workers are often not properly educated about workplace rights, or lack access to safety and protection information.

The new directive indicates residential construction workers will be protected by conventional fall protection. This type of protection includes safety nets, personal fall arrest systems and guardrails. When traditional protective devices aren't feasible, an optional plan must be proposed. Unusual job site conditions may require an alternative fall protection system. Employers must be in compliance with this new directive beginning June 16, 2011.

Here are some roofing safety tips to consider:

-Be extremely careful of items on a roof that could cause an impalement hazard.

-Before working on a roof remove any slipping hazards. In addition, work shoes should have slip resistant soles.

-Install guardrails or you should always cover and secure skylight openings.

-Slide guards need to be installed on roofs with steep pitches.

-Adverse weather like high winds and storms cause unsafe working conditions so refrain from being on the roof during these conditions.

For more information on residential fall protection visit the OSHA website.

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January 8, 2011

Green Jobs welcome in Georgia as long as employee safety remains a priority

Industries that care about preserving the environment we live in are creating an upward trend for employment opportunities in a period in which we really need it. "Green jobs" create a safer environment in which to live and breathe, but whether they are safe for the employees who work in them remains to be seen.

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys agree that the opportunities are great as long as employers aren't jeopardizing the health and well-being of the people who work for them in the process.
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The Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports that "green jobs", especially in newer, fast-growing industries, have some safety issues to consider. Not only do employees and employers have to worry about slip and fall or electrical fire injuries -- as well as so many other common hazards of employment --but unidentified hazardous waste or chemical exposure can be of particular concern in new manufacturing processes.

For example, Cadmium Telluride, known to cause cancer, can be a danger to someone who works in the solar energy field. A safe environment, proper training, and the necessary safety equipment are as critical in fields involving green technology as they are in more traditional areas of manufacturing. Other green job industries with possible hazards are geo-thermal energy, wind energy, biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells, recycling, green roofs, and weather insulating/sealing.

"Most people instinctively see green jobs as safe. But at OSHA, when we hear weatherization and renovation, we see exposure to lead and asbestos," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor. "When we hear insulation, we think isocyanate exposure. When we hear rooftop solar power, we see fall hazards. When we hear wind energy, we see lockout hazards."

Michaels adds "It is vital, now, that we integrate worker safety and health concerns into green manufacturing, green construction and green energy. Most importantly, we must push worker health and safety as a critical, necessary, and recognized element of green design, green lifecycle analysis and green contracts."

OSHA, concerned about both employer and employee safety, outlines the following principles as we move forward in the "green" movement:

-Employees need to be more involved in the work process as well as the creation of green jobs.

-Utilize the REACH program in an effort to gain knowledge about chemicals and the hazards they place on your body. Chemical awareness plays a key role in your safety on the job.
-Engage in "Prevention through Design", a new concept in which companies design equipment with safety to the employee as the primary focus.

-Inspectors have the responsibility to update standards and create applicable rules when it comes to safety.

-Employees need to be heard when it comes to safer, healthier work environments which includes knowing their rights, the hazards they face, and what is being done to control the hazards.

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