Our Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys know that for many of us, going to work is the most dangerous time of our day. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 9,500 American workers were killed in on-the-job accidents in 2008 and 2009. With that said, in 2009, the BLS recorded the lowest number of U.S. workplace fatalities in 17 years at 4,340.
The decline is largely linked to a depressed economy and stagnant growth, which has caused total hours worked to drop by 9 percent over the previous year.
For those who are lucky enough to have a job, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has now published a 2010 report on the “Top 10” most frequently cited safety standards nationwide. In this two-part series, our Winston-Salem workers’ compensation lawyers review primary citable violations and their possible impact on Carolina workers.
On-the-job falls remain a major player in fatal workplace accidents, second only to traffic crashes for number of fatalities. Homicides rank third, followed by being struck by machinery, dropped objects or equipment.
With that said, all four fatal accident types – traffic crashes (882 deaths), homicides (521 deaths), falls (617 deaths) and struck by an object (414 deaths) – continued to see a decline in incidence in 2009.
OSHA’s “Top 5” citable safety violations for 2010, are as follows:
1. Scaffolding – construction: In 2007, there were 88 reported fatalities associated with scaffolding. Nearly three-quarters of all scaffolding-related injuries were linked to a worker being struck by a falling object, slipping or planking/support failure. Nationwide, scaffolding-related violations garnered 710 citations amounting to $543,780 in penalties. (The average current penalty amount per standard cited is $500.)
2. Fall Protection – construction: In 2008, fatal work injuries linked to falls dropped 20 percent (to 678) when compared to 2007 which saw 847 fall-related workplace deaths. Specifically, falls to a lower level – which represent 85 percent of all falls – were down 23 percent. Falls from ladders were down 14 percent and falls from roofs dropped 26 percent. Fall Protection violations garnered the highest per-penalty assessment in 2008. Nationwide, 1,064 citations were issued amounting to $913,954 in penalties.
3. Hazard Communication Standard – general industry: Because chemicals can be linked to a variety of health issues and physical hazards, OSHA believes employees have the right to know what they may be exposed to in the workplace. The Hazard Communication Standard provides a uniform identification system that identifies numerous health and safety factors, such as carcinogenetic properties and flammability.
4. Ladders – construction: As noted above, falls from ladders dropped 14 percent between 2008 and 2007. Nationwide, 4157 citations were issued amounting to $3,000,824 in penalties.
5. Respiratory Protection – general industry: Breathing hazards such as dust, sprays, vapors or gases have been linked to a host of ailments from cancer to short-term and chronic lung impairment. OSHA estimates that 1.3 million workplace environments require that 5 million workers wear protective respirators while on the job.
For Carolina workers stricken with a work-related illness or injury, workers’ compensation attorneys with Lee & Smith know recovery and adjustment can be a lifelong battle. If you have been injured, or someone you love has been injured or succumbed to a work-related illness anywhere in the Carolinas, call us at 1-800-887-1965 or contact our law offices online to discuss your rights.