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What does analysis of 25 years of work injury causes reveal?

Safety authorities in Illinois and other states gather injury data throughout each year to analyze it and find ways to improve workplace safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported interesting findings after processing work injury and fatality data collected over 25 years. The information was obtained from 1992 through 2016, and the results show that analyzing the injuries and causes have led to improved workplace safety.

This report forms part of the BLS "Spotlight on Statistics" series and reveals that bodily reaction to overexertion was the primary cause for absence from work throughout the studied period. However, there was a drop of almost 71% between the 1992 and 2016 numbers for such injuries. Fatalities also decreased over that period, with the 2016 work-related deaths totals dropping over 16% than those recorded in 1992.

Violating safety rules can cause fatal work-related accident

Confined spaces pose some of the most significant hazards to workers in various industries nationwide, including Illinois. Safety authorities say a better understanding of the dangers of confined spaces and the safety regulations could help keep workers safe. They say compliance with the rules, which could be confusing, can prevent a fatal work-related accident.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a confined space is one that is large enough to accommodate a worker to do his or her job. If it has restricted, or limited exit or entry means, it qualifies as a confined space, even if it is a large area -- such as a tanker. Workers must not occupy such spaces continuously. If there is no obvious serious health or safety hazard, no permit is required for a confined space, but time spent inside the space must be limited.

Workplace accidents involving electricity affect most industries

Illinois workers in all industries -- from general to farming, construction and others -- face electrical hazards every day. Safety authorities say the highest number of electricity-related workplace accidents occur in the construction industry each year. Thousands of such incidents are reported annually, and although data is available to substantiate the numbers, secondary injuries, which would increase those numbers, are excluded. An example is when an electrical shock causes a worker to get hurt by falling off a ladder.

Employers in all workplaces must ensure that all employees are aware of electrical hazards and understand electrical safety. Where possible, electrical hazards must be eliminated. Known dangers include underground and overhead power lines, faulty equipment, damaged insulation, lightning and improper grounding. One of the severe risks involves cleaning or doing maintenance on equipment without first de-energizing it.

Energy control crucial to prevent manufacturing accidents

One of the most significant threats to the safety of employees in the Illinois manufacturing industry is unexpected energizing of equipment during servicing, cleaning or maintenance procedures. Without adequate lockout/tagout protocols, manufacturing accidents can cause catastrophic injuries that might lead to amputation or death. If machines are not isolated from energy sources, unanticipated startup or stored energy release can have devastating consequences.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has strict guidelines by which employers must establish sustainable lockout/tagout programs. A written document must explain the program's elements in a way that employees can understand. Annual reviews are crucial to ensure the program remains relevant and continues to protect workers. It is essential to identify and mark switches, valves, plugs and breakers with permanent tags or labels.

Workplace head injury claims life of water commission employee

Federal and state safety authorities require employers to mitigate all known safety hazards to protect the health and safety of employees, regardless of the industry. However, known risks are sometimes overlooked, and the consequences can be devastating. Such was the case earlier this month when an Illinois worker suffered a head injury that led to his death.

According to an incident report by Villa Park police, a 59-year-old employee of DuPage County was struck in the head by a portable directional board. The incident occurred shortly after noon on Friday, Feb. 8. Reportedly, the injured worker was rushed to a medical facility in Maywood, but he succumbed to his injuries mid-morning on the following day. The coroner's report indicates that complications of his head injuries were the cause of death.

Many work injury threats are wrongly regarded as insignificant

Many of the millions of occupational injuries that occur nationwide each year are caused by hazards deemed insignificant. While each workplace in Illinois might have unique hazards, some common work injury risks exist in all facilities, from kitchens to offices, factories, construction sites and more. Safety authorities say a significant percentage of injuries can be avoided if employers and employees familiarize themselves with these dangers and stay alert to identify and mitigate them.

Accidents involving slips on liquid spills and trips over debris or randomly placed objects can, and do happen in all work environments. Cleaning spills, removing debris and using proper storage for objects can prevent falls that could lead to fractures, soft tissue injuries and even traumatic brain injuries. Electrical hazards are also present in almost all workplaces. Extension cords, overloaded sockets, frayed wires and other electrical problems are often ignored, even tough they could cause death by electrocution.

Snow removal poses serious injury hazards in Illinois

Employers must provide work environments that will protect the health and safety of employees. This is a significant responsibility for business owners in Illinois who offer snow and ice removal services. These activities pose serious injury hazards, particularly if the jobs involve working on roofs, and employers need to plan such projects with care after considering all potential risks.

Safety authorities say the primary cause of injuries, and even fatalities, during snow removal activities involve falls from elevated structures and rooftops. While some roofs collapse under the weight of excessive loads of snow, these accidents often include workers falling over the roof's edge or through roof openings such as skylights. Many serious injuries have resulted from falls from aerial lifts and ladders.

Fatal work-related accident at ADM facility prompts investigation

Grain facilities nationwide, including Illinois, pose many safety hazards. One of the life-threatening dangers at these facilities involve the risks of grain dust fires and explosions. The Illinois based global food processing corporation, ADM, is currently the subject of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigation. This inquiry follows a fatal work-related accident that killed one person and injured another at one of the company's grain processing facilities.

Reportedly, the incident occurred on a recent Saturday at a corn processing plant of ADM in a neighboring state. An explosion followed the ignition of a grain dust fire, ending in the death of a firefighter and leaving a second person with injuries. OSHA says this explosion followed only hours after another explosion at the company's Decatur plant in which, fortunately, no one was injured.

Winter in Chicago is the time to focus on work injury prevention

In Chicago, January means extreme cold with icy winds and snow. Winter weather in Illinois makes workers in all industries more susceptible to be victims of occupational injuries. A weather-related work injury is not limited to those who work outdoors, and it can even occur indoors.

The wetness from ice and snow can be carried into industrial facilities by foot traffic or mobile equipment such as forklifts. Slip-and-fall accidents can cause serious injuries, and it is crucial to keep entrance ways, stairs and walkways dry. Employees whose jobs include driving are more vulnerable in the winter, and road accidents often lead to occupational injuries.

Construction accidents involving trench collapses raise concern

Safety authorities report that the number of trench-related fatalities nationwide, including in Illinois, increased at an alarming rate over the past two years. They say that most of these lives were lost in construction accidents on residential properties rather than in road construction zones and pipeline dig sites. Residential projects that involve repairs or laying new sewer lines or water pipes proved to be most hazardous.

A spokesperson for a contractors' organization that offers safety training for trench excavations says the primary cause for the increase in fatalities is the decline in the availability of skilled labor. He says many skilled workers left the building industry during the recession 10 years ago. With the decrease in the numbers of construction projects at that time, fewer fatalities were recorded.

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