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Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Worker falls from bucket truck while trimming trees

On Feb. 17, a worker in Pennsylvania died on the job after he fell from a bucket truck. At the time of the accident, the 48-year-old man from Mt. Pleasant had been using a saw to trim tree branches in North Versailles. The fatal accident took place along Hawthorne Drive near Greensburg Pike close to the Walmart.

The deceased tree trimmer had been an employee of Davey Tree Service before he was killed. For an unknown reason, the man fell from the bucket truck while he was working. After falling 30 feet to the ground, the worker was pronounced dead. Video footage that was taken of the scene after the accident showed that the saw the worker had been using was left dangling from the bucket truck.

Workplace injuries caused by vibrations

Many workers in Pennsylvania are injured every year while on the job. While some injuries are obvious, others, such as those resulting from years of exposure to vibration, may not be. Long-term exposure to vibration, from handheld tools to repetitive motions, can result in significant and debilitating injuries.

Vibration injuries are classed into two broad categories. Hand-arm vibration injuries result in loss of the ability to grip, loss of dexterity and loss of the sensation of touch. Whole-body vibration injuries can result in overall pain and lower back problems. Both result from repeated exposure to vibration.

Eyewear that doesn't fit can lead to workplace injuries

The makeup of today's workforce is rapidly changing, both in terms of gender and ethnicity. The increased diversity of today's workers has led to a serious safety issue. In that past, the workforce was relatively homogeneous. That meant that most workers had the same facial structure and Pennsylvania employers could order standard eye wear that would fit almost everyone. Now, though, workers with different genders and ethnic backgrounds have different facial structures. That means that protective eye wear doesn't fit as tightly as it should in many cases.

Gaps between the eye wear and the skin provide openings for debris to sneak in. Even the smallest grain of dirt or rock can be enough to cause a serious workplace injury. In fact, about 90 percent of eye injuries can be avoided with proper fitting protective eye gear.

Trench collapse and Pennsylvania workers' compensation

According to a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 350 workers were killed by collapsing trenches nationwide between 2000 and 2009. This amounted to a rate of 35 fatalities a year. NIOSH says that 64 percent of all trench deaths that happened between 1997 and 2001 occurred less than 10 feet below ground level. The leading cause of such deaths is a lack of proper trench safety equipment for the soil type, depth and width of the excavation.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates any trench at or below five feet must be protected in one of four approved manners to prevent workplace injury or death. These include reinforcing the trench using a box, sloping the sides to ameliorate the risk of a cave-in, "benching" or carving the trench in steps to provide greater stability or using hydraulic or planking supports to shore up the sides.

Coping with occupational hearing loss in Pennsylvania

There are an estimated 16 million people who work in manufacturing around the United States, which represents 13 percent of the overall workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hearing loss is one of the most common types of occupational illness in the manufacturing sector. To qualify as occupational hearing loss, the loss must leave a worker disabled and it must have occurred while on the job.

However, it is believed that many more workers may suffer from hearing loss who have not yet become disabled. This means that there may be many cases of hearing loss while on the job that have not yet been recorded. To make matters slightly more complicated, many workers due not lose their hearing in a sudden manner. Instead, they lose their hearing gradually over time. In some cases, a worker may not realize that a hearing problem exists.

Fatal accidents in roadway construction

Pennsylvania workers may know that road construction sites might be a dangerous place. Although the majority of worker fatalities involve individuals working at a specific construction site, others moving through the area also get killed in accidents. Adherence to safety standards is necessary to prevent such instances, and construction company owners are obligated to see that procedures are in place to prevent accidents.

Fatalities in roadway construction zones peaked in 2003 but have decreased significantly. In Pennsylvania, the number of construction site fatal accidents was lowest in 2013 and highest in 2004, 2005 and 2008. Fatalities may be categorized by the type of accident, and 69 percent of nationwide accidents in 2013 involved transportation. Occupations included construction and maintenance workers, truck drivers, workers operating construction equipment and supervisors.

Worker presumed dead after silo collapse

Authorities are presuming that a Pennsylvania worker is dead following a silo collapse on Jan. 8. The workplace accident took place in Bristol Township in Bucks County while the victim was working at a silo that held concrete production materials. Around 4:30 a.m., the Silvi Properties building in the Riverside Industrial Complex collapsed, and the worker was trapped beneath cement and steel beams.

Rescue crews attempted to find the victim in the rubble for six hours before announcing that the victim was presumed dead. After making the announcement shortly before 10:30 a.m., crews continued to search through the materials. They are now calling the effort a recovery mission rather than a rescue mission. Family members of the victim remained at the scene while the crews worked.

Amusement park faces fine OSHA citations

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration recently announced that it cited a Pennsylvania amusement park for failure to properly protect its employees from bodily harm related to heat exposure. The citation includes a financial penalty and represents the conclusion of an investigation by the federal agency that dates back more than six months, when OSHA purportedly fielded a complaint in association with a well-reported incident at the park involving a teenage worker who collapsed on account of the heat, suffering burns and other injuries.

Specifically, the company owning the park was cited because it did not address, either in its policies or its training procedures, OSHA's concern that employees lacked the preemptive and responsive means for protection when they worked outdoors, where workers may be exposed to temperatures high enough to cause workers serious or even fatal harm. For this reason, OSHA categorized the violation as serious, thereby resulting in a maximum penalty of $7,000.

Risks and causes of OSD

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 13 million individuals could potentially be exposed at their jobs to chemicals that are absorbed by skin. This is an especially salient issue for the many Pennsylvania residents employed in the food service, cosmetology and healthcare workplaces, where the incidence of skin exposure is highest, authorities say.

Reportedly, occupational skin diseases are the second most frequent type of illness obtained at the workplace. They manifest in a variety of forms, including skin injuries, infections and cancers. Sometimes, an occupational skin disease, or OSD, related to chemical exposure leads to other skin diseases.

Several workers lose fingers due to unsafe work conditions

A Pennsylvania company was investigated for serious safety violations after several of its employees injured their fingers or had them amputated as a result of workplace accidents. In June 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration initiated a review of Olympia Chimney Supply Inc. after receiving a string of similar safety complaints. The review was reportedly initiated under OSHA's National Emphasis Program on Amputations.

OSHA found that over the past few years, workers at the Scranton facility had suffered from 20 different injuries. The reported injuries included lacerations, crushed fingers, pinched fingers, fingertip amputations and several whole finger amputations. According to OSHA inspectors, the company was not doing its part to prevent workplace injuries.