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Proposed OSHA rule clarifies reporting requirements

Tennessee employers may soon have clarification regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration reporting requirements if a proposed rule passes. OSHA requires employers to keep records of an on-the-job injury or illness for five years. The agency is considering amending the law due to an April 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

In that ruling, the court ruled against OSHA. The agency had issued citations for the company's failure to record employee injuries going back five years, but the company argued that due to a six-month statute of limitations, OSHA could not issue those citations. The court sided with the company.

GM recall could have an impact on Tennessee drivers

In February 2014, GM recalled 2.6 million cars that had faulty ignition switches. For one 25-year-old woman, it was enough for a judge to vacate her guilty plea on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless driving. Although the plea was vacated, the women still spent three months in county jail and says that she has struggled to find a job after being released.

Her guilty plea stemmed from a September 2010 accident that left a 16-year-old male friend dead. She says that prior to the crash, the car's ignition went into accessory mode, which cut power to the steering and the brakes. She also claims that she wasn't traveling at an unsafe speed and was only going down the street to drop her friend off from school. The woman eventually agreed to an undisclosed settlement with GM that came from its victim compensation fund.

Delayed injury symptoms from a car accident

Tennessee residents who have been involved in a car accident might not always show symptoms of injury right away. Signs can actually appear over time, hours or even days after the incident. Even when some indications do appear, initial medical care usually focuses on alleviating pain through massages, chiropractic visits and even physical therapy. However, even after initial treatment, symptoms might continue or new ones might develop.

Some of the symptoms that might develop after a car collision might be the result of whiplash injuries. According to experts, about 20 percent of people who have been involved in rear-end accidents develop symptoms related to whiplash injuries. These include losing feeling on the arms and hands, which can happen after people injure their spinal column or their neck. Other symptoms related to this might be feeling pain in the neck and shoulder area. Though people might believe these injuries occur in accidents involving high speeds, most injuries related to whiplash happen in accidents where vehicles were traveling at less than 14 miles per hour.

Safety and health risks for garbage collectors

People in Tennessee who work in the garbage collection industry face many health and safety hazards while on the job. By understanding the risks, workers may be better able to recognize hazardous situations and avoid getting hurt or becoming ill in accidents because of them.

One of the most common types of injuries involve repetitive lifting and carrying of heavy objects. These can lead to back injuries, herniations and other damage over time. Using proper lifting techniques can help to minimize the damage. Slipping and falling is another significant risk when workers are working on ice or in rain or snow. Wearing boots with good traction is important.

Anti-fog coating helps to keep workers safe

Eye protection is an absolute necessity for many Tennessee workers in all fields of endeavor. Unfortunately, the exertion and changing climactic conditions faced while at work, whether on a work site or at a facility, can often cause goggles and other eye shields to fog. Although this may seem like a trivial occurrence, it has been linked to literally thousands of eye injuries every year.

This tends to occur in one of two ways. The first happens when the view is obscured and an injury results because of it. The second happens when the worker removes the goggles to clean and clear them, robbing them of the very protection that the goggles were meant to provide.

Technology might make Tennessee drivers safer

Vehicle manufacturers are moving to include features that make Tennessee roads safer from drivers who might succumb to fatigue. Automakers and other companies have tested a range of devices, including cars that track body activity and driving behavior or trigger alarms to prevent drivers from falling asleep behind the wheel. Some commercial transportation companies are following suit by equipping their operators with such technology, but according to researchers, the dire consequences associated with falling asleep behind the wheel mean it's better to simply avoid driving when tired.

High-profile accidents involving trucks, such as the 2014 incident that injured Tracy Morgan, aren't the only source of concern for modern drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 25 percent of fatal collisions are related to tiredness, and researchers admit that the problem can affect everyone on the road, especially at night. Factors like sleeping schedules or general drowsiness also contribute by making people less likely to pay attention or react in time to prevent accidents.

OSHA revises its National Emphasis Program on amputations

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a directive updating its National Emphasis Program on amputations. The directive tells employers in Tennessee and across the nation what policies and procedures to enact in order to reduce workplace hazards that commonly cause amputation injuries.

OSHA defines workplace amputations as incidents in which a limb or appendage is permanently amputated, medically amputated due to irreparable damage or medically reattached after amputation. According to data by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2,000 U.S. workers suffered amputation injuries in 2013, and OSHA reports that the amputation rate in the manufacturing sector is twice the amputation rate in all other private industry. By combining BLS data with current enforcement statistics, OSHA compiled a list of industries with high incidents or rates of amputations. Employees who work in sawmills, machine shops, retail and commercial bakeries, meat and food processing plants and ammunition manufacturing plants are among those at highest risk for amputations.

Worker deaths prompt response from MSHA

Tennessee employees may be interested in learning more about a series of incidents that compelled the Mine Safety and Health Administration to enhance their enforcement efforts. On Aug. 4, multiple employees were killed by unrelated workplace accidents that occurred in South Dakota, Nevada and Northern Virginia. According to the MSHA's assistant secretary of labor, during the past month, there have been five deaths in the nonmetal and metal industries. There hadn't been three miner deaths in the same day from this sector since 2002.

An 18-year-old employee in Virginia died after a silo in a Front Royal quarry broke open and buried him under mineral filler. His body was discovered the next morning after authorities spent 24 hours removing debris in an attempt to search for and rescue him. MSHA responded by proclaiming that education, outreach and inspection efforts would be intensified going forward.

Reducing risks faced by lone workers

Tennessee employees who work alone may face more risks than those who work with others. A basic safety precaution is to have one worker watch out for danger while the other works, but this is not possible for lone workers. Employers should take extra care when their employees are required to be in this type of a situation due to the nature of their job.

By itself, working alone is not necessarily unsafe, but employers should develop special procedures for workers who are not within calling distance of anyone in case of a serious workplace injury accident. Employers can reduce risks by ensuring regular contact by supervisors during lone work hours, conducting risk assessments, using automatic warning devices that contact supervisors if the employee is not responsive during a fixed period of time and training lone workers on emergency response protocol in the event of an accident. These are just a few recommended safety measures.

Seeking workers' compensation after prescription drug abuse

Workers' compensation insurance programs in Tennessee and other states generally allow employees to receive benefits when an injury or illness happens on the job. This can pay for the medical expenses an employee faces and may include costs for surgeries, necessary tools like crutches or prescription drugs. In the case of prescription drugs, some organizations like the National Safety Council are worried about the potential for abuse and how this relates to employers.

A report recently issued by the NSC focused on workers who were prescribed painkillers after an injury that allowed for workers' compensation benefits. The NSC looked at 15 court cases that took place between 2009 and 2015 where a plaintiff sued because of the opiate painkillers that were prescribed. The prescribed use of opioids puts employees at risk for overdose or addiction, and courts have ruled that death or addiction due to prescribed painkillers after an injury are covered under workers' compensation.

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