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Hazardous energy accidents in the workplace

There are many potential sources of hazardous energy at workplaces in Tennessee. Electrical, hydraulic, chemical and mechanical energy sources can all be very dangerous if they are not properly controlled. To prevent injuries caused by hazardous energy, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration advises employers to implement appropriate lockout/tagout procedures.

According to OSHA, almost 10 percent of the serious workplace accidents that occur on job sites in many industries are the result of hazardous energy. The failure to control hazardous energy is often the cause of serious and fatal injuries that are sustained by laborers, electricians and machine operators. Injuries from hazardous energy could be electrocutions, burns, amputations or crushing.

Can technology ensure a death-proof car?

Tennessee motorists might wonder about what car makers are doing to continue to ensure driver and passenger safety. While many manufacturers are working towards self-driving cars, Volvo is developing vehicles that it is calling death-proof and which it hopes to introduce by 2020.

The way Volvo plans to achieve this is by integrating and developing technology that will make the whole driving experience safer. Some of the technology is already in use in different models, but Volvo is planning on using all of the technology together to ensure that when people get into one of its vehicles, they can hopefully avoid a car collision that causes a serious or fatal injury.

Overexertion is leading cause of disabling injuries

On Jan. 4, Liberty Mutual released the 2016 Workplace Safety Index, which is based on 2013 injury data from Liberty Mutual, the National Academy of Social Insurance and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in Tennessee may not be surprised that overexertion involving external sources was the leading cause of disabling injuries in that year.

Based on the index, disabling injuries cost workplaces a total of $61.88 billion in 2013, and $51.06 billion or 82.5 percent of that went toward covering the top 10 causes of those injuries. The top five causes accounted for 64.8 percent of the total cost burden.

Mining deaths in 2015 the lowest on record

Miners in Tennessee have extremely dangerous jobs, and the perils of this kind of work prompted the federal government to establish the Mine Safety and Health Administration in 1978. More than 200 mineworkers lost their lives in job-related accidents during the federal safety agency's first year of operation, but fatality numbers have been gradually falling ever since. The number of mining deaths fell to 45 in 2014, and the agency reports that the 2015 death toll of 28 mineworkers is the lowest ever recorded.

This figure is particularly notable because mining accidents can be catastrophic. A 2010 coal dust explosion in West Virginia claimed the lives of 29 mineworkers, and the Sago mine disaster, which also occurred in West Virginia, left 13 miners trapped underground in 2006. Only one of the trapped miners survived. Some observers point out that the lower number of mining fatalities merely reflects reduced activity in the sector as plunging fossil fuel prices make oil and natural gas more attractive than coal for power generation, but the MSHA believes that the drop was largely the result of increased inspection activity and stricter enforcement of safety regulations.

FDA announces new regulations for pelvic mesh makers

On Jan. 4, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that manufacturers of pelvic mesh implants must reapply for the agency's approval of their products. The implants, which are used to treat pelvic collapse in women in Tennessee and elsewhere, have reportedly caused thousands of injuries to their users.

Plastic pelvic mesh was first introduced in the 1990s as a way to speed recovery for women who suffer pelvic organ prolapse, which occurs when the uterus, bladder or other organs slip out of place. The condition can cause pain, urinary problems and constipation. However, patients have complained that pelvic mesh worsened their condition, causing pain, infections and bleeding. Some women have been forced to undergo multiple surgeries to reposition the mesh, remove it or repair damage. Mesh makers Endo and Johnson & Johnson have been slapped with tens of thousands of lawsuits, claiming pain, infections and bleeding. Ireland-based Endo agreed to pay out $800 million to settle 20,000 claims in 2014.

The workforce is getting older

Increasingly, many workers in Tennessee and around the country continue working after the age of 55 instead of retiring. People who were born between 1946 and 1964, the so-called 'baby boomers," are staying in their jobs longer than previous generations. As a result, the country's workforce is aging along with baby boomers, and the demographics of U.S. workers are changing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections has been studying the aging workforce. According to one BLS economist, baby boomers have been increasing their work participation rate each year since the 1990s. Several factors such as economic problems, increased lifespan and changes to retirement plans may be influencing the baby boomer generation's work participation rate.

Preventing winter-time workplace injuries

The winter months in Tennessee bring both a flood of shoppers as well as cold weather. The combination can lead to an increased risk of accidents in retail stores and distribution centers alike. There are steps business owners should take to minimize the risk of people injuring themselves while on their premises.

One risk comes from people tracking in snow and ice on their shoes, leading floors to become wet and slippery. Employers can help reduce the risk of slips and falls on slippery floors by installing grit-coated floor surfaces to provide better traction. They should also clean up wet areas and post signs to warn people of the risks.

FMCSA calls for electronic tracking of truck driver hours

The idea of a fatigued or sleeping driver handling a semi-tractor trailer is certainly a dreadful thought for many Tennessee motorists. Drowsy driving accidents often occur at high speeds and cause catastrophic injuries. Federal regulations place strict limits on how long bus and truck drivers can spend behind the wheel before they are required to rest; however, the paper logs used to record driver hours have been widely criticized.

Critics of paper logs point out that such a system relies on the honesty and thoroughness of truck drivers and their employers. Accident investigators say that these logs have sometimes been manipulated following a crash to indicate that the drivers involved had spent less time behind the wheel than they actually had. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration answered calls for a more effective way of tracking bus and truck driver hours on Dec. 10 when it introduced a new rule that will require many commercial vehicles to have sophisticated electronic monitoring systems installed within two years.

The elderly drive safely, still more susceptible to injury

A substantial proportion of American's 36 million licensed drivers older than the age of 65 lives in Tennessee or travels through the state. Available research on the aging national driver population indicates that elderly drivers show no greater tendency to have motor vehicle accidents than other age groups.

For example, elderly drivers generally show a preference for traveling during the day, and they tend to not drive during bad weather. They also have less of a tendency than other generations to drive while drunk or intoxicated. Older drivers have also been found to use their seat belts more than most other groups. A study of fatal car crashes shows that motor vehicle occupants age 65 and up wore their seat belts 79 percent of the time, while younger demographics only used them two times out of three.

Driving is safer, but improvements still needed

According to a study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers in Tennessee and throughout the United States are safer each year due to improved safety technology. However, driving remains a risky activity, and in 2013, there were 32,719 fatalities related to motor vehicle accidents.

Both driver behavior and safety technology contribute to fewer fatalities. A driver who moved one mile closer to work to reduce a commute from six miles to five would drive two fewer miles round trip per day and reduce their chances of a fatal accident from one in 30,400 to one in 36,500. If the head of every U.S. household cut their commute by two miles, there would be nearly 550 fewer fatalities annually.

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