It’s one of the most dangerous occupations in the U.S.
When you hear that sentence, do you think of highway construction crews? If not, you may be in for a surprise.
More than 20,000 highway workers are injured annually, and, tragically, more than 100 are killed, according to Maine highway worker safety statistics. That’s why it’s important for drivers to be careful and drive slowly in highway and street construction zones, watching out for workers along the roadsides.
The first week in April of every year is National Work Zone Awareness Week. This year focuses on workers in highway construction sites. The theme is “Signs for Change,” intended to draw attention to the work zone signs that every driver should heed. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Roadway Work Zone Safety and Health Partners Alliance have teamed up to stress this awareness, along with promoting concern for other highway worker health issues.
“There were 1,100 work zone fatalities last year – that is a tragedy,” said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. “I am hopeful that campaigns like this will help reduce those numbers.” He said the effort needs the support of “everyone who gets behind the wheel on a daily basis.”
Acute trauma is the leading cause of highway workers’ deaths, and that often occurs when a worker is hit by a car. Half the injuries suffered by highway crew members, however, are a result of being hit by a truck or a piece of construction equipment right on the site. OSHA stresses that highway construction workers should wear reflective, easy-to-spot vests.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSHA), part of the Centers for Disease Control, has issued a report saying drivers should be alert for warning signs and slow down in road construction zones.
“As we enter the busy spring construction season,” said Jeffrey P. Koplan, M.D., M.P.H., the director of the CDC, “NIOSH’s new document offers practical and comprehensive advice for reducing workers’ risk of injury.”
The safety campaign kicked off April 3 on a site near Alexandria, Virginia.
The use of asbestos was banned by the US government many years ago. However, traces of the deadly substance still remain and continue to pose a health risk to anyone handling it today.
The automotive industry once used asbestos in the clutch and brake systems of cars and trucks and many older model vehicles still contain asbestos-containing parts. These potentially dangerous parts are the subject of a safety warning recently issued by the Maine Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Maine worker safety alert addresses the risk of asbestos-related health problems that automobile mechanics face when working on the brake and clutch systems of these older model vehicles. Asbestos is composed of tiny, fibrous particles, invisible to the human eye, that are easily airborne and can contaminate the air throughout a mechanic’s shop or other repair facility. Anyone in these areas is at risk of exposure, not just the mechanic handling the parts.
Four safe-handling procedures are recommended in the Maine worker safety alert. Listed as “best practices” are the HEPA vacuum / negative pressure enclosure system and the wet cleaning / low pressure methods.
For job sites routinely performing no more than five brake or clutch repair jobs in a week, OSHA allows the wet method of control although it is less effective than the two described as “best.” In some situations, the solvent / spray can measure is acceptable, too.
In addition to these four procedures for asbestos control, the Maine OSHA alert urges anyone working in an area where brake and clutch systems are being repaired on older model vehicles to act as if asbestos is, in fact, present and to adhere to all safety procedures. Wetting any parts that may contain asbestos will minimize the number of deadly airborne particles and storing parts in tightly sealed, clearly labeled bags is highly recommended.
Ten thousand Americans die every year because of illnesses caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestosis, named after the substance itself, is one very crippling and painful disease that contributes to the list of fatalities. Other diseases known to be caused by asbestos exposure are mesothelioma and certain cancers of the lungs and gastrointestinal tract.
Forklifts are used extensively in industry, but many employers and employees are not aware of the risks involved, or do not know the correct and safe way of operating them.
The Maine OSHA has reported that there are approx 1.5 million working g forklift operators in the United States, and a recent safety magazine article highlights the dangers of not taking note of the latest federal and Maine forklift standards.
There are a few names in use for Forklifts, these include Powered Industrial Trucks, or PITs, and fork trucks. All are common in industry, as are the use of the machines. But workers and employers must take notice of the correct way to operate the forklifts and understand how some working practices can cause the machine to become unstable. One of the most common causes of fatalities and injuries among workers comes from the incorrect use of forklifts in industry.
Forklifts can be fitted with many attachments to increase their efficiency. Some of the attachments used are hoppers, rug rams, boom extensions, drum carriers, cylinder caddies, drum grippers and drum rotators. Some of these are more common in the manufacturing industry.
Any attachment has the potential to affect the stability of the forklift. This in turn has an impact on the safety rating of the vehicle. Each time an attachment is changed, or the machine is modified in any way, the operation and maintenance instruction plates (decals, or tags) and the trucks new capacity must be changed to show the changes in usage of the equipment.
Usually it is down to a forklift manufacturer to approve the changes to a truck, but some will not approve an attachment that they are not familiar with. In other cases, the employer applies to the manufacturer for approval but receives no reply. A qualified RPE (Registered Professional Engineer) may give approval. However it is not automatic, and should only be given after the RPE has conducted a safety analysis and looks at the structural and safety issues regarding the modification. In cases where the manufacturer has specifically not given approval for an attachment, the RPE must look at all the safety issues and reasons for non approval in the manufacturer’s report before they can give approval.
If you are a service member, then the final USERRA regulations that were recently released by the Dept of Labor will be of particular interest to you. These rules cover job rights for members of the reserve and National Guard, as well as for veterans.
Now would also be a good time to check that your employer is displaying a Maine USERRA poster in your workplace. They are required to display an up to date USERRA poster, whether they have service personnel working for them or not.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 was set up to protect military personnel’s jobs for when they return from military service, but what does this cover, and what does it mean for you as a service member?
New USERRA regulations explicitly state that all pensions for military members who come under the Act are protected.
If a soldier has been away from work, serving in the military for less than 30 days, they must return to their employment on the first working day after release from service, allowing for travel home and an 8 hour rest period.
If a soldier has been away from work, serving in the military for more than 30 days, but les than 181 days, they must apply to return to work, by submitting an application form within 14 days after release from service.
If a soldier has been away from work, serving in the military for more 180 days, they must apply to return to work, by submitting an application form within 90 days after release from service.
Military members are entitled to be reemployed in their civilian jobs, up to 5 years away in military service.
When a soldier knows he is to be away for military service he must give written or verbal notice of their absence to their employer, unless called away with short notice.
Most of the time, reemployment applications are just a formality.