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Connecticut Legal Blog

OSHA sees staff reduction under Trump administration

Workers in Connecticut are protected by federal laws that require employers to provide safe working conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration oversees this aspect of the law, but the agency has seen a potentially troublesome reduction in staff since President Trump took office.

After Trump became president, OSHA lost 40 inspectors through attrition. As of October 2, 2017, none of those vacancies was filled. Trump vowed to reduce federal bureaucracy, and some say the reduced OSHA staff is partly due to that. OSHA is not the only federal agency with unfilled vacancies under the current administration, but it says that it needs more staff to be able to keep America's workplaces safe.

OSHA gives advice on safe snow removal

Connecticut winters can be harsh, and unfortunately, many people injure themselves in the process of removing snow. Seeing that this is a nationwide issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has given some advice on how workers can safely remove snow.

In recent years, OSHA has seen a rise in the number of fall-related injuries and deaths, with many neglecting the organization's fall protection guidelines. Over the past decade, it has investigated 16 cases of workers being injured or killed while removing snow from roofs and other elevated surfaces.

Roundabouts can significantly reduce accident fatalities

Replacing busy intersections with roundabouts could potentially save lives in Connecticut and around the country according to the findings contained in a report. The Minnesota Department of Transportation studied traffic accidents that took place at 144 intersections both before and after traffic lights were replaced by roundabouts, and they found that fatalities plunged by 86 percent when drivers were forced to slow down and all travel in the same direction.

Roundabouts come close to eliminating T-bone accidents that involve the front of one car colliding with the side of another, and this is why traffic planners and road safety advocates have long called for them to become more familiar sights across the country. However, roundabouts are confusing to motorists not familiar with them, and they are difficult to navigate for tractor-trailer drivers. They have also been criticized for increasing pedestrian accidents and injuries.

OSHA releases list of top 10 fiscal 2017 violations

Connecticut employers should know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released its annual list of the top 10 workplace safety violations. This one covers the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2017. The violations are, for the most part, the same as in previous years, but some are new to the list and may require much critical thinking on the part of businesses.

Topping the list are violations of fall protection safety requirements. For example, work areas that are elevated a certain number of feet from the ground must be provided with protection equipment like rails and safety nets, and workers may be required to wear safety harnesses and lines. Failure to follow these and other instructions led to over 6,000 citations.

The safety risks that gig workers face

Many people in Connecticut are taking advantage of the growing gig economy as employers, employment agencies and digital platforms continue to put out short-term projects on demand. The idea of being paid per job is attractive to both full-time freelancers and those just trying to earn some extra cash.

In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that 8 percent of American adults earned money from online gig work in 2015, with 29 percent claiming that the money they earned went toward their basic needs. That same year, the Freelancers Union estimated that 55 million Americans complete some type of freelance work annually.

Coexisting with wildlife as days get shorter

Connecticut drivers may have to adjust their driving habits as the days get shorter. Nov. 5 marked the end of Daylight Saving Time, and it comes at a time of year in which animals are mating or looking for food before winter. Deer, bears and other forms of wildlife could be roaming the streets during morning and evening commutes. As a general rule, drivers should reduce their speed during periods when it is harder to see.

Stopping suddenly may be easier and safer when traveling at a reasonable speed, which can help reduce the odds of an accident occurring. Those who see a single animal on the road should be on the lookout for others nearby. In some cases, it may be possible to spot an animal by looking for pairs of bright eyes on the side of or in the road.

Night shifts pose car injury risks

Not everyone who lives in Connecticut works a standard 9:00 to 5:00 job. In fact, many workers find that their schedules frequently change, with many working night shifts. While it is true that there is a need for nighttime workers in certain workplaces and industries, nighttime work has been increasingly associated with health and safety risks.

Researchers have noted that night shift workers often have health issues believed to be associated with nighttime work and disturbed sleep patterns. Now, there is evidence that these workers may be more likely to get into car crashes, even when driving during the daytime.

Workplace safety and older workers

Workers of all ages in Connecticut may be interested to know that a growing number of workers are postponing their retirement. According to a review of federal employment statistics by the Pew Research Center, the percentage of people in the United States who are at least 65 years of age and are employed in at least a part-time capacity has risen from 12.8 percent in May 2000 to 18.8 percent in May 2016.

Working until the ages of 60 or 65 is no longer the norm. There are now many people who are 70 or 75 years of age and are still working. Some of them even have jobs in strenuous industrial positions.

Workplace safety failures lead to fatalities

Workers in Connecticut often rely on their employers to inform them of workplace hazards and risks. These employees may also follow the leads of their more experienced coworkers when it comes to workplace behavior, processes and procedures. Unfortunately, a wax approach to workplace safety can lead to fatalities.

One example of an avoidable workplace death occurred in a warehouse where employees routinely stood on pallets that were lifted by forklifts when restocking shelves. This is an unsafe procedure, and neither forklifts nor pallets are designed to be used in this way. In this instance, a worker fell from the pallet and eventually succumbed to his injuries while in the hospital.

A systematic approach to safety at work

There are many different ways in which a Connecticut worker could get hurt while working in a warehouse or a production facility. However, falls are one of the most common, so employers may want to look at their fall protection plans. OSHA requires workers to have fall protection if they are walking 4 feet above the next lower level.

Employers can get into compliance with this rule by using guardrails, personal fall arrest systems or by using a safety net system. It is believed that making such changes could save up to 29 lives and reduce lost work days because of fall injuries by about 6,000 per year. Employers should also consider how they will protect docks when they are not in use. Workers could get hurt if they fall from an open dock door whether they are in a forklift or are on foot when the fall happens.

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