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Minnesota Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Lesser-known hazards posed in meatpacking facilities

If you work in one of the many meatpacking plants in Minnesota, you spend your days in one of the most dangerous occupations in the country. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says workers in these facilities suffer three times more injuries than in any other manufacturing industry. You and your coworkers face a wide variety of safety hazards every day, many of which involve cuts by knives and injuries caused by equipment.

Hazards of your job include machines like bone and head splitters, jaw and snout pullers, band saws, cleavers, and other equipment used during the different stages of carcass processing. Along with that comes various lesser-known health and safety hazards, some of which could be life-threatening.

Looking out for your own safety is a crucial part of your job

AdobeStock_176105748 (1).jpgIf you are a construction worker in Minnesota, you would likely want to take precautions that will improve your chances of returning home safely after every shift. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has an extensive list of safety regulations specifically for the construction industry. However, serious workplace injuries continue to occur.

Safety authorities require employers to protect the safety and health of employees, but that responsibility often clashes with financial priorities of construction company owners. If you look at the most frequently cited safety violations as reported by OSHA, you might look at ways in which you can mitigate hazards to prevent injuries.

Beware if your co-worker is one of the robotic kind

AdobeStock_101709371.jpgHave you wondered why your employer takes on more and more robots instead of humans at your workplace in Minnesota? It could be because they do not get sick or injured -- regardless of how many hours they repeat the same motion -- and they do not need vacations. However, robots might threaten your safety. For that reason, it is crucial that you learn all about the hazards robots pose and how to share your workplace with them safely.

When it comes to workplace automation, there are two factors to consider -- mechanical and human. Robots must have adequate safeguarding and faultless programming to address the mechanical element, and your employer must inform you and your human co-workers of the hazards and teach you how to work alongside robots safely.

Tree care worker? Make sure it is not your limbs that are removed

AdobeStock_60776464.jpgTree care workers and landscapers make up just a small percentage of the national workforce but a significant percentage of workplace fatalities. If you are a part of this industry in Minnesota, you will likely know that you risk your life every day and that you must take certain precautions to stay safe. Safety authorities say that most of the fatalities in this industry occur during tree trimming and tree removal.

Employers in this industry are responsible for the safety of employees, and the best way to do this is to establish and implement a comprehensive safety program that includes safe procedures and written rules. However, you might have to take your own precautions, such as inspecting trees before you climb or cut them to identify structural weaknesses and dead limbs. Using safe procedures can prevent the accidental cutting of lanyards, climbing ropes, straps or safety belts.

Common sense tips can prevent catastrophic forklift accidents

AdobeStock_71248957 resize 3.jpgIf you are a forklift operator in a Minnesota warehouse, fulfillment center or another facility, you will know that lift trucks are not only timesaving machines but also excellent replacements for manual lifting of heavy objects that can cause life-altering injuries. However, many workers cannot resist the temptation of playing around on forklifts, not realizing how dangerous lift trucks can be. For that reason, it is crucial that only operators with proper training step foot on forklifts.

To ensure your safety and the safety of co-workers, you should learn the operation and safety rules of every forklift you operate. Forklifts come in different sizes and types, each posing unique hazards.

Does your employer protect you from confined space hazards?

AdobeStock_208285550.jpgAs a construction worker in Minnesota, you may have to enter boilers, bins, utility manholes, pits or HVAC ducts. Your employer may also send you into storm water drains, tanks, crawl spaces, vaults or attics. Do you know that these areas qualify as confined spaces that could pose life-threatening risks?

A confined space is an area with restricted or limited entry and exit ways, which is not meant for continuous occupancy by workers, but it can accommodate an employee if necessary. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes specific rules for the construction industry because, unlike other industries, in which confined spaces are in fixed positions, the number and characteristics of these spaces change as work progress on a construction site.

Is your deteriorating health due to an occupational disease?

AdobeStock_2412413.jpgAs a member of the workforce in Minnesota, you probably find comfort in knowing that the state's workers' compensation program will have your back should you suffer an on-the-job injury. Do you feel as comfortable about contracting an occupational illness? Some workplace illnesses develop over years of exposure to health hazards, and yours might be diagnosed long after you left the job that caused your disease.

Do you know which illnesses the insurers will consider as work-related? For successful benefits claims, exposure or events at your workplace must be the cause of your occupational disease. The workers' compensation insurance provider might also approve claims if conditions or events in your work environment aggravated or worsened a pre-existing condition.

Is your office a minefield of safety hazards?

AdobeStock_98264736.jpgIf you are an office worker in Minnesota, your workplace might not be as safe as you think. As in all other work environments, hazards exist, many of them common to all industries. Although carpal tunnel syndrome, caused by the repetitive motions made while typing or using a mouse for hours on end, is a known work-related condition among office and tech workers, a variety of other office injuries can lead to workers' compensation benefits claims.

Picture yourself carrying a monitor to your desk and tripping over a loose carpet. You fall and fracture your arm. Hospital and doctors' fees are astronomical. With your arm in a cast, you are unable to do your job, and the lost income wreaks havoc with your finances. If you are aware of potential risks, you might avoid workplace injuries.

Did you know that exposure to chemicals can cause hearing loss?

AdobeStock_135408512.jpegDo you work in the Minnesota manufacturing industry? You might not even be aware that the presence of some chemicals manufacturers use can adversely affect your hearing. Working with all types of machinery in plants that manufacture textiles and apparel, paint and associated products, chemicals, furniture, plastics, and other products can make you vulnerable to toxic chemical exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says research indicates that exposure to ototoxicant-containing chemicals can harm the hearing and balance of exposed workers, and simultaneous noise exposure can exacerbate the danger. OSHA aims to increase awareness of this relatively unknown workplace hazard.

Occupational asthma can take your breath away

AdobeStock_118211938.jpegAre you struggling to breathe when you are at work? You might have occupational asthma due to exposure to dust, gases, fumes or other substances that can harm your lungs. If you were an asthma sufferer as a child, it might come back, or already existing asthma may worsen. Smokers and anybody with a family history of this lung disease or any other allergies may also be more susceptible to develop asthma.

If your symptoms appear while you are at work, and ease when you go home or have some time off, it might indicate that your health problem is work-related. Even workers who have never had asthma problems may have allergic reactions to substances at work.

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