As the weather gets warmer, more cars hit the road as people plan vacations and road trips. However, the nice weather also leads more people to take advantage of the sunshine and go for a walk or run along Baltimore streets.
But pedestrians should be aware of the dangers they face on Maryland roads before they leave the house this summer.
Pedestrians understand the risks, but fatalities are still increasing
Most vehicles weigh upwards of one ton. So, it often does not matter how fast they are going on the road if they hit a pedestrian. Pedestrians always face a higher risk of injury or death in the event of an accident.
And that risk only increases when:
There is low light or visibility
People walk in urban areas
Either the driver or pedestrian is drunk or distracted
The Look Alive campaign will be in place all summer
At the start of June, Baltimore law enforcement and officials announced the beginning of the Look Alive campaign. This movement has a goal of decreasing pedestrian and bicycle accidents and deaths in the greater Baltimore area.
Law enforcement will look specifically for reckless drivers who:
Speed or drive distracted behind the wheel
Do not stop for pedestrians in sidewalks or intersections
Disregard a pedestrian's right of way and traffic signals
Will the campaign succeed?
We have yet to see the effects this campaign might have, but it could very well be a challenge according to a new study. Allstate's America's Best Drivers report apparently ranks Baltimore as having the worst drivers in the country, meaning that Baltimore drivers get into the most traffic accidents.
It is possible that the Look Alive campaign could help protect pedestrians on Maryland roads, as well as other motorists. However, that also requires law enforcement to take action and reduce the rate of reckless driving and traffic accidents as a whole.
Refuse and recyclable material collectors work in the fifth most dangerous job in the United States. According to USA Today, there is an average of 30 fatal injuries and more than 1,000 nonfatal injuries each year in the waste industry.
Waste collectors may understand the risks they could face, but three workplace industrial accidents in June only called more attention to just how dangerous this industry can be.
Three deaths in one day raise concern throughout the country
The three accidents in Maryland, South Carolina and Tennessee were unrelated. It was pure coincidence that all three happened on June 13. However, all three of them highlight the risks waste industry workers face daily, and the many forms these risks can take.
These catastrophic accidents involved:
A Maryland worker crushed under waste at a transfer station
A collection truck running over a South Carolina worker
A Tennessee collection driver colliding with a train
Increasing safety is a primary concern in this field
One of the reasons this ongoing struggle continues is because the waste industry involves such unique and various hazards, including:
Exposure to hazardous chemicals
Other reckless drivers on the roads
Heavy equipment malfunctioning
Negligent operation of heavy equipment
An ever-changing work environment
It is difficult to improve worker safety with these variables, so workplace safety remains a large obstacle for workers in this industry.
Remember: Workers' compensation is an option
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides some helpful tips to prevent injuries in the waste industry, from improving training practices to using automated collection trucks. There are also widespread industry efforts to increase safety and protect workers from injuries.
Those efforts are necessary. Hopefully, they will help keep workers safe in the future. However, waste workers now still face a high risk of serious injury or even death. An injury can be overwhelming, but it is critical that employees remember the benefits they could recover through workers' compensation to ease the stress an injury places on them and their family.
Whether they are still in high school or back home from college, many Maryland teenagers and young adults search for summer jobs to make a little extra cash and gain essential work experience.
However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that younger workers face significantly high risks for injuries on the job. While it is true that most employees, regardless of their age, often qualify for workers' compensation, parents and young workers alike can take action to prevent workplace injuries.
Younger and newer workers at risk for injuries
Many young adults find jobs in the service or retail industry. These industries alone often involve various hazards, including:
Falls on slippery surfaces or from ladders
Falling objects from storage spaces
Injuries from sharp objects, including knives or box cutters
Burns from ovens or coffee machines
These hazards pose a risk for all employees. However, the CDC states that younger workers from ages 15 to 19 go to the emergency room for work injuries at a rate that is nearly double than any other age group.
Why do they face such high risks?
There are two primary reasons that younger workers face such a high risk of injury on the job:
Lack of experience: Younger workers are newer to the workforce. They often have little previous work experience. And if they are new, they are still learning the skills necessary to work efficiently and safely. However, employers still have a duty to keep their workplace safe for their younger workers.
Lack of training: While lack of work experience may not be a surprising factor, it may be surprising to hear that many employers do not provide proper safety training to young or seasonal employees.
Parents should talk to their children before they head off to work
The Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division (MOSH) provides a comprehensive guide to help young workers stay safe on the job. Parents can also use this guide to discuss safety measures with their children.
For example, teens and young workers should:
Make sure to ask questions about or report potential safety hazards
Ensure their employer provides them with any necessary safety equipment
Request safety training, if they did not receive proper training
Young people have as much of a right to a safe workplace as any other employee. If parents discuss important safety measures before their teen starts work, they can help reduce their risk of sustaining a work injury.
The aftermath of an accident can leave individuals facing severe and even life-changing injuries. And recovering from those injuries can be painful and detrimental to one's mental health as well.
However, the hope of recovery after the accident can suddenly feel sour after all of the bills start to arrive. The financial cost of an accident can hurt an individual and their family almost as much as their injuries do. If the individual was not at fault for an accident, they might have a right to recover compensation to cover these expenses.
But how much could an accident really cost?
1. Repairing damage to your vehicle
Purchasing a car is a significant investment. Repairing one after an accident is not inexpensive either. Common repair costs after an accident often include:
Dented bumpers, up to $450
Scratches, ranging from $300 to $3,500
Ruined car doors, up to $1,500
An accident could involve a variety of damages that need repair. And if the car is totaled in the accident, it might be necessary to replace the vehicle.
Even if individuals have health insurance to cover medical costs, that does not mean that they should have to pay these significant expenses.
3. Missing work and losing income
Recovering from an accident might force individuals to stay out of work. And even once they can return to work, their injuries might limit their hours or ability to work at all.
Missing work or reduced productivity could result in little or no income. Meanwhile, lost wages could make it extremely difficult for individuals to cover their vehicle repairs and medical costs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total cost of medical bills plus missed work across the country was more than $63 billion for one year. That is a significant amount of financial costs for families across the country, considering the fact that an average of three million individuals suffer serious injuries in car accidents every year.
This is why compensation is available--and important
A traumatic car accident can leave a family facing serious physical and emotional costs. But they should only have to worry about their recovery--not paying the financial costs on top of that.
That is why Maryland law protects an individual's right to recover compensation that pays for these substantial costs.
Several construction accidents involving cranes across the country have rattled the nation and filled national news stories for a few weeks now. Although none of these accidents have occurred in Maryland, these most recent stories are raising concerns for all construction workers in the U.S. as well as here in our state.
Accidents across the country drawing national concern
Crane accidents might not be the most common of all construction incidents. However, they often result in catastrophic injuries or fatalities for construction workers. Improper crane operation can also contribute to the most common accidents involving falls or falling debris.
And three separate crane accidents in Seattle, Dallas and Kansas City are generating scrutiny regarding the safety of the public and construction workers themselves. There were no worker fatalities in the Dallas incident. However, the Seattle accident killed two ironworkers and falling debris from a crane struck the worker in Kansas City, leaving him severely injured.
What should Maryland workers draw from these accidents?
If none of these accidents occurred in Maryland, then many construction workers might wonder why they should worry about these accidents. The fact that there have been so many crane accidents that ranged far across the country should be a cause for concern for every construction worker.
After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics determined that an average of 44 construction workers were killed in crane accidents each year between 2011 and 2015. That average is on the rise, but it also does not include the number of injuries workers suffered in these accidents.
So, the main takeaway for Maryland construction workers should be preventing these accidents here in our state.
Take extra safety measures to prevent accidents and injuries
Operating cranes requires an extensive amount of training and precision. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a wide variety of rules that both employers and operators must follow.
However, the most common cause of crane accidents--and the resulting injuries and fatalities--is human error. And most of these accidents are completely preventable.
There are a few steps that construction workers can take to avoid injuries, including:
Asking the employer when the last crane inspection was
Requesting additional training for workplace safety
Following OSHA's regulations for crane operation closely
Wearing proper protective gear at all times
Staying alert on the work site
Construction workers understand the dangers they face every time they clock in. However, those dangers only increase the standard for maintaining a safe workplace and following proper work practices.
It is important for all construction workers to remember that if they suffer an injury on the job, the law could entitle them to recover workers' compensation.
Teachers are not included in the lists of the professions that face the highest risk of workplace injuries. Many consider schools to be “low-risk” workplaces. After all, working with children in the classroom should not involve significant hazards.
However, that low risk is much higher than many might believe, and it only keeps increasing every year.
What injuries do teachers commonly face?
Accidents can happen at any time. And there are many times during every school day that teachers could face the risk of a workplace injury, from hanging artwork or decorations to even playing with younger children.
The injuries that teachers most frequently report include:
Slips and falls: Teachers often have to escort students in school hallways, on staircases or outdoors. And throughout the school day, students or staff could spill water or other fluids that pose a hazard to teachers.
Repetitive motion injuries: Writing on the whiteboard, standing in front of the classroom or typing for long periods can leave teachers facing muscle strain or tears, back injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome or even arthritis. These injuries can also result from long periods of bending, twisting or other incidents of overexertion.
Injuries specific to their subject: Gym teachers are more physically active during the school day, and therefore might face a higher risk of sustaining a broken bone or another physical injury. On the other hand, various science teachers could face the risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals or substances.
Maryland teachers face a risk of workplace violence too
Schools might be considered low-risk, but that perspective is quickly changing with every news story covering student violence.
Teachers are usually the ones who end up mitigating these situations. They break up fights between students or calm down individual violent students. All the while, they are at risk of sustaining serious injuries.
Special education teachers especially face violence at school
Of all educators, special education teachers are the population that faces the highest risk of violence and suffers the most injuries. Students with behavioral or emotional issues often lash out suddenly in anger or confusion. They might:
Scratch teachers hard enough to draw blood
Punch and kick teachers
Spit on or bite teachers
Unfortunately, not all teachers report these incidents. They want to protect the students they care about. But without reporting the incident, they continue to face a serious risk at work.
Many teachers also do not want to miss work while they recover from an injury. However, teachers have just as much of a right to file for workers’ compensation as any other employee in any other field. It is critical that teachers report their injuries and take the time they need to recover.
Although a few cities in the United States are testing self-driving cars, these cars will not be on the public market in the near future. That considered, many manufacturers, like Tesla, have added autonomous features to their cars. Such features have added both excitement and doubts to the prospect of completely self-driving vehicles.
One of the main points of debate about self-driving cars regards how they could significantly reduce the chance of an accident, and therefore traffic injuries and fatalities as well. However, the safety of self-driving technology has come under fire once again with the death of another Tesla driver just last month.
The deaths of four drivers casting doubt on self-driving cars
Tesla's Autopilot system is not exactly equivalent to a self-driving car; however, it does use cameras and cruise control technology to essentially make the car drive and even change lanes on its own. Although the system may function, many reports state that Autopilot does not perform nearly as well as any human driver.
That is because the technology—as well as cars themselves—can malfunction. Such malfunctions have left Tesla facing scrutiny after several accidents involving Autopilot failures, with at least four resulting in fatalities.
However, human error is certainly a leading cause of auto accidents
Stories like the Tesla accidents make many people doubt if self-driving cars can truly reduce the rate of accidents.
But, there is no doubt that reckless drivers cause the most accidents. One of our recent post discussed how Maryland has the most at-fault drivers in the nation. And, a Forbes article reports various alarming accident statistics, including:
There are more than six million car accidents each year in the United States
Nearly 19,000 drivers are killed in those accidents
More than 70% of those accidents resulted from distracted driving, drunk driving or speeding
The article does admit that with how often negligent drivers contribute to accidents, self-driving cars could indeed have a significant—and perhaps positive—impact on these numbers. However, especially with the recent Tesla accidents, we are still far from feeling that impact.
It is too soon to tell how safe self-driving cars are
Since self-driving technology is not available to the public, and many companies are still in the early testing phases, it is too soon to tell if self-driving cars could actually reduce injuries on the road. Even when they are made available to the public, there is no telling how many drivers will purchase self-driving vehicles.
This seems to be an issue for the future. However, one thing will not change: regardless of how an accident happens, if you were not at fault, the law will still protect victims of negligent driving and entitle injured persons to compensation.
Long-term injuries that compound over time are silent threats to many Maryland workers. Even though jobs like construction work often involve a higher risk of injury, desk jobs and assembly line work often lead to long-term work injuries as well.
However, there are many adjustments that employers could make to the work environment to help prevent these injuries and protect their workers.
High risks: Sitting and repetitive motions
Many news sources refer to sitting as "the new smoking." While this is not necessarily true, the Mayo Clinic does agree that sitting for long periods of time can cause significant health risks, including:
Contributing to higher blood pressure and the risk of cardiovascular disease
Producing significant pain in the back, neck and shoulders
Making certain pre-existing conditions worse
However, standing is not much better. Workers in factories and assembly lines spend most of the day standing, which can also cause back injuries or joint damage.
These two kinds of workers also share the risk of repetitive stress injuries from repeated actions, such as typing or always turning to one side.
Is ergonomics the key?
Most people are aware of how ergonomic work equipment can help reduce these long-term injuries. In recent years, many workplaces have added:
Standing desks and movable monitors
Adjustable and supportive chairs
Keyboards that allow hands to rest naturally
Supportive mats on the floors that also prevent fall injuries
However, a recent article from EHS Today is once again emphasizing the importance of ergonomic equipment in the workplace. The article states that it might be crucial to modify the workplace, so it also supports the physical human body as well as the workers. And that might require more efforts, such as ensuring a safe temperature in the workplace and installing machines to take care of heavy lifting for industrial workers.
Applying ergonomics could substantially reduce the risk of work injuries. And employers do have a duty to take care of any hazards in the workplace, including the silent threats of long-term injuries.
In a recent post, we discussed how two large Maryland companies were not up to par in creating safe workplaces for their employees. That post also briefly discussed the increasing number of employees who suffer from workplace violence each year.
These are only a few of the variables that can add up to a serious workplace accident. And since many accidents are preventable, some employees might feel unsafe at work long before an accident even occurs.
So, what can Maryland employees do if they feel unsafe at work?
1. Request proper training measures
Most workplaces across Maryland provide comprehensive training that instructs employees on what to do in a dangerous situation. These could include informational packets from Human Resources or even regular fire drills.
Regardless of the kind of training, it should meet the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These standards generally include:
Informing all employees of emergency safety plans
Posting warnings and plans visibly around the workplace
Properly advising employees on how to complete their job safely
If an employer does not meet these standards, they could face penalties for an OSHA violation.
Employees who believe they did not receive adequate training to protect their safety can also request further training from Human Resources or their employer.
2. Communicate with your employer
It may be the simplest piece of advice, but employees should also speak with their employers if they feel unsafe at work. They can report directly to their employer regarding:
Concerns of workplace violence in good faith
Hazards witnessed in the workplace
Incidents of workplace injuries as soon as possible
Reporting these potential dangers could prevent an accident before it happens.
However, this is also where many employees run into problems. Unfortunately, many employers might not do anything about the potential hazards in the workplace.
3. Refuse to work
This concept was also briefly mentioned in a recent post, but it bears repeating—and explaining.
If an employer does not address dangers or hazards in the workplace, and an employee truly believes that they are not safe or at serious risk of an injury, then they can refuse to work. No employer can force an individual to work. However, refusing to work may run the risk of termination due to absenteeism.
If a worker strongly feels that a working condition is so dangerous that they must stop work, an individual may need legal counsel before they stay out of work. If the worker is a part of a collective bargaining agreement or union, they should seek the advice of their shop-steward or union representative. If the job has no union, a worker should seek legal advice prior to calling out of work due to the dangerous condition.
Dealing with unsafe working conditions can be overwhelming. And it is difficult to make the best decision depending on a particular circumstance. However, it is safe to say that employees should prioritize their health and safety over their work.
And this year, two Maryland based companies appeared on the list.
Two Maryland companies in the dirty dozen
In April, the National COSH reported that both Integra Health Management Inc. and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland failed to take reasonable measures to protect their employees in the workplace.
And the reason both of these companies made the list? Their failure to combat workplace violence.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited both of these companies for violations before. However, the risk of workplace violence is increasing. And these companies evidently are not taking measures to reduce the risk that their employees face.
What is workplace violence?
According to OSHA, workplace violence involves employees facing the danger or threat of harm while on the job. This could include verbal or physical threats or actual harm from:
A third-party or a client
Purposeful violence is just as much of a danger to employees as an accident. And while employees can recover workers' compensation if they suffer a severe injury from workplace violence, it is most critical for employers to protect their workers from these situations.
Healthcare workers face a higher risk of workplace violence
Both Integra Health Management and Johns Hopkins are in the medical field. And healthcare workers are some of the employees who deal with a high risk of violence in the workplace.
This is because the employees often deal directly with the public, as well as individuals with unstable mental health or a history of violence. For example, many nurses at Johns Hopkins report that they experience severe violence from patients at work. And they also report that the hospital does nothing about their claims.
These situations are nothing new to healthcare workers or the healthcare industry. However, that is the main reason that both companies should understand how to protect their employees' safety.
What can you do if your workplace violates safety standards?
One of an employer's primary concerns—and responsibilities—should be to ensure their employees have a safe place to work. The availability of workers' compensation may provide some comfort to employees, but it should not be necessary when workplace violence is so preventable.
Working provides individuals with income. And it goes without question that gainful employment is necessary. However, employment should never come before an individual's safety.