Workers in all kinds of environments are at risk of injury from common workplace dangers. Texas is a leader in many industries, such as oil and gas, but this means it also has a record number of workplace injuries each year. Employees must be informed of hazards and how to avoid them to decrease the number of unnecessary injuries and lost time from work.
In addition to reducing time at work, work hazards cause fatalities and change lives when employees are severely harmed. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported over 5,000 deaths on the job in 2021, an increase of 8.9% over the previous year. Texas has seen a steady decrease in non-fatal workplace illnesses and injuries over the last decade, although there are still close to 200,000 incidents each year.
The best way to protect yourself is to be aware of common workplace hazards and how to avoid injuries or illness. Let’s examine each of the top 5 workplace hazards more closely.
1. Chemical Exposure
Chemical hazards and toxic substances pose a variety of health risks regardless of the workplace. While some chemicals are safer than others, even common substances like cleaning products can lead to illness, skin irritation, or respiratory problems. Chemical exposure can come in the form of solids, fumes, liquids, vapors, gases, dust, and corrosives.
Based on data from the CDC, the top five chemicals resulting in injuries are carbon monoxide, ammonia, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, and sulfuric acid. Exposure to chemicals like these and others can cause a worker to experience nausea, headaches, vomiting, skin rashes, and poisoning symptoms. With long-term exposure, victims may develop lung, kidney, or liver disorders.
Avoiding chemical exposure requires business to train in and require employee adherence to safety rules and use of safety gear. Workers can’t just ask their employers if they can avoid using hazardous substances or substitute something less dangerous, since most often these items are requirement components of their daily work. Companies should also store chemicals properly in an isolated area with a separate ventilation system.
There are between 70,000 and 80,000 fires in the workplace each year. Fires in the workplace result in more than 200 deaths and an additional 5,000 injuries annually in the United States. The majority of workplace fires are preventable with proper employee training. OSHA mandates that employers have adequate exits and unobstructed escape routes in the event of a fire.
Every workplace has a certain risk of fire, but some are more prone than others. For example, in manufacturing and industrial environments, fires are frequently caused by:
- Combustible substances: In addition to posing a risk from exposure, many chemicals are highly combustible or flammable. These materials must be stored in cool, dry locations to reduce the risk of fire.
- Electrical wiring and equipment: In any workplace, overloaded outlets and exposed wiring can start a fire. When heavy machinery is present, sparks or electrical shorts can ignite surrounding materials. All employees must be trained on reporting risks and containing flames.
- Flammable liquids and gasses: When substances such as oil and gas are part of your daily work, the chances that a fire will start are extremely high. Storage, containment, and fire suppression safety procedures must be followed closely to protect workers’ lives.
- Welding and other hot work: The high temperatures and sparks produced when welding and soldering can risk starting a fire. Sparks can be as hot as 1,000°F and ignite any surrounding materials that are flammable or combustible. Again, safety procedures must be properly taught and observed to prevent injury.
The most important precaution any company can take is to develop, teach, and stick to a fire safety plan. Regular reviews and updates can reduce the risks of fire in a workplace, saving workers from life-changing harm and potential death. Employers should commit time and resources to clearly communicating their fire safety plans to workers.
3. Repetitive Stress Injuries
Repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) are caused by repeating the same movement over and over again or maintaining the same position for extended periods of time. A common RSI is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Workers in office jobs, assembly line work, and manufacturing are often most at risk for RSIs. Injuries to the hand, wrist, forearm, shoulder, and back can result from certain ergonomic hazards, such as poorly designed workstations, improper posture, heavy lifting, and repetitive typing.
Additional causes of RSIs include:
- Working with vibrating equipment
- Having to hold an uncomfortable or awkward posture for extended periods
- Pushing, pulling, shoving, or other forceful movements
- Repeating a task frequently each hour for a full shift every day
- Not taking enough breaks so the muscles can rest
- Frequently turning, twisting, or lifting objects with awkward shapes or poor weight distribution
RSIs can be prevented by optimizing workstations, providing proper tools, and ensuring workers take enough breaks to rest. Training on proper lifting techniques and prioritizing safety over production quotas can encourage employees to avoid behavior that could lead to injuries over time.
Each year, approximately 325 people die, and another 4,000 are injured in electrical workplace accidents. Electrical hazards in the workplace can come from exposure to electricity, lightning strike, or arc flashes, which occur when an electrical current deviates from its intended path and travels through the air.
- Exposure to electricity: Faulty wiring, pooled or dripping water, and improper lockout procedures that do not de-energize equipment can put employees at risk of electrocution injuries and death. They may suffer burns, seizures, cognitive damage, heart attacks, and passing out.
- Lightning strikes: On oil rigs and construction sites, workers are in danger of lightning strikes if they cannot get to safety before a storm hits. In addition to suffering the effects of this electrical exposure, they may fall from a great height.
- Arc flashes or blasts: These occur in environments where equipment or structures are not properly grounded. Electrical current can leave its intended path and travel through the air or water on the ground to other conductive materials, potentially harming anyone nearby.
Employers can avoid many of these situations by ensuring all workers use the proper safety gear, are trained to avoid electrical incidents, and follow the prescribed lockout and de-energizing procedures at all times.
Generally, falls are broken into two categories – falls at the same level and falls to a lower level. While any work site is susceptible to fall hazards, the construction and maritime industries are at greater risk than others. In fact, falls to a lower level are the leading cause of death for construction workers.
Hazardous conditions contributing to fall accidents are slippery surfaces, improper use of ladders, uneven or unstable walking surfaces, floor openings, poor housekeeping, and inadequate fall protection. Other causes include:
- Spilled liquids or substances like sand
- Pooled water
- Unsecured rugs or flooring materials
- Changes in traction between work areas
- Uncovered cables or wires
- Uneven steps or stairways
- Debris in the work area
- Insufficient railings
- Failure to use harnesses and attachments when working at heights
Companies can prevent many fall accidents by maintaining strict cleaning schedules, having regular safety inspections, and performing repairs on potential fall hazards immediately. Employees should observe all safety protocols and warn others about risks.
How A Texas Workplace Injury Lawyer Can Help
In many cases, someone else is to blame for your workplace injury. Your employer may have neglected to implement necessary changes to ensure safety or have allowed substandard conditions that caused you harm. A contractor or other individual may have contributed to your accident. Regardless of who is at fault, you need professional legal help holding them accountable.
If you’ve been injured in a work-related accident, contact The Krist Law Firm, P.C. for help. We have more than 40 years of experience representing victims of accidents in various industries. Our team can provide a comprehensive explanation of your legal options and help you fight for the maximum possible compensation in your case.
The Houston work accident lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. offer a free consultation to discuss your case so we can determine the best course of action for your circumstances. We also work on a contingency fee basis, meaning we do not charge any fees unless we obtain compensation for your injuries. With no risk and no obligation, you can learn more about how to proceed with an insurance claim or potential lawsuit to seek justice.