Omaha, NE (WorkersCompensation.com) - After four preventable work-related deaths since March 9, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging Husker state employers to carefully review safety and health programs, and their procedures to stem the tragic tide.
While investigators in the agency's Omaha Area Office prepare their findings, the office is also offering compliance assistance, tips and other information to employers and workers on common workplace safety hazards and how to prevent illness and injury.
"Employers and workers alike can prevent job-related injury and death with simple, common sense safety procedures," said Jeff Funke, OSHA's area director in Omaha. "With spring now upon us, construction and other seasonable work will soon be in full swing. Once again, workers will be exposed to some of the most frequently cited OSHA hazards such as falls, struck-by, and trenching - three of the hazards suspected in the most recent fatalities."
OSHA's Omaha office is currently investigating the following workplace deaths:
March 9: A 62-year-old worker in Sutherland died after falling more than 38-feet while installing a platform in preparation for work on a grain leg. Falls remain the leading cause of death in the construction industry. OSHA offers a Stop Falls online resource with detailed information in English and Spanish on fall protection standards.
March 16: A 42-year-old superintendent at Cooperative Producers Inc. grain handling site in Hayland suffered fatal injuries caused by an operating auger as he drew grain from a bin. OSHA's Grain Handling Industry Local Emphasis Program* focuses on the grain and feed industry's six major hazards: engulfment, falls, auger entanglement, "struck by," combustible dust explosions and electrocution hazards.
March 20: A 42-year-old Lincoln resident died after a vehicle struck him at a road construction site on the southwest corner of Highway 94 and County Road 31 in Walthill. He was a temporary worker employed by Labor Ready of Lincoln working as a flagger for the road construction project managed by Brandt Excavation. Struck-by incidents are the leading cause of workplace fatalities investigated by OSHA in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, with 23 struck-by fatalities occurring in fiscal year 2015. Stuck-by incidents accounted for at least 20 percent of all fatalities in FY 2014. OSHA has a Regional Emphasis Program*, to increase industry outreach and inspections to reduce worker injury and illness rates involving vehicles, and motorized equipment in construction, general industry and maritime industries.
March 21: A trench collapse killed a 61-year-old plumber employed by Clau-Chin Construction Inc., of Alliance and injured another worker as they installed residential sewer lines in the 2800 block of Toluca Street in Alliance. OSHA's trenching standards require employers to use protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet and keep soil and other materials at least two feet from the edge of trench. Research shows that a cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as 3,000 lbs., about the weight of small automobile. Trenching and excavation are among the most dangerous construction activities, and cave-ins are often lethal to workers crushed or suffocated by thousands of pounds of soil and rock.
So far in 2016, four work-related deaths have been reported in Nebraska. In 2015, 12 workers died on the job in the state.
Additionally, OSHA has also opened 41 investigations since Jan. 1, 2016, 32 incidents were hospitalizations and nine were due to amputations. Last year, 162 severe Nebraska worker injuries were reported* to OSHA, 113 of those required hospitalization and 52 involved amputation injuries.
Since Jan. 1, 2015, OSHA requires employers to report any severe work-related injury - defined as a hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye - within 24 hours. The requirement that an employer report a workplace fatality within eight hours remains in force. In the first full year of the program, employers nationwide reported 10,388 severe injuries, including 7,636 hospitalizations and 2,644 amputations.
"The prompt reporting of worker injuries has created opportunities for us to work with employers to develop safer workplaces," Funke said. "When employers, workers, unions and safety professionals from OSHA work together we can ensure better working conditions and safety training for all Nebraskans and prevent debilitating injuries, illness and death that cost our economy and families untold sums."