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Occupational Health and Safety in Challenging Work Environments


With several farms in the area, Apopka ranks fifth for cases of heat illness in Central Florida

By Cindy Cummings

The latest figures form the US Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2019 there were 306 work-related fatalities in Florida. Although this was fewer than the previous year, this number highlights the importance of implementing occupational health and safety regulations and workers compensation insurance in order to deal with often preventable injuries, illnesses and fatalities. However, while adhering to regulations can help to avoid the common causes of workplace injury in challenging environments, extra care needs to be taken by employers to deal with less familiar hazards.

Dealing with Hazards in Cleanrooms

There are a number of cleanrooms across Central Florida, from large medical manufacturing plants in Tampa Bay to facilities at the university for graduate students and professional industrial users. While cleanrooms are a contained space with strictly controlled levels of pollutants and contaminants, workers can still be at risk, and a survey of scientific researchers found that almost half had been injured in the lab. The most common injuries in medical labs were lacerations and needle pricks; however, hazardous chemicals used in specialized manufacturing can also pose a risk to workers and their families. A worker compensation lawyer is familiar with these risks, and is best-placed to help in the event of a serious injury, which could result in loss of wages and significant medical expenses. While promptly reporting an injury can help with a claim, it can also encourage employers to review their health and safety practices in order to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Reducing the Risk of Electrocution on Construction Sites

A recent incident on a building site in Orlando has highlighted the potential dangers of electrocution for construction workers. When a cherry picker hit a power line on the ground, two workers were stranded in the bucket, which was also touching overhead electrical wires. According to the CDC, construction workers are four times more likely to experience electrocution than an average worker in any other occupation. For this reason, workers are always advised to keep a safe distance from power lines, and inform utility companies when they have to use cherry pickers or cranes. This is so lines can be de-energized, which is exactly what the local energy company did in this case in order to allow first responders at the scene to carry out a safe rescue.

Protecting Farm Workers from Extreme Heat

While the most common cause of injury for farm workers is an overturned tractor, on the farms in Florida working in high heat can also pose a significant risk. The average year-round temperature in Florida is 83 degrees, a level at which extreme caution is advised. With several farms in the area, Apopka ranks fifth for cases of heat illness in Central Florida. To protect farmworkers from overexposure to heat, OSHA advises the implementation of a heat illness prevention program, which should include providing plenty of water, shade, and time to rest, as well as regularly monitoring workers for signs of heat stroke.

When occupational health and safety regulations are correctly implemented and followed, most workplace injuries and illnesses can be prevented. In more challenging environments, extra care must be taken to avoid the risks posed by less familiar and potentially more injurious hazards.

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