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Missouri Workplace Safety Guide

Missouri Workplace Safety Guide

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Workplace safety should be a high priority for employers operating Missouri businesses. The risks of employee injury are present everywhere, and no employer wants an employee getting hurt on the job and taking civil actions for money compensation. If evidence shows that there was insufficient work training for the job, the plaintiff, or injured employee, could sue the defendant, or employer, for reimbursement of medical bills – if the employer was grossly negligent of employee safety, they may even face punitive damages. Thankfully, employers can employ methods to decrease worker injury and properly respond to them when they do occur.  

This workplace safety guide will provide you with the information employers and employees need to prevent hazards and unsafe conditions in your workplace, creating greater protection for the company and employees. 

COMMON CAUSES OF ACCIDENTS IN THE WORKPLACE

There are a variety of accident causes in the workplace, many of which are easily preventable by proper order and conduct. Accidents occurring at work are often due to one of the following:

BREAKDOWN BY OCCUPATION

Just as there are common types of workplace injuries, findings show that there are also common occupations that are prone to workplace injuries. This is because the inherent nature of the work increases the likelihood of injury. Some of these industries and occupations include: 

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Truck and delivery drivers

– these sorts of drivers are responsible for transporting cargo for long distances. In fact, the risk of this job is so high that the National Highway Safety Administration imposes rules that limit how long a truck driver may operate a truck before he or she is legally required to stop for a break. It is most scary when these large trucks get into accidents with cars that are a fraction of their size. Again, the responsibility of this sort of workplace injury falls heavily on the employer, who is expected to regulate the driver’s hours. 

Construction workers

– those who work in construction zones are in hazardous territory. This is because the risk of a heavy object striking or falling on them is high. Whether it is a construction worker building a skyscraper or a home, this occupation commonly sees workplace injuries. Further, construction workers in especially unique environments, such as highway building zones, face the risk of getting injured not only by moving or stationary machinery but also by other things in their way, such as passing cars. 

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Roofers

– Homebuilders, due to the lack of safeguards present when working on top of a house, face the risk of falling from a significant height. Roofers may also sustain injuries by losing their balance on an insecure ladder.

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Electrical workers or linemen

– these types of occupations face injury risks mostly associated with getting shocked or electrocuted by electric lines they are working on.

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Civil workers

– this line of workers, including police officers and firefighters, risk their lives every day on the job. In fact, it is the responsibility of public sector workers to physically put themselves in front of danger to protect individuals and families. Because of this, they are highly susceptible to being shot, stabbed, or getting stuck in a violent fire when trying to save someone inside of a house. Unfortunately, other than crime reduction efforts in the community and fire safety education, experts have not found many tactics an employer could use to reduce the likelihood of injury in this occupation. 

Loggers

Loggers

– logging and other forestry work are considered extremely dangerous. A variety of factors, including using heavy equipment and chainsaws, the ability of trees to fall down or roll down a hill, and transporting wood, make loggers very prone to injuries. Because of the possibility of getting pinned down or struck by heavy trees, severe injuries to the back, neck, or brain can occur. While the self risks of logging are inherently high, proper oversight, working in teams rather than alone, and making sure wood is properly secured can reduce the chances of workplace injury.

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Steel and ironworkers

– this type of worker is responsible for assembling and installing large steel and iron structures. Sharp equipment is typically used to cut into these materials, which creates a high risk for injuries, including amputations, broken bones, and burns. However, mechanisms are available to lower the chances of injury, such as having fall protection or fall arrest equipment, securing toxic chemicals or sharp ends when not in use, and making sure electrical units are reliable. 

Farming machinery spraying pesticides on crops

Farmers and agriculture workers

– though this type of worker is not often discussed for injury risks on the job, farmers and agriculture workers nonetheless face injuries. Equipment such as tractors and pesticide sprayers can often lead to injuries. Also, pesticide use over a sufficient enough of time can lead to cancer, pulmonary disease, and difficulty breathing. For example, expert doctors and researchers have found links between Paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease.

Worker and freight

Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers

– Laborers are responsible for all sorts of job tasks. For example, they may be moving furniture for a family relocating to Florida or delivering stoves to a commercial kitchen. On the other hand, freight and stock movers typically use equipment to unload or load stuff rather than their bodies. For example, they may be using a machine to load pieces of wood onto a shelf at a home improvement store or stocking bags of rice into the bottom shelf of a grocery store. 

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Factory workers

– these employees work in a factory setting where they often perform the same function repeatedly. Because of this, single incident injuries are uncommon. Factory workers include those who manufacture clothes or cars. A unique challenge of being a factory worker is dealing with heat elements. Discomfort from sweating may decrease productivity and hurt performance and concentration, thus increasing the chances of injury. Also, there should be regular inspection of factory belts and machinery.

Mining equipment

Miners

– Similar to many of the occupations discussed above, miners work with heavy equipment. Additionally, they encounter adverse heat conditions due to being underground and operating equipment that generates heat. Specific injuries that miners are susceptible to on the job include roof collapse, burn injuries, and lung congestion.

Garbage truck workers

Refuse and recyclable material collectors

– this sort of worker often rides on the back of a trash or recycle collection truck. This poses two dangers: First, the collectors rely on their ability to hold on to the truck and the safe driving of the truck operator. And second, the collectors are trusting that the drivers around them are not going to hit them.

Road worker

Highway maintenance workers

– these workers include those who oversee the building and safe administration of highways. The proximity to high-speed vehicles driving by poses a significant risk to them on the job.  

Airplane

Airplane and helicopter pilots

– Pilots are operators of large vehicles that transport people through the air. This is a high-stress job due to the burden of safely transporting numerous people, having to potentially implement terrorist protocols, and limited landing ground in an emergency. In addition, pilots face injuries such as wrongful death, bodily damage due to smaller impact crashes, and even injuries due to passenger confrontation.

Oil worker

Oil workers

– A unique type of occupation due to extended periods of time working away from home. Oil workers are typically stationed at a workplace and work long hours. As a result, pumping oil, particularly in water zones such as the ocean, raises the risk of injuries. For example, disastrous oil spills have occurred in the ocean, causing workers to drown or suffer from severe burn injuries.

According to the Missouri Department of Labor, transportation drivers were the source of over 5,500 injuries while on the job, a dozen of which ended in fatalities.  As a highly populated area, Missouri is consistently increasing its workforce of truck drivers, delivery drivers, and refuse collectors to respond to customer demand. However, the more foot and transportation traffic, regardless of how safe the measures implemented are, the higher the likelihood that transportation workers will get injured.  

Construction workers have less injuries compared to their transportation driver counterparts. In 2020, construction workers suffered from slightly over 4,000 injuries. Despite this smaller number, twenty of these injuries resulted in death. This is due to the heavy equipment and materials used in construction zones that aren’t present in transportation settings. St. Louis was one of the higher injury risk zones for construction workers due to the growing economy in the area. St. Louis is a highly visited tourist spot, which prompts new construction and presents risks to construction workers working on tight deadlines. 

Electrical workers and linemen saw no fatalities in 2020 and suffered from under six hundred injuries. This is down by two hundred from 2019, demonstrating an increased emphasis on safety measures in electrical work settings. There has been improved oversight by the city and state with regulations on the industry and internal controls.   

Steel, iron, and other lines of work requiring manufacturing of materials account for a large amount of St. Louis reported injuries. While down from 2019, the number of 2020 injuries here totaled just over 12,000. However, the industry did lower the average of injuries that was hovering around the 14,000 per year mark from 2016 to 2019. 

Unlike their counterparts listed above, civil workers responsible for public administration and safety have actually seen a rise in injuries since 2017. Injuries in this category of occupation were just under 9,000 in 2017 and exceeded over 10,500 in 2020. Perhaps a factor in these higher numbers is the recent dangers associated with holding some public positions, such as a police officer or firefighter.  

STATISTICS OF INJURED WORKERS IN MISSOURI

The table below shows the total injuries in Missouri workplace environments that occurred in 2020. About 9% of the total injuries resulted in employees losing time at work due to the severity of their injuries.

2020
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec Total
Fatalities 6 9 8 9 10 11 8 10 15 10 14 9 119
Injury Incidents 8,643 7,981 7,180 5,700 5,898 7,039 7,911 7,839 7,973 8,354 7,998 8,440 90,956
Lost Time Incidents 867 761 828 814 697 873 910 903 635 572 366 66 8,292

In addition to the statistics laid out above, the following industries were not shy when it came to reporting workplace accidents.

Scientific Services

– this profession usually includes chemists and physicists who work with chemicals and other structures. Due to the experiential nature of this occupation, injuries can and do occur. However, Missouri scientific service providers have boosted their response tool kit over the years, and the numbers show it. In 2017, just over 3,000 injuries occurred, and in 2020, there were less than 2,000 injuries.

Agriculture and fishing workers

– Also a small contender, this field accounts for just over 800 of Missouri’s workplace injuries in 2020. In fact, this occupation has only seen five deaths in the last five years.

Health care and social workers

– turning the page, these occupations see high amounts of workplace injuries. Uniquely, many health care and social worker injuries don’t arise from physical on-the-job activities, but rather interactions with clients. In 2020 alone, nearly 23,000 employees in this industry sustained an injury, with over a dozen of them dying. This fatality rate skyrocketed from 2019, which only had two deaths.

SAFETY TIPS IN THE WORKPLACE

There are numerous ways that employers and workers can stay safe on the job and reduce the risk of accidents. Implementing the following types of policies is not only likely to increase safety on the job but to increase employee morale and productivity:

 Without health standards and policies in place, employees may be subject to serious hazards. Therefore, a safety program is necessary to create a safe workplace. 

MISSOURI LABOR LAWS

Other than maintaining the safety of employees, employers should be encouraged to implement strict workplace safety standards due to liability imposed by the laws and legislation. Some labor laws applicable in Missouri include:

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

– This Federal Law Requires That Employers Establish Pay Standards For All Employees. This Includes Adhering To An Hourly Minimum Wage For All Business Days, Providing Overtime Pay For Non-Exempt Workers, And Accounting For Unique Positions That Allow For Tips.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

– OSHA is a federally mandated law that focuses on healthy and safe working conditions and environments for workers. Independent Occupational Safety inspectors look for training implemented by employers, safety equipment provided, and hazardous conditions that may jeopardize employee safety. If OSHA determines an employer is violating a set regulation, it will impose a timeframe for correction and potentially a penalty such as a fine.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

– prevents harassment of workers based on categories such as race, age, or disability. For example, if a worker is pregnant, she must be accommodated if her pregnancy affects her ability to perform her job duties for a period of time.

UNIONS IN MISSOURI

Employers should also be cognizant of labor unions. A labor union represents the interests of laborers in particular industries to ensure they are properly treated and compensated in adherence to their human rights. Some well-known Missouri unions include:

Smart Union

– boosting over $20 million in assets, this union oversees sheet, metal, and HVAC workers. They have been in business for over a hundred years and are prompt about responding to union needs such as strikes.

Teamsters

– a national organization, Teamsters has many unions throughout Missouri. Teamsters is well known for focusing on employee wages and benefits. As a result, they secure, on average, nearly a third more in wages for their union members compared to non-unionized employee representatives.

It is important to know that an employee need not financially contribute to a union that is attached to their line of work due to recent federal court pronouncements. This means that an employer shouldn’t assume an employee doesn’t have representation from a union based on their ability to pay or interest in participating in union activities.

COVID-19 AND THE WORKPLACE

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to monitor COVID-19 despite the issuance of a vaccine. COVID risk is highly prevalent in workplace settings due to the close proximity of employees, not knowing where employees have been, and not knowing who employees have interacted with.  

Employers should take precautions to decrease the risk of their employees catching the coronavirus: 

• Encourage employees to wear face coverings. N-95 and other specialty masks are best for preventing COVID-19.  

• Require employees who test positive for COVID-19 to report immediately to their boss. In turn, the employer should communicate this to other workers who were near the infected employee.  

• Mandate a two-week quarantine period for employees who tested positive or are feeling symptomatic.  

• Allow flexibility in remote work where feasible and implement social distancing.  

• Encourage frequent COVID-19 testing. An employer may incentivize testing by offering to pay for or subsidize testing. 

• Encourage employees to get the COVID vaccine. However, employers should be cautious with this as political and social views are interconnected with vaccines.

RESOURCES AVAILABLE FOR INJURED WORKERS

In the case of a workplace injury, employers should take special care to show that they are interested in the employee’s recovery. However, this should not be tied or associated with accepting responsibility or issuing an apology. An employer can: 

• Offer a list of medical providers that the injured employee may go to and be covered under employer-issued insurance company benefits. 

• Refer injured employees to the Missouri Labor Division of Workers Compensation. 

• Refer injured employees to experienced lawyers who specialize in workplace injuries. 

• Inform injured employees that Missouri workers’ compensation benefits and services are offered to employees who are out of work due to a workplace injury. Typical benefits include coverage of medical expenses, lost wages, and permanent disability.

Employees have legal rights to work in a safe environment. Missouri employers can prevent injuries and potential lawsuits by abiding by all requirements from government agencies, the Division of Labor Standards, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Missouri Department of Labor, and consulting with legal counsel to ensure the company abides by workplace safety standards. 

If you were injured on the job or if you have any questions about health laws and workplace safety, contact our experienced lawyers at NST Law today to obtain legal advice on Missouri workplace safety. Our St. Louis Workers’ Compensation Attorneys can help you recover the benefits you deserve for medical expenses, lost wages from missed work, and permanent disability.

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