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Importance of Workplace Safety

Representing Injured Workers Across the Nation: (888) 493-1629!

All Texas employers have an ethical and legal obligation to provide workers a safe and secure environment, free from hazards of serious physical injury or death. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency that issues and enforces workplace standards in the United States. If an employee is injured due to an employer’s failure to meet OSHA standards, that employee may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, and rehabilitation treatment.

Contact Arnold & Itkin to explore your options. We have won billions on behalf of clients!

OSHA Safety Standards

Working in plants and other heavy industry jobs can be very dangerous. The constant handling of chemicals and complex machinery leaves plenty of room for human error, which can lead to serious injury, property damage, and even death. For this reason, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets critical standards for worker safety in an industrial environment. One of the most important rules is the Process Safety Management (PSM) regulation, which "contains requirements for preventing or minimizing the consequences of catastrophic releases of toxic, reactive, flammable or explosive chemicals…which may result in toxic, fire or explosion hazards." OSHA governs most workplaces in the private sector. This includes hospitals, offices, shipyards, warehouses, oil and gas refineries, chemical plants, and construction sites.

OSHA requires employers to:

  • Make sure that all employees have safe equipment, tools, and materials.
  • Report any fatal workplace accident that resulted in three or more workers being hospitalized.
  • Provide training and medical examinations where required.
  • Keep detailed records of all accidents, injuries, illnesses, and deaths.
  • Acknowledge, correct, and post OSHA citations.

What OSHA Violations Look Like

While the laws are designed to protect workers from getting injured, all too often they are not enforced or are flagrantly ignored by companies and property owners. Our attorneys have, unfortunately, tried many cases in which a worker was injured after a work-site fire because the exit routes were either blocked or insufficient in number. Too often, companies put worker safety behind profits. We cannot rely solely on OSHA to police dangerous work practices. When companies fail to provide escape routes, and their workers get burned, then we need to hold those companies responsible. Too many workers have been hurt or killed while the companies cover up their misdeeds and continue to profit.

Improper Maintenance

Machines, equipment, tools, and vehicles should be maintained regularly or whenever a test or signal indicates that a repair is needed. Floors, stairs, guardrails, and other features should be periodically maintained as well. Defective machinery can cause catastrophic injuries.

Improper maintenance can lead to forklifts, steers, cranes, or derricks experiencing problems with:

  • Braking and steering
  • Transmission or hydraulic systems
  • Frayed electrical wiring
  • Oily and wet floors, stairways, or ship decks

Inadequate Inspection

Periodic inspections can detect defective ladders and scaffolds or defects in equipment such as cranes. Inspections can also reveal whether workers are operating machines properly or following safety protocol, such as using personal protective equipment or safety guards. When employers fail to inspect machines and other equipment adequately, they are not doing their job to maintain a safe work environment.

Insufficient Training & Supervision

Employers must train employees on how to perform their work safely and regularly supervise employees to make sure they are following protocol. For example, workers should be taught how to properly operate power tools such as saws or drills, or how to move heavy equipment or boxes without straining their backs. They should also be required to wear gloves, coveralls, and goggles when operating equipment.

Exposure to Hazardous Conditions

An employer has violated OSHA regulations if it has exposed employees to serious injury or death. An employer puts workers in danger by failing to place guards on moving parts of equipment and machinery, forcing employees to work around chemicals and dust that exceed permissible exposure limits, ignored specific requirements for air sampling in confined spaces, or failed to use proper sloping/storage of excavated materials.

How Has OSHA Helped the Workplace?

One of the primary functions of the OSHA is to provide regulations that will help promote the safety of workers in industries of every kind. Over the years, they have been successful in this pursuit, and it has created regulations that have helped reduce industrial accidents and injuries.

Some of the pieces of regulations that they have helped enforce:

  • Expand the use of guards to cover moving parts in all machinery;
  • Standard to keep healthcare workers from being exposed to dangerous pathogens;
  • Energy sources must be turned "off" during repair and maintenance;
  • When handling chemicals, protective equipment must be utilized; and
  • Currently, workers in 7 states must have formal OSHA safety training.

This is just a brief sampling of the different work-related regulations that have been put into place through the efforts of the OSHA. Currently, the organization has over 2,000 inspectors who make it their duty to ensure that these regulations are enforced and that employees are properly protected. In 2010 alone, there are over 40,000 inspections that took place on a federal level and over 55,000 state plan inspections. Since 1970, with help from their efforts, there has been more than a 65% reduction in fatalities in the workplace and a 67% decrease in the injuries and illness.

OSHA Training Resources

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducts training programs for compliance officers, as well as the private sector. Private training institutes also offer OSHA compliant training programs that are based on the Act's regulations.

  • OSHA Training Institute: The OSHA Training Institute was established to educate and train federal and state officers who are in charge of monitoring OSHA compliance, as well as other federal and state staff.

  • OSHA Training Institute & Education Centers: The OSHA Education Centers were set up as an extension of the OSHA Training Institute as a response to the demand for OSHA training from an increasing number of interested private sector companies. Currently, these Education Centers provide courses to trainers who are then able to train workers in several industries, including the construction and general industry. These programs also include modules on Hazardous Material, Ergonomics, Electrical Standards, and Fall Arrest Systems.

  • OSHA Training & Reference Materials: The OSHA Training and Reference Materials Library consists of additional resources that supplement OSHA training programs, most of them developed by the OSHA Directorate of Training and Education. These cover reference materials about occupational disease and industrial accident prevention, easy-to-use tools to help in training and understanding safety issues.

  • Construction Safety & Health Outreach Program: The construction industry has numerous safety considerations that require social attention, which is why OSHA's Outreach Program for the industry is one of its most popular training programs. The program covers modules on scaffolding, crane derrick, and conveyor safety, safe methods of power transmissions, excavations, compliance processes for hand tools and powered machinery, as well as the kind of personal protective equipment that should be provided to workers. Trainees are then allowed to train worker populations in the construction industry.

Importance of OSHA Compliance in Oil Refineries

Since refineries are 24-hour operations, equipment is placed under greater strain and needs to be inspected, maintained, and repaired with greater frequency than other industrial machines. Assuring the mechanical integrity of refinery equipment is important, not only for production purposes but also to prevent workplace injuries. It is particularly important to maintain critical equipment like pressure vessels, piping, furnaces, and boiler tubes since failures in these locations can result in catastrophic incidents. If a tragic accident does occur, examining written inspection and maintenance policies can help identify whether employer negligence contributed to dangerous equipment failure.

Process Safety Information Compliance

Process safety information (PSI) compliance dictates that all employers complete a comprehensive written analysis of the potential hazards involved in operating processes. An effective PSI should include information about the toxicity of chemicals involved in operations, permissible exposure rates, chemical interactivity, and other potential hazards. It is essential for an effective PSI program to have complete and accurate information available, to serve both as a guide to employees and as the first resource for corrective action should an accident occur.

When an accident does occur, examining a refinery's written process safety information can help determine whether the employer was in compliance. The law states that employers must consult with employees when developing and implementing process safety management programs and hazard assessments. It also requires that employers train and educate employees on findings from incident investigations.

Emergency Action Plans

Emergency action plans are guidelines that will be used in the event of a sudden emergency in the office. Companies with less than 10 people can communicate this plan orally. Companies with more than 10 need to post it on a poster in a place where it is visible for all employees to review. Chosen employees may be designated to assist in an evacuation process. These employees are required to receive assigned jobs and be trained to carry out those jobs. If an employee's role changes, then he or she is required to attend a meeting to learn about the changes.

OSHA requires the following to be included in every emergency action plan:

  • Procedures for reporting fires and emergencies
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation
  • Exit route assignments
  • Procedures for employees that may need to stay behind
  • Procedures to account for all employees post-evacuation
  • Alarm systems set
  • Procedures for employees to perform rescue operations
  • Procedures for employees to perform medical duties

Fire Prevention Plans

In any building, there is the risk of a fire. All employees should be prepared as to how to handle this sudden emergency. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, it is important that all companies have fire prevention and emergency action plans in place. At Arnold & Itkin, we are dedicated to keeping companies accountable and seeking compensation on behalf of injured workers. If you are harmed because your company did not have an emergency action plan or a fire prevention plan, then you may be able to sue for damages.

OSHA requires, at minimum, the following elements for fire prevention plans:

  • Listing all major fire hazards
  • Training employees how to handle hazardous materials
  • Listing protection necessary to control major risks
  • Creating strategies to control flammable materials
  • Naming who is responsible for controlling fuel source hazards
  • Maintaining safeguards on heat-producing equipment
  • Designating employees to maintain equipment and prevent or control sources of ignition or fires

If you work at a company where these requirements were not followed, you may be able to seek compensation if you are injured. All companies need to make sure to enforce their emergency action and fire prevention plans to enhance the safety of those around them.

Contact a Texas Attorney for a Free Case Evaluation: (888) 493-1629

If your employer has demonstrated negligence, carelessness, or indifference to OSHA standards, they could be responsible for your injury or illness. Talk to a Texas attorney from Arnold & Itkin LLP if you would like to discuss your case in full in a free consultation. We examine every aspect of your case to defend your rights. We’re more than happy to discuss your case by phone or with our simple online form.

Call (888) 493-1629 as soon as possible or fill out the form at the bottom of this page.

Case Results

Check Out Our Victories

  • $171Million One of the Largest Confidential Settlements in History Arnold & Itkin worked over the course of several years to represent clients in a case that many other law firms turned down. In the end, we were able to obtain a record-setting confidential settlement of $171 million.
  • $97Million Massive Settlement Secured for Refinery Workers Arnold & Itkin is proud to share that after months of preparation for trial, our firm was able to secure a huge settlement for clients who were injured in a refinery fire. Find out more now.
  • $44Million The Largest Verdict Ever Won for an Amputee Victim Arnold & Itkin represented a construction superintendent who required a leg amputation after a crane collapse. At the time of the collapse, our client had been standing behind a safety fence 100 feet away when a fallen piece of crane equipment pinned him down. Our firm got him the largest award ever given in a case involving loss of limb, including $8.5 million in punitive damages.
  • $39.7Million Record Verdict Won for Victim of Industrial Accident Attorneys Kyle Findley and Adam Lewis obtained a record $39.744 million verdict on behalf of a client who was burned in a severe dust fire and explosion at a plywood plant in Corrigan, TX.
  • $18.5Million Second Verdict Won for 4 Victims of Geismar Explosion In our second trial on behalf of victims of the 2013 plant explosion in Geismar, LA, Arnold & Itkin won a massive verdict for 4 workers and their families. The verdict will go toward providing the extensive care they have required in the years since the explosion as well as the care they will need for the rest of their lives. This was the second of 2 massive verdicts Arnold & Itkin won against Williams Companies, Inc.
  • $15.5Million Massive Verdict Won for Geismar Explosion Victims Arnold & Itkin won a landmark verdict against Williams Companies, Inc. and child company Williams Olefins LLC for their part in the 2013 explosion that killed 2 workers and injured over 100 more. Williams Companies tried to blame the incident on their limited liability shell company, but the jury saw through the defense. They awarded 95% of the blame to Williams Companies, Inc. and gave our clients the money they needed for medical care.
  • $13.7Million Massive Settlement Won Only Months After Injury Arnold & Itkin represented a plant worker who was seriously injured in an accident on the job. Plant injuries are often complex, taking years to fully investigate and litigate. Fortunately, our firm’s work was able to secure a multi-million dollar settlement mere months after the injury took place. Now our client’s medical expenses and other needs are taken care of for the rest of his life.
  • $12Million Injured Worker Received Settlement for Burn Injuries Our industrial injury lawyers have recently recovered $12 million on behalf of a plant worker who suffered burns when a safety valve failed at the refinery where he was employed. His settlement will go toward providing him with extensive and long-term medical care. His employer chose to settle his case two weeks before trial was set to begin.
  • $11.7Million Settlement Won for Plant Worker Injured During Turnaround Attorneys Kurt Arnold and Jason Itkin successfully recovered $11.75 million on behalf of a man who was injured while working a turnaround at an industrial plant. He was injured because he and his team were not informed of the plant’s dangers, and his family turned to Arnold & Itkin shortly afterward. Our team was able to get him money for his present and future medical expenses less than a year after he was injured.
  • $11.6Million Verdict Secured for a Worker Partially Blinded on the Job Our client was only offered $300,000 by the defendant for his near-total loss of sight in one eye, but the jury only deliberated for less than 2 days before they found the defendant guilty of defective equipment design. They gave our client an award of $11.6 million.
  • $4.97Million Settlement Reached for Orthopaedic Injury Victim Our team worked to represent a client who was severely injured while working at a chemical plant. He was performing construction and maintenance work at the time of the incident. In the end, our firm was successful in settling the case for $4.97 million.
  • $4.8Million Verdict Won for Bereaved Daughter Kurt Arnold recovered $4.8 million for a client whose father was killed after suffering a severe head injury in Port Arthur, Texas. Winning justice for grieving clients is a primary reason we became lawyers, and it's our honor to help clients like this one receive help.
  • $4Million Victim of Plant Explosion Received Millions in Settlement Arnold & Itkin attorneys represented a Mississippi man who was severely injured in a Texas refinery plant explosion. Cases like these require a high level of experience and investigative resources due to the myriad factors involved in a plant explosion. Our attorneys are proud to have helped our client receive a settlement of $4,000,000.
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