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Protecting Your Hearing On the Job

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report detailing how workers can protect their hearing on the job.  The CDC estimates that approximately 22 million American workers are exposed to potentially hazardous levels of noise exposure.  Hearing loss is one of the most common work related injuries in the United States.  In addition, prolonged noise exposure can affect workers’ quality of life, increase cardiovascular health risks, and bring a high economic price to American society as a whole.

On the job hearing loss occurs when workers are exposed to loud noise.  Any noise level over 85 decibels may be hazardous to workers’ hearing.  There is a smartphone app available that can estimate noise levels.  On a more basic level, if you cannot hear someone within an arm’s-length without raising your voice, noise levels may be damaging to your hearing.  If these basic methods of measuring noise levels show that noise levels may be hazardous, your employer should do a complete and comprehensive noise survey.

Ear damage is not the same as other injuries.  If your ears are ringing or roaring this could indicate heavy noise exposure.  Continuous noise exposure could lead to permanent hearing loss and damage.  If your ears feel full or stuffy, that is also an indication your ears are experiencing harm.

Also interesting, workplace chemicals can be a potential sources of hearing damage.  These include endocrine disruptors such as Acrylonitrile and Aroclor 1254, heavy metals such as trimethyltin, mercury and lead.  Asphyxiants such as hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide and organic solvents such as trichloroethylene, toluene, xylene, ethylbenzene and styrene can also cause hearing damage.

The CDC also notes certain factors can impact a worker’s vulnerability to hearing loss on the job.  These include biological factors such as race and ethnicity, genetics, age, gender and other health issues.

What is Buy Quiet?

Buy Quiet is a program from the CDC to help reduce employee hearing loss. While hearing loss is not reversible, it is preventable.  Buy Quiet is an initiative from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that encourages employers to rent or buy quieter equipment.  This can occur when a business first starts, or as older machinery is replaced.  The idea is to reduce employees’ exposure to hazardous levels of noise.

Buy Quiet helps reduce the risk of hearing loss.  It reduces the impact of noise on the community at large.  It helps employers comply with OSHA and other regulations.  It also reduces the costs of ongoing testing of noise levels, workers’ compensation claims, and employee personal protective equipment.

The National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed ways to assist employers and promote implementation of the Buy Quiet program.  It is part of the Hearing Loss Prevention Program.  The program performs research on occupational hearing loss.  The program also works with manufacturers in designing equipment that produces less noise.

It is widely recognized that it is much more cost effective to design machinery and tools to reduce noise during their manufacture than it is to attempt to retrofit them after manufacture.  The Buy Quiet program leaves the quiet design decisions to equipment and manufacture designers.

Another benefit of the Buy Quiet program is that it helps remove employees from hearing conservation programs.  It does this by reducing worker exposure to below 85 decibels for eight hours.  Noise reduction programs are much more effective than hearing conservation programs.  Hearing conservation programs involve costs of annual hearing testing, including follow-ups, noise surveys of the workplace, providing hearing protection for employees and maintaining necessary record keeping.

Buy Quiet may be a simple concept, but implementing it has been difficult.  Equipment and machinery manufacturers have not provided noise levels for specific pieces of equipment.  This makes it difficult for business owners and those that purchase equipment and machinery to participate in the Buy Quiet program.  Further, there is no centralized location where this data is available.  In response, NIOSH has promoted Buy Quiet initiatives within organizations and encouraged companies to implement the program.  According to NIOSH, any company where workers are subject to hazardous levels of noise exposure can benefit from Buy Quiet.

Hearing Loss Prevention Program

Businesses should implement Hearing Loss Prevention programs. There are many components to  Hearing Loss Prevention Program.  For a Hearing Loss Prevention Program to be effective, regular noise exposure monitoring is necessary.  This can be expensive, but it is vital for protecting workers.  Additionally, hearing protection requires the participation of both employer and employee.  Employers must provide hearing protection devices, but employees must use the hearing protection devices.  Engineering and administrative controls must also be put into place.  Providing education and motivation to workers, regarding hearing loss prevention, is necessary.  Hearing loss prevention programs should also involve complete record keeping of employer efforts.  Finally, there must be a complete evaluation of the hearing loss prevention program employed by the business.

Other Resources

A number of other resources for hearing loss prevention also exist.  Removal of hazardous noise from the workplace is always the first choice.  However, use of hearing protectors is still appropriate where exposure to hazardous levels of noise cannot be eliminated.

Two tools have been developed by NIOSH to help employers protect employees’ hearings.

The first is the Hearing Protector Device Compendium.  It is a searchable database of hearing protection devices.  It helps employees and employers select the best product for each individual circumstance and noise exposure level.

The second is the NIOSH Well-Fit program.  It is designed to quickly and cheaply test the performance of hearing protection.  It takes approximately four to seven minutes and can be used with any ear plug.

Contact the Attorneys at Madalon Law

The experienced workers’ compensation Florida attorneys at Madalon Law practice in the areas of personal injury and workers’ compensation.  If you have suffered a hearing loss on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your loss.  Contact our attorneys in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach to discuss your case.  There’s no fee or cost to you unless we win your case.

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Recognizing Hazards for Slips, Trips, and Falls in the Workplace

Slips, trips, and falls in the workplace can lead to injury or death in some cases. The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a checklist for employers to review their work space to see if there are any hazards that could be identified and eliminated. Taking the time to review the general areas where slips, trips, and falls can occur can save an employer countless hours of lost employee labor due to injury and workplace shutdowns. It can also save an employer considerable amounts of money.

General Work Environment

It is critical for employers to have a functioning housekeeping or janitorial program in place. This service should be well documented, including what activities are (and are not) expected, how frequently, and by whom. Work stations should be sanitary, orderly, and clean. All workspaces should be kept dry and should be adequately lit.

Waste, debris, and combustible scraps should be identified as such. They should be safely stored. Paint soaked waste and oily waste should be disposed of in metal cans. There should be a regular schedule of removal of these items. In addition, all waste removal and discard should be done in accordance with local, state, and federal laws.

Dust should be recognized as a combustible substance, and should be routinely removed from surfaces that are elevated. A careful review of the work space should identify areas that require regular dusting.

Aisles and Walkways

Aisles and walkway should be adequately lit, marked as appropriate, and kept clear of debris. Where aisles and walkways are covered with rugs, mats, or carpets, it is essential they are properly anchored. Mats, rugs, and carpets should be examined periodically to assure that there are no worn, frayed, or upturned edges, which could lead to tripping. If there is an area of an aisle or walkway that is habitually wet, the surface should be covered with high traction material, with an eye toward a safer surface. The aisles and walkways should be free from protruding objects, cable wiring, open drawers, cords, and other obstacles

Spills should be cleaned up immediately. This should be coordinated with the housekeeping staff. It’s important that aisles and walkways have adequate headroom. If there is a change in elevation, this must be clearly identifiable. If the walkways elevated, guardrails must be present.

Stairs, Stairways and Ramps

Stairs, stairways, and ramps must be adequately lit. In case of an emergency, generator or battery-powered emergency lighting must be available to light the stairway. In all stairwells with four or more steps, handrails must be present. Handrails are also required on ramps. The handrails should be between 30 and 34 inches from the leading edge of the stair treads. Handrails should also be located at least three inches from the wall that they’re mounted on.

Stairway should be at least 22 inches in width. In staircases where the stairs change directions, there must be landing platforms. Stairs should be of uniforms shape and size. They should also have slip resistant surfaces.


The handrail on the escalator should be easy to hold. Escalator safety procedures should be posted at every escalator, at both the top and the bottom. Escalators should have under-step lighting both at the bottom landing and the top landing. This is to provide a clear visual indicator of both the starting point and ending point of the escalator. The side clearance between the step and the sidewall should be no more than 3/16 of an inch. It’s important that sidewalls are made from low friction materials. This is so shoes will not stick to the sidewalls. Every escalator should have emergency shut off buttons both at the bottom and the top of the stairs. There should be sensory devices installed on all escalators. These sensors are intended to detect foreign objects and should result in immediate shut off of the electric escalator.

Elevated Surfaces

Signs should be posted, clearly illustrating the elevated surface load capacity. On surfaces that are more than 30 inches above the floor or the ground, guardrails must be installed.

There must be a permanent means of egress and access to elevated storage and elevated work surfaces. Headroom must be appropriate for elevated surfaces. Any materials that are stored or placed on elevated surfaces must be put there in a manner that prevents them from tipping, collapsing, rolling, falling, or spreading.

Ladders and Scaffolding

Portable stepladders should not be higher than 20 feet. They should be equipped with a metal spreader or a locking device. Single ladder heights should be 30 feet or less. Where extension ladders are used, the height of the ladder should be limited to 60 feet or less.

Scaffolds and ladders must be free from loose rungs, cracks, and sharp edges. They should also be free from grease and dirt. Scaffolds and ladders should have slip resistant grips. Footings for scaffoldings must be sound, rigid, and capable of carrying the advertised maximum load. The scaffolding itself must be capable of carrying four times the maximum load. Employees should be carefully instructed about appropriate safety standards and safety procedures, prior to using ladders and scaffolds.

Parking Lots and Sidewalks

Parking lots and sidewalks should be maintained and kept clear of falling debris and loose gravel, as well as timber. Curbs and ramps must be color-coded properly. Speed bumps and tire stops must be clearly marked.

It’s important that parking lots and sidewalks be kept clear of snow and ice. Parking lots and sidewalks should be adequately lit. They should be free from upheaval, and other surface defects. Spills and fluids in parking lots and sidewalks should be cleaned up immediately. Where there are slight changes in elevation, these changes must be clearly identified.

If You or a Loved One Have Been Injured at Work

If you or a loved one has been injured at work, contact the experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Madalon Law. There is no fee unless we collect on your behalf! Contact us today.

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Construction Hazards, Accidents, Injuries in Florida

The construction industry accounted for 899, or 20.5 percent, of 4,386 worker fatalities in 2014. In other words, one in five worker deaths last year were in construction. The “Fatal Four” leading causes of private sector construction worker deaths were:

Falls (39.9%)
Electrocution (8.2%)
Struck by object (8.1%)
Caught-in/between (4.3%)

OSHA found that of the 10 most frequently cited safety violations, three were particular to the construction industry:

Fall protection, construction
Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
Ladders, construction

A construction worker involved in a work-related accident may have a claim against the general contractor or owner of the construction site. Several states have laws under their labor code that address the proper handling of construction site hazards such as scaffolding and cranes. Such laws specify the degree of care that managers must maintain on sites and whether safety training is required, and provide that injured workers can sue the property owner or general contractor when the standards are not met.

Additionally, architects, contractors, engineers, and equipment manufacturers may all be liable when an accident occurs. The general contractor and subcontractors are required to take appropriate safety measures to ensure that the site is reasonably safe. They are obligated to warn workers of hazards on the site, hire trained and safety-conscious employees, and monitor the quality and effectiveness of appropriate safety specifications.

Manufacturers of scaffolding, cranes, power tools like nail guns, ladders, and heavy equipment, also may be liable for designing and manufacturing faulty or defective products.

A worker injured in an accident on a construction site may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. States require employers to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to provide compensation to employees who suffer a work-related illness or injury. While undergoing treatment and recuperating, the worker can receive benefits to pay for medical expenses and lost wages.

An injured worker also may want to pursue other parties connected with the construction job in a personal injury cause of action to obtain compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

Worker’s compensation

Workers’ compensation is a state administered insurance program that employers are required purchase to provide compensation to employees who experience a work-related illness or injury. Workers are compensated for any out-of-pocket medical expenses and any wages lost while the worker undergoes treatment and recuperates.

Generally, an employee who is injured on the job can successfully apply for workers’ compensation benefits without regard to who may have been at fault—the employee, employer, coworker, or customer. The compensation paid may be considered in lieu of damages the worker may be entitled to if he or she were to sue in court.

OSHA Protections

The provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act ensures safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting safety standards, training, education, and assistance.

Employers must provide a workplace that is safe and without serious hazards. Employers are required to comply with OSHA safety and health standards, and identify and correct any safety and health problems. OSHA applies to most private sector employers and their workers and some public sector employers and workers.

OSHA outlines a process for eliminating or reducing hazards and specifies that employers should make feasible changes in working conditions such as changing to safer chemicals, arranging equipment or facilities to trap harmful fumes, or installing ventilation systems to clean the air rather than rely on protective gear such as masks, gloves, and earplugs.

OSHA states that workers have the right to:

Information and training about hazards, methods to prevent harm
Information explaining the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace
Be informed of results from tests and monitoring that measure hazards in the workplace
Access to records of injuries and illnesses that occur in worksite
Access to their workplace medical records
Requesting that OSHA have their workplace inspected
Participate in an OSHA inspection and speak with the inspector
File a complaint asserting retaliation or discrimination by the employer in response to a request for an inspection
File a complaint if punished or otherwise retaliated against for whistleblowing as defined under the federal laws

Workers can file a complaint with OSHA asking for an inspection of the workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or have reason to doubt their employer is following OSHA standards. A worker can tell OSHA to keep his or her identity secret.

OSHA protects workers who report safety issues, request an OSHA inspection, or file a complaint with OSHA from employer discrimination, including protection from retaliatory acts such as:

Firing or laying off
Denying overtime or promotion
Denial of benefits
Failing to hire or rehire
Intimidation or making threats
Adverse reassignment
Reduction in pay or hours

OSHA can assess a maximum penalty of $7,000 for each serious violation and $70,000 for a repeated or willful violation.

Florida does not have its own OSHA plan, so Florida employers follow federal construction safety regulations.

Environmental Safety

The Environmental Protection Agency is a federal agency whose stated mission is to “protect human health and the environment.” The agency lists air, climate change, green living, chemicals and toxics, pesticides, health and safety, land and cleanup, waste, emergencies, and water among its concerns.

The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education, and enforces standards under a host of environmental laws. The EPA addresses topics of environmental concern such as acid rain, climate change, asbestos, greenhouse effect, and more. Its purview encompasses sectors such as:

Electric utilities
Oil and gas extraction

EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures. The agency works with industries and government through voluntary pollution prevention and energy conservation programs. The agency’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance vigorously pursues civil and criminal enforcement in serious water, air and chemical hazards pollution situations.

Consult an Attorney

If you have been injured while working or visiting on a construction site or suspect you may have been exposed to hazardous construction materials, call for a free consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Madalon Law. The determined Florida workers’ compensation claim attorneys at Madalon law are experienced in construction injury law and will fight for your rights. We are based in Fort Lauderdale and serve clients throughout Florida. Let Madalon Law fight for you.