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Pennsylvania is a leader in workplace injuries

Pennsylvania is home to one of the world's largest and most diversified economies. Although this commercial giant provides countless jobs and livelihoods, the state holds a distinction in injuries suffered in the workplace.

A new study by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found 1,595 severe injuries reported at Pennsylvania workplaces in 2015 and 2016, with 35 percent involving hands or fingers.

The OSHA definition of "severe injuries" includes all body part loss, organ loss or hospitalization. Hand and finger injuries are common due to high rates of hand tool use and hand interfaces in the workplace. By contrast, less than 1 percent of severe injuries involved workers' toes.

Pennsylvania ranked third among 28 states and the District of Columbia in which OSHA gathered data. The other jurisdictions have statewide occupational safety programs. Texas and Florida each saw more severe workplace injuries in the same two years.

Data on construction injuries and other workplace accidents can be unreliable. "Most of these events are not being reported to OSHA," said workplace safety expert John Mendeloff. "Therefore, you have to be careful about interpreting the numbers."

Mendeloff discovered in an earlier study that states with the highest number of fatal injuries often have the lowest number of reported injuries, leading to the conclusion that some regions underreport safety violations before they prove fatal.

Caution is especially warranted in the construction industry, in which the plurality of workplace deaths occur. Inattentive workers or substandard workplace conditions can create highly hazardous conditions.

Pennsylvanians with construction and other workplace injuries have rights that allow them to pursue reimbursement for medical expenses and compensation for lost wages during recovery.

Source: Tribune-Review, "Pennsylvania has third most worker injury reports," Brian Bowling, accessed July 28, 2017

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