North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog

Construction work is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States, and demolition work is even more dangerous that the average construction project. Some demolition projects involve teams using carefully placed explosives, so a large building implodes and neatly collapses on itself, but the vast majority of demolition work involves people with power saws and sledgehammers taking a building down piece by piece.
According to a recent news article form ABC 7 News, a demolition worker was just killed when a building in which he working in midtown Manhattan collapsed around him.

dangerhardhat.jpgAuthorities have said one worker was killed and another was injured when the building internally collapsed while they were inside. Specifically, a large portion of the ceiling broke lose from its support on the rear side of the building and started falling from the top of the eight story structure. As it fell, it crashed through floor after floor, crushing one worker who died on the scene and injuring the other. The worker who was killed is believed to have died as soon as the debris landed on him and did not suffer.
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North Carolina has very diverse economic base. There is still a great deal of manufacturing in part of the state, as well as a strong technology sector in the area known as the Research Triangle. However, agriculture still makes up a very large portion of jobs in the state economy, and among the different types of agriculture, poultry farming is particularly prevalent, as are pig farms.

chicken-1403659.jpgWhile we used to have mainly privately owned farms with a decent number of chicken coops, many of these family farms have been bought out by what we now call super farms, or they were otherwise forced to close. This is also true of the pig farms, which have been closed to make way for major national producers such as Smithfield, which has large operations centers in the state of North Carolina.
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A worker at an Abercrombie & Fitch distribution center was killed when he crashed his forklift into another forklift at the distribution center according to a recent news article form the Columbus Dispatch. Authorities say worker was in his mid to late 40s. They have not released the name of employee who was killed on the job, so his family could be notified first.

Forklift Picture for Equipment Accident blog post.jpgImmediately after the forklift collision, someone at the distribution center called 911, and first responders arrived at the warehouse. This particular facility was just across the street from the company’s headquarters, so corporate executives were also on site following the worker’s death.
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Kingery v. Sumitomo Elec. Wiring, an appeal from the Supreme Court of Kentucky, involved a claimant who was injured in 1989. She applied for workers’ compensation after being injured on the job and was awarded benefits.

gaveljan.jpgSpecifically, the type of injury was a repetitive stress injury (RSI). According to claimant’s testimony, she was required to reach over her head and hang coils of electrical wire on pegs. She had to do this all day and was required to hang approximately three wire coils per minute. Due to the fact that she was only four feet, eight inches tall, she had to really strain her body to reach the pegs, which were over maximum reach without straining. After working for the employer for about a month, she began to experience pain in her upper back and neck.
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Authorities say a 52-year-old worker at a high magnetic field laboratory was killed when a release of pressure caused a steel cap to come loose, shoot forward, and hit him according to a recent article from the Tennessee Democrat. Employee was a mechanical trade worker who, along with assistance of a work crew, was constructing a magnet when the fatal on-the-job accident occurred.

magnet-1157455.jpgSpecifically, his team was building a system designed to provide water cooling to the magnet under construction. They were trying to remove the steel cap gently, but it was caught in a jet of pressurized water, and the pipe was propelled forward toward employee. After the steel cap hit him, first responders were immediately called to scene. The laboratory’s own safety personnel showed up, immediately followed by local police, fire department personnel and EMTs.
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According to a recent news report from The News & Observer, an investigation conducted by the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), has issued findings stating that it was a lack of training that contributed to the death of an electrician in Raleigh. This worker was three months short of reaching his retirement and receiving benefits.

lifts.jpgThe 62-year-old electrical worker was killed when a telescoping lift fell on him. The lift was rated as weighing 800 pounds. He died shortly after the lift landed on him. With the report, the Department of Labor issued a citation in the amount of $5,600 for failing to insure worker’s place of employee was free from recognized hazard likely to result in death or serious bodily injury. While the amount of this fine may seem somewhat strange, it should be noted that the maximum allowable fine for such a violation is $7,000.
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For the third time this year, federal regulators have accused a furniture manufacturer of failing to protect workers from moving machine parts.
Inspectors at the Occupational Safety & Health Administration are recommending a find of $430,000 to Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc., which has numerous distribution locations in South Carolina, as well as a manufacturing site in North Carolina. Word of the newest violations came as the company is contesting a total of $1.9 in fines from two previous inspections that revealed troubling safety problems.

The newest allegations involve the company’s alleged failure to ensure that upholstery machines will shut down anytime workers are clearing jams, changing blades or cleaning the machines. These allegations are centered on a facility that employes some 475 workers. Most of these issues are related to what are known as “lockout-tagout” rules, and the violations are considered “repeat.”
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Earlier this year, South Carolina Rep. David Hiott (R-Pickens), introduced a measure to the state legislature that would allow employers to opt-out of the state workers’ compensation program, and instead implement their own injury benefit plan alternative.
Tennessee is considering a similar measure, and the option is already available in Texas and more recently, Oklahoma.

This is our second in a two-part series which looks more closely at the first in-depth analysis of these programs and what they mean for workers. Veteran reporters from NPR and ProPublica teamed up to conduct research of benefit plans of more than 120 companies that are participating in these opt-out plans. What they found was by-and-large, these plans offered workers lower benefits, restricted access to benefits and very little control over the medical care they received or benefits obtained.
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Some of the nation’s biggest companies in the health care, retail, food and trucking industries in Texas and Oklahoma are choosing to opt out of state workers’ compensation laws and implement their own insurance. It seems a radical idea, but it’s gaining traction, with lawmakers in South Carolina and Tennessee weighing similar measures.
An attorney in Dallas is leading a national effort to “re-engineer” the workers’ compensation system, which guarantees those injured on the job coverage of medical bills and supplemental wages until they can return to work. That attorney, Bill Minick, owns a company that writes about 50 percent of the opt-out plans in Texas and 90 percent of those in Oklahoma.

According to the latest in a collaborative journalistic series by ProPublica and NPR, “Insult to Injury: Inside Corporate America’s Campaign to Ditch Workers’ Comp,” this is a man whose firm not only boasts clientele such as Walmart, McDonald’s and dozens of others, he “pioneered the concept” of opting out of workers’ compensation, and he helped to write the current law in Oklahoma.
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In a split decision made by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, federal justices sided with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration in its interpretation of a statute that sets the standard for machine guarding.
The law in question in 29 CFR 1910.212(a)(1).

This standard was applied by OSHA inspectors who came to investigate after the death of a worker at a St. Louis manufacturing plant. At the time, worker had been using a machine with an unguarded lathe. The lathe had at one time been equipped with protective guards, but at some point, they had been removed.
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