June 2011 Archives

June 25, 2011

Stairways and Ladders Create High Risk of Injury for North Carolina Construction Workers

We all know that working on and around stairways and ladders is dangerous and can lead to injury or death in the construction industry. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has many rules and safety standards that apply to all stairways and ladders used in repair, painting, decorating, alteration, demolition and construction.

A previous post on our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers blog discussed a compliance tool published to assist employers with preventing fall-related injuries and deaths among residential construction workers. Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Gastonia are aware that falls are the primary cause of construction workers' deaths.

Employers must provide ladders and stairways when:

-There is a gap in elevation of 19 inches or more and no runway, embankment, ramp or personnel hoist is available.

-There is only a single point of access between levels that must remain clear of obstacles. If the single point of access becomes restricted, a second point of access must be provided for workers to use.

-If there are more than two points of access, employers must keep at least one point clear for easy passage.

The following rules are relevant for all ladders:

-To avoid a slipping hazard, ladders must be free of any oil or grease.

-Never load ladders above their maximum load nor above their manufacturer's rated capacity.

-Use ladders only on level and stable surfaces, unless they're secured, to prevent unintended movement.

-Never use ladders on slippery surfaces. If it must be on a slippery surface, use slip-resistant feet and secure the ladder to prevent accidental movement.

-Always secure ladders to prevent movement in high traffic areas such as doorways, passageways or driveways -- or put up a barricade to eliminate traffic and activity around the ladder.

-The top and bottom of ladders should be kept clear.

-Never shift, move or extend ladders while in use.

-When using ladders around energized electrical equipment, they should be equipped with nonconductive side rails.

-Always face the ladder when going up or down.

-When climbing a ladder, use at least one hand to hold on.

-Never carry loads or objects that could throw you off balance and cause a fall.

When ladders become unusable the following rules apply:

-Any portable or fixed ladders with structural damage must be tagged/marked defective and taken out of service immediately.

-Defective fixed ladders can be blocked by using plywood attached to several rungs indicating it is out of service.

-Before putting a damaged ladder back in service, the condition of a repaired ladder must meet its original design criteria.

The following rules apply to all stairways:
-Non-permanent stairways must have landings 22 inches wide and at least 30 inches deep.

-Stairways must be installed at least 30 degrees and not more than 50 degrees from the horizontal. Stair tread depth or riser height variations must not exceed 1/4 inch.

-Directly opening doors and gates on stairways must have a platform that extends at a minimum of 20 inches beyond their swing.

-Metal pan treads and metal pan landings must be held in place before filling.

-Protruding nails must be fixed on stairway parts.

-Slippery conditions must be corrected immediately on stairways.

-Spiral stairways cannot be used by workers unless they are a permanent part of the structure.

Employers must train all workers to identify hazards related to ladders and stairways. Every employee needs to know the potential of fall hazards on the job site, the correct procedures for assembling, maintaining and disassembling the fall protection systems, how to properly construct, use and place all stairways and ladders, and the maximum load capacities of ladders.

Continue reading "Stairways and Ladders Create High Risk of Injury for North Carolina Construction Workers" »

June 23, 2011

Cardiac Arrest a Common Cause of Death at Work in North Carolina

It is estimated that 220,000 people suffer a sudden cardiac arrest each year in the U.S., and about 10,000 of these incidents happen at work.

If you only call 911 and wait for help to arrive, the victim has only a 5-7 percent chance of surviving. However, studies indicate that when an automated external defibrillator (AED) is used on the victim, there is a near 60-percent survival rate a year after the event.

Our workers' compensation lawyers in Charlotte realize the importance of immediate intervention when someone suddenly collapses from cardiac arrest. Many job tasks are strenuous, so it is the responsibility of the employer to provide adequate equipment to reduce the risk of cardiac arrest at North Carolina job sites.

What is an automated external defibrillator (AED)?

It is a medical device that evaluates the hearth rhythm. When the AED determines the victim's heart is in a heart rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, it delivers an electrical shock that restores the heart to a normal heart rhythm. Ventricular fibrillation is the chaotic heart rhythm that is most often responsible for sudden cardiac arrest.

A sudden cardiac arrest happens when ventricular fibrillation occurs or when the heart simply stops beating. When this happens, if the victims does not get medical attention right away, the victim collapses, becomes unresponsive and dies. This all can happen without warning, and many victims have no prior medical history of heart disease.

What can cause a sudden cardiac arrest?

-A heart attack


-Asphyxiation (caused by inadequate oxygen)

All work places could benefit by having AEDs because no one knows when a sudden cardiac arrest will happen. Having on-site AEDs saves valuable treatment time, and can drastically improve survival odds. A heart rhythm that is in ventricular fibrillation can only be returned to a normal rhythm by an electric shock. AEDs are small, safe and easy to use.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says AEDs should be conveniently located and reachable within five minutes. They should be located in areas occupied by many people, like office buildings and assembly lines. They should be located near confined spaces, close to where electric-powered devices are in use; outdoor work sites in case of a lightning strike; health units in case someone seeks treatment for heart attack symptoms; fitness room or cafeterias and any remote work site where it would take a long time for help to arrive.

AED devices cost roughly $1,200 to $3,000 per unit. Workers need training to identify sudden cardiac arrest. They should also learn how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and how to use an AED and stabilize the victim until EMS personnel arrive.

Continue reading "Cardiac Arrest a Common Cause of Death at Work in North Carolina " »

June 22, 2011

90-Day Partial Leniency Offered to Employers for Fall Accidents at North Carolina Job Sites

Work injuries from fall accidents in North Carolina can often be complex and require substantial medical care to heal properly. Employers throughout the country have a responsibility to protect workers from being injured on the job, but in most cases, they don't provide the proper safety equipment required by law to protect their employees.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced a three-month phase-in period for residential construction employers to comply with the agency's new directive for fall protection in the workplace. After Sept. 15, employers who fail to comply will be cited.

Statesville workers' compensation attorneys know that fall accidents occur on North Carolina work sites as often as anywhere else in the country, so call an experienced attorney to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Don't get inundated with doctor appointments and medical bills without the help of a legal professional.

We first posted about the new directive for residential fall protection compliance in December of 2010 on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog. OSHA is offering phase-in period will begin June 16, during which employers will receive a hazard alert letter informing them of methods they can use to comply with OSHA's fall protection standard.

If an employer fails to make changes outlined by the alert letter and is later inspected and cited for the same violations, OSHA will fine the employer for the lack of attention provided for the welfare of its employees.

"We want to make sure that the residential construction industry has every opportunity to successfully come into compliance with the new directive," said assistant aecretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "I am confident that this phase-in period will provide employers the additional time and flexibility they need to alter their work practices in accordance with the requirements of the new directive."

OSHA offers a Safety and Health Topics webpage that identifies fall hazards and possible solutions for eliminating these hazards in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to use this page as a reference for company policy when it comes to fall protection.

Employers who lack the knowledge and fail to understand the new directive for Compliance Guidance for Residential Construction from this point on are exhibiting signs of ignorance. OSHA spells it out clearly through various resources. The agency offers free resources to employers who need assistance and offer a compliance assistance specialist in most area offices.

Residential construction employers owe it to their employees to create a safe environment to reduce the number of fall accidents occurring at job sites. Anything less is a poor excuse and should result in taking legal action.

Continue reading "90-Day Partial Leniency Offered to Employers for Fall Accidents at North Carolina Job Sites" »

June 22, 2011

Whistleblowers Protected When Reporting Hazards at North Carolina Job Sites

North Carolina workers are often afraid to voice concerns about a potential work injury or environmental hazard on the job because they fear retaliation for blowing the whistle. Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys want to assure you that it is against the law for employers to behave in such a manner and that the company can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if retaliation leads to workers suffering in any way, shape or form.

The United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently announced a lawsuit against a South Carolina real estate management company for retaliation against an employed whistleblower for reporting an environmental concern at one of the company's job sites.

The inhalation of asbestos fibers by workers is a common cause of illness at North Carolina worksites. Asbestos can be hazardous, according to OSHA, because the fibers, which are naturally breathed in, can cause serious disease or damage to lungs and other organs that may not be detected until years later. Build-up of scar-like tissue created by asbestos in the lungs can result in loss of lung function, which can lead to disability or even fatality if it goes undetected over time.

OSHA is suing CMM Realty Inc. of South Carolina for allegedly firing an employee after the employee reported a workplace and environmental concern regarding asbestos. The lawsuit includes back pay, interest and compensatory damages, reinstatement of his previous position at the company, as well as prohibition of future violations.

The employee voiced concerns about asbestos exposure to the owner of CMM Realty on May 13, 2009. The following day, the employee filed a complaint with South Carolina OSHA and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Conservations. After each agency inspected the company, CMM Realty was cited for violating asbestos control standards. The day of the inspections, the concerned employee was told his services were no longer needed. On May 18, 2009, he was given official notice that he was fired from the company.

The following month, the employee went to OSHA to file a whistleblower complaint. Upon investigation, OSHA found that CMM Realty illegally fired the employee for reporting the asbestos concerns and possible exposure to a hazardous environment. In November, OSHA ordered CMM Realty to pay the employee $56,222 in compensatory damages and back pay, and reinstate the employee in his old job under the whistleblower provisions of the Clean Air Act. The realty company appealed and is currently waiting for review. In the meantime, OSHA has filed the current lawsuit with the federal court for violation of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, which forbids companies to act out against employees who have filed a complaint with OSHA.

"We at OSHA are very serious about protecting America's workforce and ensuring that employees have a voice about the safety of their work environment," said Cindy A. Coe, OSHA's regional administrator in Atlanta. "Employers found in violation of the whistleblower protection provisions of the OSH Act, Clean Air Act or any of the whistleblower laws we enforce will be held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Continue reading "Whistleblowers Protected When Reporting Hazards at North Carolina Job Sites" »

June 21, 2011

Young Workers at High Risk of Greensboro Work Injuries

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 13 percent of the 17.5 million people in the workforce in 2010 was comprised of workers 23 or under. Our Greensboro workers' compensation lawyers know that lack of experience and failure to train properly puts young workers at a high risk of being injured on the job in North Carolina.

In 2009, the CDC reported 359 fatalities among young workers younger than 24 suffering from a work-related injury. That includes 27 deaths for workers younger than 18. From 1998 to 2007, there was an average of 795,000 work-related injuries for young workers treated at hospital emergency rooms each year. In fact, the injury rate is two times higher for this age group than 25 and older when it comes to work injuries requiring a trip to the emergency room.

Leisure and hospitality was the most popular industry for youth (ages 15-17) employment in 2009, with 44 percent of all youth employed in restaurants and other food service jobs. The retail trade industry accounted for 24 percent of all youth employment. Examples of injuries or illnesses that can occur in the restaurant industry are slipping or falling on wet floors, cuts from sharp utensils, burns or injuries from using hot stoves or grills, inhalation of cleaning aids or food poisoning. Some of the leading causes of injury in the retail business include lifting, handling heavy boxes or other objects, hand or power tools, slips, trips or falls.

Employers have a responsibility to provide young workers with proper training and a safe work environment. WorkSafeBC offers the following summer work accident prevention tips for employers offering jobs to young workers in the restaurant or retail industry:

Restaurant industry tips:

-Put up cautionary signs around wet floors or when spills occur. Emphasize that workers should keep floors clean and swept, keep garbage cans emptied and provide non-slip footwear to employees.

-Train young workers to choose the right knife for specific cutting jobs. Hold the knife with their dominant hand, cut away from their body, use a cutting board and store knives securely when they aren't in use.

-Provide employees with proper mitts or dry gloves when using hot pans or skillets. Train young workers about the dangers of overheating oil, to always open lids away from their body and don't let handles stick out away from the cooking service.

-Workers should never put wet utensils or drop anything into hot oil. Make sure no oil is dripped on the floor by allowing hot oil to drip completely off the frying basket before removal. Place anti-slip floor mats or treatments on surfaces where cooking is taking place.

-Instruct young workers not to strain when lifting heavy objects. Either ask for help or bend at the knees before lifting boxes or bags if a dollie or cart is not available.

Retail industry tips:

-Inform employees of all potential dangers involved with the job which can include: musculoskeletal injuries, falling off stepladders, hazardous products, power tools and equipment, sharp cutters, lifting and handling of heavy boxes or equipment.

-Keep working area clean and uncluttered.

-Instruct your employee to ask ask a supervisor for help if they don't know how to perform a task.

-Provide young workers with protective equipment and explain how each item should be worn or used during specific tasks.

-Instruct workers to check all tools or equipment before using for malfunction or cracks that can cause injury while working. Train employees on proper technique and how to operate all tools and equipment safely and responsibly.

Continue reading "Young Workers at High Risk of Greensboro Work Injuries" »

June 20, 2011

Outdoor Jobs Create High Risk of Heat Illness for Winston-Salem Workers

As we head into the hottest days of summer, we wrap up our series of blogs on common workplace injuries with the two types of heat illness: heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Workers with outside jobs or heat-related job duties are often at high risk of exposure to heat illness in North Carolina job sites.
Winston-Salem workers' compensation lawyers want to remind employees that there is a fine line between heat exhaustion and heat stroke, so take the necessary precautions to avoid serious injury or illness while you are at work.

WFMY News reports that a Burlington firefighter was recently treated for heat exhaustion after responding to a call regarding a machine fire at a plant at Glen Raven Mills. This is just one example of how heat-related jobs can not only be dangerous, but can cause serious illness. Thousands of workers throughout the U.S are treated at hospitals for heat exhaustion or heat stroke each year.

North Carolina Division of Public Health has already reported about 319 heat-related illness emergency room visits between May 1 June 4 this year. The majority of cases have involved young (ages 24-44) and middle-aged (45-64) adults. The three common reasons leading to the heat illness is playing or working outdoors and job-related outdoor activities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the workers that are most in danger of heat-related illness are farmers, factory workers, constructions workers, postal workers, bakers, miners, firefighters and boiler room workers. Employees most at risk are those older than 65, overweight, workers with high blood pressure, or workers on certain prescribed medications.

The following are symptoms of heat exhaustion: dizziness, cramps, headache, nausea, sweaty skin or a fast heartbeat. Heat stroke can often be detected by signs of confusion, convulsions, fainting, high temperature or red, hot and dry skin. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers the following tips to prevent a heat-related illness at work:

-Drink plenty of water on a timely schedule, even if you aren't thirsty. It is recommended to drink every 15 minutes.

-Refrain from drinking beverages like coffee, energy drinks, soda or alcohol in extreme hot temperatures.

-Keep an eye on other employees around you. If you see strange behavior or signs of heat exhaustion call for help immediately and alert a supervisor.

-Have your work site location memorized in case you need to call for help. A 911 dispatch will need an address to send a rescue team to your location.

-Always wear a hat for protection from the sun and light-weight and fair-colored cotton clothing. Dark clothes attract the heat and shouldn't be worn.

-Ask your employer to provide a tent or covering for shade. Take periodic breaks in the shade.

-Never climb under machinery or a vehicle to get out of the sun. You run the risk of the vehicle moving and crushing you.

Continue reading "Outdoor Jobs Create High Risk of Heat Illness for Winston-Salem Workers" »

June 17, 2011

Safe Work Environments can Reduce Risk of North Carolina Work Injuries

Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys want to reiterate the importance of workplace safety after learning of a recent accident that took the life of a Lowe's employee in Charlotte.

We are conducting a series of blogs about common North Carolina work injuries and unexpected dangers that can occur in the workplace.

There are a number of different kinds of accidents and injuries that can occur at warehouses and storage facilities. Falling from a ladder, back injuries sustained from loading heavy boxes, debris or equipment falling from upper storage shelves or collisions with fork lift equipment are a few that come to mind.

The Charlotte Observer reported recently about the tragic event that killed an employee at a Lowe's Home Improvement storage building in South Charlotte. The employee was standing under a garage door when it fell on him, struck him on the head and killed him shortly after being taken to Carolinas Medical Center. The store remained open following the accident with caution tape surrounding the area where the garage door fell. Detectives and the North Carolina Department of Labor are investigating the incident.

Employers have a responsibility to maintain a safe work environment by following these worksite analysis guidelines suggested by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration:

-Have an OSHA consultant come visit your warehouse or storage facility at no charge.

-Read up on hazards that can occur in storage areas or warehouses.

-Always encourage employees to report potential dangers and hazards that could potentially hurt someone while performing their job duties.

-Maintain an appropriate system for reporting hazards in the workplace.

-Have your employees form safety teams so more than one person is looking out for dangers or safety issues in the workplace at any given time.

-Review the worksite conditions from previous years in order to assure proper maintenance or changes have been made to enhance safety.

-Inspections of worksite conditions should be conducted by a trained professional, especially if hazards are detected and changes are needed.

-Don't be afraid to get help from safety and health experts. Providing expert care can go a long way in preserving your employee's well-being.

June is National Safety Month. All companies should create an open-door policy when it comes to employee safety by establishing open lines of communication and getting employees involved in an effort to make safety and health a priority. Create safety awareness and prevent unexpected injuries and deaths at work this month and beyond.

Continue reading "Safe Work Environments can Reduce Risk of North Carolina Work Injuries" »

June 15, 2011

Power Tools Often Cause Workplace Injuries to North Carolina Workers

Our third topic in a series of blogs about workplace injuries covers the dangers of hand and power tools. Jobs that require the use of hand and power tools put employees in danger of flying debris, harmful dusts, or flammable sprays that can lead to all sorts of severe injuries or illnesses.

Greensboro work injury lawyers want to remind workers that employers have an obligation to provide you with adequate training and personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of North Carolina hand and power tool injuries at work.

Most of us use hand or power tools in our everyday lives, so we often don't think about the dangers involved. The construction industry wouldn't be able to survive without the use of hand tools and power equipment. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration provides a set of standards and directives to be used by all employees who use hand and power tools at work.

OSHA provides these examples of hand tool hazards:

-A wrench may slip and hit someone if the jaws are sprung.

-A wooden handle on an axe or hammer that is splintered, cracked or loose can cause the metal part of the tool to fly off and hit another employee in the act of using the tool.

-Impact tools with mushroomed heads such as chisels or wedges can shatter on impact which sends sharp fragments in scattered directions through the air.

To avoid power tool injuries, follow these safeguards:

-Free both hands to operate the tool by securing your work object with vises or clamps.

-Keep work area clean and obstacle or cord-free. Anyone not working on the task should stay clear of the work area.

-Never allow hoses or power cords to get near sharp edges, oil or heat.

-Refer to the user's manual for instructions on how to change accessories or how to lubricate the tool.

-Always have good balance and proper footing while operating a power tool.

-Never wear loose or dangling jewelry or clothing like ties or scarfs. They present a danger of choking among other things if something gets caught.

-Never carry a tool from point A to point B with your hand or finger pressed on the power button.

-Always unplug power tools when not in use, before servicing, while changing blades, bits or cutters and before cleaning.

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources requires that employers train all employees using hand and power tools. Employees should be trained to pick the right tool for the task at hand, know the dangers of all tools, how to use the tool correctly, how to maintain and routinely inspect the tools and how to store tools properly.

Continue reading "Power Tools Often Cause Workplace Injuries to North Carolina Workers" »

June 13, 2011

Distracted Driving: A Workplace Hazard in Hickory, Throughout North Carolina

I think we would all agree that the reason we get up and go to work each day is to provide for ourselves or our families. Working in a safe and hazard-free environment allows us to do just that.

We will be embarking on a series of blogs about common workplace injuries in North Carolina to create awareness about dangers and risks faced on the job. The goal of our Hickory workers' compensation attorneys is to let injured workers know that you do have rights and should take action when an injury is sustained at work.

We often post about the dangers of distracted drivers on our North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer Blog, but distractions can also occur on the job when a driver is backing into a loading dock or texting on the way to an appointment.

The Hickory Daily Record recently reported about a fatal accident that occurred at Institution Food House (IFH) when a tractor trailer was backing into a loading dock to unload a shipment. Hickory police report that a man standing in the loading dock was struck by the Pepsi distributor as the driver was going in reverse. The worker was pronounced dead at the scene. The incident is under investigation by North Carolina Department of Labor for unsafe work practices.

This is the second serious work accident to occur at IFH since 2007. In the 2007 work accident, a driver had parked on an incline and was run over by the truck as he got out and stood behind the vehicle, sustaining severe injuries to his lower body. IFH was cited for failure to provide a safe environment; specifically, the tractor trailer was not secured to prevent movement in the loading dock. The company was fined $963 following the 2007 incident.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges employers to create a no-texting policy for all workers. It is projected that with each additional 1 million text messages, the number of distracted driving fatalities in crashes increases by 75 percent.

"It is well recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality," said David Michaels, assistant secretary of OSHA. "We are asking employers to send a clear message to workers and supervisors that your company neither requires nor condones texting while driving."

Employers should:

-Declare their work vehicles as "text-free zones."

-Establish safe times or areas for workers to communicate to managers or get in touch with customers who may be waiting for them.

-Never offer financial incentives to employees trying to get ahead that would encourage or require employees to text while they are driving.

Distractions while driving is certainly a workplace hazard that needs to be addressed in order to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that occur on the job. Employers have a responsibility to educate and create policies that will keep their employees free from danger. Banning texting could not only keep workers safe, but could save lives of other motorists that share the the road.

Continue reading "Distracted Driving: A Workplace Hazard in Hickory, Throughout North Carolina" »

June 10, 2011

North Carolina Workers Injured on the Job Get Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Statesville and elsewhere urge you to contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer if you are involved in a work accident in North Carolina. Job injuries can lead to lost time from work or costly medical expenses that you can't afford. Let us relieve you of some stress by guiding you through this complex process.

Here are just a few of the many frequently-asked questions fielded by the North Carolina Industrial Commission :

-Does an employer have to provide workers' compensation coverage?

Yes, if they have three or more employees.

-What should I do if my employer does not have workers' compensation insurance?

You need to notify the NCIC Fraud Section and report that your employer does not have workers' compensation insurance or approved self-insurance.

-What should I do if I am injured on the job?

Immediately report the injury to your employer both orally and in writing.

-Who directs and provides my medical treatment?

The Commission orders your employer or its insurance company to direct and provide medical treatment. The Commission needs to approve an employee's request to change doctors prior to the change. Payments to the doctor are not guaranteed unless written permission to change physicians is obtained.

-What are the Chiropractic Rules?

Your employer can give you permission to go to a chiropractor up to 20 times for medical treatment. If more appointments are needed, your employer needs to approve them first.

-When am I eligible for lost wage compensation?

No compensation is paid for the first seven days unless the disability lasts longer than 21 days. If the disability does last longer than 21 days, then compensation for the first seven days are paid.

-How often are benefit payments made and at what rate of pay?

Usually payments are made on a weekly basis but the Commission can approve monthly payments. The rate of pay is about 67 percent of your weekly pay. For 2009, the maximum weekly pay was $816, which is adjusted annually.

-How long can I receive lost-time weekly benefits?

Current law stipulates until you are able to return to work.

-What is permanent partial disability and who determines it?

Partial or total loss of use of a member of the body or the lack of ability to earn what you did prior to the injury. The Commission decides with the assistance from the impairment ratings of doctors or proof of wage earning capacity.

-What happens if my employer refuses to acknowledge the claim?

When liability for payment of compensation is denied, the claimant, their attorney, the Commission and all health care providers will be notified of the reason for the denial. The denial form must explain in detail the exact reason for the denial of liability. You can file a "Request for Hearing" form if your claim was denied by the insurance company. You may be required to pay medical bills if the claim was deemed a non-compensable workers' compensation claim.

Injured or disabled workers should always seek the help of a legal professional if your claim is denied. Workers' compensation attorneys will fight for your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

Continue reading "North Carolina Workers Injured on the Job Get Answers to Frequently Asked Questions" »

June 7, 2011

Government Shows Employers How to Prevent North Carolina Fall Accidents

A new compliance assistance tool recently published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will help employers prevent fall-related deaths and injuries among residential construction workers.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Greensboro know that falls are the leading cause of construction workers' deaths. Raising workplace safety awareness is a good way of reducing North Carolina work-related injuries.

OSHA uses many formats to offer assistance and information to the residential construction industry. Previously, OSHA had an interim directive that let residential builders bypass fall protection requirements, but late last year that interim directive was withdrawn. Starting June 16, residential construction employers will comply with the same standard other construction employers use.

"We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths. Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction," says Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

The new directives state that all employers have to protect their workers in residential construction 6 feet or higher. These systems include safety nets, guardrail systems or personal fall arrest systems. Other fall protection is allowed under special circumstance where conventional methods can't be used.

Employers are required to train their workers on how to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions. Fall protection training must include how to minimize and recognize fall hazards, the proper way to use fall protection systems and how to inspect fall protection systems. All training must be documented and kept up to date. There also needs to be a plan in place for retraining employees.

The three types of conventional fall arrest systems include:

-Guardrail systems, also known as "passive fall protection." This means no action by the employee is necessary for it to work. Toe boards are also required if there is potential for objects to fall on workers below.

-Safety nets are not frequently used in residential construction but they are also a "passive fall protection" system. When they are in position, the workers don't have to do anything with the system to be safe. Maintenance, installation and adjustments of the nets should only be done by trained people. If safety nets are used, they have to be positioned as close as possible under the working surface of the employees. They need to have sufficient clearance under them to prevent contacting the surface below. And they need to be drop tested or certified.

-A Personal Fall Arrest System has three main components: the anchorage point must be able to support at least 5,000 pounds per worker attached, the body harness will distribute the force throughout the torso during a fall and lanyards must have a breaking point of more than 5,000 pounds or connectors should be locking type snap hooks.

The slide presentation can be found on OSHA's Residential Fall Protection website.

Continue reading "Government Shows Employers How to Prevent North Carolina Fall Accidents" »

June 6, 2011

Long-Awaited Benefits Decision Favors Families of North Carolina Workers Injured on the Job

This week, the House floor will vote on a revamped compromise bill to overhaul the state workers' compensation system, the News Observer is reporting. Lawmakers voted to pass the "Protecting and Putting North Carolina Back To Work Act" on second reading by a vote of 106-8.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers know the House committee passed the measure last week after a long-awaited decision and the final vote is scheduled for this week. The revised bill is a victory for Carolina families that prevented big businesses from winning a cap on benefits.

To recap, the original bill would have done the following:

-Insurance companies and defense lawyers could discuss your case with your doctor without your permission or your attorney knowing about it.

-If the insurance company thinks you are "failing to cooperate," your total disability benefits could be cut off.

-You would have no choice in what doctor you go to.

-Total and permanent disability benefits would end at 500 weeks (there are some extreme exceptions).

The most controversial part of the original bill would have stopped income benefits for most workers at 500 weeks, which is just under 10 years - except for the most severe cases, such as a worker's loss of both hands or paralysis. The cap still stands under the revised bill, but new exceptions have been made.

"Many may feel that the bill does not go far enough to reduce costs and others will feel the provisions fall short of protecting the interests of injured workers, but in times such as these all sides made compromises, and overall we feel the changes preserve the backbone of our workers' compensation system that pays fair compensation to injured workers at a reasonable cost to the employers," said Dick Taylor of the lawyers' group.

Under the revised bill, workers would be able to qualify for extended compensation as long as they can prove that they have "sustained a total loss of wage earning capacity."

"The N.C. Chamber fought hard and won major concessions, and yet the common ground preserved in the consensus bill allows North Carolinians to retain a fair workers' compensation system," said workers' compensation attorney Gina Cammarano, a former special deputy commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

Continue reading "Long-Awaited Benefits Decision Favors Families of North Carolina Workers Injured on the Job" »