September 2011 Archives

September 30, 2011

North Carolina Employees Coming into Contact with Formaldehyde Can Suffer Long Term Health Effects

Two Florida manufacturers and two distributors based in Florida have been cited by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for allegedly failing to guard their workers from potential formaldehyde contact and not communicating with product users on the dangers of coming into contact with formaldehyde. The companies face proposed fines of $49,200.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Asheville reported back in May on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog about the dangers of working with formaldehyde. Exposure to the skin, lungs, and eyes can cause detrimental effects to a worker's health and should be medically attended right away.
A spokeswoman for OSHA says that employers have the responsibility to inform workers of the dangers associated with using and producing hair products containing formaldehyde. If workers must be around products that contain formaldehyde then the following safety measures must be implemented to ensure the safety of all employees: staff training, proper ventilation, air quality monitoring and provide personal protective equipment.

A division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Oregon got in touch with Florida's OSHA office after officials had tested in excess of 100 merchandise samples at 50 beauty salons that use hair straightening or smoothing products. Products found to be causing formaldehyde exposure were then linked to the Florida distributors and manufacturers. Formaldehyde is associated with cancer and can cause irritation to nose and eyes with wheezing and coughing. It can also cause rashes, asthma and itching.

M&M International Incorporated located in Delray Beach and Copomon Enterprises in Boca Raton have both been penalized for $12,600 and each company was issued three serious violations which include: not ensuring that the material safety data sheets (MSDS) listed formaldehyde as an ingredient, communicating the dangers associated with exposure to formaldehyde and not providing for their workers a documented hazard communication plan.

A manufacturer in Orlando, Pro Skin Solutions Incorporated, which makes hair straightening products that are keratin-based, was fined $15,000 for 5 serious violations. The penalties cited were for not having a documented respiratory safety plan; there was no emergency eyewash location; they had no hazard communication program or any type of protocols to protect workers in an emergency situation.

The company failed to deal with formaldehyde inhalation and exposure dangers on the MSDS for merchandise containing formaldehyde. Additional violations included not keeping air sample records and not having written protocols for assessing chemical hazards. In Coral Springs, Keratronics Incorporated also a producer of hair straightening products that are keratin-based was fined $9,000 for similar violations to Pro Skin Solutions.

OSHA standards require all distributers, importers and manufacturers to clearly identify formaldehyde, either a solution or gas form, on any merchandise that has in excess of 0.1 percent formaldehyde. The products which contain MSDS must list formaldehyde as an ingredient and clarify why the formaldehyde is dangerous, what harm/damage it can do, how to protect you from harm and what should be done in the event of an emergency.

A hazard alert was issued by Federal OSHA previously warning hair salon employees and owners about possible formaldehyde exposure risks.

Continue reading "North Carolina Employees Coming into Contact with Formaldehyde Can Suffer Long Term Health Effects" »

September 27, 2011

Work Site Safety Inspections Important in Reducing Work Injuries in Charlotte, Asheville

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced its yearly inspection plan for 2011. The Site-Specific Targeting (SST) program's goal is to focus the agency's resources on highly dangerous workplaces which have demonstrated a high rate of occupational illnesses and injuries.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Greensboro are familiar with the SST program, but are concerned that it doesn't include construction job sites.
OSHA's SST program inspects workplaces that have at least 20 or more employees and that are not related to construction. To be identified as a high-hazard workplace, companies must have above-average rates in work-related illnesses and injuries. These rates are determined through data gathered from OSHA's 2010 Data Initiative survey.

This assessment includes 80,000 large businesses from high-hazard industries. Businesses are randomly picked for inspection from a list of at least 3,700 non-manufacturing, manufacturing, and personal care and nursing facilities. A spokesperson for OSHA feels that through these inspections, flaws in health and safety practices can be found and corrected thus making these high hazard workplaces safer.

Changes in the SST program since 2010 include the number of employees per company went from 40 to 20 and new this year is an evaluation process to see if the SST program recommendations and assistance is making a difference regarding future OSHA inspections.

OSHA additionally has a National Emphasis Program (NEP) that has a total of 14 individual programs including lead, amputations, crystalline silica, trenching/excavations, shipbreaking, covered chemical facilities process safety management, hexavalent chromium, recordkeeping, diacetyl, federal agencies, monitoring air traffic control towers, combustible dust, petroleum refinery process safety management and primary metals. The NEP does a much more in depth inspection in these areas.

OSHA also has about 140 Local and Regional Emphasis Programs (LEPs and REPs). The SST- 2011 plan can be viewed in its entirety on OSHA's website.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, construction workers are engaged in many hazardous tasks, including working at elevated heights, digging ditches and trenches, working in environments with extreme noise and/or dust, using all kinds of power tools and equipment, working in close quarters/confined spaces and being near high voltage electricity.

In 2009, construction workers had the most fatal injuries of any private sector industry. Falls made up over one-third of fatal injuries in construction (34 percent). Forty-eight percent of all private industry fatal falls happened to construction workers. Transportation-related construction incidents accounted for 25 percent of fatal injuries and coming in contact with equipment or objects caused 19 percent of fatal construction injuries. Over 92,000 construction workers in 2009 suffered a non-fatal injury or illness that required time off from work. That is a rate of 4.3 incidents per 100 full-time workers.

Workers' compensation lawyers in North Carolina are concerned that the agency has skipped over one of the most dangerous industries in our state, but rather focused on a wide variety of areas in the SST program. We don't take away the importance of safety in other industries, but inspecting for safe environments at construction sites should be equally as important. If you have been injured at work, find an experienced attorney that is on your side and will help you work through the complexities of the case.

Continue reading "Work Site Safety Inspections Important in Reducing Work Injuries in Charlotte, Asheville" »

September 26, 2011

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Attorneys Review the Revised Child Labor Regulations

Earlier this week, a report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that employment for 16- to 24-year-olds increased by 1.7 percent from April to July.

July is usually the high point in youth employment, but this year it was at an all-time low. Almost 200,000 more youths were unemployed between April and July as compared to last year, but did not come close to the amount that were unemployed in 2008 and 2009. In those years, more than 1 million youths were out of work each year. The summer is when 16- to 24-year-olds actively start looking for jobs, usually for a summer job while school is out or college graduates starting their first real job. In July, this age group's labor force ballooned by 2.4 million.
Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Charlotte and elsewhere would like to review the changes the U.S. Department of Labor made last July to the Child Labor Regulations.

Major changes to Child Labor Regulation Number 3 Title 29 CFR 570, Subpart C for 14 and 15-year-olds employed in non-agricultural jobs:

Reg. 3 at §§ 570.33 and 570.34 - Regulation modified to make clear what 14- and 15-year-olds may do according to what the Secretary of Labor allows. These sections were also reorganized and differences between food service, retail and gas station businesses were removed. Also, two sections were made separating permitted and not permitted tasks allowed.

Reg. 3 at §§ 570.33(f) and (k) and 570.34(k) - Explains under what circumstance youths can travel inside and outside of passenger vehicle. Youths are now permitted to load and unload from vehicles hand tools and other personal items brought to a job site.

Reg. 3 § 570.33(i) - Makes clear when youths can work inside meat freezers and coolers. They can only briefly enter a freezer to get items but they can't enter any meat coolers.

Reg. 3 § 570.33(j) - Youths under 16 can not perform door-to-door sales and peddling. They also can't be 'sign wavers' unless it is done right in front of the company's business.

Reg. 3 § 570.33(l) - Youths can no longer participate in poultry cooping or catching.

Reg. 3 § 570.34(b) - Created a new occupation for work performed of a scholarly or imaginatively creative nature.

Reg. 3 § 570.34(l) - Allows properly certified and trained 15-year-olds to work as swimming instructors and lifeguards at pools and water parks. Includes in the regulation that youths under 16-years old can not work on water slides as a dispatcher or lifeguard at river, lake, beach, ocean, quarry or pier swimming facility.

Reg. 3 § 570.34(m) - Adds 14 and 15-year-olds can be employed at places of business which use power-driven equipment to process wood merchandise under certain conditions.

Reg. 3 § 570.35(a)(5) - Explains that Friday is included regarding the 3-hour work on a school day. Also defines that 'school hours' mean when the local public schools are in session

Reg. 3 § 570.35(b) - Makes employers use the same time period, 168 hours (24 hours x 7 days) for establishing compliance regarding child labor requirements as it does for determining employee overtime pay.

Reg. 3 § 570.37 - Forms a work-study program (WSP) for scholarly oriented youth. This program would permit youths to be employed during school hours, but with safeguards in place to make sure work didn't interfere with their health or education.

Major changes to Hazardous Occupations 29 CFR Part 570, Subpart E for 16- and 17-year-olds employed in non-agricultural jobs:

HO 4 - Increased prohibitions to consist of most work in: forest fire fighting and prevention that is done along with putting out a real fire; forest economics and forest marketing; and timber territory management.

HO 7 - Youths are banned from riding on, tending, repairing, working from, servicing, or dismantling a crane, elevator, derrick, hoist, manlift, or high-lift truck. The rule expanded the definition of high-lift vehicles to include skid loader, backhoes, skid-steer loader, front-end loaders, stacking trucks and Bobcat loaders. It also expanded the definition of manlift to ban use of scissor lifts, boom-type mobile elevating work platforms, cherry pickers, bucket trucks and basket hoists.

HO 10 - Youths can't work in a poultry slaughtering business or in businesses that make or process poultry or meat products. Youths under age 18 cannot clean any parts of power-driven meat processing machinery.

HO 11 - Permits youths to operate counter top mixers and under certain conditions operate pizza-dough rollers.

HO 12 - Youths are banned from operating and loading any type of compactors and balers including those not used or designed to process paper. They are permitted to load certain types of paper box and scrap paper balers and compactors.

HO 14 - Youths can not operate wood chippers, chain saws, reciprocating saws and abrasive cutting discs.

Continue reading "North Carolina Workers' Compensation Attorneys Review the Revised Child Labor Regulations" »

September 24, 2011

Workplace Violence Often Leads to Homicide in North Carolina Work Environments

We would like to make you aware of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's (OSHA) website on Workplace Violence. This site will assist you in developing anti-violence in the workplace prevention programs and provides plenty of information on this growing problem.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Greensboro think it is tragic that in 2010 there were more than 500 workplace homicides nationwide. Every employer has the responsibility to provide their workers with a safe place to do their job.
How does OSHA define workplace violence?
It is any threat or act of physical harm, intimidation, harassment or other menacing unruly behavior that happens at your place of employment. Acts and threats can run the gamut from verbal abuse to physical violence to even homicide. It can not only affect workers but customers, visitors and clients can also be involved.

Currently in the United States, homicide is the fourth leading cause of deadly occupational injuries. In a report recently released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on fatal occupational injuries, over 4,500 workers lost their lives on the job in 2010 and 506 were from homicides. It is shocking that the leading cause of death for women at work is homicides. This is a serious issue and should be a legitimate concern to all workers and employers.

Who is in danger of encountering an act of workplace violence?
It is staggering that almost 2 million workers each year in the U.S. report being the victims of violence in the workplace. Who knows how many cases go unreported. Anyone at anytime and anywhere can become a victim. Researchers have identified factors that could raise the risk of harm for some employees at certain workplaces. These factors include:
-Any job that requires the exchanging of money with the public.
-Anyone that comes into contact with unstable or volatile people.
-Anyone that works alone, works late at night, works in high crime areas or in isolated areas.
-Any job that provides care to others.
-Any job that puts you in a location where alcohol is served.

Occupations that are at a higher risk of encountering a violent act are police officers, healthcare professionals, delivery drivers, customer and public service workers and anyone who works alone or who works in small groups.

How can employers decrease the risk of workplace violence hazards?
In most places of employment where violence hazards can be recognized, the risk of a physical attack can be avoided or minimized if employers take suitable precautions. Employers that establish a zero-tolerance policy toward violence in the workplace creates a very effective means of protecting their workers. This policy should cover anyone that comes into contact with company workers.

Companies that have a well-written and thought-out Workplace Violence Prevention Program are on the right track for reducing violence hazards. It is vital that all employees know the policy and realize that claims of workplace violence will be taken seriously and dealt with swiftly.

Continue reading "Workplace Violence Often Leads to Homicide in North Carolina Work Environments" »

September 22, 2011

Carnival Company Found Negligent of Fall Accident in Greensboro After Death of a Worker

A $27,000 penalty has been issued to a Georgia company for safety violations related to the death of a worker at a Greensboro carnival.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Charlotte previously wrote about this tragic incident on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog.
Event Coordinators Incorporated, located in Augusta, Georgia was cited by the North Carolina Department of Labor for more than 10 serious safety violations in connection with a fatal accident at a Youth Council carnival that took place at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Monetary penalties per violation ranged from $900 to $3,500. At the conclusion of the carnival, a 42-year-old Columbus, Georgia resident fell to his death from a Ferris wheel while he was dismantling it. Another worker was also seriously injured when a cable broke causing the two men to fall from heightened levels.

According to the N.C. Department of Labor report, a defective fitting on a cable used to dismantle the "Seattle Wheel" caused the tragic accident. The failed fitting allowed part of the Ferris wheel to become free, swinging into a walkway that caused one worker to fall over 40 feet to the pavement. The loose part also hit an elevated bucket lift which dumped out the second worker, who fell more than 25 feet.

Included in the report was that the accidents was caused by 3 broken strands on the cable. Additional safety violations included that 2 other workers plus the ones who fell were performing work at heights which required protective railings and that workers should have been wearing eye protection and hard hats while working with potential overhead hazards.

Here are just a few amusement park/carnival ride accidents that occurred last month as reported by Ride Accidents, a non-profit group that wants to help avoid accidents in the future by identifying the circumstances that caused them.

-A 25-year-old ride operator at the West Virginia State Fair in Charleston was airlifted to a hospital after being hit by a gondola ride. It was reported by co-workers that the operator was using his cell phone and walked into the danger zone of the ride.

-5 people were hurt on a pirate ship ride at Morey's Piers in Wildwood, New Jersey, when a decorative mast broke apart hitting the riders. One of the riders, a 13-year-old girl, sustained serious injuries.

-It took almost an hour for emergency workers to rescue a man that fell while boarding the Corkscrew roller coaster at Silverwood, a theme park in Athol, Idaho.

-A defective metal pin caused a light fixture to fall on a Scrambler ride at a carnival in Tell City, Indiana. Though the 3 hurt riders did not receive life threatening injuries, one young man required more than 70 stitches to his face.

In two separate incidents, one in Tennessee and the other in Pennsylvania, two ride operators were arrested and charge with reckless endangerment. In the Tennessee incident, a 23-year-old Ferris wheel operator was allegedly smoking marijuana at the Putnam County Fair in Cookville. The Pennsylvania incident happened at a carnival in Connoquenessing Township where a 47-year-old ride operator was allegedly drunk while giving carnival goers a ride called the Ring of Fire.

Continue reading "Carnival Company Found Negligent of Fall Accident in Greensboro After Death of a Worker" »

September 20, 2011

Circuit Breakers a Workplace Hazard Leading to Electrocution Injuries of North Carolina workers

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an alert cautioning employers and workers about the dangers of certain molded-case rebuilt circuit breakers from Eaton/Cutler-Hammer. These circuit breakers have model numbers E²KM and E²K and were rebuilt incorrectly which can cause them to malfunction.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Charlotte know that defective circuit breakers can cause fires, burns, explosions, shock, electrocution and arc flashes.
It is unknown how many defective units are out there and identifying them is difficult since they look like new or seem properly rebuilt. The manufacturer's specs were changed by the third party rebuilder.

The original Eaton/Cutler-Hammer breakers were part of their E² mining series. The easiest method to determine if you have one of these defective units is to feel with your finger the square portion of the cover near where the circuit breaker handle is.

If this area is very smooth, you most likely have a defective unit. The circuit breaker, if in use, must be taken out of service immediately. The OSHA alert explains that inaccurate voltage ratings are on the covers of the rebuilt circuit breakers.

Since the covers don't meet manufacturer's specs, they may lack safety features like fault and grounding protection to avoid electrical burns, fires and shocks. This presents an extreme risk for injuries to workers in North Carolina using these devices.

A specific instruction to employers on what to do if they have any E²K and E²KM breakers is in the alert. Employers must have an experienced person shut the power off to the breakers, adhere to proper lockout/tagout protocols, and take out of service any defective breaker and swap it with one that is Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) certified.

Even though the E²K and E²KM circuit breakers are meant to be utilized in mining operations, OSHA understands company's engaged in tunneling operations may buy the same circuit breakers. It is an OSHA requirement that workplaces use OSHA-approved NRTL certified circuit breakers.

Stay safe when working around electricity:

Safety reminders with extension cords
-Never modify cords.
-Always use extension cords that are the 3-wire type.
-Use strain relief fittings, cords and connection devices.
-Never unplug a cord by pulling on the cord.

Electrical Equipment
-Use GFCI's (ground-fault circuit interrupters) on all single-phase, 120-volt, 15 and 20 amp receptacles.
-Use clearly identified double-insulated equipment and tools.
-Check all electrical equipment prior to using. Take out of service any equipment that has missing ground prongs, frayed cords or cracked tool casings.

Overhead and Buried Power Lines
-Always look for overhead and buried power line indicators.
-Always assume that power lines are live and stay at a minimum of 10 feet away from overhead lines.
-When working near power lines ground or de-energize them.
-Never use metal ladders around power lines, use fiberglass or non-conductive wood ladders.

And always remember if the power goes out and you are using a generator never bring it inside. Always turn off the main circuit breaker while the generator is in use and make sure the generator is cool prior to refueling.

Continue reading "Circuit Breakers a Workplace Hazard Leading to Electrocution Injuries of North Carolina workers" »

September 19, 2011

Transportation Incidents a Common Cause of Fatal Work Injuries in North Carolina

The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) will soon be observing its yearly safety campaign Drive Safely Work Week (DSWW), which reminds workers about safe driving practices.

Last month our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Asheville posted on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog that transportation accidents are the leading cause of workplace deaths.
NETS was founded in 1989 and is a non-profit group made up of private and public companies that promotes traffic safety on the job. DSWW is observed nationally during the first week of October, but the campaign's materials can be used year round. Material from the campaign doesn't just focus on what to do to prevent distracted driving incidents when you are the driver, but also for passengers on the job.

Accidents can happen at work both inside the office or warehouse, but also for those who have to drive for a living. Both drivers and passengers can be at risk for these types of workplace incidents, so it's important for everyone to take care when traveling on the job.

The following is some of the informational material DSWW provides for:

A Virginia Tech driving study indicates that you increase your risk of crashing by 23 times if you are texting; reaching for an object increases the risk by 9 times; and dialing a cell phone puts your risk at 6 times. Here's how you can lower risk for having a distracted driving crash:
-Never text and drive. Put your cell phone in the trunk while you are driving.
-Make sure you and your passengers buckle up and secure objects you are transporting like packages, animals, or personal computers.
-Know where you are going; being lost is very distracting. Use a voice navigation device and never read a map while driving.
-If you can't have your phone out of reach at least have call-blocking technology so calls can't get through until you are done driving.
-Give yourself plenty of following distance and adjust accordingly to changing road conditions.
-Adjust your radio and climate controls before you start to drive and never drive while using headphones. If you happen to be in a rental car make sure you know the locations of the wiper and light controls. Don't try to find them while you are driving.

-Be in charge of the driver's cell phone don't let it be a distraction. Try not to make or receive calls when you are a passenger. If you must use your phone make it a quick call.
-If you feel the driver is acting in an unsafe manner, speak up. Hurt feelings are easier to heal than broken bones.
-Never block the driver's view on the right, if they can't see clearly let them know when it is safe to proceed.
-Be the map reader, road sign reader and landmark finder.
-Don't get into serious or drawn out conversations with the driver.

Continue reading "Transportation Incidents a Common Cause of Fatal Work Injuries in North Carolina" »

September 18, 2011

Online Courses for Job Safety Training Can Help Reduce Injuries at Work in Gastonia

Our Gastonia workers' compensation lawyers know that safety should always come first in any work environment and yet many employers care more about getting the work done than providing a safe place to work.

Protective equipment like eyewear, ear plugs or back braces can reduce the risk of injury, as well as, making sure work areas remain tidy, items are secured, tools and machinery are powered off when not in use and equipment used to perform job tasks are routinely checked for maintenance and repairs.
The National Safety Council is offering a variety of safety training courses to employees, supervisors and bosses to help reduce the number of work injuries in Charlotte and elsewhere in the country. The NSC is making it more convenient by offering these important courses online in order to help reduce travel cost, time and overall expenses, but still achieve the same knowledge as you would in a classroom setting.

One thing that can reduce the severity of workplace injuries is if everyone on staff is compliant with Occupational Safety & Health Administration's standards on first aid. Employers should require all employees, specifically those who work with tools and equipment, to take the NSC First Aid, CPR & AED Course, which teaches how to perform cardiac and breathing safety procedures in adults, children and infants. It also teaches how to identify illness and injury, how to stop bleeding, and how to prevent the transmission of disease.

Any job that requires a worker to be exposed to blood or hazardous pathogens routinely, like lab workers, paramedics or dentists are at a great risk of exposure and should take the Bloodborne & Airborne Pathogens course which instructs you on what to do if exposure occurs. Employers have a responsibility to not only keep the environment safe but to teach employees the risks involved and how to reduce the risks of exposure to fatal disease or illness during job performance.

Online defensive driving courses are offered to workers who operate a vehicle as part of their job performance. Vehicular accidents are the leading cause of fatalities at work nationwide. Courses are offered for general defensive driving, safe practices for truck drivers, fire truck operators and ambulance drivers responding to an emergency.
The NSC offers over 100 safety training courses online.

The following are a few examples of the courses that are offered and a brief description of what employees can learn.

  • Asbestos Awareness: Workers can learn what asbestos are, three common types, diseases caused by exposure, and what symptoms to look for.

  • Back Safety and Back Injury Prevention: Two related courses that teach about back injuries, what risks factors are involved, how to lift things properly to prevent back injuries and what posture and body mechanics can help keep your lower back healthy.

  • Construction Safety Orientation: All types of injuries can occur at construction jobs so this course teaches about fall and ladder protection, equipment, hazardous areas and what safe practices can be performed to reduce the risk of injury at a construction site.

  • Drug Testing Awareness: Teaches employees why drug testing is important, when to report prescription drug use, the advantages of a drug-free work environment and health defects that can occur from drug abuse.

  • Eye Safety: Teaches workers what the most common hazards are and what type of protective gear should be worn to prevent vision problems.

  • Hand & Power Tools: Since most jobs require some sort of tool to perform a task this class teaches employees how to handle tools, the different types of power tools and how to control hazards.

  • Office Ergonomics: Musculoskeletal Disorder is a common risk in office jobs, so this course teaches office workers what ergonomics is, how to prevent problems, what adjustments can be made to your work environment and proper posture.

  • Walking & Working Surfaces: This class teaches what hazards to look for like wall openings or floor holes and how to keep your work environment neat and organized to prevent work hazards.

If your employer doesn't offer safety training on site, request to take classes online that pertain to your work environment. It is the responsibility of your employer to put safety first and the NSC online courses are a convenient and cost effective way to teach employees safety through interactive video and real-life simulations.

Continue reading "Online Courses for Job Safety Training Can Help Reduce Injuries at Work in Gastonia" »

September 15, 2011

Fewer Willful Violation Citations in North Carolina Leads to High Rate of Workplace Injuries in Unsafe Work Environments

The 1991 chicken plant fire that killed 25 people in Hamlet, North Carolina is tragically known as one of the worst industrial accidents in state history. The Charlotte Observer reports that much examination was placed on worker safety at North Carolina jobsites following the deathly tragedy of all those workers killed in the fire.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors had never conducted an inspection of the plant where workers died trying to get out from behind locked doors, which is an obvious workplace violation.
Asheville workers' compensation attorneys know that many work injuries go unreported because there is an honorary system in place in North Carolina in which companies need to self-report serious injuries occurring on the job. OSHA inspections are critical in keeping companies running above board and making sure employee safety is maintained at all times. Following the chicken plant incident, OSHA officials started cracking the whip on employers and doubling inspections in fear of a federal takeover of the North Carolina workplace safety program.

Twenty years later, workplace injuries in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Statesville and elsewhere in the state are a genuine concern because inspections and citations of companies have dropped dramatically. In fact, inspections by North Carolina OSHA are at the lowest level since 2001 and total citations dropped to 10,400 during last fiscal year, which is the lowest amount since 1995. Also to be noted is that staffing at OSHA has not been equally matched with the growth of the workforce in North Carolina.

North Carolina Labor Officials argue that the system is a strong as ever and that workplace incidents fail in comparison to what they were 20 years ago. Moreover, illness and injury rates remain at the bottom end of the spectrum and lower than most other states throughout the country.

A 2008 Observer inquiry found that accountability of injuries and illnesses by workplaces weren't always accurate which skewed the numbers somewhat. The newspaper found that employers who didn't report serious injuries weren't reprimanded and if an inspection wasn't done of the facility then safety violations were more prevalent putting workers at risk. Workplace fatalities increased by 40 percent from 34 in 2009 to 48 reported deaths in 2010.

Willful violations cited by OSHA can be charged with a stiffer fine but inspectors in North Carolina over the last 10 years have handed out less than one of every 1,000 violations as willful which is a rate much less than most states. Seemingly, this is because the NC Labor Department takes on a pro-business approach and companies would face hefty fines if found to be in willful violation. In 2010, financial penalties were reportedly high nationwide totaling $5.9 million.

The average citation in North Carolina last fiscal year was roughly $884, or 9 percent lower than the nationwide average. Labor officials argue that many inspections are done of small companies compared to other states and these companies can't afford stiff penalties, so rules are in place to protect small employers from facing large fines for violations found within their company.

Had an inspection been done of the Hamlet plant prior to the incident, they would have found as many as 80 safety violations. It is no time to become complacent with the number of inspections taking place throughout the state because workers must be protected from potential work hazards. So many lives could have been saved if the doors had been unlocked and employees were able to flee the building safely.

Continue reading "Fewer Willful Violation Citations in North Carolina Leads to High Rate of Workplace Injuries in Unsafe Work Environments" »

September 12, 2011

Experienced North Carolina Law Firm Can Help with Complicated Workers' Compensation Claims in North Carolina, South Carolina

The 2010 summary of fatal work injuries was recently released by the workers' compensation attorneys in Winston-Salem want to remind injured workers and their families to fight for the rights you deserve. No injury resulting from a work accident is too small to have medically evaluated because you never know how injuries can be life changing weeks, months or even years later. Documentation of an accident can help in your battle to receive compensation.
Fatal work injuries in Asheville, Gastonia and Charlotte can occur regularly if an employer doesn't put the safety of a worker first, above all else. According to the preliminary report, North Carolina reported 134 fatalities related to work accidents in 2010. The total was more than most other states and a higher recorded tally than in 2009.

Nationwide, there were a total of 4,547 fatal occupational injuries in 2010. When we put that into perspective it is an average of 12 deaths a day. The final report won't be released until 2012 but it is expected the numbers will increase by roughly 3 percent since that has been the case each of the last three years.

It would be nice if we could pinpoint who is most likely to sustain an injury, but the truth is anyone can be involved in a serious or fatal work injury. According to the report, Latino and African-American or black (non-Hispanic) occupational work fatalities decreased, while white worker fatalities were up by 2 percent. The non-Hispanic black or African-American employees showed the biggest percent change with 9 percent fewer deaths than in 2009.

This is the second consecutive year for a decrease among this race as a 21 percent drop was reported in 2009 and a 37 percent decrease has been reported since 2007. Work fatalities dropped by 4 percent in the Hispanic and Latino ethnic group which resulted in the lowest total since 1997. There were a total of 682 Latino and Hispanic work deaths in 2010 of which 63 percent were workers born in another country.

The number of hours worked increased for wage and salary workers but self-employed workers worked 2 percent less than the total hours in 2009. Salary and wage workers reported a 2 percent increase in deaths occurring from a work accident compared to a 6 percent decrease in fatalities reported for self-employed workers from 2009-2010. The total of self-employed work fatalities was the lowest total reported since 1992.

The report indicated that 2010 showed a drop in male fatal injuries but an increase for women who were killed by a work accident. Female work fatalities increased by 6 percent in 2010 which was partially due to the 13 percent increase in female homicides and violent acts taking place at work. The three age groups that presented an increase in work fatalities were 17 and under, 25-34 year-olds and 55 years-old and higher. All other age groups reported lower totals for 2010.

The Top 5 fatal industry sectors reporting occupational injuries are:

  • 780 fatalities occurred in construction jobs, which was about 17 percent of work fatalities for 2010.

  • 657 injured workers died in warehousing and transportation, or 14.4 percent of total work fatalities in 2010.

  • 600 workers died in hunting, fishing, forestry or agriculture jobs comprising 13.2 percent of total fatalities.

  • 373 professional and business services workers died from a work accident which equates to more than 8 percent of work fatalities.

  • 324 employees died at manufacturing-related jobs in 2010 or 7.1 percent of total occupational fatalities.

"As our economy continues to strengthen and the workforce expands, we at the Department of Labor will remain resolute in our mission to ensure that safety is not sacrificed as America's workers provide for themselves and their families," said U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis. "My constant focus is 'good jobs for everyone,' and safety is an essential part of that equation."

Continue reading "Experienced North Carolina Law Firm Can Help with Complicated Workers' Compensation Claims in North Carolina, South Carolina" »

September 9, 2011

Wide Variety of Work Environments Deemed Dangerous; Employers Need to Protect Workers from Injury in North Carolina

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the 2010 Preliminary Summary for Fatal Occupational Injuries. Gastonia workers' compensation lawyers are concerned about the high numbers already reported because they will likely go up when the final work fatality report is released in the Spring of 2012.

In fact, the last three years have shown a 3 percent increase from preliminary numbers to the final count which would put us well over the national work-related death count of 2009 which came in at 4,551.
As economic stability continues to play a significant roll in death tolls at work, fatal work injuries in North Carolina remain a concern because so many industries can be considered dangerous if employers don't take proper safety precautions to keep workers safe. So many jobs require climbing, operating large equipment, handling chemicals, or work transportation to perform duties succinctly which often put workers in grave danger.

More than 4,500 employees died from a work-related accident or injury in 2010. The fatal injury rate for all occupations in 2010 was 3.5 per 100,000 workers. The 10 occupations that had fatal injury rates at least 5 times higher than the average and reported the highest rate of fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers nationwide were:

-Fisherman and fish-related jobs: 116
-Workers in the logging industry: 91.9
-Flight engineers and pilots on aircrafts: 70.6
-Ranchers or employees working on farms: 41.4
-Operators of mining machines: 38.7
-Roofers: 32.4
-Recyclable materials or garbage collectors: 29.8
-Truck drivers or sales workers that require transportation to perform duties: 21.8
-Workers who install, repair or maintain industrial machinery: 20.3
-Law enforcement including sheriffs or police officers: 18.0

Let's take a look at work injuries categorized by incident as reported in the 2010 Fatal Occupational Report Summary.

Transportation: There were a total of 1,766 transportation incidents while performing a job responsibility which resulted in death in 2010, or almost 2 out of every 5 fatal work injuries were transportation-related. North Carolina reported 43 fatal transportation accidents at work.

Exposure to harmful environments or substances: Nationally, there were 409 deaths reported while at work. North Carolina reported 15 occupational deaths from exposure to hazardous substances or harmful environments.

Contact with equipment and objects: More than 730 workers were killed on the job by equipment or being struck by an object nationwide in 2010. North Carolina reported 23 workers killed by objects or equipment at work.

Falls: North Carolina reported 22 fatal falls at work compared to the total death count of 635 nationwide in 2010.

Workplace Homicides: Almost 18 percent of deaths occurring at work were related to assaults or violent acts. Homicidal incidents for women rose 13 percent in 2010 despite the overall decrease. There were 808 homicide deaths at work nationwide compared to 23 reported fatalities in North Carolina.

Fires and Explosions: North Carolina didn't report any deaths from fires or explosions in 2010 but there were 187 deaths nationwide from these types fatal work accidents.

No work environment is completely safe and free from hazards, so employees are encouraged to use caution every day at work. If you are aware of something hazardous at work, report it to a boss or supervisor to reduce the risk of injury to yourself or other co-workers.

Continue reading "Wide Variety of Work Environments Deemed Dangerous; Employers Need to Protect Workers from Injury in North Carolina" »

September 5, 2011

More Fatal Work Injuries Reported in North Carolina in 2010 Compared to Last Year

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis recently commented on the recent release of the 2010 fatal occupational injuries report by stating "No worker should have to sacrifice his or her life to earn a living."

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys couldn't agree more knowing that 134 North Carolina employees died at work in 2010.
Fatal work injuries in Charlotte, Asheville and elsewhere in North Carolina occurred at a rate of more than 11 per month, on average, last year. Workers may think they work in a safe environment but it is the employer's responsibility to make sure of that. Work environments should be hazard free from fall accidents, exposure to harmful substances, struck-by accidents and incidents related to transportation among others.

The Census of Fatal Work Injuries report for 2010 offered the following national preliminary key points:

  • There were an initial total of 4,547 work injuries resulting in death reported in 2010, which was roughly the same as the final count of 4,551 in 2009. The 2010 total could still go up as there have been an average increase of 3 percent in final totals after the preliminary report was released the last three years. The final numbers will be released in Spring of 2012.
  • Police officer fatalities rose 40 percent nationwide. The 2010 total was 134 compared to a total of 96 deaths in law enforcement in 2009.
  • A decline of 9 percent less fatal work injuries was reported for African-American or non-Hispanic black workers in 2010 compared to an increase of 2 percent fatal work injuries for non-Hispanic white workers.
  • Homicides taking place at work declined overall by 7 percent nationwide which equated to the fewest every recorded but female workplace homicides rose by 13 percent in 2010.
  • There were more than twice as many work-related deaths caused by fire incidents in 2010 when compared to 2009. The 2009 total was 53 but rose to 109 in 2010. The 2010 total was the highest recorded since 2003.
  • The private construction sector showed a decrease in workplace fatalities by 10 percent from the previous year. There has been a significant decline in fatal injuries by almost 40 percent since 2006 when construction jobs were at a peak.
  • The private mining industry's workplace fatalities almost doubled from 2009 to 2010. There were 99 fatal injuries in private mining in 2009 compared to 172 in 2010 equaling an increase of more than 70 percent. There were multiple death-related incidents from both the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and Upper Big Branch Mine which boosted these numbers significantly.
  • Additionally, the work injury rate for deaths in mining rose to 19.9 per 100,000 FTE's in 2010 from 12.4 per 100,000 in 2009.
  • Wage and salary work fatalities rose 2 percent in 2010 in comparison to the 6 percent decrease in work deaths by self-employed workers.
  • Transportation incidents proved to be the most fatal for North Carolina workers in 2010. There were 43 fatal transportation accidents, 31 violent acts and assaults at work, 23 fatal work injuries related to contact with equipment or objects, 22 fatal fall accidents and 15 instances where exposure to a harmful substance killed an employee.

Continue reading "More Fatal Work Injuries Reported in North Carolina in 2010 Compared to Last Year" »