November 2011 Archives

November 30, 2011

Asbestos Exposure a Potential Danger for Statesville Firefighters

We posted recently on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog that firefighters are at a heightened risk of transportation accidents, especially when responding to emergency calls. Our Statesville workers' compensation lawyers know that there are many other concerns that Fire Departments need to contend with in order to keep work crews safe.
One serious hazard that firefighters need to be concerned with is exposure to asbestos during a North Carolina fire rescue as was recently reported by WCTI 12.

A local Fire Department is being investigated by the North Carolina Department of Labor for allegedly putting its workers at risk of asbestos exposure while preparing a house for a training session. The chief disputes the claim as the firefighters only removed carpeting from the house. No citations have been issued but the investigation is ongoing.

We typically associate asbestos hazards with the construction industry. But the truth is many types of workers can be exposed when an employer doesn't take preventative measures or offer protective equipment to reduce the risk. Carpenters, utility workers, electricians, pipe fitters or plumbers, steel mill workers and mechanics are some of the jobs that require protective equipment to reduce the chance of exposure to the deadly diseases that can be contracted from asbestos.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines asbestos as a mineral fiber that when taken in at high levels can lead to health problems such as asbestosis, mesothelioma or lung cancer. Asbestos can be found in older products such as floor tiles, steam pipes, furnace ducts, door gaskets, cement sheet, or automobile brake pads and linings.

Environmental Working Group reports that almost 30 Americans die daily on average from asbestos-related diseases and men over the age of 50 are most at risk. On average, asbestos-related diseases kill almost 10,000 people annually who have contracted mesothelioma (2509), asbestosis (1,398), lung cancer (4,800) and gastro-intestinal cancer (1,200).

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration classifies asbestos hazards into four categories. Class I involves the removal of thermal insulation and troweled or sprayed-on surfacing asbestos. Class II includes any other type of non-thermal asbestos-containing materials which need removed. Class III concentrates on maintenance and repair operations where asbestos is believed to have been disturbed. Class IV involves custodial procedures where employees may be exposed from clean-up of asbestos-related materials or debris.

Employers have a responsibility to limit employee exposure to asbestos. Over an averaged 8-hour work shift, an employee's exposure should not go over .1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air. For exposures lasting 30 minutes, an employee should not exceed 1 fiber per cubic centimeter of air. Employers are forbidden to rotate employees in order to comply with allowable exposure limits.

Employers are required to create regulated areas which are clearly marked with warning signs where employees working with asbestos can be protected. No visitors or untrained personnel without protective equipment are permitted in the controlled zone area. No eating, drinking or smoking should take place in this area.

Employees aren't usually aware of the asbestos-related hazards associated with performing certain job tasks. If you feel you are at risk or have concerns about exposure, feel free to ask questions or additional job training. It is your right to be protected while you work on the job.

Continue reading "Asbestos Exposure a Potential Danger for Statesville Firefighters " »

November 28, 2011

OSHA Video Series Aimed to Reduce Injuries at Construction Sites in Charlotte, Nationwide

We frequently report how the construction industry is one of the most dangerous types of jobs and how employers who fail to protect employees from hazards in construction areas put workers who report to work at risk of severe injury or death every single day. A recent fatal construction accident in Charlotte is a reminder that worker safety must take precedent in an industry that is valued at $1 trillion.
WSOCTV reports a man was killed while taking a nose dive through a garbage chute into an industrial-sized construction bin from 3 stories up. The man fell from the roof of Pike Energy Solutions in Charlotte. He was pronounced dead at the scene as rescuers were unable to save him from life-threatening injuries. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is investigating as no one knows the cause of the accident.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported over 800 construction worker deaths in 2009. One out of every five deaths at work were construction accident-related, making it the most fatal single industry nationwide. Construction workers are at risk of injuries related to heat stress, cold stress, asbestos, noise and hearing loss, electrocution, motor vehicle accidents, skin disease and large machinery accidents among others.

In order to help employers and employees prevent construction-related accidents, OSHA has released a new series of videos about the potential hazards in the construction industry. Some of the hazards included in the videos are fall accidents, struck-by accidents, trenching hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, strain and sprain injuries and excavation hazards.

Each animated video is roughly 2 to 4 minutes in length and is available in both the Spanish and English language. The video portrays a real-life situation based on true stories that resulted in serious injury or death. The 12 videos are easily accessible by visiting the v-Tool Construction Hazards website. Users should run your mouse over hazards in a construction site picture or list, click on the hazard to load the video and watch the screen. Employers and workers can also learn actions to help prevent these types of accidents by watching each video clip.

General safety tips for construction workers include:

-Use extra caution when operating vehicles or large machinery. Be careful getting on and off and make sure the work area is hazard free while in operation.

-Request personal protection equipment to help reduce the severity of injury when an accident occurs.

-Get the necessary training before using large hand tools or power-operated equipment. Many tools or machinery can be dangerous without proper instruction on how to operate.

-Become aware of the dangers of asbestos, silica dust, combustible dust or other hidden dangers that may not be obvious to the human eye but make a work site extremely dangerous.

Construction industry employers have a responsibility to comply with all current OSHA requirements. Failing to ensure safety precautions and a safe work environment puts workers at risk and could lead to a wrongful death or workers' compensation claim in North Carolina.

Continue reading "OSHA Video Series Aimed to Reduce Injuries at Construction Sites in Charlotte, Nationwide" »

November 26, 2011

Annual Report Reveals Numerous Investigations into Workplace Safety at North Carolina Businesses and Job Sites

The North Carolina Department of Labor is responsible for promoting the health and safety of over 4 million employees working in over 250,000 businesses or establishments throughout the state.

Asheville workers' compensation lawyers understand that keeping track of this many employees must be difficult to the say the least. But it is as much up to the employer as it is the Department of Labor to keep these workers from getting injured on company time in Charlotte, Statesville or elsewhere in the state.
The N.C. Department of Labor recently released their 2010 annual report. In a two-part series we will summarize the report in an overview of the three Divisions followed by a more detailed look at the Bureaus within each Division.

The following is an overview of the Standards and Inspections Division, Occupational Safety & Health Division and Administration Division found in the 2010 Fiscal Year (FY) report.

Standards and Inspections Division
This Division is comprised of six bureaus which include: Apprenticeship and Training, Boiler Safety, Elevator and Amusement Device, Employment Discrimination, Mine & Quarry and Wage & Hour.

-In FY 2010, there were over 3,000 apprenticeship programs completed in North Carolina.

-The Boiler Safety Bureau found 2,771 violations during more than 51,000 inspections of pressure equipment.

-In FY 2010, there were more than 19,500 elevator inspections and 7,198 amusement devices evaluated throughout the year.

-Almost 800 complaints were received by the Employment Discrimination Bureau which resulted in 778 investigations being conducted at differed work sites.

-The Mine and Quarry Bureau inspected and evaluated 448 active and abandoned mines.

-Over 46,000 youth employment certificates were issued by the Wage and Hour Bureau. There were 51 youth employment complaints that needed investigated in FY 2010.

Occupational Safety & Health Division
A total of five bureaus make up the Occupational Safety and Health Division which include Agriculture Safety and Health, Compliance, Consultative Services, Education, Training and Technical Assistance and Planning, Statistics & Information Management.

-Over $73,000 in penalties was handed out by the Agriculture Safety and Health Bureau in relation to 182 violations found in companies throughout the state.

-The Compliance Bureau issued more than 10,000 violations resulting in over $5.8 million in penalties.

-There were almost 5,400 serious hazards issued by the Consultative Bureau in FY 2010.

-Over 300 courses, workshops or forums were offered by the Education, Training and Technical Assistance Bureau to help train over 7,500 employers and workers.

-In FY 2010, the Planning, Statistics and Information Management Bureau received 955 disclosure requests of which 850 were processed.

Administration Division
Several divisions make up Administration ranging from Budget to Communication to Legal Affairs. Some of the highlights for this Division include:

-The help desk responded to over 3,000 calls.

-A review was completed of rules and regulations to determine which ones were no longer needed.

Overall it looks like the N.C. Department of Labor did a lot of work last year and yet far too many occupational injuries and fatalities still occurred on the job in 2010. Too many North Carolina employers are committing violations for unsafe work environments on a daily basis, which puts workers at risk of serious injury or illness. On-site inspections and hefty penalties need to continue until employers get the message that unsafe work environments are unacceptable and won't be tolerated.

Continue reading "Annual Report Reveals Numerous Investigations into Workplace Safety at North Carolina Businesses and Job Sites" »

November 25, 2011

North Carolina Reports One of Lowest Work Accident Rates Nationwide

A recent article in the News & Observer reported that North Carolina work injuries and illness are reported less frequently than occupational mishaps reported in most other states. Much of the credit was given to employee training programs.
Workers' compensation attorneys in Greensboro, Charlotte and throughout the state know that many cases still go unreported so employers shouldn't hurt their arm on the way to patting themselves on the back after hearing the news offered in the recent occupational injury and illness report. In 2010, the injury rate for North Carolina work accidents was 3.1 cases per 100 full-time workers. If you ask us, 1 case per 1 million employees nationwide is too many considering employers have an obligation to create safe work environments and protect employees from risk associated with their job.

According to the article, only three states, Louisiana, Texas and New York, reported fewer workplace injuries and accidents than the Tar Heel state last year. Since 1999, the work injury rate for North Carolina has decreased by more than 45 percent. The injury rate in 1999 was 5.7 injuries per 100 workers compared to 3.1 reported last year in North Carolina. Outsourcing, layoffs, off-shoring and cost-cutting strategies are factors in causing the lower accident rate because the rate is measured per 100 employees, not by overall work accidents reported throughout the state.

In a recent press release, North Carolina Department of Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry commented on how proud she is of the drop in injury and illness rate during her tenure. Berry states "The record low injury and illness rate is a credit to the employers and employees of our state."

Berry feels much of the improvement has been due to the successful joint efforts of the Department, management and those employees performing dangerous work tasks in taking work safety more seriously. Much of the focus made by the state is on the dangerous industries like manufacturing and construction that put workers at risk of injury or illness on a daily basis. The NC Department of Labor provides free training sessions, free consultative visits to work sites and builds strong alliances and partnerships with employers to help reduce work injuries and illnesses that can occur in an unsafe work environment.

North Carolina employers should never stop working to improve worker safety until zero accidents are reported monthly or annually. Continuing to evaluate work environments, providing necessary protective equipment and ensuring employees have proper training about work safety while performing certain job duties are the first steps in keeping workers from getting injured or sick on the job.

North Carolina workers' compensation attorneys can assist injured workers in taking the needed steps to make a complaint against their employer or file a disability claim to help pay for damages suffered while working on the job. Employees fearful of the consequences should speak with an experienced work injury lawyer to gain the confidence to fight for what is rightfully yours.

Continue reading "North Carolina Reports One of Lowest Work Accident Rates Nationwide" »

November 23, 2011

Black Friday Sales Events to Bring Increased Risks for Work-Related Injuries in Spartanburg

It's no secret that Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. Stores roll out their biggest deals ever and consumer mobs head out to save some money. Without the proper safety precautions, these events can get ugly and employees can be injured in a work-related accident in Spartanburg and elsewhere throughout the Carolinas. Black Friday brings out large crowds and without the proper safety plan, the crowds can get out of hand and things can get dangerous.
Our Spartanburg workers compensation lawyers understand that employers have a responsibility to keep workplace conditions safe and hazard free for employees. This is especially important during Black Friday sale events. In 2008, a worker died during the opening of a Black Friday. Employers are urged to start planning for this year's Black Friday sales. Taking the proper safety steps can help to reduce the risks of a work-related injury when dealing with the large crowds of shoppers.

Planning for Black Friday:

-Make sure to equip areas expecting large crowds with the appropriate security officers, crowd management personnel or police officers on site.

-Workers should be designated to specific areas of your store. Make sure you have enough employees to cover all areas.

-Create a plan on what each worker is responsible for to avoid confusion on the day of the big event.

-Train all workers on how to properly manage the event and to manage crowds.

-Make sure that your business has all the required licensed and permits.

-Contact the local hospital, emergency responders, fire department and police department to notify them about your event.

-Be sure that your business has the proper signage presented throughout the store to indicate the location of emergency exits, restrooms and sale items.

-Have an emergency plan ready to address problems regarding crowd issues.

Right before the event:

-Make sure barricades and rope lines are in place to effectively route crowds.

-Allow customers through in intervals. This will help to eliminate overcrowding.

-Designate employees to explain the entrance and check-out procedures to customers to make lines flow smoother.

-Make sure all employees have radios or walkie-talkies to be able to effectively communicate with one another.

-Consider tickets or wristbands for the sale of popular items.

-Consider conducting an internet lottery for "hot" sale items.

-Keep shopping carts and other hazards in a safe area away from customer traffic.

-Create pamphlets for customers waiting in line to help communicate entrances, exits and locations of sale items.

During your Black Friday event:

-Before opening the doors, alert all customers and employees.

-Make sure all entrances are guarded with police, uniformed guards or other authorized individuals.

-Make sure that all crowd-management individuals are placed on the side of walkways, not in the middle.

-Never exceed your building's maximum occupancy limit. Stop customers from entering and wait for more to leave if you reach this limit.

-Make sure shoppers with disabilities have a safe way to enter and exit your store.

-Keep all exit doors clear.

-Make sure everyone knows in advance who to contact in the event of an emergency.

-Make sure that Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and first-aid kits are available.

Continue reading "Black Friday Sales Events to Bring Increased Risks for Work-Related Injuries in Spartanburg" »

November 18, 2011

North Carolina Employers Average 3.6 Violations per Safety and Health Compliance Inspection in 2010

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys want to share some of the information contained in the recently released North Carolina Department of Labor 2010 Annual Report. Earlier, in part one of our two-part series, we gave a general overview of the Standards & Inspections Division, Occupational Safety & Health Division and Administration Division. We conclude our series by taking a more in-depth look at some of the bureaus within the divisions.
We know that violations are issued for unsafe work environments at companies and businesses on a regular basis. However, too many times a company fails to get inspected and an employee pays the price by getting injured or contracting an illness at work in Charlotte, Greensboro or elsewhere in the state.

The report goes into detail about some of the citations and violations that were issued during fiscal 2010. Let's review what we discovered.

The Boiler Safety Bureau conducted 51,288 inspections statewide of boilers, model/hobby boilers, antique boilers, pressure vessels and boiler repairs. There were also some investigations following accidents involving pressure equipment. In total, there were 2,771 violations cited last year. In 2005, there were more inspections (52,069) conducted and fewer violations found (1,916) than last year. We are left to wonder whether companies that use boilers or pressure vessels are taking worker safety seriously enough, or are they putting employees at risk of injury or death.

Many responsibilities fall within the realm of the Elevator and Amusement Device Bureau. This bureau ensures that the following are properly installed and working safely: elevators, escalators, moving walks, dumbwaiters, workman's hoists, aerial tramways used by passengers, incline railways, lifting devices used by people with disabilities, and amusement rides. There were 60 accidents or incidents reported on these devices, of which 48 people needed medical treatment for injuries. There were 41 incidents involving elevators or related equipment and 19 incidents related to amusement rides. Incidents increased substantially from the previous year in both categories with 36 and 10 reported, respectively. The number of routine inspections conducted decreased from FY 2009 as did the number of new inspections.

The Employment Discrimination Bureau stands behind the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act that was enacted in 1992 following a plant fire at Imperial Foods in Hamlet. The disastrous incident was cause for whistle-blowers to be protected from employers who retaliated against them when reporting unsafe conditions at work. For FY 2010, there were 14 percent more complaints filed for safety and health concerns than the previous year. Overall, the bureau received 794 complaints, which was a 2 percent increase from FY 2009. Only 13 percent of the cases were settled last year, which leaves a lot of employees hanging in limbo and without compensation.

Since 1897, the North Carolina Department of Labor has been evaluating worker safety in the Mine and Quarry Bureau. They often offer seminars and training to miners and their employers to promote health and safety while performing their job underground. In FY 2010, there were 448 inspections of abandoned and active mines. The illness and injury rate per 100 full-time workers in the minerals industry in North Carolina was 2.23 last year.

The Compliance Bureau works within the laws, regulations and rules of occupational safety and health set forth by the government. The average number of compliance violations per inspection was 3.6 in FY 2010. In total, North Carolina companies were handed 10,387 total violations that resulted in $5,850,453 in penalties. A restricted budget for FY 2010 led to fewer compliance inspections than in any previous year since FY 2001.

On a more positive note, there were almost 6,900 hazards identified and eliminated by the Consultative Services Bureau in FY 2010. Of these hazards, 78 percent of them were considered serious hazards that could have fatally injured a worker if left undetected.

After reviewing the report, one thing is evident. It is extremely important that safety inspections continue to be conducted to help keep workers safe and hazard-free. Employers owe it to their workers to create a safe environment and to help prevent illness or injury. Equally important, they should certainly be held accountable when they fail. We appreciate the labor department keeping companies in check.

Continue reading "North Carolina Employers Average 3.6 Violations per Safety and Health Compliance Inspection in 2010" »

November 16, 2011

OSHA to Improve Workers' Safety and Health at Asheville Nursing Homes, Nationwide

In a previous post on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Blog we reported that social service and healthcare workers were injured more than construction or manufacturing workers last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2010 Occupational Injuries and Illnesses report.
Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are trying to understand why the incidence rate increased by 6 percent in the healthcare industry last year when it seems as though jobs in the industry are the first to be cut by state officials. Perhaps it is because employees are being required to work longer hours, perform more job duties, and take on more taxing responsibilities.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration intends to respond by launching a new National Emphasis Program. The initiative will provide more inspections of nursing home and residential care facilities with regard to the many hazards workers face in these types of work environments. Handling or lifting residents, workplace violence, exposure to infectious diseases or blood-borne pathogens, and trips and falls are common causes of injuries for nurses or healthcare workers in long-term or residential care facilities.

In a recent statement, Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, Dr. David Michaels, expressed concern for the increase in reported healthcare worker injuries and illnesses

"It is unacceptable that the workers who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are sick are the very same workers who face the highest risk of work-related injury and illness," Michaels said.

With more than 12 million workers employed in health care, it is the second fastest growing sector in the U.S. Last year there were 2.5 times more healthcare work injury incidences than all private and public sector workers -- 283 cases per 10,000 full-time employees compared to 118, respectively. The rate of incidence for nursing aides, attendants and orderlies increased by 7 percent last year, or 489 cases per 10,000 employees. Another reason healthcare work injuries in Asheville and statewide occur may be because females account for 80 percent of the work force. Musculoskeletal disorder cases rose 10 percent nationwide for attendants, aides and orderlies due to the tremendous strain caused by lifting and moving patients around. With so many females performing these types of tasks, the increased incidence rate seems understandable.

Nursing Assistant Education offers the following back-injury preventable tips to healthcare workers:

-Don't be afraid to ask a co-worker for help if you need help lifting a patient.

-Communicate with the patient what you will be doing so that he or she can assist with movement. Even the slightest assistance with movement can help take strain off the lower back.

-Keep your body close to the patients rather than bending over to reach for them before you lift.

-Use your legs rather than bend your upper body. Keep your back perpendicular to the floor.

-If a mechanical lifting device is available, use it.

-Place your feet at least shoulder width apart for support while using the long and strong muscles in your legs for strength.

-Move patients smoothly by making sure you have a firm hold or grip on them before you start your motion.

Continue reading "OSHA to Improve Workers' Safety and Health at Asheville Nursing Homes, Nationwide" »

November 14, 2011

Young Workers in Restaurant Industry Require Training to Help Avoid Work Injuries in Statesville, Elsewhere

Our Statesville workers' compensation attorneys want to remind young workers in the restaurant industry to make sure your employer is providing proper training and a safe work environment for you and your co-workers. The restaurant industry is one of the largest part-time and full-time employment sectors but it doesn't fall short from certain hazards like slips and falls, burns, cuts, exposure to hazardous chemicals and electrical hazards.
Many restaurants and food establishments hire young workers for serving, cooking, dishwashing and other responsibilities. These teens need to be properly trained on what to do since, for most, it is their first job outside of the home.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently announced a partnership with Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) to help address workplace safety issues in the restaurant industry, specifically focusing on burn hazards, fall accidents, and cut or laceration dangers.

More than 11 million people in the United States are employed in restaurants, bars or other eating establishments. Some of these workers, almost 30 percent, are teenagers. Young workers aren't always familiar with the ins and outs of work safety so training is vital in keeping work injuries to a minimum. We posted about required rules for teen employment last month on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog where we also noted that roughly 50 teens die annually from occupational injuries in Charlotte and throughout the country.

ROC-United is a national organization that helps restaurant workers to improve work conditions and coordinate initiatives for worker safety. In forming a partnership with OSHA, the goal is to provide fact sheets and a safety and health booklet explaining dangerous exposures to cuts, burns and other restaurant-related injuries. In addition, the Alliance hopes to present case studies to workers and employers about lessons learned in this industry, and offer training tips that can help eliminate dangerous hazards.

OSHA has created an eTool for youth worker safety in the restaurant industry. Hazards can occur in all aspects of the industry including serving, clean-up, drive-thru windows, cooking, preparing food and food delivery.

The following are some of the hazards that young workers are exposed to while performing duties in the restaurant industry:

-Serving: strains from lifting or balancing, cuts from sharp knives or broken glass, burns from serving hot plates, verbal abuse or violence from customers.

-Clean-up: electrocution while mopping a wet floor near an improperly wired outlet, exposure to hazardous cleaning chemicals, trip accidents while trying to carry dishes or heavy trays.

-Cooking: eye injuries caused by oil splashing from a deep fryer, pains from standing on feet for long periods of time or exposure to open flames and burn injuries from catching on fire.

Young workers who take the initiative of asking questions and getting trained properly can reduce the risk of suffering a serious and possible life-changing injury.

Continue reading "Young Workers in Restaurant Industry Require Training to Help Avoid Work Injuries in Statesville, Elsewhere" »

November 11, 2011

Charlotte Firefighters at Risk of Accident, Injury While Responding to 911 Calls

A recent fire truck accident in North Carolina is a prime example of how firefighters and police officers not only put their lives on the line while performing their duties, but are also at risk of transportation accidents causing injury on the way to or from a rescue or pursuit.
mw76USK.jpg reports that two volunteer firefighters were injured in an accident while returning from a call in Gaston County. A motorist driving a silver pickup truck ran a red light and crashed into the fire truck. Local authorities reported they were taken to a hospital.

Our Charlotte Workers' Compensation attorneys know that workers who respond to emergency situations are at risk of an injury or death because the situation is dire and requires a fast-paced response. When rescue workers, law enforcement officials and first responders are responding to an emergency call, flashing lights and emergency sirens aren't always enough to keep them from being involved in an accident.

We recently posted on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog that transportation incidents were a common cause of death for workers in the U.S. in 2009. North Carolina reported 51 occupational deaths related to transportation in 2009.

The National Fire Protection Association reported 11 firefighters were killed nationwide in 2010 in vehicle-related accidents. In addition, there were four deaths caused by a firefighter being struck and killed by a passing vehicle. Some of the incidents occurred in personal vehicles while responding to a call but others involved sirens and flashing lights on emergency vehicles.

A fire truck driver has a tremendous amount of responsibility in getting a team of firefighters to the rescue site in a safe and timely manner. Fire departments have a responsibility to train employees how to drive 70,000 pound rigs in emergency situations and sometimes in adverse conditions to arrive safely at a rescue mission. According to Fire Rescue 1, there are three types of fire rescue drivers.

The first is a driver who takes every necessary precaution to make sure workers and equipment get to the rescue site safely, this includes waiting for everyone to fasten their seat belts. These drivers are knowledgeable and skilled and go about their driving in a calm and professional manner.

The second type of fire truck driver gets into a tunnel vision while sometimes putting the safety of his or her riders at risk of an accident. They get caught up in the moment in trying to get to the scene as quickly as possible.

The last type of driver thinks they are the ultimate driver who can handle any driving situation with ease, including speeding to the scene, dodging motorists who don't move over, or who don't consider weather conditions. Not only are crew members at risk but motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists also are at risk of an accident.

Ensuring all firefighters have proper knowledge of how to drive an over-sized vehicle and holding them to a high standard of safety can keep crew members injury free while en route to the scene of a fire.

Continue reading "Charlotte Firefighters at Risk of Accident, Injury While Responding to 911 Calls" »

November 9, 2011

OSHA Cites Industrial Facility Lacking Worker Safeguards With $113,400 in Fines

In a recent U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) press release a company was fined heavily and cited for numerous safety violations after a work-related amputation occurred there earlier this year.
Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers in Greensboro know properly installed safety guards are crucial in preventing life-changing workplace tragedies.

The Ice Industries Grenada facility in Grenada, Miss., was inspected after OSHA was notified about a work-related amputation. The company was issued 26 safety citations with monetary penalties of $113,400. The Grenada plant falls under OSHA's Hazardous Machinery National Emphasis Program, which is designed to target facilities with a high probability of workplace amputation hazards. This facility forms, assembles and stamps heavy metal parts for various industries.

Among the 24 serious violations were:

-Numerous electrical hazards and fall hazards.

-Defective equipment not being taken out of service.

-Exit doors improperly installed and lacking required signage.

-Not having safety guards on equipment.

Additional violations included not anchoring a grinding machine and not conducting inspections of overhead cranes often enough.

A spokesperson for OSHA was critical of the company for not having safety guards on extremely dangerous equipment. He emphasized that employers should be proactive in correcting amputation hazards and not wait for an injury to occur before something is done.

Common in many work environments, workers operate improperly or unguarded machinery. So it comes as no surprise that each year they suffer about 18,000 crushing injuries, amputations, lacerations, abrasions and more than 800 deaths. Often resulting in a permanent disability amputation, which is one of the most crippling and severe types of injury suffered in the workplace.

Safeguards to prevent injuries include:

-Prevent contact - no part of the worker's body should come into contact with a machine's moving parts.

-Secure - safeguards need to be securely in place so workers cannot remove or alter them.

-Protect from falling objects - safeguards must eliminate the possibility of anything falling into the moving parts of the machine

-Create no new hazards - safeguards should not be dangerous themselves. They shouldn't have sharp edges that could cause lacerations, for instance.

-Create no interference - safeguards can't obstruct a worker from doing his or her job. The safeguard should eliminate the risk of injury.

-Allow safe lubrication - safeguards should not interfere with machine lubrication. If they do, an alternate method needs to be established so maintenance workers aren't exposed to the moving parts.

In the news recently was an article reporting that trade groups want OSHA to discard a proposed regulation requiring employers to report on-the-job injuries within eight hours and amputations within 24 hours. Employee unions and OSHA feel this will make the workplace safer. However, employer associations like Printing Industries of America, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Grain and Feed Association and the Retail Industry Leaders Association disagree, expressing their concern of the additional cost of increased reporting.

Employers under the proposed rule would have to notify OSHA within eight hours of:

-All work-related fatalities and in-patient hospitalizations.

-All work-related amputations would need to be reported within 24 hours.

Currently, the law requires employers to notify OSHA within 8 hours of any workplace fatality and any in-patient hospitalizations of three or more workers at a time.

Continue reading "OSHA Cites Industrial Facility Lacking Worker Safeguards With $113,400 in Fines" »

November 7, 2011

Grain Elevator Explosions Put Workers at Risk of Burn and Other Injuries

Tragedy recently rocked Atchison, Kansas, when a grain elevator exploded leaving six men dead and two seriously injured.

Our Hickory farm accident lawyers know that harvest season is a time when farmers and large agricultural operations face unique risks and the number of accidents increase during this season.
Working at a grain elevator is a physically demanding job, so it is no surprise that four of the six men killed were under the age of 25. Farmers take their corn and other products to grain elevators for storage until it is sold.

In a previous post on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyers Blog we discussed the dangers of combustible dust. The movement of the grain sends large amounts of highly combustible particles into the air. A spark from a machine can set the dust on fire, causing a devastating blast.

The destruction caused by this fatal blast postponed the body recovery efforts for three of the victims because the structure was too unstable. Among the fatalities were two grain inspectors, one having 16 years of experience inspecting facilities. Sadly one of the workers killed was due to be married in a few weeks.

The two injured workers were taken to the The University of Kansas Hospital. One worker was pushing grain cars with a locomotive outside the elevator when the blast happened. He ran when he saw the fireball, escaping without any injuries.

The investigation continues to determine what caused the explosion at a company reported to have an "exemplary" safety record.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics show more than 600 grain elevators explosions over the last several decades have occurred, causing more than 250 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. Ohio, Louisiana, South Dakota, Illinois and Nebraska all had non-fatal grain fire or explosions last year.

Grain elevator safety has increased dramatically since the establishment of rules and protocols in the late 1970s after 50 people were killed in explosions in four states over a six-day period.

Here is some valuable information from the North Carolina Department of Labor's A Guide to Safety and Health in Feed and Grain Mills relating to grain elevator explosions.

The following have to exist simultaneously for a dust explosion to occur:

-Grain dust has to be present as the primary fuel source.

-There needs to be oxygen.

-A confined space.

-Some type of ignition source needs to be present. For example, hot bearings, cutting and welding, belt slippage, or a foreign object caught in equipment are likely causes. Less likely causes could be lightning, spontaneous combustion, stone or metal sparks, and static electricity.

How to control grain dust accumulation:

-Have vacuums in areas where there is constant dust accumulation.

-Use a wash-down procedure in areas that allow water.

-Slow the flow of the grain to cut down on the dust.

-Use dust-control systems like cyclones or filters.

-Use a Compressed air, blow-down procedure.

Continue reading "Grain Elevator Explosions Put Workers at Risk of Burn and Other Injuries" »

November 4, 2011

Court Case Demonstrates Need for Skilled North Carolina Workers' Compensation Lawyer

In a recent South Carolina court case, it was determined that a certain workers' compensation claim was not filed within the statute of limitations. Because it was filed late, the claim was denied, leaving the person involved with no compensation for a health condition that she believes was caused by her former employer's workplace.
This is why our North and South Carolina workers' compensation attorneys want to remind you that missed deadlines and other procedural errors can ruin a case.

In a previous post on our North Carolina Workers' Compensation Blog we reported on the dangers of a dusty work environment.

In the denied claim case, the client was an employee for Respondent National Service Industries, a linen company. The client described her workplace environment as poorly ventilated, sticky and hot, with dust and lint in the air.

The client reports being exposed to bleach fumes and not wearing any personal protective equipment (mask). She started to have sinus and breathing issues in 1992. Furthermore, she indicates that she never had sinus or breathing problems in the past. She was diagnosed with a pulmonary and respiratory condition called sarcoidosis in 1995.

Patients with sarcoidosis often experience a dry cough, chest pain, trouble breathing, fever, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, rashes and itchy/watery eyes.

Because the client's doctor did not know what caused her condition she did not pursue the case any further. Fast forward 10 years to 2005 when the client went for a second opinion. Again her doctor could not confirm that her condition was caused by her work environment, but the exposure to fumes and airborne particles did worsen her condition. The client filed a workers' compensation claim based on this new information. The claim alleges her working conditions at the linen firm caused the damage to her respiratory system. Remember, she was diagnosed with sarcoidosis back in 1995 but had no idea it was related to her working conditions.

One commissioner found the client had sustained a compensable injury but the full commission overturned that decision. The full commission found the client's claim was disqualified by a two-year statute of limitations.

The findings of the full commission determined that the client knew about her poorly ventilated working environment and with some investigating on her part, could have realized she had a claim earlier than her 2005 filing date. An appeal was filed but the Court of Appeals, the circuit court and the Supreme Court all affirmed the full commission's decision.

The exact cause of sarcoidosis is unknown but possible causes include:

-An acute immune reaction to infection.

-An elevated sensitivity to environmental factors.

-Genetic factors.

Earlier this year, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration press release announced the development of two documents to help both employees and employers understand the use of spirometry testing to prevent and reduce exposures to respiratory dangers in the workplace. This testing would provide early detection of breathing problems or changes to employee's lung function.

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