April 21, 2013

South Carolina Boeing Worker Killed in Fall Work Accident

A Boeing employee is dead after falling from a rig. According to ABC4, the 38-year-old worker was killed as a result of injuries, which included a traumatic brain injury. It happened just before 11:30 p.m.
According to the company, the safety of its workers is a top concern. Officials say that they will be following a comprehensive safety plan and internal processes and will be conducting an investigation to figure out the exact cause of the accident, as well as whether any corrective actions might be required.

Our Charleston workers' compensation attorneys understand that falls are a persistent hazard on work sites nationwide. These kinds of accidents can happen when using a step stool or when climbing hundreds of feet off the ground. They can happen anywhere. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were close to 610 workers killed in the U.S. in fall accidents to the same or lower level last year. In addition to these fatalities, were were another 213,000 workers injured in these kinds of accidents.

While many of these accidents happen in the construction industry, they can happen virtually anywhere -- including a Boeing plant.

The company says that it will be providing counselors along with support from its Employee Assistance Program to help employees to cope with the loss of their friend and coworker. Company officials will also be meeting with teammates to talk about the accident and will try to figure out ways to improve the safety of workers in the future.

The worker who died in this unfortunate accident started in the summer of 2012 and has reportedly completed several months of the company's required training.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to fall accidents. These can include, floor holes, unprotected edges, unstable work surfaces, clutter, slippery walk areas, misused fall protection and even unsafely position ladders. As it stands now, there are federal regulations and industry consensus standards that require each workplace to follow the proper fall protection standards. However, the constant use of unsafe work practices and low safety culture across a number on industries define steady fall accident, injury and fatality rates year after year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Not only are these accident risks threatening you and your coworkers, but they're costing us all. Each year, medical costs and workers' compensation associated with fall accidents cost the country roughly $70 billion.

The best way to help to keep your workers out of these kinds of accidents and away from these injuries is to make sure that they're provided with the proper fall protection equipment and that they're properly trained with this equipment and the job duties they're performing. Not only is it in their best interest, but it's in your too considering it's a federal safety standard.

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April 18, 2013

Statesville Explosion Injures Maintenance Worker

During a recent explosion at a flour mill in Statesville, one worker was injured. According to WCNC, a wall collapsed in the 8:30 a.m. explosion. Accident reports indicate that it happened as two maintenance workers were fixing a piece of equipment located in the basement of the Bartlett Milling Co. on South Center Street.
When one of the workers turning the power back on, a spark was ignited and a flash fire resulted. The second man, who was located in the basement, was injured in the accident. Luckily, his coworker was able to get him out of the building in time. He was transported to Iredell Memorial and then later taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

Our Statesville workers' compensation lawyers understand that this three-alarm fire caused one of the building's walls to collapse. Unfortunately, that made it difficult to contain the fire after the blast. There were roughly 25 people working in another area of that building. They were able to get out safely.

The truth of the matter is there is combustible material found in many workplaces. This material can burn rapidly. If this kind of dust is suspended in the air at the right concentration, in the right conditions, in can become explosive. Beware: materials that aren't even flammable or do not burn in larger pieces (like iron or aluminum) can explode in the proper conditions.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the force from these kinds of explosions can cause some serious damage. These explosions can oftentimes kill people, cause serious injures and destroy entire buildings.

Remember the West Virginia titanium dust explosion back in 2010 that killed 3 workers? Or the sugar dust explosion back in 2008 that killed 14 workers? From 1980 to 2005, officials with the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB) found more than 280 combustible dust accidents. These accidents lead to close to 120 worker fatalities and more than 715 employee injuries. These explosions also cause some serious damage to a number of industrial facilities.

What materials are combustible? Believe it or not, food is combustible, including feed, flour, starch, spice, sugar and candy, grain, fossil fuel, metals, coal, dyes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, textiles, furniture, rubber, pulp, paper, wood, plastics and tobacco.

Employees are the first line of defense in preventing and mitigating explosions and fires. If the workers who are closest to the source of the danger/hazard are trained to recognize and prevent the risks associated with combustible dust in the workplace they can be key in recognizing unsafe conditions, taking preventative action, and/or alerting management. All of these steps can help to save lives and prevent workplace damage.

Currently, there are OSHA standards that require certain workers to be properly trained, but it's important to make sure that all workers are trained in safe work practices applicable to their job tasks. This means that they should also be trained on the overall plant programs for dust control and ignition source control. Workers should be trained before they start the job with your company, periodically to refresh their knowledge, when they are reassigned on the job and when hazards or processes change.

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April 16, 2013

North Carolina Construction Site Kills Two Young Residents

In a recent North Carolina construction accident, two young children were killed.

We oftentimes talk about the risks that these workers face on construction sites nationwide, but this time the risks reached into the community. According to NBC News, a 31-year-old construction worker was using a backhoe Sunday evening in a pit when the walls caved in on two children. They weren't dug out until Monday morning.
"I kept grabbing what was in front of me...I wasn't going to stop until I pulled them out. But I couldn't save them," said the children's guardian.

Our Stanley workers' compensation attorneys understand the risks that accompany construction sites. Usually we're talking about the dangers that are presented to those who work on these sites. But we need to remember that these risks may impact others. No one should ever play or loiter on a construction cite. Not only are these grounds off limits, but they're unsafe. It's important that we relay these messages to our young residents. What they see as a fun, new playground can actually be a deadly construction site.

According to investigators, that pit was 20 feet deep and 20 feet wide. It had a steep entrance that led all the way to the bottom. According to the accident report, the children were at the bottom of the pit trying to get a package when the accident happened. What was later found in the investigation is that there were no permits issued to be digging on that particular site.

No one knows exactly why the pit was being dug. Some speculate it was a "doomsday bunker" while others suspect it would be used for illegal activity.

According to the owner, he was in the process of constructing a rammed earth home. That's an ancient building method where builders use dirt to shape the foundation. Allegedly, the digging had been going on for close to six months. He said he looked into permits, but didn't think he needed one at the time.

He says he didn't think that the walls would collapse.

Whether it's for home construction or commercial construction, the safest practice need to be a first priority to keep workers safe and to help prevent nearby residents from undue hazard.

The property owner said that the children were never granted permission to be on the construction site. But children will be children. He said that they loved to play in the backyard and would sometime sneak over without warning.

We don't want anyone else to have to endure the pain and suffering that this family has. Make sure you talk to you young one about the risks that are associated with unfamiliar areas and especially on construction areas. Make sure your children are always supervised when playing outside and that they understand the dangers of leaving their designated play areas.

Under the doctrine of attractive nuisance, the property owner may be held responsible in this case. Damages for non-employee injuries will need to be pursued through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

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April 14, 2013

Amputations Underestimated in Carolina Workplaces

Amputations are some of the most serious and debilitating kinds of injuries one can sustain in the workplace.

These types of injuries are not uncommon and can result from a number of activities and equipment. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), amputations happen most often when employees are working with unguarded equipment on inadequate safeguards.

These accidents often occur while working with food slicers, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, printing presses, conveyors, power press brakes, slitters, grinders and shears. They can also happen when working with forklifts, trash compactors and even hand tools.

The most common amputations result in trauma to the hand, wrist, finger, arm, foot and leg. Sometimes a body part can be crushed so severely in an accident that it needs to be amputated.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that amputations are often life-altering injuries. OSHA has standards in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations to protect workers from amputations in the workplace. But just because these regulations are in effect, doesn't mean that employers are listening and working to prevent injury.

According to the National Limb Loss Information Center, there are more than 1.5 million people who are currently living with limb loss. This means that one out of every 200 people in the U.S. is dealing with an amputation.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 170 fatal workplace amputations in the U.S. from 1992 to 1999. In addition to these fatalities, there were another 90,000 amputation injuries reported during the same time period. Although these kinds of injuries account for less than 1 percent of injury-related and fatal accidents during the 8-year period, the seriousness of these cases often impacts the employee and the employer much more profoundly than other kinds of injuries. Because of their severity, these kinds of injuries have received increased attention in recent years.

According to the US Department of Labor, approximately one half of all amputation injuries occur in the manufacturing sector in the United States. While amputation injuries are more likely to occur when you use machinery or heavy equipment as part of your job, amputation can unfortunately happen to anyone who is involved in a serious workplace accident.

Many believe that these numbers don't tell the whole story. According to Michigan State University, federal officials aren't tracking these injuries properly. According to a recent University study, the number of amputations following on-the-job accidents in the state was close to two-and-a-half times higher than the official estimate from the BLS.

Researchers looked at more than 615 work-related amputations throughout 2008. According to federal estimates, there only about 250 amputations during this time.

How can we fix these problems if they're never reported? This goes the same as workplace hazards. You've got to speak up and let someone know about your concerns. If no one knows, how can you expect change? Communication is a key in keeping your workplace safe.

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April 12, 2013

Keeping Our Youngest Carolina Workers Safe

Our teeangers are growing up so fast. Many of our kids are entering the work force (or getting ready to with the upcoming summer) and it's important that we're making sure they're safe on the job and they they're being treated fairly.

The best way for us to do that is to make sure that they're aware of their rights and responsibilities on the job.
According to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, children under the age of 14 are not allowed to work in the state, with few exceptions. Our Rock Hill workers' compensation lawyers are here with a few reminders to help keep our young ones safe out there in the work force.

Child Labor Laws in South Carolina, 14- and 15-years-old:

-Workers age 14 and 15 can work no more than 3 hours a day on school day. They not allowed to work more than 18 hours a week either. Their work shifts are required to fall between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

-When there is no school in session, 14 and 15 year old workers are allowed to work up to 8 hours a day, but no more than 40 hours a week. Their work hours must fall between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.

-These young workers can only work in specific jobs, like serving food, cashiering, car washing, delivery work without a motor vehicle, bussing tables and/or custodial duties.

If your young work is 16- or 17-years-old, they've got an entirely different set of rules to follow:

-These workers are exempt from the scheduling and hour restrictions.

-They are allowed to work as many daily and weekly hours as their job requires and as their employer requests.

-These workers are not allowed to engage in any work that has been deemed dangerous. These definitions can be found in the 17 Hazardous Occupations Orders of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

South Carolina Employment Laws for Workers Over 18:

-These workers do not fall under the rules or enforcement of child labor laws.

-If you are 18-years-old, you're allowed to work at any time at any job.

If your young one is preparing to enter the work force, share the YouthRules! website with them. This is a site designed by the U.S. Department of Labor and provides our young workers with everything they need to know.

Federal law establishes certain safety standards and restrictions for young workers. If you are not yet 18, you are prohibited from being employed in occupations that have been declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. There may be some exceptions that apply to your particular situation, and different rules apply to work in agriculture. Make sure you're aware of these regulations and that you're working in a safe environment. Your future and your safety rely on it. Make sure your teen feels comfortable in the workplace and are willing to speak up to the supervisor or employer.

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April 10, 2013

Fatigued Drivers Blamed for Carolina Trucking Accidents

When commercial truck drivers don't get enough rest before, after and between their driving shift, deadly consequences can result. Back in March, a truck driver pleaded guilty to a number of counts of involuntary manslaughter after a fatal Carolina accident. In this crash, 5 people were killed. Now the driver is facing up to 5 years behind bars.
The accident happened back in October of 2010 in Henderson County. The driver was heading east on Interstate 26. There were a number of cars stopped on the roadway because of another accident. The truck driver didn't stop -- and slammed right into the string of stopped vehicles. According to investigators, the speedometer on the truck was at about 70 miles per hour when the accident happened. Officials cite driver fatigue as an important factor in the collision.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that truck drivers have some of the most dangerous jobs out there. Motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for workers nationwide. But it's not only the drivers who are faced with these risks. The motorists sharing the roadway with these drivers are at risk too when these drivers are not behind the wheel with adequate rest.

This North Carolina accident is just one of the many deadly trucking accidents involving these large vehicles each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were about 100,000 people who sustained serious injuries because of these kinds of accidents in 2010. In addition to all of these injuries, more than 3,500 are killed annually. When you compare these numbers to 2009, we're looking at a more than 8.5 percent increase. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), driver fatigue is a major factor in about 15 percent of these accidents.

To try to put an end to these kinds of accidents, officials with the FMCSA have looked into tightening up the number of hours that a trucker can spend behind the wheel. Included in recent updates to hours-of-service regulations, truckers are required to have 34 hours of rest during each work week. This includes two nights of rest in a row. Officials with the FMCSA have also made it mandatory that drivers spend no more than 11 hours on the road in one day.

It might seem like a no brainer to the non-trucker, but the truth of the matter is that truck drivers and trucking companies are facing serious deadlines and lots of money is on the line with each delivery. These deadlines and profits shouldn't come between the safety of workers or motorists.

Many believe that rules set forth by the FMCSA aren't strict enough. And far too many truckers and trucking companies use loopholes and fraud to bypass the regulations.

Regardless of the rules, the facts are in the statistics. The trucking industry needs to do much more to help to protect the safety of employees and others forced to share the road.

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April 8, 2013

OSHA Issues New Regulations for Injuries Due to Combustible Dust Explosions

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured since 1980 as a result of combustible dust explosions. Our Charlotte work injury attorneys know that many of those injured as a result of combustible dust are emergency workers or first responders, especially firefighters. 1398122_forge_paths_of_fire__2.jpg

First responders and others working in environments where explosions may occur have inherently dangerous jobs. Following OSHA guidelines to try to protect these workers and to make these risky jobs safer is absolutely essential.

OSHA Tips on Avoiding Combustible Dust Explosions

The OSHA Office of Communications announced at the start of April in a News Release that a new informative booklet had been published catering to first responders and establishing safe procedures for dealing with combustible dust.

OSHA's booklet is called "Firefighter Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust," but the booklet can also be useful for any workers who might potentially be exposed to the dust particles that can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air.

OSHA explains that combustible dusts consist of a number of different types of dust particles that are most prone to igniting. For example, combustible dust may consist of: fiber, flakes, fine particles or chunks of material including:

Metals, such as magnesium and aluminum

  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Coal
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Paper

All of these materials are very common at many workplaces ranging from commercial bakeries to construction sites to the factory room floor. Unfortunately, as OSHA points out, almost any solid material in fine dust form that burns can be exploded. What happens is, the combustible dust in the air in the factory or worksite will become ignited. As a result, a flash fire can occur. A flash fire is described as a sudden, high-pressure fireball that spreads quickly.

Multiple firefighters have been killed by these fireballs that spring up as a result of the dangerous dust hanging in the area. To avoid this, OSHA suggests:

  • Pre-incident reviews. In facilities that are highly likely to produce combustible dust, an inspection might be appropriate to ensure that emergency responders are aware of the conditions they would find in an emergency situation.
  • Consulting with safety data sheets (SDS)- These sheets should be an important source of basic information about the different types of materials in the combustible dust.
  • Using appropriate protection systems. In workplaces with significant dust hazards, OSHA advises the use of various protection systems including relief vents or abort gates. These would allow for pressure or burning materials to be directed outside of confined areas. High-speed detection and suppression systems can also be used to avoid the risks of combustible dust explosions.
Ultimately, firefighters and first responders must be aware of and prepared to handle the risk of combustible dust and workplaces likely to produce such dust must have precautions in place to try to prevent explosions from occurring. With everyone doing his part, hopefully fewer workplace accidents will occur among those in dangerous first responder jobs.

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April 7, 2013

North & South Carolina OSHA Programs Should Be More Transparent

Workplace safety issues are of paramount importance and it is essential for a regulatory agency to look out for the rights of workers and to ensure that employers maintain a safe workplace and don't create dangerous environments.

At the federal level, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is in charge of establishing and enforcing workplace safety guidelines. OSHA also operates in more than half of the states as the main regulatory authority. 1109654_first_news.jpg

However, 22 states and jurisdictions have their own OSHA programs in place. According to OSHA, these 22 states must have had their plans approved by the federal agency and may receive as much as 50 percent of their operating costs from the federal government. Our Asheville work injury attorneys know that both North and South Carolina are among the states with their own OSHA programs.

The OSHA programs in North and South Carolina must comply with the federal OSHA requirements, and the state authorities provide many important protections for workers. However, the state OSHAs do not regularly report when employers have been cited or fined. The federal government does have a news reporting system. Creating such a program at the state level would allow for more transparency and would help to make workplaces throughout North and South Carolina a little bit safer.

OSHA News Releases
At the federal level, OSHA issues news releases routinely when a company has been cited for a violation. These news releases include information about the name of the company, what the violation was and when it occurred. They are broken down by region and are available on the OSHA News Releases page on the website of the United States Department of Labor.

Because of the availability of these news releases, it is quick and easy to see when an employer has made errors and has violated workplace safety rules. An employee who wants to find out about a potential employer can visit the OSHA website to see reports of violations. The reports are compiled all in one place and provide information that makes it possible to monitor violations closely.

Although North Carolina and South Carolina both have their own OSHA, which is responsible for inspecting and citing businesses just as the federal OSHA does, neither North Carolina nor South Carolina have a similar mechanism for releasing and assembling news of their actions.

Let's be honest -- state OSHA departments in North and South Carolina simply are not as transparent. As a result, workers in North and South Carolina and are not getting all of the data and information that they might easily be able to receive if the federal agency was in charge instead.

In the interests of transparency, in the interests of making their work public and in the interests of helping workers, North and South Carolina OSHAs should strongly consider better reporting where news of violations and citations are an important factor in creating a safer state in which to work.

Not only can this help empower employees, but also employers in the state might be shamed by the idea of receiving a public citation. This would provide an added incentive (in addition to the fines and other OSHA-imposed penalties) to avoid violations that could cause workers to get hurt.

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April 5, 2013

Distracted Driving as an Organizational Safety Issue

Distracted driving is something that everyone knows is dangerous, although when most people think about distracted driving their mind goes to a careless teenager texting behind the wheel. The reality, however, is that distracted driving is a problem for all ages and it is a major problem for business organizations. 312490_man_talking_on_the_cell_phone.jpg

Our Spartanburg work injury attorneys know that employers can be held responsible when employees get into an accident as a result of driving on the job. Recently, however, a top global safety consulting firm has identified distracted driving as an "organizational safety issue."

The safety consulting firm indicates that organizations have been challenged in recent years to take on a more prominent role in securing the driving safety of their employees. Workers whose employers fall short can seek compensation through workers' comp benefits, and employers who don't take responsibility for employee safety could find themselves at significant risk of legal liability.

Distracted Driving A Major Workplace Injury Concern

Distracted diving is a major concern in any workplace where a worker has to drive frequently. This can include not just truck drivers or food delivery workers, but also any other workers ranging from traveling salespeople to first responders who drive as a routine part of their job. Even a worker who is only occasionally asked to drive could become involved in a distracted driving accident. For example, some situations that have been identified as times when distracted driving might occur include:

  • Workers who type in onboard computers while driving a company fleet.

  • Sales execs who eat in the car as they drive to appointments

  • Executives who are on the road while participating in meetings

  • Workers who glance at their emails while at a stop light.

If a worker does become involved in a distracted driving crash while on-the-job, the worker could make a workers' compensation claim for benefits. Car accident injuries are often serious or even fatal and the workers comp benefits could end up including not just payment for costly medical bills but also ongoing disability benefits if the accident leads to permanent injury.

An employer's liability wouldn't necessarily end with workers' comp benefits either. If someone else other than the employee was injured in the accident, then the employer could find itself getting sued by the third party victims. This is because employers are considered to be in an "agency" relationship with employees. The employees are agents who act on behalf of the employers and any negligent employee means that the company was negligent as well.

To protect themselves from liability and to prevent workers from getting hurt, employers are first urged to recognize the problem of distracted driving as a safety issue and then to address the issue with the same leadership attention and resources as other safety issues. This means:

  • Properly training employees on the dangers of distracted driving.
  • Having a written distracted driving policy in place.
  • Instituting a plan for organizational safety interventions to identify and prevent distracted driving

Having a policy in place, educating employees and taking affirmative steps to prevent distracted driving may allow employers to keep their workers safer at work and may help to protect an employer from liability for distracted driving crashes.

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March 30, 2013

Roadside Workplace Injury Prevention Necessary During Spring Construction Season

In some parts of the country, there is an old joke that says there are only two seasons: winter and roadwork. While this joke doesn't quite ring as true in the Carolinas, amid relatively mild winters, the fact is that the amount of roadwork projects underway does significantly increase during the spring and summer months as the weather gets better. 951743_slow_down.jpg

Our Spartanburg, South Carolina workers' compensation lawyers know that roadwork season presents some risk to drivers as well as to those doing the construction work on the road. While drivers may be in danger of getting into car wrecks if they don't follow or don't understand detours and changes prompted by the roadwork, it is ultimately those who are doing the construction who are at the greatest risk of getting hurt.

Employers who hire road crews to perform road work should ensure that there are adequate safety protections in place to do everything possible to keep their workers safe. The laws in South Carolina also aim to protect construction crews working on infrastructure problems by requiring drivers to move over.

Move-Over Laws and Roadside Work Injury Prevention Tips
South Carolina has a law on the books in section 56-5-1536 that requires motorists to move over into adjacent lanes when possible if they are passing temporary work zones. This law, along with a requirement that drivers move over when they come upon law enforcement or first responders at a collision scene, aims to ensure that cars are not too close to people who are working on the side of the road.

The law mandating that drivers move to a further lane when passing a temporary work zone is called a "move over," law. It applies in any work zone where there is an area of road identified by orange work zone signs; by equipment with flashing lights; or by the presence of construction workers performing their jobs.

  • The move over law does more than just mandate a driver move into another lane. The law also requires that drivers:
  • Maintain proper control of their vehicle.
  • Significantly drop the speed of their vehicle. Drivers who are unable to move over are also required to maintain a speed that is safe in light of the proximity to workers.
  • Yield the right-of-way by shifting into a lane not adjacent to the work being performed in any situation where the highway has at least four lanes, two of which go in the same direction. Of course, drivers should only move over when it is safe and practical to do so.

Violating the move-over laws or violating the emergency scene laws is a serious moving violation. Those who put the lives of temporary workers at construction sites in danger can find themselves facing misdemeanor charges and can be required to pay fines equal to hundreds of dollars. Not only that, but if a driver endangers workers by failing to move over, operate the car slowly and use good common sense when driving through a work zone, the driver could potentially be sued if a work accident happens.

While those injured at work are normally expected to obtain compensation only through workers' compensation from their employer, when a worker gets injured by a third party car accident, the worker retains his right to file a lawsuit against the third party who caused harm. This suit can be brought in addition to a workers' compensation claim against the employer.

Continue reading "Roadside Workplace Injury Prevention Necessary During Spring Construction Season " »

March 28, 2013

New Hires and Work Accidents in the Carolinas

The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases information on economic data periodically in order to provide details about the state of the economy and labor market. On Friday March 22, 2013, BLS released their Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment Summary. The summary took a look at the unemployment rates in January of 2013 in major metropolitan areas to see if more workers were being hired and if more employers were hiring.431162_seri_ilan.jpg

According to the BLS data, unemployment rates were down in January of 2013 when compared with a year earlier. With lowering unemployment rates and more employers hiring, this is good news for employees who want to get back to work. However, our
Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys know that new employees may be at greater risk of getting hurt in a workplace accident than established workers. As such, as companies step up their hiring and as more workers find jobs, it is important to ensure that everyone stays safe.

Safety Should be a Prime Focus as Hiring Increases

According to the BLS data, unemployment rates were lower in 227 of the 372 metropolitan areas throughout the United States in January of 2013 as compared with unemployment rates a year ago. In another 21 metropolitan areas, unemployment rate were unchanged, and rates went up only in 124 cities throughout the U.S.

BLS also indicates that 306 metropolitan areas had over-the-year increases in non farm payroll while only 57 areas experienced a decrease. This, too, is positive news since it means there are more people working who are on the payroll.

The news from BLS points to signs of improved growth in what has been a troubling job market. This is great news for workers as long as the jobs that they are getting are good ones and as long as employers are placing emphasis on making sure that the new hires assimilate into the workplace without injury.

When an employer brings a new employee on to join the workforce, the employer should do a few key things in order to ensure that everyone is safe. The employer should:

  • Ensure all new workers have sufficient training on their work duties. This is important even if a worker has done a similar job before. The office environment, the machines used and the workplace rules may differ from past jobs and employers need to know that employees are aware of what they are doing.
  • Supervise or mandate supervision of the new employees until it is clear they won't be a safety risk. Many people experienced long-term unemployment as a result of the persistent downturn in the U.S. economy over recent years. This means even the most experienced new employee could potentially be out-of-practice. It is important to make sure that the employee's abilities and skills are up-to-par so the employee doesn't hurt himself or others.

Obviously, there is a steeper learning curve in certain professions as compared to others, and there are some jobs that are more dangerous and require more training of new employees. Every employer, however, should ensure that all new workers are aware of worker safety policies and are properly trained in how to perform work in a safe manner.

Continue reading "New Hires and Work Accidents in the Carolinas" »

March 26, 2013

Record-Keeping and Reporting of Work Injuries Required by OSHA

Employers have many obligations when it comes to workplace safety. In addition to maintaining a safe workplace and purchasing workers' compensation insurance for their employees, employers must also follow OSHA rules when it comes to reporting injuries. 1370555_lots_of_files_2.jpg

Our Greenville work injury lawyers urge all employers to ensure that they understand and follow the OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting requirements. OSHA mandates that serious work injuries and occupational illnesses must be reported and that employers must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. The recorded information helps OSHA to track work injuries and identify dangerous worksites.

OSHA Reporting Requirements
OSHA provides information on reporting and record keeping in 29 CFR 1904. According to this regulation, covered employees must use the OSHA 300 log in order to prepare and maintain records of any serious injuries.

Employers who have ten or more employees who are not exempted under OSHA regulations must not only use the OSHA 300 log but must also detail injuries and illnesses using Forms 300A and 201. Illnesses and injuries that must be recorded include:

  • All work-related fatalities. Workplace deaths must also be orally reported to OSHA within eight hours of the death occurring, provided the employer is covered by the OSH Act.

  • All work-related injuries and illnesses that cause a worker to miss work or that necessitate a worker being transferred to a different job or restricted in the work performed.

  • All significant work-related injuries and illnesses that are diagnosed by a physician or a licensed health professional. Any illnesses or injuries that require treatment beyond basic first aid should be reported.

  • Chronic and acute illnesses including skin diseases; respiratory problems and poisoning that result from exposure to toxins in the workplace.

OSHA mandates that records of these and other workplace injuries be kept any time the workers' health problems are "work-related." OSHA defines work-related injuries, illnesses or fatalities as any condition that was caused by doing work, or that the work environment contributed to in any way.

Reporting and record-keeping requirements also mandate that employers take note of when a pre-existing injury or illness has been made worse as a result of work duties. For example, if someone who was already suffering back problems hurt his or her back more severely at work, then the worsening of the original back injury could be considered a work-related problem and the injury would need to be recorded.

OSHA uses the records and reports produced in order to analyze hazards within an industry; in order to draft and implement worker protection regulations to reduce or eliminate hazards; and in order to evaluate workplace safety.

Employers who are required to complete Form 300 must also complete and post Form 300A in the workplace each year from February 1- April 30. Form 300A is a summary of work-related illnesses and injuries that occurred. Employees and/or their representatives have a right to see this annual posted summary so they can better understand the hazards and safety conditions in the workplace.

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March 24, 2013

How Sequester May Increase South Carolina Workplace Injuries

Our Anderson workers' compensation attorneys know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plays an important role in keeping workers safe. Unfortunately, cuts to OSHA are just one way in which workers may be endangered by something called the "sequester."990868_graphic_down.jpg

The sequester went into effect on March 1, 2013, cutting the budget of the United States federal government by $85 billion this year. The cuts will occur across-the-board and the Post and Courier indicates that South Carolina is going to be hit hard. One of the potential consequences of the sequester and resulting cuts is that workers in the state may be at greater risk of injury and may have a harder time getting their workers' compensation benefits.

Workplace Injuries May Increase Due to The Sequester
The sequester was established as part of a standoff between Democrats and Republicans in 2011. The leaders of the political parties were not able to come to an agreement on how to cut spending to address the growing deficit in the United States. As a result, the sequester was proposed.

The arrangement was that $85 billion would be automatically cut from defense spending and discretionary spending, if the parties could not agree on an alternative solution. The cuts were intended to be painful so that neither political party would want them to go into effect but the parties could not agree and the cuts took effect on the first of March.

As the Post and Courier indicates, this means that some federal workers in South Carolina will be furloughed. The sequester is expected to slow growth and shrink the GDP, so other employers may also be forced to make personnel cuts as well.

Unfortunately, whenever employers lay off workers or cut back their hours, this increases the chance of an accident happening. After all, fewer workers will be trying to do the same amount of work, which can lead to rushing and careless accidents. Workers may also be asked to complete tasks they don't normally do, which could put them in jeopardy of being hurt.

Employers, strapped for cash by the sequester, might also cut corners when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace or taking steps to protect workers from injury.

Unfortunately, these employers may not be caught if this does occur because OSHA inspectors are also being furloughed. The National Safety Council reports that as many as 1,200 potentially-dangerous worksites will go uninspected as a result of the sequester.

All of these factors come together to mean that more workers may be in danger due to the budget cuts. Tragically, even as the risk of workplace injuries increases, it may become harder for workers to make a claim for workers' compensation benefits. This is because employers and insurance companies may be more suspicious of claims during bad economic times.

As Property Casualty 360 reported in their article, insurers are being cautioned to be alert to claims filed by furloughed workers or by workers fearing a layoff who may exaggerate or invent injuries so they can secure workers' compensation benefits.

Property Casualty 360 specifically singles out soft tissue injury claims. Insurers have always been more suspicious of these kinds of claims since they cannot be conclusively proved or disproved using medical evidence. With this heightened suspicion, workers who have a greater chance of being hurt will also have a harder time getting helped.

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March 23, 2013

Temporary Workers May Be At Greater Risk of Workplace Accidents

On February 26, 2013, My Fox 8 published an article about a North Carolina business saving approximately $270,000 by not having full time employees. According to the article, the situation is part of the "boom in temporary work" which many employers use as a cost-saving measure. 1237611_teamwork_2.jpg

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys know that temporary workers may be covered by workers' compensation through the temp agency that they are technically employed by. However, when an employer hires temporary workers, that employer can also become liable for workplace injuries under certain circumstances. Further, when a company hires temporary workers, the chances of a workplace injury may be higher as a result of lack of experience and other related issues.

Temporary Workers at Risk for Work Injuries
There is a great deal of concern among some experts about the rights of temporary workers and about whether they are in greater danger of being harmed at work. On March 27, 2013, for example, an article on Salon addressed the serious injuries suffered by a temp worker who had been scalded with a 185-degree solution of water and citric acid.

The temp worker was severely burned by the solution when he was cleaning a 500-gallon chemical tank. The hatch on the tank was opened and the solution erupted, covering the worker. According to federal investigators, the bosses in the factory refused to contact an ambulance and instead a co-worker drove him to a medical care clinic. Only after he visited the clinic was he taken to a hospital.

The man died three weeks later due to scalding and chemical burns. Federal investigators reviewed the death and conditions inside of the factory and discovered that the conditions and safety breakdowns were so bad that a criminal investigation was warranted.

Salon indicates that the plight of this worker and his resulting death is not unusual and that there are 2.5 million temp workers in the U.S. who often work in the least desirable conditions, who are often injured at work and whose injuries are often unreported.

This became a higher profile case because of the death and because of the egregious behavior of all involved. However, any temporary worker may be at risk because he is less sure of his rights; because the safety rules and the conditions where he works might be lax; and because employers and co-workers might feel less responsibility to prevent injury than they would if there was a permanent employment relationship. Many of these injuries happen all the time and no one ever hears of them.

In this case, the family of the man who was burned and killed has filed a workers' compensation claim against the temporary agency that employed the man and a wrongful death claim against the employer.

The dual claims illustrate the potential risks to employers in hiring temporary workers. While workers' compensation normally shields an employer from civil liability and limits a worker to a workers' compensation claim, determining the rights of the worker and the obligations of the employer are more complex outside of the traditional employment relationship.

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March 20, 2013

NSC Offers Advise to Reduce Workplace Car Accident Injuries

Our Lexington County work injury lawyers know that employers can be held responsible for work injuries that their workers suffer as a result of doing their jobs, even in cases where those work injuries happen off-site. One common cause of workplace injuries that can give rise to workers' compensation claims is workplace car accidents. Workplace traffic collisions can not only create a workers' comp case but can also give rise to a company being sued by other car accident victims as well. 1417191_hand_holding_mobile_smart_phone.jpg

Since employers can find themselves (and their insurance companies) on the hook for workplace injuries that happen on the road, it is important for employers to have policies in place that reduce the chances of auto accidents occurring. The National Safety Council (NSC) provides important tips and advice for employers and NSC is now conducting an upcoming course on how to curb distracted behavior and avoid liability for distracted driving accidents.

Protecting Workers from Workplace Distracted Driving Crashes
Workers in the transportation industry can get into a car wreck and get hurt on the job, as can any worker who has to drive as part of his required work duties. A worker running an errand for a boss, picking up supplies or transporting a client would be considered on-the-job if he got into an accident and would thus be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. If these drivers are on their phones, they are far more likely to get into a crash.

The NSC has organized a day-long seminar in Long Beach on April 25th, 2013 in order to tackle the problem of distracted driving among employees who drive as part of their work duties.

The seminar is part of NSC's Employer Cell Phone Policy Seminars and attendees can register online to attend. For those who cannot attend, the lessons that NSC will be imparting are still important and you can get the basic underlying message simply by taking a look at the information that will be presented.

NSC is going to be discussing:

  • Why distracted driving is dangerous

  • Employer liability for crashes in which employees were distracted by a cell phone or wireless device.

  • What employers should include in policies addressing employee cell-phone use.

  • How to build support from management about putting a cell phone policy into place.

  • How employees should be informed and educated about cell phone policies.

The seminar lessons are important because around one in four auto accidents occurs at least in part because the driver is distracted by his cell phone and paying insufficient attention to the road.

NSC indicates that when an employer fails to prohibit cell phone use or protect itself, the employer can not only become liable for workers' compensation claims made by employees but could also potentially be held liable by injured accident victims for the actions of the employee. This is because employees are seen as agents of their employers.

A business can potentially be liable for all of the resulting damages that were done to the other drivers in the crash caused by an employee. This would be an entirely separate legal proceeding from the workers' compensation claim, which an employee would also be able to make if injured in the crash.

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