July 13, 2013

Sleeping Difficulties and Pills Linked to Work Injuries


Employers are responsible for ensuring worker health and safety on the job. While employers can control how employees are trained and whether they have proper safety equipment, there are other safety factors that are difficult to monitor. Employees must often undergo drug and alcohol testing to ensure they do not pose a risk to themselves or others. Recent studies have shown that workers may face additional risks if they suffer from sleep problems or take sleep medications.

According to reports, 13 in 100 workplace injuries may be related to poor sleep or fatigue. Our Charleston workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping protect the victims of work-related injuries and to prevent future injuries in the workplace.

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Researchers have found that there are a number of different causes of poor sleep, including insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome. In addition to leaving you tired, poor sleep habits can also be related to obesity and diabetes. In a number of recent studies, sleep deprivation has been known to cause accidents. It is no surprise that fatigue and a lack of sleep can also result in workplace accidents and injury.

Using a range of data collected from interviews, questionnaires, and medical reports, a recent study found that workplace injuries were more likely when involving people who had sleep difficulties. Analysts of the data also found a relationship between those who had sleep problems and those who suffered from work-related injuries. The contract was striking: people with sleep problems were 60 percent more likely to suffer an injury with work.

In addition to poor sleep, researchers attribute a number of these accidents to the use of sleep aid medications. Individuals who were taking an over-the-counter or prescription medication for sleep problems were the most likely to suffer a work-related injury. Those in jobs that are highly physical, including construction, farming, mining or other industries, were more likely to suffer severe injuries caused by sleep deprivation.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation may result in a feeling of grogginess and the inability to focus on tasks. Workers could forget safety equipment or miss an important step that could result in serious accidents or injury. Those responsible for operating heavy machinery could pose a significant risk to themselves or others when on the job. Any symptoms of sleep deprivation could impact job performance and ultimately increase the risk of work-related injury.

Sleeping problems can impact mood, response time, and overall well-being. If you suffer from insomnia or other sleep problems, you should consult with a doctor to protect your health and well-being. Be careful about taking any medications that could impact your ability to function on the job. Though we all have an occasional restless night, you should seek medical attention if you have regular issues with sleeping. Failing to get adequate sleep could impact your job performance and increase your risk of injuries.

In the event of a workplace accident, any victim of injury is entitled to compensation, regardless of who was at fault or what caused the accident. Even if you suffered from a sleep-related injury, you are entitled to workers' compensation.

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July 10, 2013

Radiation Exposure Claims for Hospital Workers an Issue in North Carolina


Hospital workers face a number of risks, including needle pricks and exposure to infection and disease. Though any worker may be entitled to compensation for an injury that occurs in the workplace, hospital workers may face additional dangers because of exposure to radiation. In a recent case, hospital workers are seeking compensation after radiation exposure they suffered because of faulty construction.

Workers' compensation and work-related injury claims can be complicated. In some cases, workers may only be entitled to lost wages and medical costs; however, there are some instances where employees can pursue additional compensation. Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in handling complex claims on behalf of injured workers and their families.

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In this case, a lawsuit blames a hospital for failing to install a protective wall to insulate against radiation exposure. According to the claim, four CT technologists filed a lawsuit claiming exposure to excess radiation over the course of years. The lawsuit alleges that construction crews installed the wrong glass in the rooms where they read scans, resulting in long-term exposure to radiation.

According to an attorney for the plaintiffs, the techs were exposed to 20 times the normal radiation while performing hundreds of scans every year. State law requires that the viewing window have the same radiation protection as the walls. For the construction in this hospital, this was not the case. The complaint states that the window separating the scanner room is supposed to be made of lead-shielded glass. When the hospital went to replace the CT scanner it found that the shield was made from regular glass.

Since the discovery that the wall was not made of protective glass, the hospital reported the Department of Health and recorded the risk as a construction error. Workers have since pursued medical treatment and their doctors reported that they have shown signs of radiation exposure. Radiation exposure can lead to disease, including cancer.

Workers who have suffered an injury on the job are entitled to workers' compensation benefits, regardless of fault or cause of the accident. Though workers do not have to prove that they were injured because of negligence, they also cannot sue employers for their injuries and, generally, are limited to medical compensation and lost wages. In some cases, employees can bring additional lawsuits against third-party individuals and entities responsible for their injuries. In this case, the lawsuit is targeted at the architectural firm and construction companies, not the hospital itself.

The construction company has acknowledged the claim but is refusing to provide additional comments on the injury and lawsuit. Since the claim was filed, more protective glass has been installed at the hospital but the workers are living in fear that the injuries may not appear for years or decades after the exposure.

Hospital workers who have been injured because of radiation exposure, improper protection gear, and other work-related injuries are entitled to compensation. An experienced workers' compensation attorney can help you seek appropriate medical treatment, document injuries, and effectively file for benefits.

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July 5, 2013

The Dangers of Being a Temp Worker


In the current economy, companies are under additional pressure to cut corners and to bolster their bottom-line. This means exploring ways to save money on a labor force. For many employers, reducing costs means cutting out permanent employees and hiring temporary help as needed. The benefits of temporary help are varied--companies do not have to pay workers' compensation insurance, they do not owe benefits, and they are not required to pay overtime. Though corporations benefit, temporary employees are vulnerable to lost legal protections.

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In cities nationwide, temporary workers will line street corners or wait in abandoned warehouses to get approval for temporary work. These are regular employees of temporary agencies, who are supplied to large corporations. Temporary employees are responsible for any number of tasks, including preparation of frozen foods, waste management, and farming. They are responsible for stocking, packing, and shipment. Throughout America, temporary workers are an integral part of the economy. Our Charlotte work accident attorneys are dedicated to helping workers protect their rights and health.

Many victims of temporary work or "day labor" are immigrants. Researchers have dubbed the word "temp towns" to describe cities where Latinos and others are completely dependent on work provided by temp agencies. In many cities, out of work employees are forced to find employment at a temp agency before they can establish permanent employment.

Temporary employees face a number of dangers. In many cases, working conditions go unregulated. Companies also avoid responsibilities including workers' compensation claims, unemployment taxes, union initiatives, and it does not require employers to guarantee that workers are citizens. Temporary employees are vulnerable to injuries and according to reports, many of these workers endure long hours unpaid, and fees that reduces overall income.

The number of workers in the temp sector has grown: almost one-fifth of total job growth since 2009 is in temping. Temping has grown exponentially faster than permanent employment positions. The majority of this work is in factories and warehouses.

Economists suggest that the temporary worker market will grow even after the end of the recession.

In Greenville County, one in every 12 workers was a temp employee in 2012. There are many "temp towns" throughout the state and many workers have done the same factor work for years without having the benefits of full-time employment.

In the event of a worker injury, temporary workers will face injustices and difficulties when filing claims. Corporations can often evade responsibility asserting that they are not the employer. Though temporary workers undoubtedly benefit employers, temporary workers are at a significant disadvantage and risk.

Today's temporary workers face harsh working conditions, long hours and may not make the wages they are entitled to. In the event of a serious accident or injury, these workers' may face additional challenges when seeking to collect benefits. Undocumented workers face additional risks, because if they complain about working conditions, they could also face deportation.

In addition to working conditions, workers may be exposed to dangerously crowded traveling vans, forcing workers to crouch in small spaces. Some workers have also claimed to have been stranded at a work site. Even after all of this, many temporary workers are forced to pay for their own ride.

Workers' compensation benefits are generally only available to full-time employees; however, temporary and contract workers who face abuse, may be the workers that are in greatest need of compensation after an accident.

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July 3, 2013

Keeping Summer Work Zones Safe in the Carolinas


The majority of construction work nationwide is initiated and completed during the summer months. This means that employers and workers are at a greater risk of injury, whether working on a new construction project or in repairing state and national highways. After a fatal accident in Charlotte, the North Carolina Department of Transportation initiated an investigation to determine whether a work site was safe.

Construction zones must be properly barricaded and marked to warn oncoming motorists and to prevent injury or fatalities to highway workers. In the event of a collision or accident victims should consult with an experienced investigation team to determine the cause of the accident and identify responsible individuals or entities. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in representing victims of work zone accidents.

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Last week, a fatal accident occurred on Interstate 485 when a dump truck struck a concrete barrier. The construction project aims to widen I-485 in Charlotte. To keep workers safe, the agency has added temporary concrete barriers. There are several points along the I-485 construction route where the concrete barriers shift to allow workers access to the median. This also creates an off-ramp for construction vehicles. According to accident reports, the concrete barriers are set up with gaps to allow workers and vehicles to pass. Distracted motorists who are not paying attention can see those temporary gaps as an opening or a third lane on the highway.

According to accident witnesses and reports, a dump truck driven by a 54-year-old Rock Hill man crashed into a barrier just after a temporary off-ramp. The truck flipped over and burst into flames. The driver was killed in the accident. Accident reconstructionists are unclear whether the driver believed that the off-ramp was a new lane or whether he lost control of his truck before the collision.

Many witnesses questioned whether he lost control because there was a shoulder on the interstate that could have been used if a driver needed to pull over. The speed limit in the work zone was reduced to 55 miles per hour and there was a solid yellow line indicating to drivers not to cross over.

After an investigation the N.C. Department of Transportation has announced that the work zone is safe, properly demarcated, and that no additional signs or warnings are necessary. The North Carolina Highway Patrol is continuing to investigate the accident and to hold any liable parties accountable. According to a spokesperson for the N.C. DOT, the traffic control plan was implemented according to federal guidelines and approved for a work zone safety unit permit.

In this case, the concrete barriers and attenuators are the responsibility of the contractor. The DOT has no intention of addition additional signs, cones or warnings. Any worker injured in a similar accident can hold a contractor and other third-party liable for any injuries. A family can pursue workers' compensation in the event of a fatal accident. Workers' compensation claims involving automobile accidents and highway crashes can be complicated so it is important to involve an experienced advocate as soon as possible.

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July 2, 2013

Workers Beware of Firework Hazards This 4th of July


Any worker who has contact with fireworks or pyrotechnics are at a high risk of injury. This Fourth of July season, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is warning workers and employers in the fireworks and pyrotechnics industry to follow safety protocols and to take extra precautions to avoid serious injury and accidental death. These dangers extend to all workers who are involved with manufacturing, storage, transport, display, sale and ignition for private or public events.

Every 4th of July, Americans gather to celebrate the independence of the United States. Barbecues, boat outings, and fireworks mark the occasion. In the excitement of festivities, the danger of working with explosives is often forgotten. All workers who come into contact with fireworks should be wary of the risks that they face. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in helping victims of explosions and other accidents collect compensation after an accident.

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OSHA authorities are urging workers and their employers to remember safety when handling pyrotechnics. Though every handler should always take necessary precautions, employers are responsible for keeping their employees safe on the job. Employers are charged with making provisions and creating protocols to keep workers safe. From storage to transport and finally ignition, employers are responsible for taking necessary steps to prevent workers from injury or death.

According to OSHA records, three workers suffered serious burns at pyrotechnic factor in March. Since the accident, the company has been fined $117,000 in safety violations. These violations were related to explosive hazards and failed safety precautions.

The federal agency, OSHA, is responsible for investigating workplace conditions and to ensure the health and safety of workers nationwide. In the event that an employer fails to comply with regulations and standards, it can be fined and held liable in the event of an accident or injuries. Regarding pyrotechnics, OSHA has creative a directive, known as the Compliance Policy for Storage, Sale, Handling, use and Display of Pyrotechnics. The OSHA standard is intended to provide inspection guidance and safety requirements that apply to facilities and operations involving fireworks.

OSHA offers information on the pyrotechnics industry and helps businesses create a safe work environment for employees. This involves the storage, transport and creation of fireworks displays. There are a number of common hazards associated with fireworks and solutions that can help to prevent accidents and injuries. Victims of fireworks accidents could suffer burns, scarring, tissue damage, loss of vision, loss of hearing, or loss of limb. In the most severe cases, a worker could lose his or her life in a fireworks accident.

Workers who suffer an occupational injury are entitled to compensation without having to prove liability. A workers' compensation claim entitles an employee to health care and lost wages. Any victim of a workplace accident may also able to bring third-party claims against additional parties, including negligent individuals or entities responsible for the accident. Any worker who has been injured in a firework accident should consult with an experienced advocate to initiate an investigation. Manufacturers and property owners may also be liable for an explosion, burn or other firework malfunction.

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June 30, 2013

General Worker Health: Managing Pain Prescriptions


Proper training, equipment, and safety precautions are necessary to prevent workplace injury. While preventing accidents in the workplace is critical, the general well-being of employees can also help to create a safe and healthy work environment.

The National Safety Council launched its Employee Wellness Week this month to promote safe behaviors that can prevent injury and death. The agency is seeking to promote educated decisions with regard to general health and well-being.

Many people do not consider their health or well-being until they have an illness or injury. Overall health means taking care of your body, having regular check-ups, and avoiding harmful behaviors. Knowing good behavioral practices can ensure that you keep your mind and body healthy. This promotes overall well-being at home and in the workplace. Our North Carolina workers' compensation lawyers also know that general employee wellness can often be overlooked. We are dedicated to helping the NSC promote safety and the general health of employees.

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Every day, we make important decisions that will affect our overall health. When you wake up in the morning, you could choose to eat eggs and bacon or a piece of fruit. You could opt to ride your bike to work or drive a car. During the workday, you could choose to eat a salad or a cheeseburger.The choices we make have the ability to impact our bodies, intellect, and emotional well-being affecting our performance at home and at work.

In addition to eating well and getting appropriate exercise, employers and employees should also be aware of any drug or alcohol habits that could affect health and mindfulness. According to the NSC, the use of prescription pain medication has reached epidemic levels in the United States. Every day, there are 45 people who die of an overdose of prescription pain medication. This is a shocking statistic that should make regular users question their intake and habits.

If you are prescribed a painkiller, you should take additional precautions to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. You medications should be kept in their original containers and stored out of sight and away from children. If you have finished with your prescription or you have decided that you no longer need a prescription, you should make sure any leftover pills are properly disposed. This can prevent theft or abuse of your old medications. If a doctor has given you a prescription, you should know the proper dose and only take your medication as it has been prescribed.

The NSC is reaching out to organizations, communities and the general public to disseminate important information about health and to effectively reduce the damage of prescription abuse and addiction. If someone you love is suffering from an addiction, you should seek appropriate resources.

Remember that the decisions you make now can have long-term impact on your overall health. Employers as well as employees should be aware of behavioral patterns that could impact workplace safety. If you have questions about your health or healthy habits, you should consult with your doctor. Promoting general health in the workplace can also prevent future illness and injuries.

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June 30, 2013

Occupational Disease and Chemical Exposure Can Go Ignored


OSHA is charged with making sure that a workplace is safe for employees.

It is often true that both OSHA and state workplace safety enforcement agencies focus heavily on accidental injury to the detriment of preventing occupational disease and illness. North Carolina has been recognized as a state with a high incidence of both injury and accidental death. Our Spartanburg workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of occupational disease and illness.

According to a recent report published in honor of Memorial Day by the National Council on Occupational Health and Safety, Federal OSHA rules and enforcement focus almost exclusively on safety conditions and hazards that may result in falls and other immediate bodily injury. Focusing on accidental injury ignores some of the other serious hazards in the workplace including toxic substances that can result in loss of vision, burns, permanent brain damage and death.

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Recent headlines have pointed to a North Carolina operation that manufactured cushions using a highly toxic chemical known as n-propyl bromide (or nPB). Where OSHA has the ability to regulate workplace conditions for safety to prevent falls, fires equipment injuries and other accidents, it has no standards to limit exposure to the chemical nPB. When workers at the plant were exposed to the chemical, they were made sick and many of those suffered permanent injury and disability.

Despite reports that the chemical was causing serious harm to workers, the North Carolina OSHA agency failed to take any action to prevent additional injury. According to a local physical who treated the poisonous workers said that many were unable to stand on their own. They had to be supported by family members. Even when the company lost employees to disability and the disease, they continued to hire additional workers without any oversight from the government.

While OSHA is responsible for ensuring workers have safe and healthy working conditions, the North Carolina cushion plant story illustrates that the agency is failing. In this case, OSHA had inspected the agency over the course of several years. Even finding exposure, it only fined the company modestly and saw no changes after the inspection. Workers continued to fall prey to the exposure to toxic nPB.

In addition to occupational hazards such as accidental injury or fall, workers, employers and government agencies should be more aware of the potential for occupational disease and illness that can be attributed to toxic exposure and hazards. Employees are also at risk of permanent damage to sight or hearing.

An occupational disease is any chronic ailment caused by work or occupational activities. Many instances of occupational disease are discovered after more than one employee fall victim to the disease or illness. Examples of occupational disease include lung disease or asbestos poisoning, black lung, or occupational asthma. Employees have been known to contract skin diseases, including eczema when exposed to certain chemicals in industries like catering, healthcare, printing, construction, mechanics or hair styling. Other forms of occupational disease include Carpal tunnel syndrome and lead poisoning.

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June 26, 2013

Public Sector Workers Risk Injury and Death for Citizens


In the eyes of public safety groups and legislators, employees at private companies face greater risks than public employees. While a significant amount of attention attention is paid to the safety of workers in the private sector, public workers can often go ignored. OSHA and North Carolina government agencies are charged with keeping private employers in line; however, public employees face significant dangers while on the job. Firefighters, law enforcement, road side crews and other public service workers are risking their lives every day.

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Every worker faces different risks depending on their duties and tasks. Construction workers risk falls, industrial workers may risk chemical exposure, oil industry workers may risk fire and explosion. Public employees are often responsible for handling dangerous jobs intended to keep citizens safe from harm. This means that every day, these public employees are at risk of accidents, injuries, and even violence. Our Spartanburg workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of all workers and can help public employees protect their rights.

It is a false conception that public workers face fewer dangers than those working in private industry. While workers for private construction companies, contractors, factors, or in other industrial settings face many hazards, there are different risks for public employees. According to recent reports, published by the National Council on Occupational Health and Safety, there were at least 8 public service workers who lost their lives in North Carolina in 2012. Dangerous public sector jobs include police officers, firefighters, road crews, school employees, emergency personnel, and employees working for state parks. These dedicated workers are often putting their own lives at risk to protect the general public.

Public employees are often acting to protect public citizens, which can put them at risk. They face an exceptionally high rate of injury and fatality on the job. A significant number of public employees die in highway or vehicle accidents. Last year, four employees of the North Carolina Department of Transportation were killed in motor vehicle accidents. These deaths are a reminder that all motorists should take greater care when traveling through construction and work zones. Department of Transportation crews are facing additional dangers because of distracted driving related to cell phones and other hand held devices.

Policymakers and legislators must take the necessary steps to ensure public worker safety in North Carolina. This requires having a specific understanding of the kinds of risk faced by public employees. These employees face the threat of injury, illness and death and must be protected with the same efforts as private employees. Public workers should be properly trained and have the same protections as private workers.

Like employees in the private sector, public service workers are entitled to workers compensation in the event of an accident. If you are a service worker and have been injured while on the job, remember that you do have options and you do have rights. An experienced attorney can investigate your case and pursue just compensation on your behalf. In addition to workers' compensation, you may also be entitled to financial compensation in the event of third-party negligence. Families of victims are also entitled to compensation after a public employee's death.

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June 24, 2013

North Carolina Under-Reporting Work-Related Deaths


Both the state and the federal government have an interest in tracking workplace accidents, injuries and death. In addition to using data to create safer workplaces and enhance regulations, the data can also be useful in determining where employers may be taking shortcuts. Recent reports indicate that there are more North Carolina workers dying on the job than the state is reporting.

Workplace safety is increasingly under scrutiny since the industrial disaster in West, Texas killed 15 and left hundreds injured. Factories, construction sites, and other industrial work sites are notoriously dangerous for employees. Employers as well as government agencies are accountable for protecting workers from such grave violations and preventable accidents. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping prevent workplace injury and protecting the rights of employees in North Carolina.

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According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, there were 53 work fatalities in 2011. The Department of Labor manages its own statistics on workplace accidents and reports that the number is closer to 150, based on a recent report from the National Council on Occupational Safety and Health. It is not surprising that states have an incentive to keep reporting rates low. A high incidence of work-related death could be indicative of non-compliance or in an inability to manage workplace safety. This could leave state agencies open to intervention by the federal government to ensure compliance with OSHA laws.

The North Carolina Department of Labor only reports workplace deaths that the agency has the authority to investigate. Alternatively, the federal BLS report includes accidents that are not under state jurisdiction. Accidents and injuries that are not reported by North Carolina, include accidents involving transportation and workplace violence deaths. Conveniently, the state claims that since it does not investigate the claims, it's not able to claim them as work-related accidents. This means that the number of employees who die in work-related accidents is significantly underreported.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that there were 19 workers killed in 2011 on the job due to violent acts in North Carolina. OSHA has reported that the average fine imposed by North Carolina OSHA for a serious violation (including serious bodily harm to an employee) was only $1,309.95. This is an insignificant amount for many large companies; even with they are fined for repeat violation. When OSHA investigates a violation, it's able to fine up to $7,000 for a serious violation. Usually companies are fined much less than this, even in the event of a fatality.

If someone you love died in a work-related accident, you do have options and rights. An immediate investigation can help determine the cause of the accident and hold responsible individuals or entities accountable. One way to prevent work-related accidents is to closely track the type of injury or accident and to create preventative measures in the future. It is important that both federal and state agencies accurately report the number of deaths to ensure that employers are held accountable. Companies that have a high incidence of work-related death could also be fined for repeat offenses and violations of state or federal regulations.

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June 23, 2013

Employers Helping Prepare For Carolina Wildfires


Wildfires are common natural disasters that can spread very quickly. They can spread even quicker when conditions are dry. Educating workers about the risks associated with wildfires can wind up saving lives and saving businesses.
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That's why officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have designated web resources to help businesses prepare and recover from wildfires.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers understand that preparation is one of the most important steps a company can take to help prevent disaster. One of the most important things to have is an evacuation plan. When you have one in place before a fire strikes, you can help to avoid confusion and to prevent injuries.

A good wildfire evacuation plan should include:

-Make sure everyone understands and can recognize the conditions that will put this plan into effect.

-Make sure you've got a chain of command.

-Be sure that each emergency function is mapped out, including who is in charge of performance.

-Include procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors.

-And you should frequently review this plan with your workers. It's not going to work if people don't understand (or can't remember) it.

When a fire comes and goes, it's time to cleanup. In the aftermath, employees may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. Some operations, such as utility restoration, cleaning up spills of hazardous materials as well as search and rescue, should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.

When cleaning up and recovering from a wild fire, workers need to be on the lookout for electrical hazards, carbon monoxide poisoning, lifting injuries, heavy equipment accidents, extreme heat, unstable structures, hazardous materials, additional fires, confined spaces, worker fatigue, respiratory problems, downed electrical wires and slip, trip and fall accidents.

These issues are very real here in the Carolinas. Remember back in March when there were about 60 wildfires that broke out in South Carolina because of the low humidity mixed with high winds? In one instance, the fire completely destroyed 100 condo units. During that time, officials with the South Carolina Forestry Commission issued a Red Flag Fire Weather Alert for the entire state. In some municipalities, that meant a ban on outdoor burning.

Check with your employer today if you're not aware of a plan to address wildfires, because the truth of the matter is that you have the right to a safe workplace. You have the right under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). This was the act that was passed to help to prevent employees from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers.

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June 21, 2013

Carolina Employee Safety in the Face of Natural Disaster


Tornadoes can come out of the sky with little to no warning. That's why it's important that we take all of the proper safety precautions to make sure we're ready when they do hit. Some of these important precautions including learning the warning signs, having an emergency plan in place, keeping an eye on the weather and monitoring the watches and warnings. These steps can help to make sure that you're safe regardless of where you are -- even if you're at work.
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Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have developed web resources to help ensure that companies, business owners and workers are prepared and ready for when a tornado strikes. The webpage has also been designed to help companies get back on their feet after one of these natural disasters.

Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that it is critical for each business to have an emergency plan in place. Workers should know where to take shelter in the event of a tornado, ways to make sure that everyone is accounted for and procedures to address any dangerous materials that may be on the work site. It's not a bad idea to take these tornado disaster plans home with you to help to make sure that everyone in your family is safe, too.

A tornado is a column of violently rotating air, spawned by a thunderstorm, which is connected from the thunderstorm cloud to the ground. It often appears funnel shaped or as a column of debris. These phenomenons are one of nature's most violent storms. They can even reach over 250 mph. Tornadoes are a threat to human life and responsible for millions of dollars worth of property damage each year in South Carolina.

Even if you make it out of a tornado safely, you're going to have to take the proper safety steps to recover. Employees can face some serious dangers during this time, including the risks for even more storms, downed power lines and and dangerous debris. Employees should be cautious of the dangers that accompany heat stress and from equipment that is used during these recover operations (like generators). You're going to have to make sure that everyone is taking the proper safety precautions to avoid any additional disasters.

In the aftermath of a tornado, employees may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. While workers can participate in many of these operations, there are some operations, such as utility restoration, cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, and search and rescue, which should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.

Employer Responsibilities:

-Be sure that each worker is provided a safe workplace.

-Make sure that employees are protected from any possible hazards affiliated with these kinds of storms, in addition to on-the-job dangers.

-Make sure that workers are protect while engaging in recovery work.

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June 19, 2013

North Carolina Work Fatalities on the Rise


According to the North Carolina Department of Labor (NCDOL), there were close to 25 workers killed on the job in North Carolina during the 2013 Fiscal Year (through May of 2013).
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To no surprise, the number one industry for these fatalities was the construction industry. Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers understand construction workers face some of the most dangerous hazards. They're faced with falls, motor-vehicle accidents, struck by, electrocution and excavation accidents. There are many other health risks on these job sites, including noise, solvents, asbestos and more.

Preventing Falls:

-Before starting, make sure that each worker has the materials they need to complete the job safely. This especially includes safety equipment. Be sure to include the cost of this safety equipment when estimating job costs.

-Make sure that everyone is properly trained on all equipment. Employees must be trained in hazard recognition and in the care and safe use ladders, scaffolds, fall protection systems, and other equipment they'll be using on the job.

Crane Safety:

-Make sure these devices are only operated by trained personnel.

-Never exceed the load chart capacity while making lifts.

-Make sure that everyone is following manufacturer's instructions during operation.

-Be sure that all equipment is inspected before use.

-Make sure that cranes are always used on smooth and flat surfaces.

Motor Vehicle Safety:

-Be aware that vehicle-related incidents are consistently the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States.

-Make sure that workers are not using their cell phones or text messaging devices behind the wheel.

-Every employer whose workers drive on the job should have a comprehensive motor vehicle safety program. The program should provide clear policies, promote safe driving, and ensure that vehicles are maintained in a safe condition.

-Never allow drivers to exceed the Hours-of-Service Regulations.

Electrocution Safety:

-Always use the proper tools for every job.

-Make sure that equipment is isolated from energy sources.

-Make sure that every conductor and circuit is tested before operation.

-Wear protective clothing and equipment and use insulated tools in areas where there are possible electrical hazards.

-Make sure that all conductors and circuits are de-energized before beginning work.

Excavation Safety:

-Remember that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards in place that require that trenches be inspected each and every day and even as conditions change. They must be inspected by a competent person before a worker enters to ensure elimination of excavation hazards.

-Make sure that ladders, ramps, steps or other safe means of exit are available to workers who are working in trench excavations of 4 feet or more.

If you have been injured on the job, it's critical for you to go after the compensation for the injuries and damages that you deserve. Workers' compensation provides for payment of medical expenses, including hospital and rehabilitation services, medication and travel. In some instances, you may also be entitled to future medical expenses and lost wages.

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June 16, 2013

Misclassification: North Carolina Proposes New Penalties for Employers


Employee rights have developed over centuries to protect workers financially, physically, and from other abuses that may result from employers or companies taking advantage of power. While the legal rights of workers have developed, employers continue to find loopholes to make a profit and put workers at a disadvantage. One way that workers may lose rights is when they are misclassified by an employer.

Construction workers, factory workers, and other skilled laborers may find themselves signing an "Independent Contractor" arrangement, even when they are actually a bona fide employee. Unfortunately, many workers do not realize that they are signing away their rights until it is too late. Though contracts can be binding, "Employee" versus "Independent Contractor" status is determined by law and the courts, not an agreement established by an employer. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in the complexities of workers' compensation law and are dedicated to helping protect employee rights.

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One primary difference between an "Independent Contractor" and an "Employee" is that an employee is entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Employers will intentionally misclassify employees for several reasons. First of all, they do not have to pay workers' compensation insurance. Companies and single employers also avoid various taxes and can avoid a number of other legal obligations that they would otherwise have to an employee.

Courts base classification on the degree of control the employer has involving the manner and method of work. Misclassification of employees is not difficult because it usually isn't challenged until an employee is in need of workers' compensation or other benefits. Many employees don't realize that they do not have the correct status until they are facing a dispute with an employer who avoided taxes and failed to pay insurance.

Some legislators are suggesting that companies should face criminal prosecution and that civil penalties should be increased for such misclassifications. Other ways to discourage misclassification would be to create a statutory definition of employment. For example, in Germany, any employee who makes more than 82% of their wages from one party is technically an employee and cannot have "Independent Contractor" or freelancer status. This broadens the security gap for employees who are solely dependent on one employer for income. Some workers' rights advocates are also proposing that legislators revoke the licenses of perpetrators or consider workers' compensation for all employees.

A new bill will require employers to notify employees of their work classification in writing. At least workers who are classified as "Independent Contractors" will be aware of their status in advance and can contest any terms that they disagree with. The bill also increases punishments for those who practice fraud and wage theft.

Workers' compensation is a program intended to protect workers and their families in the event of an injury, illness or work-related accidental death. Unlike personal injury claims, employees do not have to prove negligence; however claims are limited to medical expenses and lost wages. Employees who are denied benefits may be able to file third-party negligence claims. The North Carolina bill would protect workers and ensure that companies and employers are compelled to compliance.

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June 14, 2013

Southern States Have More Workplace Fatalities


Federal and state agencies as well as workers' rights groups will calculate and assess the number of workplace injuries and fatalities every year. According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine by the RAND Corporation, counterintuitive results in work-injury cases reveal that states with more comprehensive safety efforts have fewer fatal accidents. Our North Carolina workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to representing workers who have suffered non-fatal injuries and the families of fatal workplace accident victims.

Analysis of data shows that states that report low numbers of nonfatal injuries also have higher rates of fatal injury. Also, the data works in reverse, revealing that states with low fatality rates also have higher numbers of nonfatal injuries. Researchers found that states in the South, including North and South Carolina, had lower non-fatality injury rates and high fatality rates. These states also had lower worker compensation benefits packages and tended to have fewer rights for workers. In these states, workers collected less pay and were less likely to have union power.

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Conversely, states with high non-fatality injuries and lower fatality rates were in the West. In these states, workers collected higher pay, benefits, and wages. They also tended to be more unionized and were more likely to carry out safety inspections in the workplace. The study looked at data collected between 2003 and 2008 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The authors of the study were comparing fatal and non-fatal injuries by state. According to the report, workers in the construction industry have the highest rate of fatalities.

Individuals responsible for the RAND study were surprised at this relationship between fatal and non-fatal injuries. The study seems to suggest that the scope of benefits may impact the rates of fatality. Interestingly, the states with the highest number of non-fatal injuries and the lowest number of fatalities were in the West. Arizona, Main, Oregon, Washington, California and Wisconsin had the highest number of non-fatal injuries and the lowest number of fatalities. Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas had the highest number of fatalities and the lowest number of non-fatal injuries.

The researchers were surprised that the data was inversely related, concluding that the more extensive the workers' compensation benefits package, the higher reports of non-fatal injuries. This may mean that workers are able to file claims for non-fatal injuries more easily and with less hassle. States with higher fatality rates and reduced benefits packages may make filing non-fatal injury claims more challenging. Essentially, the benefits packages create an incentive for workers to report injuries.

The authors admit that workers' compensation may not be the only factor in the report of injuries. Each state has its own agency to enforce OSHA regulations and many state programs deviate from the federal programs. Every state has different requirements for wages and a different culture regarding compliance.

Ultimately, the study reveals that where a worker is injured can impact their ability to seek care and collect benefits. The findings also suggest that states reporting low non-fatality injuries and high fatality rates are likely underreporting the number of injuries that occur on worksites.

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June 10, 2013

Occupational Hearing Loss and Workers' Compensation


Excessive noise is a widely known hazard for workers that can result in temporary or permanent hearing damage. While the affects of loud noise in the workplace are already known, employers must continue to cultivate defenses to protect the well being of workers. Any worker who has suffered hearing damage while performing work-related duties is entitled to compensation.

Specific legal requirements exist in South Carolina and nationwide to prevent permanent hearing loss caused by excessive noise. Employers are responsible for identifying the levels of noise in their workplace, when using certain machinery or equipment, or when performing specific job duties. After the levels of noise are identified, employers must take necessary preventative action to prevent hearing loss. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are dedicated to helping employees pursue recovery for hearing loss sustained at work.

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Research on hearing loss caused by long term exposure to noise has been studied since the 18th century. Since then additional scientific research has revealed what levels of noise create the greatest risk of hearing damage. Long-term studies have proven that there is a direct link between work and occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL)

Workers in industrial or construction settings are at the highest risk of noise injury. In addition employees who work at clubs, bars, restaurants, or at concert venues may also be at risk of hearing loss. Scientific evidence also suggests that the regular use of personal devices including iPods and iPhones or MP3 players can also create the risk of hearing damage.

To prevent hearing loss in environments of excessive noise, employers and businesses must often consult with healthcare professionals, including Occupational Hazard nurses. An OH nurse has a pivotal role in helping to prevent workplace injuries by identifying risks and developing preventative measures to protect workers. In a recent article, OH nurses are described as critical to helping guide employers, regulators, and other individuals and entities responsible for worker safety.

An employer who has knowledge of excessive noise exposure in the workplace should consult with an OH nurse to implement noise reduction and noise control policies and procedures. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, employers are responsible for protecting the hearing of their employees. Employers must consult with professional experts who can analyze noise hazards. Once risks are identified, employers must provide appropriate defense equipment and disseminate information to workers to avoid excessive exposure to noise. In some cases, noise levels are so high that workers should not be exposed at all.

Occupational Hazard nurse are often called upon to assess noise in the workplace and to give instruction to employers and employees. This requires nurses to have a specific understanding of an industry so that applicable policies can be implemented in the workplace. The legal duty to understand and prevent noise exposure gives many employers the incentive to hire outside experts.

Hearing loss or deafness caused by occupational exposure is a disease recognized by the disability benefit system and the workers' compensation system. Victims of noise exposure and hearing loss should consult with an experienced expert as soon as hearing damage is recognized.

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