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.

Continue reading "Amputations Underestimated in Carolina Workplaces" »

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.

Continue reading "Keeping Our Youngest Carolina Workers Safe " »

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.

Continue reading "Fatigued Drivers Blamed for Carolina Trucking Accidents" »

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.

Continue reading "OSHA Issues New Regulations for Injuries Due to Combustible Dust Explosions" »

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.

Continue reading "North & South Carolina OSHA Programs Should Be More Transparent" »

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.

Continue reading "Distracted Driving as an Organizational Safety Issue" »

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.

Continue reading "Record-Keeping and Reporting of Work Injuries Required by OSHA" »

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.

Continue reading "How Sequester May Increase South Carolina Workplace Injuries" »

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.

Continue reading "Temporary Workers May Be At Greater Risk of Workplace Accidents" »

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.

Continue reading "NSC Offers Advise to Reduce Workplace Car Accident Injuries" »

March 17, 2013

BBQ Held to Help Carolina Man Get Back to Work

On Ronald Patterson's 51st birthday, he's just happy to be around.

Patterson was involved in a construction accident over 30 years ago. It nearly killed him and rendered his legs nearly useless.
"I was working down in South Carolina, and I had a piece of equipment that exploded," said Patterson.

Immediately following the work accident, Patterson was taken to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill. He spent about a month there. He's spent a number of years in a wheelchair and then in a walker. Now, he's thinking about heading back to work.

Our Chapel Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that work may be unavoidable after a catastrophic accident. Unfortunately, on-the-job accidents and injuries come at serious cost. Workers' compensation might not always cover these costs -- making working again a fact of life for those have been seriously and irreversibly injured.

To help with the costs of physical therapy and occupational therapy, the White Hill Presbyterian Church hosted a BBQ dinner. It was help on the 16th of March, and with just $8.00 a plate, offered a helping hand. He's scheduled to complete therapy in Fayetteville and hopes to return to the job soon.

Not only does Patterson want to go back to construction, but he wants to resume his employment with the same company he was with when the accident happened. He says that he's not mad at the company for the accident. He adds that they have been extremely helpful in the years since the accident. He even said they saved a spot for him for when he was ready to return.

Unfortunately, he'll be walking into some of the same accident risks that injured him on the job 30 years ago. The truth of the matter is that the construction industry is the most dangerous industry in which to work.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were close to 800 construction workers who were killed on the job in 2011.

The four most common causes of death of those in the construction industry are electrocution, calls, caught-in/between and struck by object accidents. These incidents are oftentimes referred to as the "Fatal Four" and were the cause of three out of every 5 fatalities in the construction industry in 2011.

"Every day in America, 13 people go to work and never come home. Every year in America, nearly 4 million people suffer a workplace injury from which some may never recover. These are preventable tragedies that disable our workers, devastate our families, and damage our economy." said the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

Continue reading "BBQ Held to Help Carolina Man Get Back to Work" »

March 16, 2013

Cranes: A Deadly Hazard on NC Worksites

Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) scheduled two informal stakeholder meetings to talk about certifications among crane operators. They're focusing on the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard.
Officials want to help ensure that these operators get properly trained in order to help to reduce the risks of on-the-job accidents. But they need to know how far to take this certification. Officials with OSHA are working on making sure that each type of crane is used properly and the risks are kept at a minimum. Certification and inspection can save lives on construction sites.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys understand that the current requirements are part of the Cranes and Derricks in Construction set back in August of 2009. Officials are checking to make sure that these standards are adequate. They're expecting the new certification requirements to be set in stone by November of 2014. Secondly, the new standard is going to require that certifications be issued by an accredited testing organization and that they specify the "capacity and type" of cranes the operator is certified to operate.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, companies and employers are required to provide a healthful and safe environment for their workers. OSHA works to enforce these standards and these safe conditions.

For more information on these stakeholder meetings, visit the OSHA website.

Unfortunately, crane-related injuries continue to be among some of the most common injuries suffer on job sites across America. These accidents can cause a significant number of damage in a widespread area alongside serious, and even fatal, injuries. According to officials with OSHA, there are about 200,000 cranes operating in the U.S. today. Many of these cranes are operated by skillful and properly trained worker, but there are those exceptions. With so many in operation today, the risks for accidents have skyrocketed. That's why it's so critical for workers to be trained and safe to reduce the likelihood of on-the-job injury as a result of crane accidents.

OSHA officials report that the most common kinds of injury and death from crane accidents is electrocution. Only a portion of the crane has to touch a power line for it to turn in to a ginormous electric char. Falls are also a common cause of these accidents. A good number of these falls are the result of poorly fastened floor access panels and safety harness malfunctions. And don't forget tipping, which accounts for about 75 percent of crane accidents.

By properly inspecting cranes and making sure that they're in good operation, we can work do reduce a good number of these kinds of accidents. The most recent statistics show that close to 90 percent of the cranes in the country are not certified. It's time we change this and it's time we work to protect our construction workers.

Continue reading "Cranes: A Deadly Hazard on NC Worksites" »

March 13, 2013

North Carolina Worker Killed - Multiple Safety Violations Noted

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Labor are scrutinizing a manufacturing plant in Lincolnton after an employee was killed after an on-the-job accident. Officials with the Occupational Safety and health Administration (OSHA) say that the plant violated a number of safety standard on multiple occasions over the last 4 years.
According to the Lincoln Times-News, there have been six non-serious violations and a serious violation handed over to the plant since 2008. RSI Home Products' plant #2, where these violations were noted, is the same place where the recent fatal accident happened. Accident reports say that the man caught himself while he was working on one of the angular saws. He suffered serious injuries on site and later died in the hospital. The plant produces cabinets.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys understand that officials and inspectors are again investigating the site. They're talking with workers, those who may have witnessed the accident as well as management personnel. We know that RSI was not forced to pay any of the fines or penalties from any of the 2008 violations. The only thing RSI had to dish out was a $600 fee for neglecting to mark permanent passages and aisles inside of the facility.

In addition to these violations, the company may have never even known the employee who was killed. Detectives discovered that the man was working at the plant under a fake name for the four years he was employed there.

OSHA officials are once again investigating this plant. This could take up to six months. Officials are going to try to figure out what exactly happened to cause this accident and to see if that cause relates to one of its previous violations. Officials will also work with the company to make sure that the proper changes are made to help ensure that this will never happen again. Unfortunately, these conditions already took a human life.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were close to 150 workers killed in the state of North Carolina in 2011. That's far too many! Unfortunately, that's a number that jumped by nearly 10 percent from the year before. What's even worse is that the number of on-the-job fatalities nationwide decreased during this same time.

In the state of North Carolina, more than 50 work fatalities resulted from transportation
accidents, close to 30 from violence and other injuries by persons or animals and another 30 were the result of falls, slips and trips. Together these three major categories accounted for close to 75 percent of all fatal work accidents.

Within the construction industry, workplace fatalities ranked the sector as the second most dangerous of all workplaces. There were more than 30 people killed in the construction industry sector, up 5 from the previous year. Falls, slips, and trips accounted for close to 15 of the employee fatalities, while close to 10 of them were the result of exposure to harmful environments or substances.

Continue reading "North Carolina Worker Killed - Multiple Safety Violations Noted" »