January 1, 2013

North Carolina Poultry Plant Workers Could Face Increased Risk of Work Injury

On December 18, 2012, the Charlotte Observer reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had put forth a proposal to increase line speeds at poultry plants. Under the terms of the new proposal, line workers would jump from inspecting 140 birds to inspecting 175 birds per minute. In other words, line workers would be expected to work much faster to get more done in the same amount of time.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys are concerned that the increase in line speeds could put workers at greater risk of workplace injury. Workers on assembly lines at poultry factories are already at risk of nerve and muscle damage due to the nature of their work. Expecting more of these workers and requiring them to do even more repetitive motions even faster could significantly increase the damage to their bodies and cause them to suffer more repetitive stress work injuries.1351907_hairy_skin_2.jpg

The Dangers of Increased Speed in Line Work in Poultry Plants
Advocates in favor of the USDA proposal to speed up the line work done by poultry workers argue that there is no evidence that workers will be at greater danger of injury when asked to work faster. According to the Charlotte Observer, for example, USDA indicates that no data exists to substantiate the idea that workers will be at greater risk and, further, that USDA has no authority to regulate worker safety in the poultry industry.

The Observer also quotes advocates who indicate that the Bureau of Labor Statistics data has shown a decline in injuries in the poultry industry of as much as 74 percent since 1994. However, those who advocate for the rights of workers indicate that these and other figures may be misleading because poultry companies are responsible for self-reporting injuries. This means many injuries may not be reported or recorded and so the full extent of the dangers to workers remains unknown.

There are also other factors that contribute to the underreporting of workplace injuries. For instance, workers in poultry plants tend to be low wage workers who are sometimes undocumented immigrants or non-English speakers. These workers may not be aware of their workplace rights or may be afraid to assert those rights. Because of these combined factors, it should come as no surprise that a Wake Forest Study indicated that the BLS data might be underestimating the risk of injuries in poultry plants by as much as 70 percent.

Further, although the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association alleges that pilot plants operating at faster speeds are no less safe than other plants, others disagree and argue that the increased speed requirements put already at-risk workers in greater danger.

Even with the artificially low estimates, 2006 BLS data indicates that 20.8 out of every 10,000 poultry-plant workers had to miss work due to repetitive stress disorders. With increased line speeds, this number is only going to grow much larger as workers put more strain on their bodies and do the same repetitive motions even more often.

When a worker suffers a repetitive stress injury at work, workers' compensation is supposed to cover the injury, which would mean that the increased line speeds could come at significant cost. Unfortunately, the question remains as to whether workers who are asked to speed up their work and who do suffer harm as a result will actually be able to assert their rights.

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December 30, 2012

COPD Awareness Month Draws Attention to Workplace Exposure Issues

During the month of November, the US COPD Coalition sponsored COPD awareness month. COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease, a respiratory condition that develops as a result of breathing in dust, fumes and pollutants. Unfortunately, COPD often develops as a direct result of exposure in the workplace and workers in certain industries are at a greater risk of developing the debilitating condition.

With COPD Awareness Month at an end for the year, our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers want to remind employers and workers that it is important to stay vigilant about avoiding respiratory risks during the entire year. Workers also need to be aware of COPD risks and to always get medical help if they suspect that they might be developing respiratory problems. 1401831_industrial_smokestack.jpg

Minimizing the Risk of COPD
COPD is actually a medical term for several different lung problems and breathing issues that impact individuals. There are two main forms of the condition, according to the National Institute of Health. These include:

  • Chronic bronchitis, which usually manifests with a mucus-filled cough

  • Emphysema, which causes progressive deterioration of the lungs.

For most patients afflicted with COPD, they have a combination of both of these problems as well as other respiratory infections or lung diseases. Unfortunately, because of their respiratory issues, many are also fatigued, have trouble breathing and are limited in their ability to perform everyday tasks. More than 120,000 people die of their COPD health issues each year.

Unfortunately, many of those who suffer this debilitating condition or who die as a result of it developed the condition due to exposure in the workplace. Any worker who is routinely exposed to environmental irritants, such as air pollution, fumes, chemicals or dust, can increase his or her risk of developing COPD. Everyday Health, however, indicates that certain workers are at a greater risk than others. For instance, miners, industrial workers, those who work with coal or cotton fibers, and manufacturers of concrete tend to be at the greatest risk of developing COPD.

Any type of repeated or ongoing exposure to environmental hazards, from coal dust in the air to chemicals or pollutants, can be dangerous and workers and employers need to make sure that air quality standards are met in order to minimize COPD risks.

Staying Safe from COPD and Avoiding Workplace Exposure to Toxins
While some industries simply result in more exposure to dust, pollution and toxins than others, there are things employers can do. For example, it is essential for:

  • Employers to comply with OSHA guidelines on air quality

  • Workplace policies to promote minimal exposure to dust. For example, coal workers can reduce the coal dust they breathe in by letting the coal dust settle prior to handling bags.

  • Industrial vacuums and respiratory masks to be used in high-risk environments.

By following these and other safety tips, employers and workers can minimize the chances of a worker developing COPD. Since COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., it is worth making the extra effort to try to stay safe.

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December 28, 2012

Employers Continue to Fall Short on Fall Protection Measures

According to 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls were a top cause of workplace deaths last year. Unfortunately, while the dangers of falls are well-known to employers and employees, employers still aren't doing enough to help keep workers' safe.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys urge employers to make a resolution to do better on following fall protection guidelines in the upcoming year. We also want employers and workers to be aware of the grave dangers that falls present in the workplace. 1001441_yellow_scaffold.jpg

The Dangers of Workplace Falls
The dangers of workplace falls are undisputed and statistics clearly show that many workers are seriously injured or killed as a result of either falling on the same level (slipping, tripping, etc.) or falling to a lower level (down a hole, off scaffolding, etc.). In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics :

  • 666 workers died as a result of falling on the jobsite in 2011. In total, falls were responsible for 14 percent of all 2011 workplace deaths

  • 108 fatal workplace falls occurred as a result of slips, trips or other falls on the same level.

  • 60 fatal workplace falls occurred when a worker fell down through an opening.

  • 38 fatal workplace falls involved a worker falling from equipment or falling as a result of the collapse of a structure.

In addition to the hundreds of workers who were killed in falls, many workers were injured as well. In fact, there were 3 million injured workers in 2011 and many of them were hurt as a result of falling.

Yet, despite the fact that so many workers die or are injured due to falls, employers often seem to come up short in taking safety steps to stop these accidents from occurring. In fact, many employers even go so far as to violate safety standards set forth by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

Falls are Top Cause of OSHA Citations
Recently, OSHA released a list of the most frequency cited standards in 2012. The data on citations was collected from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012. According to their information on OSHA violations that employers were cited for, fall protection rules in the construction industry were the number one source of violations.

In addition, violations of scaffolding standards and requirements were the number three most common cause of citations. Of course, when an employer violates rules on safe scaffolding, the risk of falls is also increased.

OSHA also reported that falls were number one and scaffolding number two on the list of standards that OSHA assessed the highest penalties for in 2012. This means employers paid the greatest price for noncompliance with fall protection and scaffolding safety standards.

The high number of deaths caused by falls, coupled with the fact that noncompliance with fall protection guidelines and scaffolding guidelines are the top causes for OSHA citations, all clearly indicate that employers need to do better in securing the safety of their workers.

Continue reading "Employers Continue to Fall Short on Fall Protection Measures" »

December 26, 2012

New Study Indicates Construction Injuries May Be Under Reported

Towards the end of October, the results of a study were published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. The study involved an interview of 1,200 carpenter apprentices that were in three different union training programs. The purpose of the study was to get a better understanding of whether safety incentive programs resulted in workers' being discouraged from reporting work injuries. Unfortunately, the results of the study revealed that underreporting of work injuries is a major problem.

Our Raleigh workers' compensation attorneys want to draw attention to the problems raised by this new study and to encourage construction workers to understand their legal rights. Workers' compensation laws protect workers who are injured at work and no worker should ever be afraid to get the benefits that the law guarantees. 1402599_untitled.jpg

Study Shows Construction Injuries Underreported
The results of the study on injuries in the construction industry focused on the impact of programs that either reward supervisors for good safety records or that impose penalties to punish for injuries.

The purpose was to determine whether these programs discourage the reporting of work injuries- and it turned out that they do create a significant disincentive. In fact:

  • 58 percent of the carpenters who responded to the survey reported that there was either a safety incentive at their current job or that there were policies in place to punish or discipline workers as a result of work-related injuries.

  • In situations where workers were disciplined for injuries, workers reported their workplace accidents and injuries 50 percent loss often than when such policies did not exist.

  • Almost 30 percent of those responding to the survey indicated that workplace injuries were either rarely reported or never reported at all.

Based on the responses to the surveys, the researchers indicated that they had discovered considerable evidence that workers feared consequences or some type of retaliation if they reported their work injuries to their employers.

Unfortunately, the results of the survey also indicated that even when workers knew that they had the right to report their injuries, they were still discouraged from doing so in many cases as a result of subtle pressures from employers, union leaders or co-workers. Employees, fearing that they might be fired or disciplined or otherwise subject to negative consequences would thus not report injuries even if they knew they were supposed to have legal rights.

Protecting Your Access to Workers' Compensation Benefits
If you suffer a workplace injury and do not report it, you could jeopardize your right to receive workers compensation benefits. This could become a major problem, especially if your injuries become worse or if you do not get better and you are not able to work. Workers' compensation benefits are supposed to provide a safety net in these situations and to ensure medical bills are paid and disability benefits provided. Unfortunately, your employer could argue that you aren't eligible if you didn't come forward and tell the truth about your injury from the start.

If you have been hurt at work and fear consequences for making a workers' compensation claim, you should speak to an attorney for more information on how to enforce and protect your legal rights.

Continue reading "New Study Indicates Construction Injuries May Be Under Reported" »

December 23, 2012

Many Workplace Deaths Caused By Contact With Objects/Equipment

In the workplace, there are many risks that workers' face. Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics took a look at some of the top causes of accidents and injuries in 2011. Their data broke down the number of occupational injuries or fatalities by the event or accident that caused the death, and the information provided reveals some important information about how workers are being hurt.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys want workers and employers to be aware of some of the greatest risks in the workplace. Unfortunately, in many cases, the risks come from workers being caught in equipment or being hit by objects or equipment at work. Avoiding these dangerous events should be a top priority to reduce the risk of serious workplace accidents. 662726_bulldozer.jpg

The Dangers of Contact with Objects or Equipment
The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2011 data reveals that 708 workers died in 2011 as a result of coming into contact with either equipment or objects while they were working. Unfortunately, this means that a total of around 15 percent of all fatal workplace accidents in 2011 were a direct result of workers coming into contact with objects/equipment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also broke down exactly what type of objects or equipment caused the most harm to workers. According to their reports on 2011 injuries:

  • 472 workers died when they were struck by either objects or equipment other than powered vehicles.

  • 147 workers died when they were crushed by a machine/equipment.

  • 119 workers died when they got caught in equipment or machinery that was running.

  • 84 workers died after being caught in a collapsing structure and/or crushed by material or equipment.

  • 24 workers died when they were hit by a flying object.

All of these different deaths left families without their loved ones and without the companionship, financial and emotional support that their loved ones could have provided. Unfortunately, in many cases, these workplace deaths could have been avoided with better safety policies and safer workplaces.

Avoiding the Risk of Death By Contact with Objects or Equipment
Those in every industry, but especially in industrial and construction fields, need to make a commitment to stay safe and to try to avoid the risks that machinery, equipment and objects present in the workplace. There are a few different steps that can be taken in order to try to minimize the risk of these types of fatal accidents occurring. Some tips include:

  • Maintaining equipment and machinery so it is always in good working order.

  • Providing proper training to anyone who will be using or coming into contact with equipment and machinery and ensuring that only trained and authorized people have access.

  • Examining and testing equipment and machinery prior to using the tools for any job in order to ensure that there are no loose parts, malfunctioning parts or other dangers.

  • Requiring that workers performing tasks involving machinery or equipment have appropriate clothing (that can't get caught in machines) and proper safety gear such as safety goggles or hard hats.

Compliance with all requirements set for equipment and machinery by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration will also help workers and employers to minimize the risk of an injury caused by a worker being caught or compressed by machinery, objects or equipment.

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December 22, 2012

Avoiding Holiday Workplace Accidents in the Carolinas

The holidays are a time when people should be celebrating and enjoying time with friends and family. Unfortunately, there are many factors that make holidays a risky time for workers. The risks of accidents and injuries over the holiday season affect many workers in different industries and professions and all workers and employers need to be aware of the dangers and take steps to stay safe.

Our Raleigh workers' compensation attorneys want to stress the importance of being vigilant about workplace dangers over the holiday season. By taking extra precautions and being aware of extra risks within your industry, you will have the best chance of avoiding tragedy and getting everyone through the holiday season without harm. 1373958_snowy_christmas_tree.jpg

Avoiding Holiday Workplace Accident Risks

The different types of holiday workplace accident risks are going to vary depending upon the different fields in which individuals are employed. However, everyone can benefit from a few tips to avoid holiday accident risks. These tips include:

  • Being aware of the increased risk of car accident. Those who have to drive for work, whether as a routine part of the job or for occasional office errands, should be aware that auto accident dangers increase from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving through until January 2. Workers during this time need to be extra careful to practice safe driving to minimize the increased risk of auto accidents that occur over the holidays.
  • Ensuring that appropriate crowd control measures are in place. This is a big issue in retail establishments especially. Shoppers tend to flood the stores on Black Friday, Christmas Eve and other key holiday shopping days during the festive season. Employers need to be aware of what days are likely to lead to an influx in customers and need to have crowd control measures in place to protect employees.
  • Accounting for challenging weather conditions. Winter weather affects not just outdoor workers but also indoor workers as well. Snow and ice can be tracked into office buildings, increasing the chances that a worker might slip and fall.
  • Keeping decorations to a minimum and making sure that any decorations are displayed safely. The more cluttered a workplace is with decorations, such as strings of holiday lights, the greater the chance of a worker tripping and falling or otherwise becoming injured. Holiday lights or holiday trees could also increase the chance of a workplace fire.
  • Taking threats of violence seriously. In many tragic cases, people who are dealing with mental challenges will become more violent over the holiday season. If employees, ex-employees or customers might be prone to violent behavior, employers should be watchful of warning signs and take steps to protect workers from workplace violence.
By following these tips and taking the threat of work injuries seriously over the holidays, employers and workers can hopefully help to prevent tragic work accidents from occurring.

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December 20, 2012

Workplace Injuries at Your Holiday Party- Are You Covered Under Workers Comp?

During the holiday season, there are many additional risks for workers. From the increased chance of an auto accident while driving for work to dangers from aggressive shoppers in retail environments or tree trimming accidents for outdoor workers. And, of course, the winter weather creates many hazards. One additional risk that many people don't think very much about, however, is the dangers of getting hurt at a holiday party.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation lawyers want to remind workers and employers of the importance of maintaining a safe environment at festive holiday gatherings. We also want to help workers to better understand their rights when it comes to workers' compensation benefits after an injury at a work party. 1114040_christmas_gifts.jpg

Injury at a Work Party- When Are You Covered?
Under workers' compensation laws, workers are generally supposed to be covered for any injury that arises as a direct result of doing something that you have to do for your job. If your boss sent you to the store to buy holiday gifts, for example, this would be a situation where you were doing a work task and any injuries you suffered while shopping for the work gifts would be covered.

When you are at a work party, however, things get a little trickier. After all, you might be at the party enjoying yourself and not really working at all. On the other hand, if you were required to attend a party to socialize with clients and you went as part of your job, then it is hard to argue that any injuries you sustained didn't come as a result of doing workplace tasks.

As such, the question of whether your work injuries at a party are covered or not is going to be answered by considering the circumstances of your particular situation. Under South Carolina law, for example, there are some specific guidelines that are typically used to determine if a worker is covered for a work-injury sustained at a party or not. In general, the guidelines stipulate that you could be covered for injuries you suffered at a work party if:

  • Your party occurred during lunch or during a regular work period, at the normal place where you work.

  • You were required by either implication or express order to go to the party

  • Your employer significantly benefits from your attendance at the party, beyond just the benefit that comes from a holiday celebration with staff.

As these rules show, the general focus is going to be on whether you had to be at the party or whether your employer benefited from you being there. If so, then you were doing something for your job and are covered.

Employers and employees, therefore, need to be aware that workers' compensation benefits can and do apply even in certain social settings over the holidays and appropriate safety rules and guidelines should be followed in these situations just as they are at any job site or during any performance of job tasks.

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December 16, 2012

North Carolina Construction Workers & Nail Gun Safety

Nail Guns. We've all seen them and many of us have even used them. They're common on construction sites, especially in residential building. They're highly efficient and they can help to get the work done quickly. Unfortunately, they also cause tens of thousands of serious injuries each and every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that a four-year study by the CDC showed that two out of every five residential carpenters will experience a nail gun injury. What's even worse is that one out of every five workers is injured twice and ten percent were even injured three times! When workers are dealing with multi-shot triggers -- the risks double. Luckily, safety officials are here to offer workers and employers some simple tips to help to avoid these kinds of injuries. These steps include using full sequential nail guns, providing adequate training for all workers, establishing work procedures, encouraging accurate reporting and discussions regarding these instances and providing the proper first-aid attention to injuries.

About half of all of the reported injuries from nail guns are injuries to the fingers and the hand. A quarter of all of these injuries wind up causing structural damage to bones, tendons, nerves and joints. After the hands, the most common injuries are to the knee, the thigh, the leg, the toes and the foot. Some are even so serious that they've resulted in bone fractures, blindness, paralysis, brain damage and even death.

Steps to Nail Gun Safety:

-Make sure that all nail guns have full sequential trigger nailers for placement work with lumber, This will help to get your hands out of the way and prevent injuries.

-Don't allow inexperienced workers to deal with nail guns. Leave this work to the more experienced employees.

-Be sure that all employees are provided with the proper training to use these devices.

-Establish nail gun work procedures.

-Manufacturers' labels should be left of products for needed warnings.

-Make all tool manuals available on the work site.

-Check the power source before beginning operations.

-Never shoot toward the body. Always keep the gun faced away from you.

-Check all surfaces before nailing.

-Recognize the dangers of using these nail guns at heights. When doing so, allow extra time and precautions.

-Never bypass a nail gun's safety features.

-Never use a nail gun with your non-dominant hand.

-Wear the proper safety equipment at all times, including a hard hat, eye protection and hearing protection.

-Be sure that every piece of equipment is inspected before every job and before every use.

-All workers should be trained in the procedures to complete when a nail gun malfunctions as well.

-Always disconnect air compressor when a nail gun is not being used.

-Don't keep your finger on the trigger. Only apply pressure when ready to nail!

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December 15, 2012

Chemicals: A Silent Workplace Threat

There are a lot of jobs out there that require workers to work directly with chemicals. Unfortunately, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many of these chemicals can cause serious health problems for workers.

These chemicals can include asthmagens, pneumoconiotic agents, dermatopathic agents, immunological agents, sensitizers, neurological toxicants, reproductive toxicants, carcinogens and even systemic toxins.
Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand chemicals can even affect those completing office work -- who may think that chemicals could never risk their safety at work. While most chemical contaminants come from within a building, it's still possible for them to be drawn inside from outdoors, too! The degree to which chemical exposure can affect your health depends on a number of factors. That includes how much of the chemical is present, how often a worker is exposed to the chemical, how harmful the chemical and how sensitive a person is to a particular chemical.

Sometimes you'll be able to recognize when you're being exposed to and harmed by chemicals. But unfortunately, that's not always the case. Keep an eye on yourself and on your coworkers to be able to spot and of the following symptoms.

Common Symptoms Reported From Chemical Over-Exposure:



-Throat and Nose Irritation



-Itchy, Burning or Watery Eyes.

What Workers Can Do to Prevent Chemical Exposures:

-Report any kind of safety or health concerns immediately to explorers or supervisors.

-If you feel like you have been overexposed to any chemical, seek medical assistance. Don't wait around and wait for more side effects to kick in.

-Try not to use air fresheners or any kind of room deodorizers. These can cause throat, nose and eye irritation.

-Make sure that all foods are stores in the appropriate areas.

-Make sure that trash is taken out promptly to prevent and kind of odors.

-Cleaning products should never be mixed.

-Workplaces should choose low-emitting office supplies and cleaners.

-Be sure that employers are keeping material safety data sheets for all dangerous substances and chemicals and that they're passing along the information to workers.

For workers dealing directly with chemicals, it's important for employers to provide them with the necessary safety and protective equipment. This can include chemical cartridge respirators, masks, suits, breathing apparatuses and protective clothing.

Remember that there are even some chemicals that can be immediate threats to your health and even your life. It's important to keep an eye on chemicals and the symptoms your experience. In any negotiable situations you want to remove yourself and immediately report your concerns.

This is such a serious problem that dangerous and hazardous chemicals kill close to 450,000 workers worldwide each year.

Reducing exposure to all kinds of chemicals on the job is a preventative action that can lead to improved outcomes for both employee health and to the environment.

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December 12, 2012

Mold Cleanup & Risk of North Carolina Work Accidents

To help to keep employers and employees safe and to help to educate them about the dangers that are associated with the cleanup work after Hurricane Sandy, officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released a new fact sheet. This sheet focuses on the safeguards needed to protect workers against various dangers, including mold, when cleaning up after that devastating storm and those to come.
"Workers will be exposed to mold during hurricane response and cleanup activities. Remediation of mold-contaminated building materials and surfaces can and must be done safely, so that no worker is sickened or injured while performing this vital work," said Robert Kulick with OSHA.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys know that it's critical that employers understand these risks. They need to know about the hazards that accompany mold as well as the need to have a mediation plan and effective work practices, controls and protective equipment to keep workers safe. Workers need to make sure that they're getting the proper training to work safely in these kinds of conditions and to keep themselves safe when working around mold.

With the new OSHA fact sheet, there's a whole lot of information, including details as to why mold is so dangerous. It also includes specific elements of a mold cleanup plan. Employers and employees are urged to review and share the following information before starting any kind of cleanup process. These are some reminders to help to protect everyone in these efforts.

Why is mold dangerous?

Mold is a fungi. It reproduces by forming spores which are released into the air. When they land on a moist surface, they start to grow. They can also penetrate porous materials and release chemicals. Most of them are harmless, but there are some that can cause infections and can produce allergic reactions. Mold remediation is oftentimes necessary to return working spaces to a safe condition and make them suitable for occupancy.

Engineering Control for Working Around Mold:

-Re-wetting materials with a mist of water to can help to suppress spores, debris and dust.

-Make sure that all natural or local exhaust it properly ventilated during the cleanup process.

-Be sure that all items that are going to be discarded are wrapped and sealed appropriated in plastic bags or sheets to help to reduce the spread of spores.

Employers are also required to make sure that all workers are provided with the proper safety equipment to complete the job. Equipment for cleanup efforts should include respirators (when needed), non-vented goggles as well as protective clothing and long gloves to protect workers from chemicals. Depending on the degree of damage done and the cleanup efforts needed, varying degrees of these controls will be needed. Be safe during storm cleanup efforts and take all of the proper safety precautions to protect workers.

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December 9, 2012

Sleepy Workers Increasing Accident Risks in the Carolinas

We trust the drivers of planes, trains, trucks, buses, limos and taxis to get us to where we need to be safely. Unfortunately, these workers are likely to suffer sleep problems. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the 2012 Sleep in America poll, the plane and the train operators were the worst of the bunch. They reported sleep-related job performance more than any other occupation.
Whose sleepiness on the job is affecting their performance and safety?

-More than 25 percent of train operators.

-Roughly 23 percent of pilots.

-Only about 15 percent of non-transportation workers.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that sleep is vital to work safety. When employees are sleepy on the job -- accidents happen. It's important that employers are allowing their workers with plenty of time to catch up on some Z's before and after work. This is especially important for workers who are working fluctuating shifts and those who work overnight.

Serious Errors Resulting from Sleepiness:

-One out of every five pilots.

-One out of every six train operators.

-One out of every six truck drivers.

The people listed above say that they've had a "near miss" on the job because of their sleepiness.

Sleepiness isn't only affecting these workers on the job either. It's also affecting their commute to and from work. Again it's the operators of planes and trains that are at risk. According to the 2012 Sleep in America poll, these workers are much more likely than non-transportation workers to be involved in a car accident cause by sleepiness while heading to or from work.

"We should all be concerned that pilots and train operators report car crashes due to sleepiness at a rate that is six times greater than that of other workers," said Dr. Sanjay Patel with Harvard Medical School.

It's these positions in which the margin of error is small. We need these workers to be well-rested and at the top of their game. It's not only going to help to protect them on the job, but it's also going to help to keep each of us safe who rely on their services.

The bottom line: Sleep improves performance.

Advice for the Sleepy:

-Make sure you're lying down and going to bed at the same time each day/night.

-Use your bedroom only for sleep. This will help to strengthen the association between your body and bedtime.

-Make sure your room is dark, cool and quiet. Make it comfortable to you.

-Create a bedtime ritual to help to calm yourself down. You can read a book, take a warm bath, listen to calming music or anything else that will help to ease you into the bed.

-Clear your mind. Keep your worries for the next day. There's no use in worrying yourself out of sleep.

-Make sure you're exercising regularly, but don't do it around bedtime.

-If you suffer from excessive daytime drowsiness, snoring, or episodes of "stop breathing" during sleep, contact your physician or health care professional for a sleep apnea screening.

Continue reading "Sleepy Workers Increasing Accident Risks in the Carolinas" »

December 6, 2012

Worker Killed in Excavation Project on NC State's Centennial Campus

The North Carolina State's Centennial Campus witnessed a fatal work accident recently.

It happened when a worker got trapped under several feet of dirt while completing a trench project, according to NBC 17. The North Carolina State Police report that workers were hired with J.F. Wilkerson Contracting in Morrisville. They were installing a 16-inch, 18,000-foot line pipe when the trench collapsed. The accident site was near the intersection of Achievement and Main Campus Drive. The 39-year-old worker wasn't recovered by emergency responders until about two and a half hours after arriving on the scene of the accident. They had to vacuum out the soil from the trench. They weren't able to approach it any other way because of the unstable ground conditions.

Our Raleigh workers' compensation lawyers understand that there were close to 300 workers who were killed in trenching and excavation accidents in the U.S. from 2000 to 2006.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), close to 70 percent of these fatalities occur within companies that have less than 50 employees. Regulations and consensus standards describe engineering controls, protective equipment, and safe work practices to minimize hazards for workers during trench work and excavations. Employers need to make sure that they know these regulations inside and out before starting any project. The safest of their employees relies on it.

The project is run by the City of Raleigh. These water lines were eventually going to lead to Lonnie Poole Golf Course.

The company hired for the job was recognized back in 2006 as an overall winner for a national safety award by the National Utility Contractors Association.

Joe Wilkerson, the founder of the company, said that he decided to make safety a number one priority when he saw his company noted for having a poor safety record in The News & Observer in the 1970s.

This isn't the first time the company has worked with the city either. In the project's case, they were the lowest responsible bidder and were therefore chosen for the job.

The truth of the matter is that these kinds of jobs are extremely dangerous and require the utmost attention to detail to ensure that all workers are safe! It's important to make sure that all workers are properly trained. The job needs to be planned well in advance and the proper safety equipment needs to be provided to workers at no cost. There should never be any workers under the age of 18 in these trenches. Companies are also urged to call 8-1-1 before digging into the ground to avoid hitting any utility line and to avoid causing a serious accident. Trenches should never be approached or entered when unprotected. Safety is a group effort. Make sure your employer and your fellow coworkers keep safety as a number one priority!

Continue reading "Worker Killed in Excavation Project on NC State's Centennial Campus" »

November 30, 2012

Tips for Worker Safety When Using a Chain Saw This Winter

The winter months present many situations where the use of a chain saw is necessary, including cutting firewood and removing storm-damaged trees after winter storms.

Chain saws are important and useful tools used by workers in many industries but they are also inherently dangerous and present some significant risks if they are not used correctly.

Asheville workers' compensation attorneys believe that both employers and employees need to be aware of chain saw safety requirements and tips in order to avoid a serious chain saw accident. Ultimately, however, employers have an obligation to train their employees and to enforce safety rules and precautions so that chain saw accidents don't happen. 1375137_fallen_tree.jpg

Safe Operating Tips for Chain Saws
Operating a chain saw safely can be a challenge, even for experienced and skilled workers, since saws are dangerous by their nature. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has provided some guidance on safe chain saw use and their tips address several different aspects of working with saws.

According to OSHA, in order to operate your chain saw safely, you need to exercise care even before you turn it on. Prior to starting the chain saw, you should:

  • Check the tension of the chain, all of the controls on the saw, and all handles and bolts.

  • Check that the chain saw is sufficiently sharp.

  • Confirm that the lubrication reservoir is full.

  • Refrain from drop starting. Always start the saw when it is placed either on the ground or on some other solid support.

  • Do not start the chain saw within ten feet of the fueling area.

  • Engage the brake on the chain saw before starting.

These tips will help to ensure you don't get hurt even before you begin. OSHA also provides some safety guidance on both fueling a chain saw and on general chain saw safety. For example, when you obtain fuel for the saw, it should always be transported in approved containers. The fuel should also be dispensed no less than 10 feet from any source of ignition.

Once the saw is fueled and operational, tips center on keeping your hands on the saw's handle; avoiding loose-fitting clothing; clearing a debris-free path to walk in when using the saw and paying attention to the specific features of the items being cut (such as tree limbs that don't bend when cut or branches that could spring back and hit you when they are under tension).

Ensuring the Safe Operation of Chain Saws
By following the safety tips provided by OSHA, employees can reduce the risk of a serious chain saw accident that could result in amputation, as other serious injuries including death. Employers should also ensure that safe practices are used and that they only hire trained workers to do chain saw work.

Unfortunately, even when precautions are taken, there is no way to completely eliminate the dangers of using a chain saw. Workers should remember that negligence is not a factor in making a workers' compensation claim against their employers. This means that even if all precautions are taken, if an accident happens and a worker is injured by a chain saw at work, he or she can file a workers' compensation claim for benefits.

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November 28, 2012

Factory Fire Shines Light on Unsafe and Unfair Work Conditions

Wal-Mart is headquartered in Arkansas. There's a clothing factory in Bangladesh where products manufactured for the big-box giant are manufactured. A fire there recently killed 100 workers, many of them unrecognizable due to the severity of their injuries.

In the U.S., the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 resulted in the implementation of the nation's first work-safety laws. In this accident, there were close to 150 workers who jumped to their deaths or were incinerated after they discovered that the exit doors of the building were locked. A very similar situation in Bangladesh -- at the Faded Glory factory -- happened recently.
Wal-Mart may be off the hook in this particular incident because it had already severed services with the factory because of bad reports regarding its fire-safety provisions, but one of the suppliers in the company's very long supply chain decided to continue to subcontract the work.

Conditions at the factory were deemed in violation of Wal-Mart's policies, according to The Washington Post's Social Reader.

Our Rock Hill worker's compensation attorneys understand that Wal-Mart's production system is to hire as many workers as possible through contractors and subcontractors. These workers are to help to increase Wal-Mart's ability to keep prices low.

Still, American workers right here in our country are exposed to some of the same working conditions. There are some getting less than minimum wage and are forced to work in unsafe warehouses.

Logistics companies run these warehouses, many supplying employees through more than 200 temporary employment companies.

Last year, the state of California and the Department of Industrial Relations caught wind that many of these employees may have been cheated. As a result of an inspection, one of the logistics companies involved in these warehouses was charged for neglecting to provide workers with the proper pay stubs and other appropriate info for their pay. Wal-Mart wasn't charged in this case, but that's the beauty of its chain of deniability.

Some of these workers have been stepping up in recent weeks, speaking about the unfair treatment and their low wages. Many of these workers don't even have any kind of health benefits. On Black Friday, more than 1,000 Wal-Mart stores saw employees and advocates blocking off roadways and protesting the unfair treatment of the workers, according to Democracy Now. Here's another denial from the company: Wal-Mart pushed back, saying it knew of only a "few dozen" protests, and that most of the protesters were not its employees.

One of the largest of the protests across the country was in Paramount. Los Angeles officers even ended up arresting three people -- all Wal-Mart workers.

But Wal-Mart isn't taking any responsibility for either of these accidents or for any employee treatment. As the country's biggest private-sector employer, their emergency exits are always kept open!

Continue reading "Factory Fire Shines Light on Unsafe and Unfair Work Conditions" »

November 27, 2012

Winter & Storm Season Creates Risk for Workers Using Portable Generators

During the winter season, many workers will be required to use portable generators as part of their jobs. Portable generators may be used on construction sites or in emergency situations by disaster response teams. Portable generators are also used by homeowners, retail and commercial establishments in the event of power failure.

These generators provide power when people need it, but they also present some significant dangers.

Asheville workers' compensation attorneys urge employees who are working with portable generators in any capacity to exercise great care in their operation. It is also essential for employers to follow Occupational Health & Safety Administration (OSHA) guidelines to help reduce the risk that their employees will suffer injury. 1402897_high_voltage_towers.jpg

The Risks of Using a Generator
Generators can be dangerous in any environment, whether in a construction site or used to provide power during an outage after a storm. Some of the possible risks associated with portable generator use include:

  • The risk of electrocution or shock as a result of the generator's improper power use or as a result of other electrical systems being energized by the generator.

  • The risk of exposure to carbon monoxide from the exhaust of the generator .

  • The risk of fire due to the improper storage of generator fuel or due to errors or omissions during the refueling process.

These are just some of the risks that workers face when called upon to repair or operate a generator as part of their jobs. With a volatile mix of electric current and gas fuel sources, generators are undeniably dangerous unless you know how to use them and exercise caution at all times.

Safety Tips
Workers and employers both need to be aware of the proper work practices when using a generator. Employers need to have guidelines in place outlining best practices and they need to provide workers with the training and safety tools they need to use generators safely. Workers, likewise, need to follow the safety guidelines set forth and be cautious when operating the generator.

OSHA suggest some specific safe work practices that will also help to reduce the risk of a workplace accident resulting from the use of a portable generator. According to OSHA's guidelines for protecting yourself when using a portable generator:

  • Portable generators should always be inspected prior to use. They should be checked for loose fuel lines or for any damage that might have occurred while the generator was transported.

  • All manufacturer use and safety instructions should be followed when operating the generator.

  • The generator should never be directly connected to any type of electrical system unless a transfer switch has been properly installed and is in working order.

  • Any appliances plugged directly into the generator should be plugged in using cords supplied by the manufacturer. When extension cords are needed, they should be heavy-duty and undamaged.

  • The manufacturer instructions on the use of ground-fault circuit interrupters (CFCI's) must always be followed.

  • The generator should be shut down before refueling.

If these safety tips are followed each and every time a portable generator is used, the risk of workplace accidents may be reduced. If a workplace accident does occur as a result of generator use, the injured worker may be able to make a workers' compensation claim for benefits.

Continue reading "Winter & Storm Season Creates Risk for Workers Using Portable Generators" »