August 20, 2012

Carolinas Allowing "Ghost Policies" -- Workers Unprotected


The state might never know if your employer has workers' compensation. If you're injured on the job, workers' compensation is going to help you to cover medical costs, wage compensation and other costly obstacles. This is a coverage that's required by law.
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Yet there were about 300 businesses in the state that were inspected last year who had no coverage or had expired coverage at the time of the inspection, according to the News & Observer. All that officials had to do was crosscheck information that was held by the North Carolina Department of Labor. This is the agency that is in charge of the safety of our state's workplaces, and the state Industrial Commission. This is the commission who overlooks workers' compensation insurance. The only problem is that no one's checking these records and if the insurance isn't in place, employees aren't protected in the event of a work accident.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys know this isn't the only criticism about our state-run system that has made headlines. According to NCB News, there are 26 states (including both Carolinas) that administer their own systems. These systems all operate under federal oversight. It's these programs that have been blamed for getting comfy with employers, not performing strict inspections and failing to keep victims properly informed.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently conducted an inspection into these state-run agencies and found that both Carolinas weren't collecting levied penalties. It was concluded that violations were also improperly classified in South Carolina. Federal officials say that it's OSHA's fault for not keeping a closer eye on the state programs. OSHA says that it's promises to revamp the system and to make adjustments to make sure that employees are better protected.

Both systems, in North and South Carolina, don't do the greatest job at publishing violations. Federal violations can be found on a daily basis with the click of a button on OSHA's website. On North Carolina Industrial Commission's website, it's latest press release was dated back in June!

When you have to deal with a state-run bureaucracy after a serious work accident, you should seek the assistance of an experienced and an aggressive lawyer. However, when an employer doesn't have workers' compensation insurance for it's employees, it's ultimately the workers who will suffer. According to the Charlotte Observer, one common way that a company can get out of providing workers' compensation for its employees is to list workers as independent contractors. When this is done, an employer is allowed to purchase a "ghost policy."

Such a ghost policy might cost $850 per year. This is a lot cheaper than the proper coverage for a construction business with 5 employees, which could cost about $30,000. Still, the state doesn't know exactly which of the nearly150,000 policies are "ghost policies." According to the North Carolina Rate Bureau, about 16,000 are known.

Bottom Line: Employers are required to have workers' compensation policies in place to help to cover workers who are injured on the job. When an accident happens, employees should usually be covered for medical expenses, short-term disability, lost wages and more. One of the most important jobs that our state watchdogs has it to make sure that each employer provides this kind of coverage for their employees.

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August 20, 2012

Work Injury Watch: Southeast Officials Pushing Fall Safety on the Work Site


The number of fatalities on construction sites is on an upward trend. More and more construction workers are being killed in accidents that could be prevented if better safety precautions were taken. For this reason, officials with the Southeast regional offices of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working to increase enforcement efforts.

Officials are focusing on falls, which are one of the four top causes of worker deaths in the Southeast.
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The enforcement efforts start on the 20th of August. Officials will be looking for hazards on work sites that may cause a fall accident. OSHA officials will be conducting unannounced inspections on work sites throughout the area. Officials will also be immediately addressing the hazards they find during their inspections.

Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that there were more than 600 employees killed because of fall accidents in the U.S. in 2009. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were another 213,000 people injured in these same kinds of accidents during the year.

"OSHA's goal is to raise awareness about fall hazards and eliminate those conditions that lead to employee deaths," said Cindy Coe, OSHA regional administrator.

The construction industry continuously experiences the highest frequency of fall-related deaths year after year.

Common causes of work-related fall accidents:

-Slippery floors.

-Cluttered walkways.

-Unstable walking surfaces.

-Unprotected edges.

-Holes in walking surfaces.

-Openings in the wall.

-Unsafe ladders.

-Misused fall protection.

Fall accidents, injuries and fatalities rack up a heck of a lot of medical costs and workers' compensation costs every year. Officials with the National Safety Council (NSC) estimate that fall accidents tally a bill of about $70 billion every year.

When you"re required to work from heights, like on roofs, scaffolds and ladders, your employer is required to make sure that the job gets done safely. This means that the job site and each worker is provided with the proper safety equipment that they need. Before accepting a job, employers and supervisors need to review the work site and determine what safety equipment is needed. When estimating the cost of a job, all of this information should be included.

Safety Tips to Prevent Falls:

-Make sure the safety harness is always connected.

-Make sure that your harness fits correctly.

-Make sure that all fall protections is inspected before use.

-Make sure that all openings, holes and skylights are guarded and covered.

-Never work near areas that you feel are dangerous.

-Never disconnect from the lifeline.

-Never use defective equipment.

Workers are urged to take a look around their work site. Make sure that your area or work is safe for you and what you need to do. If you think that your safety is in jeopardy, speak up and talk to your supervisor or your boss. Your company is required to make sure that you're protected from work-related hazards, injuries and accidents.

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August 12, 2012

North Carolina Warns of Lead Exposure in Workplace


The North Carolina Department of Labor is warning workers about the risks associated with lead exposure.

Pure lead (Pb) is a heavy metal and is a basic chemical element. It can combine with a number of other substances to produce various compounds. As useful as it might be, it can be awfully dangerous to your well-bring. When it's absorbed into the body, certain doses can be toxic. You can inhale it or you can ingest it. Either way, it can cause some serious damage if it gets into your blood stream, first to cells, then to organs.
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Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that there are many jobs in which workers are exposed to dangerous materials. In these positions, it's critical for employers to make sure that their workers are not only provided with a safe work environment, but that they're also provided with the proper safety equipment. Workers can be exposed to lead during the demolition of buildings, soldering or cutting metal, making jewelry, remodeling, painting, renovation projects, radiator repair, scrap metal operations and more. Workers of all kinds are at risk for this type of exposure. Unfortunately, many workers aren't even aware of these dangers!

People who have high levels of lead in their body might not oftentimes seem sick. The symptoms that occur from this condition are somewhat common to an everyday sickness. When a worker is exposed to lead, they may not even show any signs of damage. That's why blood testing is one of the only ways to tell if poisoning has occurred. The truth of it all is that lead is a powerful poison and it can stay in your body a long time.

Some signs that you may be experiencing lead over-exposure:

-Weight loss

-Nausea

-Constipation

-Loss of appetite

-Aches and pains in the stomach

-Difficulty concentrating

-Headache

-Trouble sleeping

-Irritability

-Weakness

-Tiredness

Luckily, there are ways that you can protect yourself from lead exposure. You should avoid eating, drinking or smoking while on the job. Before you eat or take a break you should wash your face and your hands.

Try to keep your work place as clean as possible. Sweep and dust regularly. Keep your work clothes in a safe and secluded place at work. Don't bring them home with you. This will help to protect your family. Keep young ones out of these dangerous work areas. If you work with lead, make sure that you follow the safety and health instructions of your workplace. If you are provided with a respirator on the job, be sure that you use it and clean it afterwards. If you work with lead at work, make sure you get a blood lead test regularly.

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August 7, 2012

Fluorescent Bulbs a Workplace Hazard in North Carolina?


There are new educational resources available to help to protect employees from overexposure to mercury while crushing and recycling fluorescent bulbs, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Compact fluorescent bulbs are popular, durable, energy saving alternatives in the workplace. They're much more efficient than incandescent bulbs and more and more companies are switching to them. Unfortunately, the shift to these bulbs comes with risks for the workers who handle, recycle and dispose of them.
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OSHA recently released a new fact sheet alerting workers who are exposed to these dangers about the different ways they can apply personal protective equipment and engineering controls.

There's also a Quick Card to help to educate employees about the risks that are associated with these bulbs. Included in this information are effective ways to handle the bulbs and how to properly clean them up if they're accidentally broken. All of this information is working to minimize workers' exposures to mercury.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that these bulbs can release harmful mercury, which poses a serious health threat to the worker. It happens when they're broken or when they're recycled. Depending on how long a worker is exposed to this mercury, they can suffer from a number of injuries and illnesses, including kidney problems, tremors, other nervous system disorders and damage to unborn children.

In the event of a broken bulb, each workplace should have:

-A cleanup plan. This plan needs to be known by all workers present.

-Brooms should never be used to clean the broken bulbs. Brooms will only work to spread the mercury.

-A vacuum designed to clean mercury. If a bulb is broken, this is the most effective way to clean up the mess. If you use a vacuum that's not specifically designed for this task, it will only work to increase air levels of the mercury and then the vacuum will become contaminated.

-Proper training. All workers should know the risks involved with mercury exposure and they should be trained in ways to help to reduce the risks of overexposure. They should also be trained on the procedures for ensuring that air filtration systems and seals are functioning properly.

Signs of mercury exposure can include:

-Changes in behavior.

-Trouble seeing.

-Irritation of the eyes.

-Sore gums.

-Diarrhea.

-Nausea.

-Trouble breathing.

-Chest discomfort.

-Coughing.

You don't have to touch it to be exposed either. If you're near mercury you can also be exposed by just breathing the vapor in the air.

Remember, there are strict state government and EPA regulations for disposing of fluorescent bulbs and other mercury-contaminated waste! Be safe and follow all of the necessary safety precautions to help to prevent a potentially life-altering injury or illness. If you feel that your workplace is not following these procedures, speak up! It's a joint effort and everyone needs to participate in safe work practices.

Continue reading "Fluorescent Bulbs a Workplace Hazard in North Carolina? " »

August 6, 2012

Working From Home: Work Accidents Likely without Preparation


Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys recently discussed the dangers of workplace violence and other threats that American workers may overlook on the job. But what if you work at home? Believe it or not, there are a number of dangers that you can run into working there, too.
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Increasingly, companies are allowing their workers to telecommute and entrepreneurs are running business from their homes, according to the National Crime Prevention Council. Offices are standard in many homes today and they often are equipped with the latest computers, faxes, scanners, printers and other expensive equipment.

There are a number of safety precautions that you can take to help to protect yourself at home. Read the following and apply as many to your home office as you can. Doing so can help to reduce your risks of an accident and increase your at-home workplace safety. Risks can come from inside the home, like faulty and dangerous wiring, and outside the home from predators who might have an eye on your work equipment or other personal belongings.

At-Home Safety Tips:

-Make sure your windows and doors are secure. Install sturdy dead bolt locks. Use them!

-Hang window treatments to block the outside view into your office. You don't want strangers seeing the equipment you have in your home.

-Motion-censor lighting will help to see if anyone is walking around your yard.

-Look over your insurance policy.

-If you're meeting with a new client or another business person, meet in a public place.

-Make sure that all of your equipment is marked with identification numbers.

-Take pictures and store important info regarding your equipment in a safe spot.

-Always have a house phone or a cell phone nearby.

-Consider installing a home security system.

-Make sure that the trees and the bushes around your house are trimmed so that you can see your yard and your neighbor's house.

-If you're meeting with someone new, let someone you trust know about your meeting.

It's also important to be careful when receiving and sending packages. Before opening your door for the "delivery man," ask for identification. You never want to let this person into your home either. It's simple, everyday tasks like this that can lead to serious work accidents. We don't typically think about these risks because, well, we're at home. You always need to keep safety as a number one priority. The truth of the matter is that these concerns need to be addressed frequently. Stay on top of the condition of your workplace. Review the tips listed above and share them with your friends to make sure that everyone is safe.

Just because you're not at an actual work site, doesn't mean your not at risk for an on-the-job injury.

Continue reading "Working From Home: Work Accidents Likely without Preparation" »

August 5, 2012

Workplace Violence: An Unrecognized Threat in North Carolina


Work is a big part of all of our lives. It takes up a pretty good portion of our week. It's important to make sure that you're safe while you/'re doing your job, regardless of where it is and what industry it's in. The sad fact is, violence in the workplace is a real threat and employees may be victimized by other crimes, like theft or even sexual assault.
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Company owners and supervisors are required to make sure that the risks for all kinds of accidents and conflicts are minimized on the job for all employees. There are also things that workers can do to help to increase their safety, according to the National Crime Prevention Council.

Our Rock Hill workers' compensation lawyers understand that violence and threats are all over the headlines of the major new sources. They're happening in homes, in business and in other public areas. This can include rape, robbery, muggings and other assaults. Everyone cringes when they hear the reports of these stories, but the truth of the matter is that you may be at risk too, particularly at work.

In 2004, there was a violent crime rate of more than 21 incidents per 1,000 people. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the U.S. Department of Justice, this included simple assaults, aggravated assaults, robbery, rape and murder.

It's important for employers to make sure that they know what's going on in their work places. People need to be identified before walking onto the premise and potential employees need to be checked out before being hired, including background checks (when needed), references and other credentials.

Every company, no matter how small, should have an emergency plan in place.

There were nearly 5,000 workplace injuries reported in 2010. More than 500 of them were workplace homicides, according to the United States Department of Labor.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), of the 4,547 fatal workplace injuries that occurred in the United States in 2010, 506 were workplace homicides. Homicide is the leading cause of death for women in the workplace. However it manifests itself, workplace violence is a major concern for employers and employees nationwide. Still, these threats are oftentimes overlooked by both employees and employers.

Every year, there are about 2 million workers in the U.S. who report that they were the victims of workplace violence. Still, officials think many cases are never reported. These incidents can happen any time and anywhere. Employers and employees need to keep their eyes and ears open on the job. Report any suspicious activity. Awareness is one of the top keys in preventing these incidents.

These risks and incidents can be reduced when the proper safety precautions are taken. One of the best policies that an employer can offer their employees is a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. This kind of policy should cover all employees, contractors, visors, clients, patients and anyone else who may come in contact with company personnel.

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July 30, 2012

Bill Signed to Help Ensure Workers' Compensation Throughout NC


Gov. Bev Perdue recently signed a bill that will be used to help to track down and reprimand employers who don't offer workers' compensation to employees. According to Insurance Journal, media groups have voiced concerns, saying that employer information should be kept as a public record. A provision of this movement would call for the information sent by the Rate Bureau to the commission to remain private due to proprietary concerns.
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The approval of House Bill 237, was the result of criticism of North Carolina's loose efforts to help to enforce the current workers' compensation law. Too many workers in the state were being injured on the job and weren't being compensated. They were left to deal with the injury and the financial problems on their own because their employer failed to maintain state-required workers' compensation insurance.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that, under the new law, employers' and company's coverage status collected by the privately run non-profit North Carolina Rate Bureau is required to be shared with the state-run Industrial Commission. This Commission is used to help to ensure that employers have workers' compensation coverage available to workers. The Commission adjudicates workers' compensation claims.

The bill was sponsored by Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.

There were many articles ran by news sources recently which cited thousands of employers in the state who weren't offering this coverage to their workers. Even though companies are required to let the Industrial Commission know when they get, renew or discontinue their workers' compensation policies. Still, the Commission hardly ever gets word of it until a worker files a claim and it's too late. After these cases, the Commission would investigate the company and the claim. When no coverage was identified, the companies were hardly ever penalized for disobeying the law.

Right now, workers can go to the Industrial Commission's website to see if their employer has workers' compensation insurance.

If you don't have access to an on-site health provider, your employer can instruct you to go to a designated health care office in case of a work accident. If appropriate to the seriousness of your injury, you're to report to that facility.

If there is no employer health care provider on-site or designated off-site, you are to get the appropriate medical attention from elsewhere. Depending on your circumstances and the characteristics of the injury, you may be able to obtain medical attention from your family doctor or from an emergency room. You should also tell your selected healthcare provider that your injury is work related. Tell them where you work and other employer information so that the healthcare provider can bill treatment as a Workers' Compensation claim.

Continue reading "Bill Signed to Help Ensure Workers' Compensation Throughout NC" »

July 28, 2012

North Carolina Healthcare Awards Illustrate Medical Industry's Work-Accident Risks


Employees in the healthcare industry are exposed to a number of infectious diseases through their daily work. These workers include clinical laboratory staff, technicians, nurses, physicians, social workers, administrative personnel, building maintenance security, mortuary personnel, housekeeping and food service employees. These hazards can be found in emergency rooms, ambulatory care centers, outpatient clinics, nursing care facilities and hospitals, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). If you work in any of these areas -- you're in danger.
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Diseases and illnesses can be acquired by different means. They can be can be contracted by airborne particles and by direct contact. In 2010, there were nearly 654,000 cases of injury and illness reported in the healthcare and social assistance industry. That's 150,000 more than were reported in the industrial sector. In 2010, the incidence rate for work-related injuries and illnesses in health care and social assistance was nearly 140, the incidence rate for nonfatal injury and illnesses in all private industry was 107.

Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that nursing aides, attendants and orderlies had the highest rates for many types of injury. Take musculoskeletal disorders for example. The incidence rate of work related musculoskeletal disorders for these occupations was just under 250 per 10,000 workers. This compares to the average rate for all workers in 2010 of less than 35.

"These are people who have dedicated their lives to caring for our loved ones when they are not well. It is not acceptable that they continue to get hurt at such high rates," said Dr. David Michaels with OSH.

Some hospitals are going straight to the source of the problem and are taking the proper safety precautions to help to protect workers from dangers on the job. Take Park Ridge Health for example. This facility was the only hospital in Western North Carolina that was recognized this year in North Carolina Department of Labor Annual Safety Awards. This facility was handed a Gold Award for taking the appropriate safety measures and for maintaining a workplace accident incidence rate of at least 50 percent below the average incidence rates of hospitals across the rest of the state.

"It's exciting to know as a patient or as an employee that Park Ridge's commitment to safety is of the highest priority," said the director of the facility, Brandon Nudd.

Last month marked the second year in a row for recognition of the facilty's safety. There were more than 40 other hospitals in the area that were awarded the Gallup Great Workplace award. This award recognizes organizations for having safe workplaces.

Employers are urged to help to protect healthcare employees from injuries, infection and illness on the job.

Many infections are most commonly transmitted through direct contact, when an infectious agent is transferred to someone who is susceptible through physical contact with someone who has already contaminated. Contaminated surfaces don't always have to be a person through. They can also be instruments, medical equipment, door knobs, examination tables, bed rails and other medical equipment. Sterilization programs are key to preventing the spread of such illnesses and infections.

Continue reading "North Carolina Healthcare Awards Illustrate Medical Industry's Work-Accident Risks" »

July 26, 2012

Driving Employees Face High Risks of Work Accidents in Greenville and Elsewhere


Some of the most common work accidents in Greenville and elsewhere are transportation accidents. For many of us, driving is the most dangerous thing we'll do all day. Every time we get behind the wheel, we're at risks for a fatal accident, regardless of how safe our driving habits are.
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Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working to help to give employers some guidelines to help to reduce the risks of motor vehicle accidents on the job.

According to accident reports, someone is killed in a traffic accident every 12 minutes and someone is injured in these same incidents every 10 seconds. Every 5 seconds, there's a traffic accident somewhere in the country. Many of these accidents happen during the workday or during the commute to and from work. Employers bear much of the costs for injuries that occur both on and off the job.

Why Employers Should Focus on Transportation Accidents:

-To help to protect workers and to reduce their risks of such serious accidents.

-To help to protect the company's human and financial resources.

-To help to protect potential company and personal liabilities that are associated with accidents involving workers who driving on company time.

Each year, traffic accidents cost employers nearly $100 billion. These costs include medical care, legal expenses, property damage as well as productivity costs. These accidents drive up the costs of benefits, like workers' compensation, private health and disability insurance as well as Social Security.

A single traffic accident costs an employer and average of about $17,000. When a worker has a work-related traffic accident with an injury, the cost to the employer shoots up to about $75,000. Costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved.

Employers are urged to create and enact on-the-job policies for their driving employees. These policies should include:

-Prohibiting the consumption of drugs or alcohol during work hours.

-Banning text message and cell phone use for employees behind the wheel.

-Limiting the number of consecutive hours that a worker can spend driving in a day.

-Making sure that all drivers are properly licensed for the vehicles they're operating.

-Properly maintaining and inspecting work vehicles on a regular basis.

-Rewarding drivers with safe driving records and safe driving habits.

-Requiring all drivers to wear a seat belt during every trip.

Continue reading "Driving Employees Face High Risks of Work Accidents in Greenville and Elsewhere" »

July 24, 2012

Zip Line Accident in Myrtle Beach Seriously Injures Attraction Employee


broken pelvis.
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The company, Zipline Adventures, reports that the employee did not clip his safety harness to the line, fell backwards off of the platform and dropped 60 feet to the ground below.

According to a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the accident is being investigated as a work accident instead of an amusement part ride accident. The Department typically inspects amusement rides statewide. Now, the accident could possibly be investigated by the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The manager at the company says that accidents are not typically a problem at this attraction. He says that the ride actually has a perfect safety record. This is the third season of the attraction. He adds that an accident of any kind is going to reflect poorly on the company.

"Anytime you hear of any type of an accident, it makes you go back and relook at your process, make sure you're doing things as well as you can," said Robert Stinnett with the zip line company.

There are approximately 100,000 visitors to the zip line attraction each year. In three seasons, they've had no accidents that required more than a band-aid, until now.

The company will be taking its own look into the accident and will be looking at any safety issues that might need to be addressed, although they're positive that this incident was just a fluke.

Zip lines have been making headlines for the wrong reasons lately. You might remember the 24-year-old girl from Georgia who is suffering some serious and life-altering injuries after contracting a flesh-eating bacteria, aeromonas hydrophila bacteria, from a zip line attraction. She has already had one of her legs amputated and may soon require amputation of some of her fingers.

The truth of the matter is that working with any type of mountain tour business or other tourist attraction can be dangerous. Many times, these tours and attractions work to bring some excitement into participants' day. Unfortunately, this excitement can be dangerous. As an attraction company, just as with any other company, safety should be a number one priority -- for both employees and guests.

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July 22, 2012

Officer Denied Workers' Compensation Following Work Incident


The rights to workers' compsantion benefits have been denied for one local deputy. According to Insurance Journal, he filed a workers' compensation claim in an attempt to claim benefits for mental distress that he believes was the result of an on-the-job shooting. The officer had to shoot a suspect during the course of his job. The South Carolina Supreme Court has denied the claim, saying that using that type of force on the job is expected.
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A number of states recognize mental injuries as a compensatory work injury. Unfortunately, the state of South Carolina doesn't allow it, saying that compensation is only granted when the accident was out of the ordinary and unexpected on the job. In addition to these conditions, workers are also required to show extensive medical evidence that proves there's a link between the accident on the job and the mental illness or injury.

The original work incident happened back in October of 2009 when the officer was dispatched to a home in Spartanburg. He was responding to disturbance calls between residents in the area. While responding to the call, the officer shot a man who was said to have threatened his life.

After the shooting, the officer says that he suffered from both depression and anxiety. He sought treatment for these conditions. Based on his symptoms following the incident, both his psychologist and psychiatrist said that he was unable to return to the job.

In March of the following year, he filed a claim for workers' compensation benefits, but was denied. It was concluded that the shooting wasn't unusual for his line of work and that he hadn't suffered a compensable mental injury because of the accident. It was noted that this officer had received the proper training to deal with these kinds of on-the-job incidents and that the officer was aware of the fact that he could be involved in one of these incidents through his employment with the department.

The officer appealed the initial ruling to the appellate panel and then again to the Supreme Court. The officer argued his case, saying that killing a person is unusual for his job and that work stats show that these kinds of incidents only occur in the department about once a year, classifying it as an unusual work event.

He was again denied. The courts said that unusual work accidents are determined by their conditions and not by their frequency.

This decision has shined light on a new idea, urging South Carolina lawmakers to look into "updating" the state's requirements on mental benefits. Lawmakers are being urged to take into account the scientific and technological progress in medicine and psychology.

Mental disorders can be the result of many work conditions, even some that are less stressful than an officer's. If you feel that you've suffered a mental disorder or illness because of an incident you experienced at work, call an attorney to help you to fight for the compensation that you deserve.

Continue reading "Officer Denied Workers' Compensation Following Work Incident" »

July 20, 2012

Working to Protect Young Employees Over Summer Break and Beyond


Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are so concerned with the safety of our young workers that they've dedicated an entire webpage to this vulnerable group. It's called "Young Workers: You Have Rights!"
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Employers are required under federal law to make sure that all employees are provided with a safe and healthy work place. To achieve these standards, employers are required to make sure that they follow all of OSHA's safety and health standards. For workers under the age of 18, employers are required to follow specific rules regarding how many hours teens can work, what kind of equipment they're allowed to use and what kind of work they're allowed to do.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys understand that young workers have rights and we need to make sure that these rights are protected! These young workers have a right to a safe work place, to receive the proper training for the job they're asked to complete, to be able to ask questions if they don't understand instructions or if something seems unsafe, to use, be trained and to be offered the proper safety gear and to also exercise their workplace safety rights without the fear or retaliation or discrimination. Our teen workers are urged to file a confidential complaint with OSHA if they think that there is a hazard on the job or if they feel that their employer is not following federal safety standards.

You might want to also offer your teen with some safety tips for how to protect themselves on the job. They're urged to report any and all unsafe conditions to a shift leader or supervisor, to wear any safety gear that is required to complete the job, to follow any and all safety rules, to ask questions if something is not understood and to ask for help whenever it's needed.

Common Hazards that Young Workers Face on the Job:

-Stressful work conditions

-Pressure to work faster

-Dangerous work that is illegal or inappropriate for youth under the age of 18

-Inadequate supervision

-Inadequate safety training

-Unsafe equipment use

Young workers are most oftentimes likely to face these hazards while working in some of the most common job positions. These positions include jobs at convenience stores, grocery stores, restaurants, retail shops, food service, fast food joints and in various maintenance, cleanup or janitorial jobs.

From 2003 to 2007, there were more than 300 workers who were under the age of 18 who were killed on the job in the U.S. There were thousands more who were injured. Parents and guardians need to talk with their young ones about the risks and the dangers that they can face on the job in addition to ways that they can address these issues. Knowledge can help to reduce the risks of these accidents and keep our teen workers safe.

Continue reading "Working to Protect Young Employees Over Summer Break and Beyond" »

July 17, 2012

National Emphasis Program Working to Protect Workers in Nursing and Residential Care Facilities


If you work in Nursing and Residential Care Facilities, we've got some good news for you. According to officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there's a new National Emphasis Program (NEP) that is going to help to reduce some of the risks that these workers face on a daily basis.

Through this program, employers will be taught how to eliminate on-the-job hazards and officials will be conducting inspections throughout a three-year period in search of very specific hazards in this field. The NEP will help OSHA officials to target residential care facilities and nursing homes to help to reduce the risks of occupational accidents, injuries and illnesses among these giving and compassionate workers.
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Employees who work in nursing and residential care facilities experience some of the highest rates or lost work days because of illnesses and injuries sustained on the job. Their rates were a lot higher than many other American industries. These injuries and illnesses can be easily prevented, too.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation attorneys understand that the incidence rate for these workers -- where they had to spend time away from work because of a work accident -- was nearly 3 times higher than that of those in the private industry. This number was still alarmingly high despite the improvement and the availability of feasible controls designed to help to reduce the risks of these dangers.

Many of the accidents experienced by workers in this industry were the result of slips, trips and falls as well as overexertion. If you combine the number of both slips, trips and falls with the number of overexertion accidents, the pair accounted for more than 62 percent of accident reports in which an employee had to take time off of work in 2010 in this field. With the NEP, officials will be targeting facilities with a DART rating of 10 or higher per 100 full-time workers.

"It is not acceptable that they continue to get hurt at such high rates," said Dr. David Michaels, with OSH.

Officials are hoping that the new emphasis program and the threat of inspections by OSHA officials will help to get employers to improve employee protections and to do a better job at helping to protect society's caretakers.

Those who work at these kinds of facilities face a number of serious health and safety hazards. Under the new NEP, employers will be offered guidance from OSHA officials regarding procedures and policies that can be used to target and conduct inspections to help to eliminate these dangers. Some of these hazards can include exposure to chemicals, exposure to drugs, ergonomic stressors from handling patients, communicable diseases such as tuberculosis, exposure to blood and other potentially infectious material, slips trips and falls and even workplace violence.

These workers are entitled to the same rights as any other worker in the country. They are to be provided with the proper safety equipment to help to reduce the risks of an accident or an illness. In fact, protective gear might be more important in this field than in many other industries.

Workers in this field are required to be extra careful on the job. They may not face some of the same work-related dangers that construction workers do, but their risks of on-the-job injuries can be just as serious. One wrong move can land one of these workers with a life-altering injury. It's important to not only keep the safety of the residents and the patients a top priority, but to also keep the safety of the workers as a number one concern, too.

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July 15, 2012

OSHA Campaign to Reduce Fall Accidents in Carolinas


Safety officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are working to spread the word about a work safety campaign that is being used to help to protect workers in the construction industry.

Fall accidents in the Carolinas are a leading cause of construction accidents. Nationwide, there were more than 10,000 employees in the construction industry who were injured from fall accidents while working from heights in 2010. More than 250 workers were killed in these accidents.
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Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis, with OSHA, made the announcement of the launch of the new campaign at the Action Summit for Worker Safety and Health. This was one of the many events held to honor Workers' Memorial Day. This Memorial Day is used to recognize all of the workers who we lost as a result of accidents that could have been prevented. The Los Angeles event was held by officials with the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the Labor Occupational Safety and Health program of Los Angeles and the University of California.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation attorneys understand that there were nearly 5,000 employees killed at work across the country in 2010. During the same year, there were about 150 workers who were killed on the job in the state of North Carolina, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nationwide, more than 10 percent of all fatal work accidents were the result of a falls to a lower level. Falls are the second leading cause of fatal work accidents among all industries behind transportation accidents. What's most unfortunate about these kinds of accidents is that they're easily prevented. Workers and employers clearly require more education, more training and more preventative resources to help to reduce the risks of these accidents.

According to Solis, the best way to honor workers who we've lost is to recognize them on Workers' Memorial Day and to work harder to make sure that no other families have to endure the pain and suffering that accompany these kinds of accidents. Falls are the deadliest of accidents in the construction industry. They are also one of the most avoidable. Solis adds that about a third of all constriction worker fatalities are fall-related. The message of the new campaign is a simple one -- Safety Pays. Falls Cost.

The new fall campaign was created by officials with OSHA and with those at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as well as NIOSH's National Occupational Research Agenda program. Officials will be working with everyone in the construction industry to help to provide the proper education, safety materials and preventative measures to help to eliminate the risks of these kinds of accidents.

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July 13, 2012

Railroad Workers Better Protected Under New Agreement


There is a new memorandum of agreement between officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

This new agreement is going to facilitate cooperation and coordination between the two agencies regarding the enforcement of the FRA's whistleblower provision. This provision will provide better protection for workers who choose to raise concerns of safety violations at railroads across the country. Workers were not always provided with the best protection under these circumstances and were often retaliated against. Under federal law, employers are not allowed to retaliate against workers who fear for their safety on the job and report a hazard or an accident.
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There are a number of regulations and safety standards that have been created that are supposed to be enforced by officials with the FRA, rail labor organizations and rail stakeholders. Oftentimes, inspections, education and enforcement are the most effective measures taken to help ensure the safety of everyone involved in the system. Unfortunately, these measures are not always taken by rail companies and organizations. That's when officials have to step in. Currently, officials with the FRA have broad authority over the safety of the fleet but is not able to address whistleblower incidents.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that the safety of these workers heavily relies on their ability to report a danger, a hazard, an accident or an injury. They need not fear retaliation, the loss of their job or anything else. A closed system means these kinds of incidents will not be reported and safety on the job will be compromised. Rail workers, as with all other workers in the country, have rights to a safe and healthy work environment and have the right to speak up about potential dangers.

"Securing a process that protects employees who report safety violations is critical to maintaining safety standards in the workplace," said Joseph Szabo, FRA Administrator.

The number of whistleblower complaints within this industry has risen in recent year. From 2007 to 2012, there were nearly 1,000 reported to OSHA officials under only the FRSA. Nearly 65 percent of these complaints said that an employee was retaliated against after reporting a work accident or injury.

Now, officials with the FRA will have specific instructions to follow when dealing with whistleblower complaints. Officials with the FRA will have to hand over a copy of each complaint to OSHA. OSHA officials will be providing FRA members with the proper training to deal with these complaints, with effective measures to eliminate acts of retaliation and to help to recognize potential violations of railroad safety standards and regulations.

Lastly, officials with both parties will be working together to help to make sure that both illness and injury reports are as accurate as possible.

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