June 24, 2013

North Carolina Under-Reporting Work-Related Deaths


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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 23, 2013

Employers Helping Prepare For Carolina Wildfires


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

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

A good wildfire evacuation plan should include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 21, 2013

Carolina Employee Safety in the Face of Natural Disaster


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

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

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

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

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

Employer Responsibilities:

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

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

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

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June 19, 2013

North Carolina Work Fatalities on the Rise


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

Preventing Falls:

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

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

Crane Safety:

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

-Never exceed the load chart capacity while making lifts.

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

-Be sure that all equipment is inspected before use.

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

Motor Vehicle Safety:

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

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

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

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

Electrocution Safety:

-Always use the proper tools for every job.

-Make sure that equipment is isolated from energy sources.

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

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

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

Excavation Safety:

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

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

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

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June 16, 2013

Misclassification: North Carolina Proposes New Penalties for Employers


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 14, 2013

Southern States Have More Workplace Fatalities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Southern States Have More Workplace Fatalities" »

June 10, 2013

Occupational Hearing Loss and Workers' Compensation


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 7, 2013

Random Inspections Proven Successful in Protecting Workers


It's a fact -- random workplace inspections help to improve workplace safety.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), many companies were arguing that these random inspections were doing nothing more than driving up costs. But according to scientists, this study should be used to further create regulation and inspection plans to make workplaces across the country safer for everyone.
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Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that most workplace inspections are completed by officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Some of them are done by state-approved OSHA agencies. Unfortunately, these inspections are mostly conducted on companies or industries that have high accident rates, instead of being done at random. When an accident happens, OSHA officials step in to investigate. After these inspections however, accident rates typically drop back down to where they were before. But are the rates dropping because of the inspection or because of the alertness caused by the recently-reported accident?

To help get to the bottom of this, economists with the University of California and Boston University looked for various workplaces that had undergone inspection from 1996 to 2009. An equal amount had been inspected and not inspected. All of these companies produced "fabricated metal" materials. Of the 409 companies selected, researchers found that the random inspections did in fact weigh heavily on the safety of workers and the reduction of accident reports.

Within the companies that were randomly selected, the number of workplace injuries dropped by about 9 percent in the following 4 years. The companies that were not inspected saw virtually no reducing in the number of workplace accidents and injuries.

With this drop in accidents, the companies saw a drop in the costs resulting from missed work and various medical treatments -- by more than 25 percent. This concluded that random inspections will actually help companies to save more money in the long run.

But just to make sure, researchers looked to see if these inspections have any effect on sales, total earnings, employment or the survival of the company. And reports indicate that there was no effect at all.

It's all there in black and white: Random workplace inspections can help to keep workers safe, help to reduce the number of on-the-job accidents and can help companies to save money along the way. This is a win-win situation for everyone.

Each and every day, there are roughly 13 on-the-job fatalities in the U.S. In 2011, there were more than 4,600 people killed in the job. Although this is the third lowest annual total since the fatal injury census was first conducted in 1992, we're still far from where we need to be.

According to OSHA, there are roughly 2,200 inspectors responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers, employed at more than 8 million worksites around the nation--which translates to about one compliance officer for every 59,000 workers.

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June 1, 2013

Rising Heat Increasing South Carolina Work Injury Risks


We're seeing temps hit the 90s and workers are exposed to more rigorous work conditions as summer enters full swing. The truth of the matter is that heat illness can be deadly and it's a condition that we all need to take seriously. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), there are thousands of workers who get sick each year before they're overexposed to heat on the job. Some of these workers even die.
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Our Rock Hill workers' compensation attorneys understand that these illnesses and fatalities are completely preventable. But what is heat illness? According to OSHA, it's when sweating just isn't enough to combat overheating. Our bodies need to sweat to cool, when the temperatures are high, more needs to be done.

These measures need to be discussed in your workplace today!

Water

Employers need to make sure that workers are getting plenty of water to drink. This means that they should be provided with plenty of short breaks. Limiting time in the sun is a key factor in helping to prevent heat-related illnesses. It's important that you're getting plenty of water. Sports drinks are fine, but don't forget that H2O. Provide your workers with liquids to drink or remind them to bring their own to stay hydrated.

Rest

It's important that everyone has a chance to get acclimated to the heat. Start off by easing new employees into these work conditions. Provide them with plenty of rest time. The newer workers should be allowed more frequent breaks, too. A good idea is to schedule heavier work during the morning hours while it's still cool out. Save the lighter work for the middle of the day when the temps rise. Work/rest cycles give the body an opportunity to get rid of excess heat, slow down the production of internal body heat, slow down the heart rate, and provide greater blood flow to the skin.

Shade

It's important that you allow workers to stop and escape the sun occasionally. Getting out of the sun is important to keeping your body cool. Too much time in the sun increases workers' risks for all kinds of heat illnesses. Spending your resting time in a shaded, cool area is the best way reduce the risks for these kinds of injuries. Take cover under a tree, in the air condition or even in a vehicle or a trailer. Workers should also make sure that they're wearing the proper gear to help to keep them cool on the job. It might not be a fashion statement, but it can save lives.

Employers should include these prevention steps in worksite training and plans. Also, it's important to know and look out for the symptoms of heat-related illness in yourself and others during hot weather. Plan for an emergency and know what to do -- acting quickly can save lives!

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May 27, 2013

New OSHA Rule for Crane and Derrick Workers



The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the agency responsible for assessing worker conditions and issuing regulations to prevent injury or death. With a rise in construction worker injuries caused by cranes and derricks, the agency has issued a final rule that will apply the same safety standards relevant to demolition and underground construction work.

As construction workers know, every day at work poses a risk of serious accidents. Workers using cranes and derricks are at risk of falls, head injuries, back injuries, neck injuries and other risks associated with heavy machinery. Worker negligence, failed safety systems, improper safety equipment, and broken equipment can result in catastrophic injury and wrongful death. The new rule is intended to ensure that construction companies and employees follow safety standards to prevent these injuries or accidental death. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced with cases involving OSHA violations and construction injuries.

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The application of the rule is intended to protect workers from the hazards associated with hoisting equipment during construction activities. According to a spokesperson for OSHA, the rule will ensure that construction workers in this sector have the same safety protections as those construction workers in other sectors. The agency believes that extending the rule to all construction workers will prevent lives and dangerous injuries in the construction industry.

While underground construction and demolition construction projects have different objectives and processes than projects involving cranes and derricks, workers doing both kinds of work face a number of risks and dangerous conditions. Creating one safety standard for all construction workers can help to avoid confusion for construction companies as well as workers. Knowing the safety standards and requirements will help to ensure that individuals and entities are held accountable for accidents and injuries.

Derricks and cranes are both heavy machinery used in lifting. They may be used at construction sites, oil rigs, or ships. They are commonly used in the construction industry and in the oil industry.

The final rule
will apply the same crane rules to underground construction and demolition, streamlining OSHA's standards across the board. Effectually, the implementation of this rule will eliminate the separation of the "cranes and derricks" standard from the "underground construction and demolition" standard. The new rule also makes adjustments to the old standards for underground construction and demolition.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe work environments for their employees. This means ensuring that equipment is properly maintained, that employees have appropriate safety equipment, and following safety training procedures. The role of the agency is to promote healthy and safe working conditions for America's working men and women be setting safety standards and enforcing those standards. OSHA promotes safety and enforces standards through education, training, assistance, and in holding employers accountable for violations.

Streamlining OSHA standards will also promote equity in the event of a workplace injury or workers' compensation claim. In the event of an accident or injury, OSHA investigators will be able to clearly identify any violations. The final rule will become effective May 23, 2013.

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May 25, 2013

New Legislation Aims to Bolster OSHA Role in Worker Safety


Many workers face dangerous conditions every day on the job. OSHA is the federal organization responsible for overseeing conditions in the workplace, for making sure workers are properly trained, equipment is maintained, and that companies are held liable in the event of an accident or injury. Companies who fail to meet guidelines and follow OSHA regulations can also be fined even if no accident or injury has occurred.

Our workplace accident attorneys have extensive experience in the investigation of workplace accidents and injuries. We know that OSHA plays an integral part in workplace safety and that any violation can be used as evidence of negligence in the event of a work-related injury.
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Some critics of OSHA have argued that the standards and requirements make hiring difficult and can kill job prospects. In the current economy, this kind of rhetoric can put workers at odds with an organization that has saved the lives of millions of workers. According to recent studies, OSHA inspections can actually save companies billions of dollars in workers' compensation costs, lost hours, and lost productivity that can occur after an accident or injury.

Conversely, unexamined work sites can create serious hazards and result in injury or death. Though occupational fatality rates have decreased since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, there is some evidence that workplace safety conditions have been on the decline. Recent reports indicate that job fatality rates have been essentially unchanged over the past three years.

Workers in certain industries face more dangerous conditions than in others. The fishing and logging industries have some of the highest fatality rates. Non-fatal injuries threaten workers in the fire safety and nursing fields. In any industry, companies must be scrutinized to ensure that workers are safe and to take every measure to avoid preventable injury or death. Data collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration indicates that there are approximately 13 deaths per day, non-including work-related illness.

After the recent fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas which killed 14 workers, OSHA as well as state and federal officials should be considering potential inspection failures that left workers vulnerable to such an accident. Initial investigations indicate that failure to enforce and regulate the plant created unsafe and dangerous working conditions. Worker advocates are urging members of Congress to pass the Protecting America's Workers Act to strengthen OSHA's role in worker safety.

With the high rates of accidents and injuries, it is important for companies and employees to make safety as a priority. Though OSHA inspections and regulations can make companies more accountable, workers continue to suffer serious and fatal injuries on the job. Work-related illness is also a serious threat to many workers that can cause health issues even into old age.

In the event of an accident or injury or work-related illness, it is important to consult with an experienced advocate who can successfully protect your rights and interests. An immediate investigation will identify the cause of the accident or injury and give you the documentation necessary to make workers' compensation claims and any additional third-party claims you are entitled to.

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May 20, 2013

Independent Contractor Workers' Comp and Third-Party Claims


The workers' compensation program is intended to help workers and their families quickly and effectively recover financial support after an accident or injury. While workers are not required to prove negligence or fault, recovery under the workers' comp program is limited to medical expenses and lost wages. Many workers are not aware that they may also be entitled to third-party injury claim. In addition, many independent contractors are not aware of their rights to recover under the workers' comp program or for third-party negligence.

Our North Carolina workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in handling a range of claims involving workers. Contractors and their loved ones should be aware of the full scope of opportunities they have to recover for all losses, including wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, long-term care needs, as well as wrongful death benefits. Our legal team will explore every opportunity to recover the full compensation you and your family deserve.
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Many companies are using contractors to avoid certain liabilities. In many ways, independent contractors do not have the same rights as workers. A contract is a worker employed by an agency or who is self-employed but working for another firm that exercises responsibility for the operations of the site. When a worker suffers a serious injury or is killed on-site, contractors and their family members may be entitled to recover workers' compensation. They may also be able to pursue additional benefits through third-party negligence claims.

Contractor fatal accidents may include falls, vehicle accidents, equipment failures, explosions, or fires. Any work-related accident, injury or death requires an immediate investigation to determine the cause of the accident and to identify responsible parties. Some cases may become more difficult if the injury involved a contractor at a private residence or a worker injured or killed at sites where a firm does not have overall responsibilities.

Immediately after an accident, an injured worker or their family should file appropriate claims. An experienced attorney can ensure that documentation is properly filed and that medical records are used to support that claim. An injured worker should continue to seek medical treatment and therapies, when available. In addition to filing workers' compensation claim, an attorney should investigate whether third-party claims are possible.

Third-party claims for contractors may involve a negligent contractor or sub-contract, equipment malfunction and product liability, auto accidents and defective parts or negligent drivers, and premises liability claims against property owners or maintenance companies. These cases can be complicated, but an experienced advocate can review your case and pursue the full compensation you and your family are entitled to.

Contractors are often victims of serious and permanent injury, including head and back injuries. In these cases, it may be necessary to recover additional compensation for long-term care and treatment. While these costs are not covered by the workers' compensation program, victims and their family may be entitled to pain and suffering as well as additional medical care costs. Our attorneys have extensive experience in handling complex workers' comp claims as well as personal injury claims.

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May 17, 2013

Carolina Fall Accidents, A Workplace Danger Commonly Overlooked


The total dollar cost to victims and families affected by work-related deaths and injuries, to employers, and to the country as a whole is much greater than the cost of workers' compensation insurance alone.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that the total cost of occupational deaths and injuries in 2005 was $625.5 billion. That figure includes wage and productivity losses, medical costs, administrative expenses, cost estimates for workers to make up lost work time due to another worker's injury, and the time to investigate and report injuries.
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According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, healthy and safe work conditions are everyone's responsibility. Companies and employers must be aware of any workplace hazards, and they're got to take the proper precautionary steps to eliminate these risks. Workers are required to follow the safety and health standards set forth by their employer. One of the most common of these hazards, on work sites nationwide, are fall hazards.

Our Asheville workers' compensation attorneys understand that there were close to 5,000 workers killed on the job in the U.S. in 2011. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), close to 20 percent of these fatal accidents occurred in the construction industry. The number one cause of these fatalities was fall accidents. Following these accidents were electrocution, struck by and caught in between accidents.

Fall accidents accounted for close to 40 percent of the fatal accidents in the construction industry in 2011. More than 250 of the 721 employees were killed in these kinds of accidents in 2011.

When talking about fall accidents, we're not always talking about falling from extreme heights. There are shorter falls that can seriously injure a worker, too. Some of these trip and stumble hazards include:

-Objects places in walkways.

-Objects that are not kept in their proper place.

-Tools left on the floor.

-Extension cords and other cords and hoses on the ground.

-Holed in the floor.

-Sudden changed in pitch or elevation.

-Wet floors.

People have fallen from considerable heights and received only a few broken bones, while others fall to the floor from a standing or sitting position and die from their injuries. Nearly all falls result from conditions or practices that seem obvious; however, preventing such accidents requires maintaining safe conditions in the workplace and training to ensure safe actions by employees.

These hazards and risks can be eliminated with a simple safety checklist. Before starting your work day, and periodically in between, make sure you're checking the floors, stairs and walkways. Make sure they're clear from free tools, materials, water, chemicals or anything else that can be tripped on.

You should also make sure that everyone has the proper training to use the equipment required -- even the smaller, simpler equipment. Are ladders in good condition, free from cracks, burrs and splinters?

Lastly, make sure that all walkways are well lit. Lighting is one of the most important thing when ensure that your workplace is safe for everyone.

Continue reading "Carolina Fall Accidents, A Workplace Danger Commonly Overlooked" »

May 15, 2013

Keeping Teens Safe Through Summer Job Season


With summer break quickly approaching, our teens will be heading back into the workforce. To prepare youth for the 21st century workforce, the Employment and Training Administration, Office of Workforce Investment, Division of Youth Services coordinates youth workforce development investments.
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Amid getting our young ones ready for summer jobs, officials with the White House push Summer Jobs+. This is a program that helps to get assistance from companies, non-profit organizations and government officials to work together to get more jobs to low-income and disconnected youth. These young employees are between the ages of 16 and 24, have had close to 200,000 jobs created for them through the effort.

"America's young people face record unemployment, and we need to do everything we can to make sure they've got the opportunity to earn the skills and a work ethic that come with a job," said President Barack Obama.

Our Rock Hill workers' compensation lawyers understand that it's an excellent opportunity for these young adults. Working teaches them independence and responsibility, but we have to make sure that they're protected on the job and that they understand their rights as an American worker.

Workplace hazards associated with specific jobs are another major cause of injuries and illnesses. Employers must work to reduce or minimize hazards while training employees to work safely on the job.

Safe work is rewarding work. Your employer has the responsibility to provide a safe workplace for you. Companies and employers are required to follow all OSHA safety and health standards to help to prevent you from being injured, becoming ill on the job or getting killed on the job. If you are under age 18, there may be limits on the hours you work, the jobs you do and the equipment you use.

Your Rights as a Youth Worker:

-You have the right to work in a safe environment.

-You have the right to get the proper health and safety training. It's required to be presented in a language that you best understand to keep you safe on the job.

-You have the right to ask questions if you don't understand anything at work.

-You have the right to be provided with the proper safety gear and with the training and knowledge to use it correctly.

-You have the right to speak up and to voice concerns about your safety on the job without fear of discrimination or retaliation.

-You have the right to file a complaint with OSHA if you feel like your employer isn't keeping you safe on the job or if they aren't following any of the federal safety standards.

So you know your rights and you're ready to get out there and make some money, now it's time to get proactive and to make sure you're safe on the job. If you spot unsafe conditions, make sure you report them. If you're provided with safety gear, make sure you wear it. Always follow the rules of the workplace, make sure you're asking questions and get some help if you need it. Don't be afraid to speak up. Your safety relies on it.

Continue reading "Keeping Teens Safe Through Summer Job Season" »

May 13, 2013

Fatal Work Injuries in Carolinas - True Toll Hard to Determine


Each and every day, more than 100 workers in the U.S. are killed on the job from injury or work-related illness, according to a recent study from the AFL-CIO.
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But the true number might actually be much higher. According to the Huffington Post, the state of North Carolina only releases an annual report with the number of people who were killed on the job -- in accidents in which the state has the authority to investigate. That means that there are some that never make it to the books, and thus make our workplaces seem safer than may be the reality.

Our Charlotte workers' compensation lawyers understand that there were close to 5,000 people killed on the job in 2011. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were another 50,000 people who were killed as a result of work-related injury, illnesses or disease. When you combine all causes of death, you get about 150 on-the-job fatalities each day in the U.S. When you think about it, American workers are more than 270 times more likely to die on the job that from a terrorist attack.

With recent high-profile industrial disasters, workplace safety has become a top focus. The fertilizer plant explosion in Texas took the lives of close to 20 and injured hundreds, and the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh last month claimed the lives of more than 700 people.

Unfortunately, according to AFL-CIO, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is understaffed, and that may be one good reason into why our country's workplaces are as safe as they should be. There isn't a tough enough monitoring system looking over them. If you calculate in all workers with OSHA, officials could check on the nation's 8 million workplaces only once every 115 years.

We're not done spilling the bad news. According to recent statistics, there are close to 4 million Americans who suffer a work-related injury or disease each year. AFL-CIO thinks that number is closer to 11 million because not all of these incidents are reported.

The way these incidents are reported in the state of North Carolina is through the Occupational Fatality Investigation Review (OFIR). The OFIR Report is compiled based on the event date by federal fiscal year (October 1 - September 30). The report lists only those workplace fatalities that have been or are being investigated by OSH. Workplace fatalities that have not been investigated by OSH (such as some heart attacks and vehicular fatalities) are not included in this report, according to the North Carolina Department of Labor.

The N.C. Department of Labor is charged with promoting the "health, safety and general well-being" of more than 4 million workers in the state.

But how can we help to ensure the safety of our N.C. family if we're not even sure how many are injured or killed on the job? It's time to bring these incidents to light and to work on improving the safety of our workforce.

Continue reading "Fatal Work Injuries in Carolinas - True Toll Hard to Determine" »