Recently in Carolina Work Accident Category

April 23, 2014

Remote Workers Face Additional Work-Injury Risks


Many workers do dangerous work off-site and in locations distant from their employer's main place of business. For example, utility and cable repair workers are often out in the field, as are those responsible for cell phone tower maintenance. tower-1334864-m.jpg

When an employee works remotely, it makes it harder for an employer to set and enforce safety rules. Remote workers are more autonomous and may not always follow an employer's strict guidelines. Further, employers cannot supervise a worker who is out in the field and may be unable to provide adequate training or safety equipment to reduce the risk of injury or death.

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April 20, 2014

Noisy Worksites Make for More Accidents


When coworkers can communicate effectively with each other at work, many accidents on-the-job can be prevented. For example, a coworker could warn his peers of hazardous conditions or do something as simple as shout "look out," in order to stop an imminent accident from happening. Unfortunately, in some workplaces, it is difficult for people to communicate as a result of excessive noise. hearing-impaired-1016277-m.jpg

Excessive noise can result in damage to a worker's hearing that never goes away. A Spartanburg, SC work accident lawyer can represent victims who suffer hearing losses because of loud worksites and help them to make workers' compensation claims. The hearing problems and potential deafness may not be the only issue that workers on loud job sites face either, as a new study reported on in Canadian Occupation Safety suggested that both hearing loss and loud workplaces may increase the risk of all types of workplace accidents.

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April 16, 2014

Parking Lot Injuries and Workers' Compensation Claims


One of the more common areas for the occurrence of North Carolina work injuries are parking lots and parking decks.
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Employees traverse them every day, and yet our Greensboro workers' compensation lawyers know these sites seldom receive the same maintenance as the company's interior structure. This is especially true when the lots aren't open to the public. Employee parking lots are frequently the site of back-over accidents, slips, trips and other injuries.

It's been held by many courts and workers' compensation boards in numerous jurisdictions that employees injured in work parking lots are entitled to receive benefits. Of course, there are always exceptions, and a number of factors can play into the decision. These include elements such as lot ownership and maintenance, the on-the-clock status of the worker, whether work equipment was involved, etc. As the recent case of Hersh v. County of Morris reveals, these matters can be complicated. In fact, this case made it all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court before a conclusion was reached, indicating this was an issue for which both sides felt it worth a fight.

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April 7, 2014

Temporary Worker Protection A Growing Focus


Amid growing concern that legislators have failed temporary workers by allowing regulation of their well-being to slip through the cracks, lawmakers in California are taking action. factory2.jpg

According to a new report by ProPublica, the state may become one of the first in the country to hold company's legally responsible for safety and wage violations by subcontractors and temp agencies that supply them with a temporary work force.

Our Greensboro workers' compensation lawyers have grown increasingly concerned about the ballooning temporary workforce. Although these individuals are entitled to work injury compensation through the staffing agency or subcontractor, the fact is they suffer work ailments at a rate 50 percent higher than the average worker. (In some states, the rate has been noted as more than 70 percent higher).

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March 25, 2014

Court: Workers' Comp Laws Bar Estate From Wrongful Death Case


The estate of a residential treatment counselor who worked at a mental health clinic will not be allowed to proceed with its wrongful death action against two administrators at the facility, according to a recent ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.
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Although the ruling in Estate of Moulton v. Puopolo is technically only applicable in that state, our Asheville workers' compensation lawyers know that the reasoning is based on a legal principle that is relevant to North Carolina injured workers and their families.

The basis of the decision is this: Workers' compensation laws serve to act as an exclusive remedy to injuries that arise out of the course of employment. That means that eligible employers are usually immune from personal injury or wrongful death claims that result from workplace hazards. Personal injury actions and wrongful death claims resulting from work injuries must be filed against third parties other than the employer.

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March 22, 2014

Proof of Casual Relationship Required for Compensable Work Injuries


The lingering effects of a work-related injury can last a lifetime. If a worker has to undergo continuing treatment for that earlier injury, our Winston-Salem workers' compensation lawyers will fight to make sure that the new expenses are covered.
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It's important for workers in these situations tounderstand that proving correlation between current medical treatment and a previous work injury can be a complex matter. However, it's imperative that there be ample and continuing documentation proving that the two are connected. Otherwise, an administrative law judge could reject your claim.

That's what happened in the recent case of Bodily v. State ex rel. Wyo. Workers' Safety & Comp. Div., which was reviewed by the Wyoming Supreme Court.

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January 10, 2014

Protecting Workers in Wicked Winter Weather


Working in a cold environment -- whether it be cold weather, cold water, or an indoor freezer -- is part of the job for many in the Carolinas, especially during this time of year. One of the major hazards you face when working in the cold is losing your body heat. If your body becomes so cold that it can no longer produce more heat than it loses, you are becoming a victim of hypothermia, frostbite or trench foot.
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Hypothermia occurs when body heat is lost faster than it can be replaced and the normal body temperature (98.6°F) drops to less than 95°F. Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F), particularly if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Our workers' compensation lawyers in Greenville know symptoms of these conditions are relatively similar to just being cold -- and that's why it's important that everyone on your job site be able to point out these conditions and know what to do. Early symptoms of hypothermia include fatigue, shivering, confusion, disorientation and loss of coordination. Later symptoms include blue skin, no shivering, dilated pupils, slowed breathing, slowed pulse and a loss of consciousness.

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September 23, 2013

Health Risks for Oil Spill Clean-Up Workers


In the event of a national emergency or catastrophe, crews may be sent from around the region or the world to help with clean-up and restoration. A recent report indicates that workers who tended to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill may have suffered a high-risk exposure that has increased their risk of liver cancer, leukemia and other terminal conditions.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine, there are dangerous health repercussions for the workers involved in the clean-up after the Gulf oil spill. Our Spartanburg workers' compensation attorneys are experienced in handling claims on behalf of injured workers and their families. We are vested in helping workers collect the compensation they are entitled to after a work-related accident or when diagnosed with an occupationally related disease.

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After the BP oil spill, chemicals were used to break up the crude oil which have proven to be hazardous to workers. There are now more than 170,000 people who worked on clean-up and could suffer from toxic exposure. In addition to the chemical dispersants, workers were also exposed to benzene, contained in the oil, which is a high-risk carcinogen.

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September 5, 2013

August 6 Safety Stand-Down at Work Sites in the Carolinas


Officials with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), along with trade associations and employers throughout the Carolinas are conducting a one-hour safety stand-down at various work places and construction sites on August 6th. This stand-down has been organized to support the national outreach campaign from OSHA that is designed to raise awareness about the risks, consequences and preventative measures regarding workplace falls.
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During this time, workers are going to voluntarily stop work from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. so that the work site can conduct safety training that is designed to help to prevent on-the-job fall accidents.

Our Charlotte worker's compensation lawyers understand that there were more than 260 people who were killed in fall accidents in construction in the U.S. in 2010. These accidents accounted for a significant amount of the fatal accidents in the industry. When employees work from heights, like on roofs, ladders and scaffolds, employers are required to plan projects that ensure that the work is completed safely. In order to do this, employers are required to make sure that each worker has the proper fall protection and the right equipment to complete the job. But in addition to making sure that they have the right equipment, employers are also required to make sure that these workers are provided with the proper training to understand how to set up and use this equipment. These kinds of accidents can be avoided and we can save some lives through 3 simple steps: plan, provide and train.

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August 16, 2013

Appalachia Worker Killed in Coal Pillar Accident


Coal mines are notoriously dangerous work sites. In addition to lung disease and other chronic illnesses contracted while working in a mine, victims are also at risk of collapse or explosion. In a tragic work-accident case, a coal miner from Appalachia was killed and two other miners were injured earlier this month. Local and federal investigations are still underway to determine the cause of the accident and identify responsible parties.

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Victims of coal mining accidents and their families are entitled to workers' compensation. Our Spartanburg workers' compensation attorneys are experienced with the investigation and documentation of complex claims and are dedicated to helping families recover the support that they need and deserve. We are committed to remaining abreast and aware of developments involving work-related accidents in North Carolina and the Appalachia region.

The accident occurred in an underground coal mine in Kentucky. According to local agencies investigating, a 56-year-old worker was killed in the accident. Two other coal miners suffered injuries while trying to retreat. The fatal accident occurred at the processing operation of the coal mining plant. Preliminary reports indicated that the side of a coal pillar burst as a continuous mining machine was operating, trapping the miners. The other victims reportedly did not suffer life-threatening injuries; however, they were taken to the hospital for medical treatment.

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July 31, 2013

Dangers of Combustible Dust: OSHA Reports


Combustible dust is a notorious hazard in a number of industries. According to OSHA, a combustible material can burn rapidly when in a fine partical form. Dust suspended in the air at the right concentration under certain conditions can become explosive. Some materials, including aluminum or iron, under certain conditions can become flammable or highly explosive when in the form of dust.

Employers and industry leaders, as well as government agencies, including OSHA, are responsible for regulating work conditions and ensuring that combustible dust is properly eliminated. Our Charlotte workers' compensation attorneys are experienced with complex cases involving work accidents and injuries. We are aware of the very dangerous nature of highly combustible dust and urge employers to take appropriate action to prevent workplace injuries and fatalities.

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The force of an explosion from combustible dust has been known to cause significant employee injuries and deaths. In some cases, a combustible dust explosion can demolish an entire building. The U.S. Chemical and Safety Hazard Investigation Board has identified 281 combustible dust explosions between 1980 and 2005. These accidents lead to the deaths of 119 workers nationwide. The explosions also resulted in over 700 injuries and the damage to countless industrial facilities.

Materials that can be combustible in dust exist in a range of industries including food, tobacco, plastic, wood and paper, furniture and textiles. Combustible dust also exists in textiles, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and metal industries. Workers in these and other industries should be aware of the risk and follow appropriate safety protocols to prevent injury. In the event of an explosion or injury, workers and their loved ones have the right to pursue workers' compensation benefits.

This week, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will hold a public meeting in Washington D.C. The board may designate an OSHA combustible dust standard as its first "Most Wanted Chemical Safety Improvement," due to the very dangerous nature of the material. Leadership in OSHA is the audience for the meeting and the board is slated to consider whether the three previous recommendations are not acceptable. After several investigations the board has not found that OSHA adequately implemented safety management.

The meeting will focus on three main recommendations. The first is in response to an investigation in a Delaware refinery which found that the storage tanks could be involved with the potential release in a covered process with 10,000 pounds of a flammable substance. The second recommendation involves a Texas refinery which should require additional oversight of organizational changes that could impact process safety. A third recommendation calls on OSHA to issue a fuel gas safety standard for construction and general industry.

The meeting and review of standards in the treatment of combustible dust is intended to broaden OSHA oversight and create enforceable safety standards to protect the well-being of workers. We are committed to raising awareness about the dangers of combustible dust and urge North and South Carolina employees and workers to stay abreast of all safety measures in all impacted industries.

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June 14, 2013

Southern States Have More Workplace Fatalities


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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April 8, 2013

OSHA Issues New Regulations for Injuries Due to Combustible Dust Explosions


According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 130 workers have been killed and more than 780 injured since 1980 as a result of combustible dust explosions. Our Charlotte work injury attorneys know that many of those injured as a result of combustible dust are emergency workers or first responders, especially firefighters. 1398122_forge_paths_of_fire__2.jpg

First responders and others working in environments where explosions may occur have inherently dangerous jobs. Following OSHA guidelines to try to protect these workers and to make these risky jobs safer is absolutely essential.

OSHA Tips on Avoiding Combustible Dust Explosions

The OSHA Office of Communications announced at the start of April in a News Release that a new informative booklet had been published catering to first responders and establishing safe procedures for dealing with combustible dust.

OSHA's booklet is called "Firefighter Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust," but the booklet can also be useful for any workers who might potentially be exposed to the dust particles that can cause a fire or explosion when suspended in air.

OSHA explains that combustible dusts consist of a number of different types of dust particles that are most prone to igniting. For example, combustible dust may consist of: fiber, flakes, fine particles or chunks of material including:

Metals, such as magnesium and aluminum

  • Wood
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Coal
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Paper

All of these materials are very common at many workplaces ranging from commercial bakeries to construction sites to the factory room floor. Unfortunately, as OSHA points out, almost any solid material in fine dust form that burns can be exploded. What happens is, the combustible dust in the air in the factory or worksite will become ignited. As a result, a flash fire can occur. A flash fire is described as a sudden, high-pressure fireball that spreads quickly.

Multiple firefighters have been killed by these fireballs that spring up as a result of the dangerous dust hanging in the area. To avoid this, OSHA suggests:

  • Pre-incident reviews. In facilities that are highly likely to produce combustible dust, an inspection might be appropriate to ensure that emergency responders are aware of the conditions they would find in an emergency situation.
  • Consulting with safety data sheets (SDS)- These sheets should be an important source of basic information about the different types of materials in the combustible dust.
  • Using appropriate protection systems. In workplaces with significant dust hazards, OSHA advises the use of various protection systems including relief vents or abort gates. These would allow for pressure or burning materials to be directed outside of confined areas. High-speed detection and suppression systems can also be used to avoid the risks of combustible dust explosions.
Ultimately, firefighters and first responders must be aware of and prepared to handle the risk of combustible dust and workplaces likely to produce such dust must have precautions in place to try to prevent explosions from occurring. With everyone doing his part, hopefully fewer workplace accidents will occur among those in dangerous first responder jobs.

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March 30, 2013

Roadside Workplace Injury Prevention Necessary During Spring Construction Season


In some parts of the country, there is an old joke that says there are only two seasons: winter and roadwork. While this joke doesn't quite ring as true in the Carolinas, amid relatively mild winters, the fact is that the amount of roadwork projects underway does significantly increase during the spring and summer months as the weather gets better. 951743_slow_down.jpg

Our Spartanburg, South Carolina workers' compensation lawyers know that roadwork season presents some risk to drivers as well as to those doing the construction work on the road. While drivers may be in danger of getting into car wrecks if they don't follow or don't understand detours and changes prompted by the roadwork, it is ultimately those who are doing the construction who are at the greatest risk of getting hurt.

Employers who hire road crews to perform road work should ensure that there are adequate safety protections in place to do everything possible to keep their workers safe. The laws in South Carolina also aim to protect construction crews working on infrastructure problems by requiring drivers to move over.

Move-Over Laws and Roadside Work Injury Prevention Tips
South Carolina has a law on the books in section 56-5-1536 that requires motorists to move over into adjacent lanes when possible if they are passing temporary work zones. This law, along with a requirement that drivers move over when they come upon law enforcement or first responders at a collision scene, aims to ensure that cars are not too close to people who are working on the side of the road.

The law mandating that drivers move to a further lane when passing a temporary work zone is called a "move over," law. It applies in any work zone where there is an area of road identified by orange work zone signs; by equipment with flashing lights; or by the presence of construction workers performing their jobs.

  • The move over law does more than just mandate a driver move into another lane. The law also requires that drivers:
  • Maintain proper control of their vehicle.
  • Significantly drop the speed of their vehicle. Drivers who are unable to move over are also required to maintain a speed that is safe in light of the proximity to workers.
  • Yield the right-of-way by shifting into a lane not adjacent to the work being performed in any situation where the highway has at least four lanes, two of which go in the same direction. Of course, drivers should only move over when it is safe and practical to do so.

Violating the move-over laws or violating the emergency scene laws is a serious moving violation. Those who put the lives of temporary workers at construction sites in danger can find themselves facing misdemeanor charges and can be required to pay fines equal to hundreds of dollars. Not only that, but if a driver endangers workers by failing to move over, operate the car slowly and use good common sense when driving through a work zone, the driver could potentially be sued if a work accident happens.

While those injured at work are normally expected to obtain compensation only through workers' compensation from their employer, when a worker gets injured by a third party car accident, the worker retains his right to file a lawsuit against the third party who caused harm. This suit can be brought in addition to a workers' compensation claim against the employer.

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March 24, 2013

How Sequester May Increase South Carolina Workplace Injuries


Our Anderson workers' compensation attorneys know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plays an important role in keeping workers safe. Unfortunately, cuts to OSHA are just one way in which workers may be endangered by something called the "sequester."990868_graphic_down.jpg

The sequester went into effect on March 1, 2013, cutting the budget of the United States federal government by $85 billion this year. The cuts will occur across-the-board and the Post and Courier indicates that South Carolina is going to be hit hard. One of the potential consequences of the sequester and resulting cuts is that workers in the state may be at greater risk of injury and may have a harder time getting their workers' compensation benefits.

Workplace Injuries May Increase Due to The Sequester
The sequester was established as part of a standoff between Democrats and Republicans in 2011. The leaders of the political parties were not able to come to an agreement on how to cut spending to address the growing deficit in the United States. As a result, the sequester was proposed.

The arrangement was that $85 billion would be automatically cut from defense spending and discretionary spending, if the parties could not agree on an alternative solution. The cuts were intended to be painful so that neither political party would want them to go into effect but the parties could not agree and the cuts took effect on the first of March.

As the Post and Courier indicates, this means that some federal workers in South Carolina will be furloughed. The sequester is expected to slow growth and shrink the GDP, so other employers may also be forced to make personnel cuts as well.

Unfortunately, whenever employers lay off workers or cut back their hours, this increases the chance of an accident happening. After all, fewer workers will be trying to do the same amount of work, which can lead to rushing and careless accidents. Workers may also be asked to complete tasks they don't normally do, which could put them in jeopardy of being hurt.

Employers, strapped for cash by the sequester, might also cut corners when it comes to ensuring a safe workplace or taking steps to protect workers from injury.

Unfortunately, these employers may not be caught if this does occur because OSHA inspectors are also being furloughed. The National Safety Council reports that as many as 1,200 potentially-dangerous worksites will go uninspected as a result of the sequester.

All of these factors come together to mean that more workers may be in danger due to the budget cuts. Tragically, even as the risk of workplace injuries increases, it may become harder for workers to make a claim for workers' compensation benefits. This is because employers and insurance companies may be more suspicious of claims during bad economic times.

As Property Casualty 360 reported in their article, insurers are being cautioned to be alert to claims filed by furloughed workers or by workers fearing a layoff who may exaggerate or invent injuries so they can secure workers' compensation benefits.

Property Casualty 360 specifically singles out soft tissue injury claims. Insurers have always been more suspicious of these kinds of claims since they cannot be conclusively proved or disproved using medical evidence. With this heightened suspicion, workers who have a greater chance of being hurt will also have a harder time getting helped.

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