Here in North Carolina, workers cannot receive workers’ compensation benefits while incarcerated, a law that was established in 1992 by the North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Parker v. Union Camp Corp. The question in that case was whether the imprisonment of a person already receiving workers’ compensation disability payments cuts off the employer’s duty to make payments during the confinement period. It was at that juncture an issue of first impression for North Carolina. The court did note existing statutes indicated the legislative intent was to deny prisoners workers’ compensation benefits while they are locked up. Specifically,  N.C.G.S. 97-13(c) holds the state’s workers’ compensation act doesn’t apply to prisoners being worked by the state. The statute allows the payment of limited benefits to prisoners, and it indicates that such benefits can’t begin until the prisoners’ discharge. prison

This provision has been challenged a few times, such as in the 2005 case of Easton v. J.D. Mowing. In that case, the plaintiff suffered a compensable work-related injury and was awarded $366 weekly until he was able to return to work. The plaintiff was then incarcerated for a probation violation for eight months. His employer sought to suspend those benefits while he was in prison, and the deputy commissioner granted that request. The Full Commission affirmed, as did the Court of Appeals, citing the Parker case.

Recently, the North Carolina Court of Appeals was again asked to weigh in on a case in which a worker’s disability payments were suspended during a period of incarceration. In Myles v. LMS, Inc., the plaintiff sustained a compensable injury. He was unloading a truck when the brake on the pallet jack failed, and the pallet pinned his leg, causing him to suffer a broken ankle. An orthopedic specialist performed surgery, which had to be followed up with a second surgery due to a complication. Then, he had to undergo a third surgery because it was revealed the first screw in his ankle was too long. The plaintiff had to wear a brace and could only do sedentary work with short periods of standing or walking.

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A nursing home food worker suffered an injury in a slip-and-fall accident at work. Although she was initially granted workers’ compensation benefits for medical treatment and time off work, she was later able to return to work without restrictions. But when the nursing home was bought by another company, it switched food service contractors – and the plaintiff couldn’t get a job with the new company due to her criminal background. kitchen

Following the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s denial of workers’ compensation benefits for disability and the treatment of certain medical conditions, the plaintiff in Reece v. Sodexo, Inc. appealed to the North Carolina Court of Appeals. But the appellate panel found that competent medical evidence in the record supported the findings of fact made by the commission.

The evidence weighed by the commission generally showed that the plaintiff started working for the food service employer in 2006. She worked there for seven years before the work accident. Her job title required her to cook and serve food, wash dishes, and help with other kitchen duties. Her job required her to sometimes lift up to 50 pounds, and she often had to remove or replace heavy items on shelves or above her head.

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The Occupational Safety & Health Administration is implementing a final rule aimed at stopping workers from falling ill as a result of exposure to beryllium and its compounds. Beryllium is a steel gray and hard metal with a reasonably high melting point. It’s only mined from the U.S., China, and Kazakhstan and is used for a variety of purposes, including in the manufacture of x-ray tubes and in various capacities in the defense, aerospace, and auto industries, as well as in some electronics and acoustics. workers

The problem is that the mineral and its compounds can be very dangerous. OSHA’s new rule contains a series of updated standards for shipyards, construction, and general industry, and the goal is to prevent lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease for workers. The rule is supposed to limit workers’ exposure, and it is expected to save an estimated 95 lives and prevent 46 new cases of chronic beryllium diseases annually. Those benefits won’t be fully realized until the updated rules are in place for a while. The estimated net benefits of the rule – i.e., savings in medical expenses, lost time off work, and workers’ compensation payments – is $561 million a year.

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The number of fatal workplace injuries in the U.S. increased in 2015, according to the final figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.sad face

There were a total of 4,836 job-related deaths in 2015, as compared to the 4,821 recorded in 2014. This was the highest number that has been counted since 2008, when there were 5,214. Still, the rate of injury was lower last year – 3.38 per 100,000 full-time workers, compared to 3.43 in 2014.

An especially vulnerable group included workers of Hispanic and Latino descent. There were 903 of these workers who lost their lives on the job in 2015, which is the most there has been since 2007, when there were 937. For them, the rate of injury also rose 12 percent, from 804 per 100,000 full-time workers up to 903. Workers over the age of 65 also historically have a high rate of injury and death, with 650 of those workers dying in 2015. Still, this represented a slight dip from the 2014 figure of 684.

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It’s been nearly 55 years since two crashes resulted in a total of 59 farmworker deaths. That was in 1963, and it spurred Congress to declare that this serious risk to migrant workers was inexcusable, prompting the passage of the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act.bus

But today, even still, migrant workers and farmworkers continue to be at heightened risk of crashes and transportation-related injuries and fatalities.

Take, for example, the bus that crashed in November 2015 on a highway near Little Rock, Arkansas, when 18 Mexican guest workers were being transported from the citrus groves of Florida to the pumpkin and beet fields of Michigan. The motorcoach in which they were traveling sideswiped a barrier and a concrete bridge support. Five workers were killed and seven more severely injured.

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It’s not uncommon in workers’ compensation claims for the insurance carrier to resist the payment of benefits. It’s important in these cases for employees to know their rights – and consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. fence

In Bockus v. First Student Services, a school bus driver injured his back at work while moving a gate. As a result of this injury, he needed to undergo two spinal surgeries and later needed a third surgery.

The issue was that while the third surgery was pending, his employer, which had paid for his medical coverage up until then, requested a medical evaluation. The doctor wouldn’t go forward with the surgery while the evaluation was pending. At that point, the employee filed a workers’ compensation claim.

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Injury of workers at dental practices are nothing to smile about. In recent years, as reported by Dental Economics, inspections of dental practices by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) are on the rise. Although some are characterizing these inspections as a means to drum up revenue, the reality is that workers in dental practices face very real hazards that need to be taken seriously and addressed.dentist

OSHA reports dental professionals may be at risk for exposure to a wide range of potential hazards, including bloodborne pathogens and other chemical agents, ergonomic risks, excessive noise, and workplace violence.

In spite of this wide range of issues, OSHA doesn’t have any specific standards when it comes to dentistry. Some of the dangers that would apply to dentistry are addressed in general industry standards.

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The issue of workplace violence is one that affects employees in a vast array of industries, but it’s especially pervasive for those in the health care industry.medical doctor

Last month, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a formal request for information on potential standards to prevent workplace violence, specifically in health care and social assistance settings. The goal is to collect as much detailed information as possible on a variety of topics so that the agency can help develop strategies that will be effective in lowering the risk of workplace violence. The deadline for submitting information is in April. The agency is also planning on holding a public meeting for those interested on commenting on the issue.

The move was prompted by a report issued by the Government Accountability Office in April that called on OSHA to improve the safety of health care workers, who reportedly suffer much higher rates of workplace violence. In fact, workers in this field suffer some type of violent incident at work at rates that are five times the national average.

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It’s been a little more than a year since gunfire ripped through an office building in San Bernardino, California, where workers at the local health department had just finished hosting a holiday party. The terrorist attack, carried out by a former employee and his wife, happened on Dec. 2, 2015, and it resulted in 14 deaths and 22 serious injuries. The assailants escaped in a sport utility vehicle but were later shot and killed by police. gun

Today, neither the physical nor the emotional trauma has greatly subsided. Victims say it is further compounded by the fact that they are having to fight for full and continued workers’ compensation benefits. One woman says she has had numerous surgeries and subsequent infections. Her left hand is paralyzed. She has bullet fragments in her pelvis. She has suffered permanent tissue damage and scarring. The psychological trauma is intense. She needs more surgeries. A home health aid helps her with basic tasks. She can’t put on a bra. She can’t type. She can’t drive. She can’t do laundry. She can’t cut her own food. She can’t put on her socks and shoes.

Yet her visits from the home health aid have dwindled, and she is told they will likely end soon altogether. According to the Seattle Times, her requests for continued occupational and physical therapy have been denied. She was also denied continued use of her antidepressant medications. These are reportedly not the result of a conflict with her health insurer but instead with her employer. That’s because this incident was considered a form of workplace violence, and thus it falls under the umbrella of workers’ compensation.

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It looks like the North Carolina Industrial Commission will have a host of improvements to tackle in 2017.worker

The state initiated an audit of the agency, and determined that there have been improvements in the agency’s oversight of North Carolina workers’ compensation claims. However, it is still failing to meet identification and investigative targets, the audit concluded.

This report was a follow-up of the commission’s performance following a previous audit three years ago that concluded the NCIC was not acting on data that was complete, reliable and accurate to proactively single out companies that did not have workers’ compensation insurance, as required by law. This has been an ongoing issue in South Carolina, where a series of articles by The News & Observer of Raleigh revealed there were at least 30,000 companies in this state as of 2012 that were operating without the proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Auditors indicated they believed that number might be as high as 52,000, which could mean there are as many as 156,000 employees in North Carolina working for non-compliant companies. Continue reading

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