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

Retailers across the country recognize the power that big holiday sales have to compel shoppers to come to their stores. This has resulted in increasingly hyped sales and streams of excited – and sometimes frenzied – shoppers. The steady swell has the potential to increase the chances of a work-related injury. You may recall that in 2008 a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death in New York by a mob of shoppers on Black Friday. shopping center

But as recent data shows, the work-related risks may be shifting more to transportation and warehouse workers, as companies become increasingly focused on online sales.

Many companies will seek to mitigate the danger by increasing the number of workers. A recent report by Forbes indicates stores this year are hiring 738,800 seasonal workers nationwide to cope with the influx of in-store shoppers. Target, for example, is hiring 70,000 seasonal workers. But in a sign of the times, it’s also hiring 7,500 seasonal fulfillment and warehouse centers to help keep pace with its booming e-commerce industry. Macy’s has actually lowered its in-store hiring of seasonal workers this year, but it has increased its part-time e-commerce hiring by 20 percent. Amazon, which is exclusively e-commerce, increased its seasonal hiring between 2012 and 2015.  Continue reading

When a worker suffers an on-the-job injury, he or she may be unable to work for a period of time. Once a worker has obtained maximum medical improvement, he or she may still suffer ongoing disabilities and permanent impairment. At that point, the employer may offer an alternative form of employment. It won’t be exactly the same position. It won’t necessarily pay the same. Even if a worker is unhappy with the offer, he or she should consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer before turning it down because doing so could in some cases jeopardize one’s benefits.hardware store

In the recent case of McKnight v. Lowe’s, the question was whether plaintiff unjustifiably turned down suitable employment offered by defendant. The North Carolina Industrial Commission ruled that she did. However, the North Carolina Court of Appeals held that the Commission failed to make sufficient findings of fact on this issue, and thus vacated the opinion and remanded for further review.

According to court records, plaintiff was 31-years-old and had been working at a Lowe’s in Raleigh for eight years when she suffered a work-related injury in November 2009. She had a high school diploma and worked first as a cashier for about 2.5 years, then as a specialist in the home decor department, and later as a manager-in-training in hardware and tools before being promoted to manager of paint and home decor in 2005. It was in this capacity that she suffered a work-related injury to her neck and shoulder.  Continue reading

‘Tis the season for work holiday parties. But what happens when the festivities turn perilous – or fatal? The question of whether such injuries are covered under workers’ compensation laws will depend on a host of different factors. holiday party

Chiefly, the issue will be whether the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the incident in question. Events that are obligatory or paid or that in some way further the mission of the company will likely be considered to have occurred in the course and scope of employment.

In the recent case of Lennon v. N.C. Judicial Department, the plaintiff asserted before the North Carolina Court of Appeal that her injury at a work holiday party qualified her for workers’ compensation benefits. The defendant company argued the injury did not occur in the course and scope of employment.

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