The Department of Labor (DOL) has officially weighed in on the poultry processing industry injuries that have been the focus of independent journalistic investigations, as well as an inquiry by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). turkeyfarming

Last year, independent journalism non-profit ProPublica launched an investigation into the practices of the Arkansas-based Tyson foods, pulling back the curtain on questionable business practices, including lobbying against a judge who had made a series of workers’ compensation decisions favoring workers injured at Tyson.

Subsequent investigation revealed some workers are forced to wear diapers and restrict their consumption of liquid because they fear losing their jobs for something as seemingly benign as taking a bathroom break. Because the facilities are under-staffed, there is no one to fill in for the workers if they leave the line. Workers also reported being extremely reticent to report their work injuries, fearing they will lose their jobs.  Continue reading

The constitutionality of Florida’s workers’ compensation system may still be challenged as plaintiffs in the case, who were denied review by the Florida Supreme Court, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in.gavel5

In Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital, plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of significant changes made to Florida’s workers’ compensation law back in 2003. It’s just one of many states in which workers’ compensation protections have been rolled back in recent years. This is an example of workers fighting back.

The question raised in Stahl is whether Florida’s workers’ compensation system is an adequate exclusive remedy for workers who are injured.  Continue reading

News reports out of Richmond are that a Virginia woman had to be taken to a local hospital after she was bitten by a snake while at work. The 29-year-old said she was on her break and preparing to go outside when she felt a shooting pain and something wet on her foot. She glanced down, and realized she’d been bitten by a baby copperhead. snake

She was rushed to a hospital, where she spent three days recovering after being given several doses of the anti-venom. She is now undergoing physical therapy to fully recover.

However, she’s been delivered a second sting: Her workers’ compensation claim has been denied. Company representatives are consulting with their legal department to obtain more clarification on the denial, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that the bite occurred while the woman was on break.  Continue reading

Our workers’ compensation lawyers know that the exclusive remedy provision prohibits employees from suing their employers for work-related injuries. door1

However, we always want to explore whether there is a possibility for a third-party lawsuit. This provides another avenue of compensation that can help the worker regain financial stability.

These cases must be pursued with caution, as it is possible your workers’ compensation insurer will seek reimbursement for the portion of health care expenses and lost wages that have already been paid. However, they are still often worth going after because plaintiffs may be paid pain and suffering and perhaps even punitive damages – two substantial forms of compensation that are not available with workers’ compensation benefits.  Continue reading

One worker was killed and another seriously injured in a crane accident after both fell off the West Seattle Bridge in Washington state.crane

The Seattle Times reports a passing truck driver struck the boom lift, later insisting he didn’t see any traffic control markings, such as cones, barriers or a flagger in the moments before the crash.

The two men were reportedly contractors, which can sometimes muddy the question of workers’ compensation benefits. Independent contractors are generally not eligible for benefits from the general contractor, but it will depend on the agreement between the two entities and which company purchased benefits. If another contractor or the general contractor was responsible for establishing proper traffic controls on this site, it’s entirely possible too that the victims/ surviving family could additionally pursue a third-party action for negligence, which could further increase the compensation to which they are entitled. A second action might be plausible against the truck driver/ employer, a mushroom farm delivery driver.  Continue reading

A construction worker was rushed to a hospital in Charlotte after an excavator accident in Fort Mill left him with serious work-related injuries. excavator

According to the Herald Online, the accident occurred sometime around 4 p.m. at the Doby Bridge Road construction site. He reportedly became trapped under the truck of the excavator. Police investigators are still piecing together what happened, but initial reports are that one worker had been operating the excavator while another worker was nearby, explaining a maintenance issue the machine had been having.

The operator then moved the vehicle and as he was moving it, the second worker was struck, knocked down and then became trapped underneath the track of the vehicle.  Continue reading

Historically, it has not been unusual for employers to have policies requiring workers to undergo drug or alcohol testing after a workplace accident. But now, with the passage of a new reporting rule by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), employers are going to need to be much more cautious about this practice. Blanket policies that require each and every employee to be tested for drugs or alcohol may discourage reporting of workplace accidents, and thus would not be acceptable under the new policy. worker3

The new OSHA rule on electronic reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses doesn’t actually make any direct mention of drug testing workers post-injury, but occupational experts who have been studying the rule (which goes into effect August 10, 2016) have largely concluded that the policy doesn’t allow the kind of broad-based drug testing that’s often done after an occupational accident. There are also some who have argued that by doing this, OSHA is undercutting worker safety. Workers will know they can’t be tested for drugs or alcohol after an accident, and they’ll be more likely to imbibe.

But that’s not exactly what OSHA has said. Continue reading

Workers’ compensation benefits in South Carolina are available to almost all employees whose injuries occur on the job. Wage loss benefits are based on an individual’s average weekly wage at the date of injury. Workers are to receive 66 and 2/3 percent of their average weekly wage in the six months prior to the injury, not to exceed $784.03 per week as of 2016 according to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission.businessman

For self-employed workers who suffer injury, the issue of compensation can get a bit sticky.

The commission reports that sole proprietors and partners are considered owners and thus not automatically included under workers’ compensation, but they can elect to be covered if they are active in the business and have given appropriate notice to the insurance company. The only way owners would be automatically covered is if they were also employees. Continue reading

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report on the hazards in the meat and poultry industry, indicating that injury and illness rates among workers had declined between 2004 and 2013 to rates similar to what we see in all U.S. manufacturing. meat

However, as an in-depth NPR analysis points out, this report, a follow-up to a 2005 workplace injury report on the industry, data from federal regulators almost certainly doesn’t capture all incidents and all hazards faced by workers in the meat and poultry industry. Frequently, injuries and illnesses go underreported, as workers are often in a vulnerable position and fear repercussions. Further, the new report does concede that injuries and illnesses are still common, and higher than for other workers in the manufacturing industry.

Between 2004 and 2013, there were 151 meat and poultry workers who died as a result of work-related injuries or illnesses. But many incidents – even workplace fatalities – may not be reported.  Continue reading

Construction projects tend to ramp up in the summer months, which heightens the risk of construction accidents. Construction site falls are of particular concern. constructioncrane

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports construction site falls are the No. 1 cause of death in construction. In 2013, there were nearly 300 fatal falls to a lower level, which more than 36 percent of the total 830 construction site fatalities nationally.

OSHA instructs supervisors to properly plan to get the job done safely, ensure workers have the right equipment for the job and make certain employees are properly trained for the work they are assigned.  Continue reading

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