Articles Tagged with worker injury

The start of bring brings a host of lawn care and tree maintenance workers out in full force. But tree care is an especially perilous industry, as illustrated by a recent incident in Massachusetts. tree

According to the Boston Herald, a government employee for the public works department in Ipswich suffered severe injuries as he was struck by a falling tree while cleaning up debris following a brush fire. The worker was helping the state’s forestry division control a brush fire by finding and tamping down hot spots when a tree fell on top of him. He was flown by helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening. In Minnesota last month, a worker was seriously injured while trying to remove a tree in St. Louis County. He and his crew were trying to remove another tree when high-powered winds knocked over one nearby, landing on the worker. And in another case, a 20-year-old contract worker for the federal parks service in California was crushed to death by a tree at Yosemite that came crashing down during a powerful storm.

As OSHA notes, there are many serious hazards in tree care work. The two primary dangers are:

  • Falling trees/ objects.
  • Falls from trees.

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A recent investigative report by Buzzfeed details the way in which mail-a-meal tech start-up Blue Apron, in a rush to quickly scale operations, allegedly flouted health and safety rules and failed to protect employees from a violent work environment.Meal

The company, now worth $2 billion, is based in California and ships tens of thousands of meal kits to households across the country each day. Company leaders wanted to alter the way Americans buy, receive, and prepare food, while also slashing food waste and increasing distribution and delivery efficiency. In order to make this happen, the firm had to very quickly hire a huge unskilled workforce. On the surface, this was a good thing. It brought jobs to an economically depressed area. However, the Buzzfeed investigation revealed through dozens of interviews and hundreds of documents that the company may not have been prepared to properly manage those workers and ensure their safety. The result was a spate of health and safety violations for workers.

Like many start-ups – particularly in e-commerce industries – the company reportedly relies heavily on temporary workers. There is also a heavy demand for high work quotas that leave workers exhausted. As these companies grow, wages for workers at the bottom shrink. The growing capital isn’t extended to the lower levels of the company, and that often includes health and safety considerations.

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Worker classification is central to the validity of a workers’ compensation claim. While those designated “employees” are protected by workers’ compensation law, those who are independent contractors are not. Independent contractors can sue the employer for negligence, but employees can’t. Similarly, certain companies may clearly be “employers” while others may simply be general contractors. boiler

However, in contract situations, there may be circumstances in which workers can be “employees” and companies “statutory employers” – even if that label was never affixed. That’s because courts consider many variables in determining whether a worker was an employee. The analysis considers much more than simply how the company labeled the relationship. It considers the level of control the company had over the work and the schedule, the way workers were paid and whether the worker performed this type of work exclusively for this one company.

In the recent case of Wright v. Excel Paralubes, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit was asked to determine whether a defendant company was a “statutory employer,” even though a master service agreement in a joint venture never expressly uses that terminology. The court ruled that in fact the company was an employer, as is the presumption. Continue reading

Lumber mills and saw mills are among the most dangerous occupations for North Carolina workers. There are a number of saw mill and lumber sale locations in Greensboro and throughout the state. woodpile

Recently, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reported that in Region 4 – which covers North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky – there have been a series of violations at lumber mills that jeopardize worker safety. The agency has levied fines against employers that fail to ensure employees have a safe work environment – something to which they are entitled.

The first involves a lumber mill in Alabama, which despite repeated warnings, OSHA says continues to expose workers to the risk of amputations, falls and other fatal workplace accidents. Following an inspection in October, the agency cited the mill for two repeated and seven serious safety and health violations. An inspection of the facility was initiated after a worker was injured and had to be hospitalized in an incident that was unrelated. Continue reading

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