Articles Tagged with OSHA

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Blackwell Law Firm - North Alabama AttorneysWorker safety is far too often a one-way street. Following a major injury or workplace death, families are left to pay the long-term price. On the other hand, the cost to companies is often small and short-term.

The latest Congressional proposal is a prime example of unfairness for workers. Our leaders are currently proposing massive spending for infrastructure. Who pays for the infrastructure improvements? We do. The money comes from taxes paid by workers. Don’t get me wrong — We need infrastructure improvements. I support improving our failing roadways and bridges. It takes both money and labor to accomplish that task. While using our tax money for the work, Congress also wants to use our labor with no regard for worker safety. How? Certain leaders in Congress are proposing to alter Federal law in an effort to provide greater protection for their construction industry friends. That’s wrong.

I’ve already seen the worst when it comes to safety on Federally-funded projects. I previously represented a steel worker who fell over 20 feet on a construction site at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. My client lived. But, the fall left him permanently disabled. After being hired in that case, we began a thorough investigation. What we found was beyond disturbing. We discovered a general contractor with no regard for site safety. We discovered a general contractor with no safety plan for the equipment or process at issue. Interestingly, the general contractor advertised its “safety awards” on its corporate website. These fake safety awards looked pretty on the internet – with pictures of nice trophies. Yet, at trial the contractor’s executive admitted its fake safety awards just considered the safety of site management (not the actual laborers). It was all a sham. We also learned that safety is really not a factor when hiring site contractors.

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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleA Fortune magazine article asks the question, “What happens to your employer if you die at work?” The article details the work-related death of a Walmart employee. The author then makes his point:

The ugly truth is that when it comes to ensuring your safety on the job, your employer has very little to lose.

Since that Fortune article, some Federal worker safety standards have actually decreased. And, in Alabama, we’ve annually seen an effort to reduce already unjustly low workers’ compensation benefits (including basic medical care) needed by injured workers. I’ve written in prior years about this annual effort to lessen basic benefits. I’ll continue to oppose those unjust proposals.

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truck-1565478_1920-300x201What are the most common causes of fatal occupational injuries? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 data, the six top causes of work-related deaths include:

  1. Transportation incidents
  2. Injuries due to workplace violence from people or animals
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Blackwell Law Firm - Alabama Personal Injury LawFall protection. A recent OSHA penalty following a fatal fall serves as a strong reminder of two things:

  • Falls from heights are a leading cause of workplace injuries and deaths.
  • Simple safety steps can prevent most serious falls.
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Blackwell Law Firm - HuntsvilleWhat are the most common risks of personal injury for workers? Each year, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) reveals its data on the top 10 workplace safety violations. OSHA lists the most commonly cited violations for the year.

Because I frequently represent workers hurt on large industrial or construction worksites, I study the annual reports. Two issues are clear to me:

  1. The same safety hazards typically dominate the list every single year.
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Personal Injury
The process was intended to be simple. The steps meant to be clear. You suffer a work-related accident and injury. You notify your boss of that injury. Your employer then communicates the accident or injury information to its insurance carrier. And, the insurance carrier arranges for you to see a doctor. Simple? While it should be simple, it often is not. Many injured workers face hurdles getting necessary medical care. In some cases, it is the employer creating hurdles. In others, it is the insurance carrier.

I recently prepared for the deposition of a plant nurse in a case where the employer created several hurdles to medical care. Why would an employer delay or refuse to start the medical treatment process for its injured employee? An employer may have several reasons to delay care or ignore injury problems. Some employers have insurance policies with high deductibles. A few large employers in Alabama qualify as self-insured. In both situations, an employer may be looking at its out-of-pocket costs. Other employers simply don’t want to file a claim and risk a premium increase. Regardless of the reason, employer delays in medical care harm you the most.

An article in the Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) journal detailed the story of one company cited by OSHA for “medical mismanagement” because of these issues. The article is titled OSHA Cites Pilgrim’s Pride for Medical Mismanagement and Other Safety Hazards. An OSHA area director was quoted in the article:

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Worker safety is important for our families, our communities and the long-term economic growth of our nation. A recent scaffold collapse in China highlights the importance of workplace safety standards. According to CNN, a scaffold/work platform built to help workers repair a Chinese power plant recently collapsed, killing at least 74 people. The New York Times also reported the tragedy, describing the scene more graphically:

Dozens of workers were crushed to death under an avalanche of scaffolding, cement and steel rods in southeast China.

The New York Times article continues by describing other recent huge Chinese industrial accidents including (1) an explosion at a chemical warehouse killing 173 people; and, (2) a landslide at a construction site killing at least 73 people. In China,