Over the last decade, the Huntsville area has seen tremendous development. The surrounding area is rapidly growing. In downtown Huntsville, multiple hotels and offices are under construction. In the medical district, Huntsville Hospital and other medical offices continue expanding. Along Highway 72, you see stores and offices stretching from Huntsville to Athens. Throughout Madison, Limestone and Morgan Counties, new neighborhoods are under development. With new development, comes new road construction. And, authorities must maintain existing roads as well. If you live around Huntsville, it’s likely you regularly deal with road construction somewhere on your daily route!
Workers at meat and poultry plants suffer some of the highest rates of occupational injury. In his 1906 book, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair wrote of the occupational dangers within Chicago’s meat processing plants. A hundred years later, food processing plants still function as if human labor and lives are expendable.
Chicago is famous for the meat-packing industry. In Alabama, these plants are typically chicken processing plants. They are places that employ people at low wages and expose them to non-stop processes. You don’t need me to tell you that many of these plants have a shameful history of workplace injuries and deaths. The numerous news stories already tell that history. Too many of these plants view people as cheap and expendable labor. But, that’s NOT how we should value human lives.
Over the last twenty years, I’ve represented numerous workers injured in Alabama poultry plants. Shoulder, arm and hand injuries are rampant. The assembly line moves too fast for any human to work long-term without injury. Yet, it’s more than just rapid assembly line injuries. The lack of safety concern also produces many injuries from falls, forklifts, and heavy lifting without proper equipment.
$2B Orlando Highway Construction Project Halted After 5th Worker Death
Five separate workplace deaths on one project! One fatal work-related accident is INEXCUSABLE. Five? It’s hard to comprehend. How could one site be so deadly? How could the contractor allow this to happen? Worker deaths from safety issues are ALWAYS inexcusable.
I’ve written several articles about truck driver health and fatigue. These are serious safety issues on Alabama roads and highways. All of us have felt uneasy as a big truck zoomed past us on the Interstate. We need truck drivers who are healthy and alert.
Both health and fatigue are related. How? Truck drivers suffer much higher rates of health issues like sleep apnea, diabetes and obesity. These conditions can create problems with sleep, concentration and awareness. My past articles discuss several ways we can improve truck driver health and make our roads safer for all.
Researchers at Ball State University recently published a new study involving sleep and workers. The study is titled Short Sleep Duration in Working American Adults, 2010-2018. What makes the study interesting is that it gathered data over a long period of time.
Most of the people who call us about car accident injury claims were wearing their seat belt when the crash occurred. Most, but not all. Some people do call after a wreck where they were not wearing a seat belt. One of the first questions they ask — Does that impact my personal injury claim?
I’m happy to discuss the question. But, I still want to start with a discussion of safety. Seat belts clearly save lives!
SEAT BELTS SAVE LIVES!
What intersections are the most dangerous? Do a quick Google search and you will find research from 2012. The 2012 data is interesting. But, it’s old data. In the seven years since, Huntsville has grown tremendously. Development has created new accident dangers. Traffic patterns have expanded. Many intersections have been modified. In short, much has changed in the last seven years. The most dangerous intersections in 2012 may not be the most dangerous intersections today. What intersections were listed as most dangerous in 2012? Here they are:
- Old Madison Pike at Research Park Boulevard
Distracted driving is a frequent topic on my blog. This month is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. So, it’s a perfect time to discuss proposals currently pending in the Alabama Legislature to prevent drivers from holding their cellphone while driving.
Last year, Georgia enacted a hands-free law for drivers. Will Alabama pass similar legislation? As I write this post, I checked the Alabama Legislature information website concerning pending bills. The website lists two hands-free bills currently making their way through the legislative process. I read both bills and they are almost identical. These two pending bills are: HB6 and HB404. You can access the legislative information website HERE.
I’ll focus here on HB6 which was introduced by Representative Allen Farley. If passed, it will be known as Cici’s Law. Local channel WHNT posted an article telling Cici’s story. Cici was 17 and just months shy of graduating from high school. On February 28, 2018, she was driving home from work down Interstate 65. She had a bright future and a loving family. While driving home, she was recording a message on her phone — a Happy Birthday message to a friend. She briefly looked down. When she looked back up, it was too late. She was not speeding. Still, she had no time to stop and went underneath an 18 wheeler stopped in front of her.
Commercial truck driver health is a safety issue on our highways. In past articles, I’ve discussed the serious health problems truck drivers suffer. Truckers suffer much higher rates of problems like diabetes, sleep apnea and morbid obesity. These health conditions can slow driver reactions and concentration — putting everyone at risk for needless injury or death. The long hours of sedentary work away from home in many truck driving jobs contributes to these health issues and makes medical care difficult.
Medical certification requirements for commercial truckers are an important part of highway safety. But, the system only works if medical certifications are legitimate, honest and fair. Unfortunately, they are not. Too many unsafe commercial drivers are allowed on our highways.
The Federal regulations have allowed truly unqualified medical examiners to issue certifications. A chiropractor may be qualified to perform therapeutic treatments for a pulled lower back muscle but is he or she really qualified to certify a trucker with dangerous sleep apnea? The Federal regulations have also allowed unhealthy truckers on our roads. Let’s look again at sleep apnea. It can be a big safety issue. Yet, unsafe drivers are routinely certified without requiring medical treatment or monitoring for the condition. The rules fail to adequately address specific health issues like sleep apnea, diabetes, morbid obesity or drug dependence. I’ve written several articles about these issues in the past. For more information on sleep apnea and truck safety, you can read my article titled Sleep Apnea: Government Chooses Trucking Industry Over Safety.
This month’s TRIAL Magazine discusses a tragic eighteen wheeler crash. What happened in that crash? Around 1:30 am, a large commercial truck slammed into the rear of a pickup truck on a rural stretch of western Interstate. The crash killed a young mother and one of her children. Another child was left severely injured. The evidence at trial in that case revealed the commercial truck never slowed or took any evasive action before slamming into the pickup truck.
That case raised significant questions involving issues of independent contractors as drivers, control over drivers and company safety programs. If you need a lawyer in a trucking injury case, you should find one who understands these issues. Why were these issues in that case? The company (a worldwide distribution company) hired drivers it called “contractors” or “independent contractors.” Yet, the company did not treat these drivers as independent contractors. Instead, the company controlled every detail of driver operations down to the details of how to park the truck. As many lawyers know, it’s not what the company calls its people, but rather, the realities of control. While the company controlled all aspects of driver operations, it had NO driver safety training requirements or programs. That’s a classic case of profits over people. If you put drivers on the highway and control their actions for your profit, you should also exercise some safety responsibility for them.
We drive alongside big trucks everyday on our highways. Many trucking companies and truckers care deeply about safety. But, not all of them do. Next time you see a company name or logo on the side of a large truck, ask yourself: Does that company have a REAL safety program to prevent needless injury?
Productivity versus safety. The two should work together. Yet, some companies value only immediate productivity. On many construction sites, immediate productivity trumps safety every single day. Who pays the price when safety is neglected? Workers and their families pay the ultimate price of serious injuries and deaths.
A survey of construction workers showed the majority believed safety took a back seat to immediate productivity. Yet, it should not. The majority of workers also believed their companies did the bare MINIMUM required amount for safety. That is, their companies met the minimum needed to avoid a citation but not the level needed to create a culture of safety. These working men and women understand first-hand the safety issues on construction sites.
Do some companies neglect real safety? Most serious injury and death cases I’ve investigated on construction sites happened because management failed to institute basic safety processes. This is why safety standards established by agencies like OSHA are so important. Without minimum standards, some companies would do nothing at all.