Monthly Archives: March 2013

Hazards exist in the surface refinishing business

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

University of Iowa, College of Public health, recently reported the death of a bathtub refinishing technician who died from the inhalation of paint stripper vapors.

The apartment manager and first responders reported a strong chemical odor in the second story apartment.

In 2012, a 37-year-old female technician employed by a surface-refinishing business died from inhalation exposure to methylene chloride and methanol vapors while she used a chemical stripper to prep the surface of a bathtub for refinishing. The technician was working alone without respiratory protection or ventilation controls in a small bathroom of a rental apartment. When the technician did not pick up her children at the end of the day, her parents contacted her employer, who then called the apartment complex manager after determining the victim’s personal vehicle was still at the refinishing company’s parking lot. The apartment complex manager went to the apartment unit where the employee had been working and called 911 upon finding the employee unresponsive, slumped over the bathtub. City Fire Department responders arrived within 4 minutes of the 911 call. The apartment manager and first responders reported a strong chemical odor in the second story apartment. There was an uncapped gallon can of Continue reading

TENS Units No Longer Reasonable Treatment For Chronic Low Back Pain, Says CMS

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

In many workers’ compensation cases, Medicare pays medical treatment expenses for an injured worker that may otherwise be the responsibility of the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. In the past decade, workers’ compensation practitioners have become well-versed in dealing with Medicare issues and establishing Medicare Set Asides—effectively deals between the federal government (Medicare) and the work comp insurance company to cover future work-related medical care for the injured worker. 

However, Medicare does not cover all types of medical treatment expenses. Thus, certain types of medical treatment cannot be considered part of a Medicare Savings Account (MSA), but those expenses could still be the responsibility of the insurance carrier. One of those non-Medicare-covered expenses are TENS units for chronic law back pain.  On August 1, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memorandum regarding Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) units for chronic low back pain. The new CMS policy indicated that chronic low back pain (CLBP) is “an episode of low back pain that has persisted for three months or longer; and is not a manifestation of a clearly defined and generally recognizable primary disease entity.” CMS indicated that for all workers’ compensation cases settled after June 8, 2012, use of TENS units for chronic low back pain will no longer Continue reading

Diesel Fumes and Lung Cancer

diesel fumes cause lung cancerLung cancer is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It’s greater than breast and colon cancer in women and greater than prostate, colon, pancreatic and liver cancer in men. If diagnosed early there is a 70-80% survival rate for 5 years, and a low-dose CT scan of the chest can detect 60-70% of lung cancers at an early stage. Unfortunately, there has been no significant progress in the treatment of lung cancer in 40 years and between 10,000–20,000 occupational lung cancer deaths occur each year in the United States.

One area of concern is the relationship between diesel exhaust exposure and lung cancer. In June of 2012 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified diesel engine exhaust as carcinogenic to humans, and studies of underground miners support that statement and also indicate that others who are around diesel fumes may be at an increased risk. Toxic chemicals in diesel gas are nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, benzene, PAHS (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), aldehydes and nitro-PAHS.

Railroad workers, miners, truck drivers, bus operators, longshoremen and others who have been heavily exposed to diesel fumes are obviously at greater risk than those with less exposures, but even minimal exposures may cause harm. In urban areas, like lower Manhattan, there is concern that diesel exposures may be a public health hazard and detection systems have been placed in areas to collect exposure data. As for workers who have experienced intense, short-term duration to diesel fumes, a chemical called 1-hydroxypyrene may be elevated in urine, but the test for this marker is not performed by most commercial laboratories. The Mount Sinai – Irving J. Selikoff Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine is studying diesel exposure and may be a good resource for future information, as well as the National Clean Diesel Campaign: www.epa.gov/diesel.

What Young Workers Need To Know About Their Social Security Benefits

Today’s post comes from guest author Ryan Benharris from Deborah G. Kohl Law Offices.

According to a recent article published in the Palm Beach News Post, approximately one in four workers under the age of thirty will become disabled before reaching their full retirement age of 67. What many workers do not realize is that Social Security will pay benefits if you become incapable of performing any substantial gainful activity. It is astounding that 25% of the population will likely suffer a work ending disability. In a poor economy with job availability flailing and gas prices rising, it is becoming increasingly more important to know your rights to protect yourself and your family if you become unable to work. It is truly a shame that many individuals do not know that they may be eligible for benefits that could provide them with income and medical treatment that they may otherwise not have. The easiest way to stay informed about your rights is to Continue reading

I Filed For SSD on My Own and Got Turned Down – What Should I Do Next?

Today’s post comes from guest author Barbara Tilker from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

If you get a denial notice from Social Security after filing your application for benefits on your own, don’t be surprised. Most people are turned down the first time they apply for benefits. Social Security recently released a study showing that people who filed on their own were slightly more likely to get denied initially, although they received their initial decision a little sooner. Many people make one of two common mistakes when they get turned down – they either don’t do anything or they file a new application. People who don’t do anything will, of course, not receive Social Security disability benefits. Those that file a new application are just as likely to get turned down again, and may lose entitlement to benefits they otherwise would have gotten.

When you get a denial, you should file an appeal of that decision.

When you get a denial, you should file an appeal of that decision. Filing an appeal is different than filing a new application. Depending on where you live, you will either file a request for reconsideration or a request for a hearing. A request for reconsideration means that someone else at Social Security reviews your file and makes a new decision. If you get denied at reconsideration (and about 90% of people do) you should file a request for a hearing.

After you file a request for a hearing, you’ll be scheduled for a hearing held by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will ask you questions and issue a written decision after the hearing. People who appear at a hearing before an ALJ are much more likely to get SSD than those who file a new application after getting denied.

Once you receive a denial, you should contact our office right away to discuss your options. You only have sixty (60) days to file an appeal, so it’s important to act fast. Our staff will be able to handle the appeals process for you, and one of our attorneys will appear at the hearing with you. The most important thing is to not get discouraged and continue your medical treatment so that you’ll have the medical evidence you need to prove your disability.

Reversing A Century Of Progress – Are We Back In Upton Sinclair’s Jungle?

Many workers no longer have paid sick days.

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Health Care Is Just The Beginning

At a time when a flu epidemic is exploding out of control, killing thousands of people, forty-two million Americans have no sick leave. Many of these people are lower paid, often work part time, and continue to work when ill because they can’t stay home to recover without losing their income. I am shocked and dismayed that many hard-working folk are forced to work when sick because staying home is not economically possible. Making matters even worse, these highly vulnerable workers often have no employer-provided health insurance so even serious illnesses go untreated, putting us all at a higher risk for infection from a contagious worker, like a server in a restaurant, for whom taking an unpaid day off is impossible.

…the trend toward low pay, long hours and few benefits is getting stronger.

I fear that if the current trends continue, the lives of the millions of Americans who struggle at low-paying jobs will remain miserable, desperate and be lacking in real hope. It appears that the trend toward low pay, long hours and few benefits is getting stronger. At the turn of the 20th century when Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle,” describing immigrants struggling in Chicago, the jobs were more physical, dangerous and just plain disgusting. However, millions of “New Jungle” workers still struggle and suffer today.

Class Warfare

After over 100 years of progress, the American middle and lower classes are under constant attack. The efforts to limit rights of workers are ongoing and supported by big business. Every day I read of measures being introduced in state legislatures to limit access to and decrease the benefits of workers’ compensation. The right to collective bargaining is being attacked as well. Local elections are overrun by anonymous innocent-sounding Super PACs funded by 21st Century versions of robber-barons who are using their wealth and power to squeeze out a few more dollars in profits to add to the tens of billions of dollars already sitting in their bank accounts. These are not job creators, they are their own personal wealth creators. Income equality is at an all-time low in the United States, and the trends are getting worse.

How can this be happening in 21st century America? How can we call ourselves civilized? Can we really allow such maltreatment of workers and disregard public health in what we call an “advanced,” “modern,” and frequently, an “exceptional” county? 

A Path Forward

We are not without hope, though. Crusaders like Senator Elizabeth Warren are working hard to reverse the trends and preserve the American Dream for future generations. But our protectors are few. We cannot assume that someone else is looking out for us. We must engage with government at the local, state and federal levels so that the voices of regular working folk are not drowned out by a cabal of rogue billionaires trying to keep score by increasing their own personal fortunes at the expense of working people. I fear that if we sit by passively, our children will all be working in the New Jungle, America will have lost its middle class, and with it, the American Dream will be a distant memory. The time to act is now. 

NIOSH Safety Video MOVE IT!

Move IT!

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published a video to enchance trucker safety. The video, Move IT!, Covers rig move safety for truckers in the oil and gas fields. It helps make sense of the organized chaos that accompanies and rig move and highlights of easy ways to lower the risk of being injured or killed when moving to a new location.

The video is available on the Internet through streaming. Click here to view the video.