Monthly Archives: April 2013

Safety Begins at Home: Riddell All-American Sports Cited for Serious Safety Violations by OSHA

Riddell-The Official Helmet of the NFL

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

Recently there have been many discussions and lawsuits about NFL player safety arising out of serious brain concussions from football. In a ironic turn, a company who manufatures football safety gear has itself been sited for serious safety vilations at its own manufacturing facilities. The apple certainly doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Riddell All-American Sports Co. with eight alleged serious violations following an investigation that began in August 2012 from a complaint for exposing workers to multiple safety and health violations at its Alamo Downs Parkway facility in San Antonio. Proposed penalties total $44,000.

The serious violations include failing to ensure electrical equipment was free from recognized hazards, provide adequate machine guarding while operating industrial sewing machines, provide a fall protection program to prevent fall hazards from the basket of a powered industrial truck and implement a respiratory program. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

“It is the employer’s responsibility to assess the hazards in the workplace and provide a safe and healthful environment for its workers,” said Kelly Knighton, OSHA’s area director in San Antonio. “In this case, it is fortunate that no one was hurt.”

Elyria, Ohio-based Riddell, which employs about 25 workers at the San Antonio site, paints helmets for various sports, such as football and hockey. The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s San Antonio office or contest the citations and penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s San Antonio office at 210-472-5040.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.

How Does Social Security Help Me Get Back to Work?

The SSA has programs to help disabled people rejoin the workforce.

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

As I discussed in a previous post, you don’t have to be on Social Security Disability (SSD) forever. Many people find that their medical conditions improve and they want to try to get back to work. However, it’s hard to get back into the workforce after being out of it for a long time, and people are worried about losing their eligibility for benefits if they try to go back to work but are unsuccessful.

Social Security recognizes that it can be difficult for people to get back into the labor market and that people would be reluctant to go back to work if they would automatically lose entitlement to their disability benefits. To address these concerns, Social Security runs several programs to help people transition back into the workforce while maintaining financial eligibility.

Social Security has many programs and policies to help people return to work, but I will discuss two of these programs in some detail. These are the Ticket to Work program and the Trial Work Period.

The Ticket to Work program gives disabled individuals access to a network of services that offer retraining and vocational rehabilitation. This is a free, completely voluntary program. Once you reach out to them, you will Continue reading

What Should I Have Ready For My First Meeting With My Lawyer?

We provide a questionnaire for you to fill out before our first meeting

Today’s post comes from guest author Nathan Reckman from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

Most injured workers seeking an attorney’s help on their workers’ compensation claim have never hired an attorney before. This post gives a brief overview of how you can prepare for your first meeting with your attorney after you have been hurt at work.

The most important part of that first meeting takes place before you ever set foot in the attorney’s office. For your attorney, the goal of the first meeting is to gain an accurate understanding of the facts surrounding your injury. This is so the attorney can assess how the law will be applied to your case. In order for the attorney to make an accurate assessment, you have to be prepared to Continue reading

Shortcuts at the Social Security Administration Mean Mistakes

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

Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Social Security Administration (SSA), frustrated by the backlog of applications for disability benefits, started pressuring the 140 doctors the agency uses to help evaluate some of the claims. In an effort to encourage the quick processing of claims doctors were paid a flat rate of $80/case in stead of the previous $90/hour to review the cases. Many times these cases have hundreds of pages of records to be reviewed and can turn on a few sentences.

In this setting it’s every more important to seek the help of a treating physician in offering a supportive report.

Also, doctors were assigned to evaluate conditions that were not in their areas of expertise. One of the more interesting quotes came from Neil Novin, former chief of surgery at Baltimore’s Harbor Hospital, who worked for Social Security part time for about 10 years. He said “People who shouldn’t be getting [disability] are getting it, and people who should be getting it aren’t getting it”. In my experience Continue reading

Slow Recovery Affects Workers' Compensation Benefits and Costs

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm.

A Press Release by the National Academy of Social Insurance

 

WASHINGTON, DC – Workers’ compensation benefits declined to $57.5 billion in 2010 according to a report released today by the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). The drop in workers’ compensation benefits was largely due to a 2.1 percent drop in medical benefits for injured workers. Employers’ costs for workers’ compensation also fell by 2.7 percent in 2010. As a share of covered wages, employers’ costs in 2010 were the lowest in the last three decades.

 

“As a share of covered wages, employers’ costs in 2010 were the lowest in the last three decades.”

 

“Employers’ costs as a percent of payroll declined in 43 jurisdictions,” said John F. Burton, Jr., chair of the study panel that oversees the report. “This decline is probably due to the slow pace of the recovery, with many jurisdictions still experiencing relatively high unemployment rates.”

 

Workers’ Compensation Benefits, Coverage, and Costs, 2010

Total

2010

Change   Since 2009 (%)

Covered workers (in thousands)

124,454

-0.3%

Covered wages (in billions)

$5,820

2.6%

Benefits paid (in billions)

$57.5

-0.7%

Medical benefits

$28.1

-2.1%

Cash benefits

$29.5

0.7%

Employer costs (in billions)

$71.3

-2.7%

Per $100 of Covered Wages

2010

Change   Since 2009 ($)

Benefits paid

$0.99

-$0.03

Medical benefits

$0.48

-$0.03

Cash benefits

$0.51

-$0.01

Employers’ costs

$1.23

-$0.06

Source: National Academy of Social Insurance, 2012.

 

The new report, Workers’ Compensation: Benefits, Coverage and Costs, 2010, is the fifteenth in the series that provides the only comprehensive data on workers’ compensation benefits for the nation, the states, the District of Columbia, and federal programs. 

 

“This report represents the first time the Academy has released employers’ costs by state.”

  

This report represents the first time the Academy has released employers’ costs by state. For a table showing employers’ costs for all fifty states and the District of Columbia, refer to Table 12 (page 34).

Most states reported a decrease in the number of workers covered but an increase in covered wages between 2009 and 2010. During the same period, the total amount of benefits paid to injured workers declined in 26 jurisdictions and increased in 25. As a share of payroll, benefits paid to injured workers fell by three cents to $0.99 per $100 of payroll in the nation.

The share of medical benefits for workers’ compensation has increased substantially over the last 40 years. During the 1970s medical benefits nationally accounted for 30 percent of total benefits, whereas in 2010 the share of benefits paid for medical care was almost 50 percent. Experts attribute this trend to the rising cost of health care.

Nanotechnology in the Workplace

During cancer research in 1986 an accident created the first man-made nanoparticle, an incredibly small particle which can absorb radiant energy and theoretically destroy a tumor. One type of nanoparticle is 20 times stronger than steel and is found in over 1,300 consumer products, including laptops, cell phones, plastic bottles, shampoos, sunscreens, acne treatment lotions and automobile tires. It is the forerunner of the next industrial revolution.

What is the problem? Unfortunately, nanoparticles are somewhat unpredictable and no one really knows how they react to humans. A report out of China claims that two nano-workers died as a result of overexposure, and in Belgium five males inhaled radioactive nanoparticles in an experiment and within 60 seconds the nanoparticles shot straight into the bloodstream, which is a potential setup for disaster. In a survey of scientists 30% listed “new health problems” associated with nanotechnology as a major concern.

Lewis L. Laska, a business law professor, wrote an article in Trial Magazine (September, 2012) in which he advised lawyers to become knowledgeable about nanoscience and be aware of the potential harm to workers and others who come in contact with this new technology, particularly because the EPA, FDA and OSHA have neither approved nor disapproved the use of nanostructures in products. It has been said that workers are like canaries in the cage (in mining operations), and if nanoscience is a danger then workers’ compensation lawyers will be the first to see it and appreciate it.

OSHA Reaches Employer Agreement to Stop Discouraging Employee Accident Reports

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

Statistics regarding the reporting of accidents have historically been challenged for accuracy as employees have been fearful about reporting events, and employers have been reluctant for numerous reasons, including the potential of increased insurance costs. Now OSHA has taken a significant step to legitimize the process by seeking an employer accord not to take adverse actions against employees for reporting injuries in the workplace.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has signed an accord with BNSF Railway Co., headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, announcing BNSF’s voluntary revision of several personnel policies that OSHA alleged violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and dissuaded workers from reporting on-the-job injuries. FRSA’s Section 20109 protects railroad workers from retaliation for, among other acts, reporting suspected violations of federal laws and regulations related to railroad safety and security, hazardous safety or security conditions, and on-the-job injuries.

“Protecting America’s railroad workers who report on-the-job injuries from retaliation is an essential element in OSHA’s mission. This accord makes significant progress toward ensuring that BNSF employees who report injuries do not suffer any adverse consequences for doing so,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It also sets the tone for other railroad employers throughout the U.S. to take steps to ensure that their workers are not harassed, intimidated or terminated, in whole or part, for reporting workplace injuries.”

The major terms of the accord include:

  • Changing BNSF’s disciplinary policy so that injuries no longer play a role in determining the length of an employee’s probation following a record suspension for a serious rule violation. As of Aug. 31, 2012, BNSF has reduced the probations of 136 employees who were serving longer probations because they had been injured on-the-job.
  • Eliminating a policy that Continue reading

I Told My Supervisor – Why Do I Need To File An Accident Report In Writing?

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

QUESTION: I TOLD MY SUPERVISOR ABOUT THE ACCIDENT BUT I DID NOT SUBMIT AN ACCIDENT REPORT. AM I GOOD TO GO WITH THE VERBAL NOTICE?

ANSWER: ALWAYS REPORT AN INJURY IN WRITING

Joe was working a construction job when Mike accidentally beaned Joe on the head with a 2X4. After seeing a couple of Tweety Birds and a whole bunch of stars, Joe went down to his supervisor’s station and told him he had just had an accident. Then he went off to the ER to make sure he was not seriously injured, relieved he had taken care of business at the job site. All he had to do now was get better.

No, Joe! No! Yes, Joe satisfied the notice requirement. However, Joe was NOT good to go.

Supervisors sometimes have a funny habit of forgetting conversations or oral notices of an accident. Even if Joe’s supervisor were his best friend, when push came to shove there could be no telling what the supervisor might say in Court front of a Judge. Furthermore, Continue reading