Category Archives: Safety Gear

NFL Bounties – Intentional Injuries

NFL players can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits

The injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent. If you stay around long enough you will have multiple injuries. This high “natural” injury rate makes it hard to understand how a team could give awards to players who injure other players, but that’s just what the New Orleans Saints did, and now appeals are being filed against rulings that impose penalties for those acts. Most NFL players are high wage earners and have an average of five years in the league. They don’t need opposing players intentionally trying to hurt them. It’s already dangerous enough out there on the field.

Can you imagine the uproar if management at a business told workers they should intentionally hurt other workers of a competitor? The idea of intentional injuries is reprehensible and in North Carolina our state Supreme Court ruled in Woodson v. Rowland (1991) that if an employer knowingly places an employee in a position where the employee is substantially certain to be seriously injured or cause death, then the employer can be sued in civil court by the employee or the survivors of the employee. The workers’ compensation statute, with limited benefits, is the exclusive remedy for employees, except for this one exception.

It is hard to find a case that rises to the extremely high standard set forth in Woodson. Here are two examples that didn’t quality:

  1. A 17 year-old boy was pulled into a pallet shredder and crushed to death. Although there were 11 safety violations by the employer and the machine’s guards had been removed, no civil action was allowed.
  2. A man lost his left leg when he fell into an auger with inoperable safety switches. No civil claim was allowed.

This is a tough standard. Employers gave up liability defenses when they accepted the workers’ compensation system and one of the most powerful things they got in exchange was the waiver of the right of an employee to seek damages in civil court, before a jury. The NFL, as an employer, is no different than other employers in this respect. Given the serious injuries sustained by professional football players, the NFL should not complain when compensation claims are filed, usually because of career ending injuries.

Cell Tower Deaths: More To Come

On May 22, 2012 the PBS Frontline series ran a devastating story about cell tower deaths in this exploding industry and at the end of the story, after it had revealed how little concern is being shown for the safety of men who climb these towers, one man was quoted as saying “people will die.”

It was reported that the accident rate on cell towers is ten times the rate of accidents in the construction industry. So, we know people will die and it’s as predictable as snow in Colorado in the winter, yet it looks like nothing will be done.

One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely.

The Frontline story outlined the tremendous growth of cell towers, particularly between 2006-2008 as the demand grew for internet connections all over the country. Carriers like AT&T wanted to get rid of dead zones and in order to do that they needed more towers and they needed them built quickly to out pace the competition. One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely. As a result, safety took a back seat to getting the job done.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventually fell 200 feet to his death, primarily because he was not wearing a safety harness that would have prevented his fall. He had been ‘free-climbing” (no harness) to move more quickly,and many others did the same thing. OSHA requires that the employer enforce safety.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventualy fell 200 feet to his death.

The boss can’t just leave it up to the employee and when a death occurs blame the employee for not following safety rules, but that is what always happens. Eleven deaths occured in one year on AT&T jobs and they stopped work (finally) to discuss the problem. Last year there were no deaths on AT&T towers. It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

Unfortunately, the demand is still high and as these towers continue to be built you will hear about falls,serious injuries and deaths, all at a tragic cost to families who are affected. As Americans, are we going to enforce safety or are we going to be like some other countries who just don’t seem to care? If we don’t care about safety enforcement for cell towers how long will it be before some other lack of safety compliance affects us – like airline pilot safety, bridge construction safety, or car safety – and a son,daughter, father or other person we care about is injured? We will ask ourselves why we

didn’t do more to stop this madnness. We know “people will die” yet we do nothing? We have to stop hoping that safety will be enforced. We have to demand it.

Cell Tower Deaths: More To Come

On May 22, 2012 the PBS Frontline series ran a devastating story about cell tower deaths in this exploding industry and at the end of the story, after it had revealed how little concern is being shown for the safety of men who climb these towers, one man was quoted as saying “people will die.”

It was reported that the accident rate on cell towers is ten times the rate of accidents in the construction industry. So, we know people will die and it’s as predictable as snow in Colorado in the winter, yet it looks like nothing will be done.

One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely.

The Frontline story outlined the tremendous growth of cell towers, particularly between 2006-2008 as the demand grew for internet connections all over the country. Carriers like AT&T wanted to get rid of dead zones and in order to do that they needed more towers and they needed them built quickly to out pace the competition. One well known builder said his company might do 4 towers in a year, but now they were being asked to do 40, and there was no way to properly train new men to do that work safely. As a result, safety took a back seat to getting the job done.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventually fell 200 feet to his death, primarily because he was not wearing a safety harness that would have prevented his fall. He had been ‘free-climbing” (no harness) to move more quickly,and many others did the same thing. OSHA requires that the employer enforce safety.

A 21 year old man who had dropped out of school to find a job was paid $10 an hour full time to construct towers and he eventualy fell 200 feet to his death.

The boss can’t just leave it up to the employee and when a death occurs blame the employee for not following safety rules, but that is what always happens. Eleven deaths occured in one year on AT&T jobs and they stopped work (finally) to discuss the problem. Last year there were no deaths on AT&T towers. It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

It’s amazing what can happen when companies make safety a priority.

Unfortunately, the demand is still high and as these towers continue to be built you will hear about falls,serious injuries and deaths, all at a tragic cost to families who are affected. As Americans, are we going to enforce safety or are we going to be like some other countries who just don’t seem to care? If we don’t care about safety enforcement for cell towers how long will it be before some other lack of safety compliance affects us – like airline pilot safety, bridge construction safety, or car safety – and a son,daughter, father or other person we care about is injured? We will ask ourselves why we

didn’t do more to stop this madnness. We know “people will die” yet we do nothing? We have to stop hoping that safety will be enforced. We have to demand it.

NFL Concussion Suits Barred by “Exclusive Remedy”? Why can’t I sue my employer?

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Tom Domer or Wisconsin.

We get calls every day from angry injured workers who want to sue their employer for negligence. It could be an employer removing a guard on a machine, a foreman ignoring a safety rule, or an injury caused by an employer’s failure to train an employee. Many employees are genuinely and bitterly disappointed when we explain a worker cannot sue his employer for negligence and that his only “exclusive” remedy is through worker’s compensation.

Aaron Rodgers concussionIn liability suits filed by hundreds of former pro football players who suffer from concussion-related injuries, the players claim the league negligently mislead them about the dangers of concussions. Attorneys for the injured players indicate it is likely the NFL will argue that football players should be covered exclusively by worker’s compensation.

The deal cut by employers and workers in Wisconsin in 1911 still stands: Employers give up the right to common law defenses (contributory and co-employee negligence, assumption of risk) for a fixed schedule of benefits; employees give up the right to sue their employer in tort (and to recover tort-like damages) in return for worker’s compensation benefits. No matter how nefarious the employer or Continue reading

Toradol And Intentional Injuries To NFL Football Players

New Orleans Saints BountyI just returned from a yearly meeting of about 50 workers’ compensation lawyers who are approved by the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) to represent NFL players in the workers’ compensation field.  My firm helps the Carolina Panthers players if they need advice or legal representation in a claim, which are rarely made, but are sometimes filed if there is an injury that ends a professional career.

What would you think about an employer who paid its employees to intentionally injure you? Accidents happen and no one wants those in the workplace, but a deliberate injury is another mattter. That happened with the New Orleans Saints. Coaches paid athletes to intentionally hurt others and knock them out of games. Stiff sanctions have been imposed by the NFL and there will be more fallout from this action by the Saints.

On April 14 The New York Times reported that many professional athletes have been given shots of Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that is given in emergency rooms to relieve pain. It numbs the affected area and allows the player to play and ignore the warning signs (pain and inflammation) of injury. A lawsuit has been filed claiming the NFL knew or should have known that the indiscriminate use of Toradol could cause further injury, and the NFL  has denied the claims. Stay tuned for a follow up article on these allegations.

Unsafe Workplaces Lead To More Injuries

 

Today’s guest post comes to us from Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

The connection between unsafe workplaces and the increased frequency of work injuries seems like a no brainer. A study released by NCCI Holdings indicated worker’s compensation claims rose by 3% during 2010 (the first rise in frequency in over a dozen years). The study attributed the increased frequency to several factors including increases in employment since the onset of the recession in 2008, workers possibly being less fearful of losing their jobs for filing claims, and a lack of light duty jobs to which injured workers could return because of the poor economy.

Because of these repeat violations,OSHA cited United Contracting and placed the firm on its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program”

One factor not referenced is the connection between increasingly unsafe work environments and work injuries. Two recent news stories in Wisconsin underscored this connection. OSHA fined a Wisconsin contractor $150,000

for violations while working on two bridges along highways in Wisconsin. The violation is more alarming because the contractors were working under a State contract to repaint the bridges. OSHA charged that the company did not have proper scaffolding at the bridges exposing workers to falls, and in fact one worker was injured in June after falling from a scaffold at one of the bridges. Because of these repeat violations, Continue reading

These Things Don't Have To Happen: Metal Plant Receives $51K Fine After Employee Is Burned

Following basic safety precautions woud keep employees like these injury-free.

A recent blog post (below) by Jon Gelman about OSHA violations at the Anthony River, Inc plant is another example of why we need to change the lax culture of safely compliance in America. It’s human nature to pick out articles in newspapers, magazines and on-line that interest you, and when I see articles about plant explosions (like the chemical plant explosion in Apex, NC or the chicken processing fire in Hamlet, NC), or mine disasters (West Virginia), or oil spills (Louisiana), I have a heightened awareness because I have represented people in similar tragedies and I know what they are going though.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen. Most of us may notice these events, but until it happens to you it’s usually just a news item and not much more. Employers don’t want these things to happen, but unfortunately some of them are willing to gamble with heath and safety. They have liability insurance and workers’ compensation to clean up the mess they make, and some times they actually think the risk is worth it. No life is worth that risk.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen.

Here is Jon’s post (reprinted with permission):

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Anthony River Inc. for nine serious and three repeat violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned at the metal finisher’s Syracuse plant.

“While it is fortunate that no life was lost here, this is a graphic example of the harm that workers and businesses can suffer when basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards are neglected,” Continue reading

Imagining A World With No Workers' Compensation Lawyers

Survivors express their sorrow after a deadly and preventable mining accident in W. Virginia.

On January 13, the North Carolina Department of Labor announced that 53 people died on the job in North Carolina in 2011. Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry was quoted as saying: “the real tragedy is that all of the these fatalities could have been avoided.” I wholeheartedly agree. 53 deaths is 53 too many. When I see news stories about explosions and other tragic events that needlessly harm or kill workers, often spewing toxic chemicals into the surrounding environment harming entire communities, I can’t help but think about how it all could be avoided if companies embraced a culture that puts safety first and simply followed the proper guidelines and procedures. I see companies spend a lot of time and money to fight the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) over fines and penalties but rarely see the same effort being put into protecting their workers in the first place.

Employers, I challenge you to make safety as much of a priority as profits. Stop wasting time and money fighting against worker safety and instead focus your efforts on saving lives.

It may be hard to believe given my chosen profession as a workers’ compensation lawyer but if I had my way, workers’ compensation lawyers like me would be obsolete. We’d go the way of horse-drawn carriages and 8-tracks. We exist because many companies treat worker safety as an afterthought. The workers’ compensation system provides employers with immunity from lawsuits for most on the job injuries — they are required to buy workers’ compensation insurance, so why bother spending more to protect workers if they get no return on that money spent? Continue reading