Category Archives: Uncategorized

Let’s Get to Zero

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

A group of Boise construction workers listen to a presentation during the National Safety Stand-Down this May.
A group of Boise construction workers listen to a presentation during the National Safety Stand-Down this May.

For us at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the loss of one workers’ life is one too many. Workplace tragedies are devastating for the families and friends left behind. Their effects are long-term and far-reaching in our communities.

On Workers’ Memorial Day, we were reminded that every day, 13 American workers don’t make it back home at the end of their shift. That’s not a cold statistic but rather a fact of life for us here at OSHA. Our Boise office alone has investigated the deaths of 10 workers killed on the job in Idaho in the past 12 months. As recently as last week I watched as the bodies of two workers who had been installing a utility line were pulled out of a deadly trench collapse right here in Boise. Nobody should die for a paycheck.

Click to watch: OSHA's David Kearns talks safety at a recent event with construction workers and subcontractors.
Click to watch: OSHA’s David Kearns talks safety at a recent event with construction workers and subcontractors.

Click to watch: OSHA’s David Kearns talks safety at a recent event with construction workers and subcontractors.

Our investigation will determine exactly what happened in Boise and why it happened. But we already know this much: workplace fatalities and injuries often prove to be avoidable and caused by a lapse in safety protocol. Trench deaths are no exception. We have known for centuries how to prevent workers from getting killed in trenches.

In the coming days I…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

The Dangers of Working with Vibrating Tools

Vibration White Finger (VWF) or “Dead Finger,” now known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), is a chronic, progressive disorder caused by regular and prolonged use of vibrating hand tools that can progress to loss of effective hand function and necrosis of the fingers. In its advanced stages, the obvious symptom is finger blanching (losing color). Other symptoms include numbness, pain, and tingling in the fingers, as well as a weakened grip.

It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of the estimated 2 million U.S. workers exposed to hand-arm vibration will develop HAVS. Some common industries and the tools associated with HAVS are listed below:

  • Agriculture & Forestry – Chainsaws
  • Automotive – Impact Wrenches, Riveting Guns
  • Construction – Jackhammers
  • Foundries – Chippers, Grinders
  • Metal Working – Buffers, Sanders
  • Mining – Jack-Leg Drills, Stoper Drills

The time between a worker’s first exposure to hand-arm vibration to the development of HAVS symptoms can range from a few months to several years. Prevention is critical because while the early stages of HAVS are usually reversible if vibration exposure is reduced or eliminated, treatment is usually ineffective after the fingers blanch. 

Will It Hurt My Workers’ Compensation Case to Get a Job?

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

“Will getting a job hurt my case?”

I hear this question on a regular basis from my workers’ compensation clients. In my experience, the answer is almost always “no.” But if you do find alternate or part-time employment during your workers’ compensation case, you need to keep track of and disclose your earnings.

Why working when you are injured can help your case:

1.  Working helps your credibility with doctors and judges: 

Doctors and judges are the two most important people in your case, because the doctors drive the medical evidence and the judge weighs that evidence. Ultimately, those decisions come down to a doctor or judge’s determination of your character. A judge is going to give the benefit of the doubt to someone who is trying to help themselves. That’s also why complying with doctor’s orders and rehabilitation programs helps your credibility in court.

2.  Just because you’re working doesn’t mean that you are not significantly or even totally disabled:

Maybe your company is bending over backward to keep you. Maybe a sibling or a parent has you working at their business. In situations like that, a court is going to understand you are earning wages beyond your real potential to earn wages. You may also be enduring tremendous amounts of pain to maintain employment. In cases like that, especially if you had a good employment record and complied with your doctor’s orders, the fact that you are working through pain could very well help your credibility.

 

How to hurt your case when you work:

1.  Not disclosing your wages and employment: This is especially true if you are working while receiving temporary disability benefits or unemployment benefits. This makes you look dishonest, and you might be committing fraud in many states. Additionally, once you are in the legal process, you normally have a duty to disclose that information to your employer/insurer anyway. Even if a judge believes that you inadvertently forgot to turn over this wage information, you are still making it more difficult for your attorney to win you benefits.

2.  Clearly working beyond your medical restrictions: Let’s say a doctor takes you off work as a nurse because you can’t lift more than 25 pounds and bend and twist on a regular basis, but you keep working as a CrossFit instructor, where you regularly do heavy lifting that involves bending and twisting. If you are that person, don’t call our law firm. Though employee fraud is a very small percentage of overall fraud, conduct like that would likely be workers’ compensation fraud. Again, working can help with your credibility in a workers’ compensation case, but being dishonest about that work can hurt your case.

If you have questions about specifics in your or a loved one’s workers’ compensation case, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

Insult to Injury: ProPublica’s Series “Demolition of Workers’ Compensation” Focuses on Ongoing Workers’ Comp Woes Faced by Injured Workers Nationally

Recent years have not been favorable to injured workers. States across the nation have enacted “reform” measures curbing injured workers benefits. Disability caps have been introduced, medical care restricted. In our last blog, we discussed Oklahoma’s Opt Out provisions as an example of the court system declaring that the legislature had legislated away too much of the injured worker’s protections. A couple years ago, Florida workers’ comp laws were declared unconstitutional by a judge. Although the decision was later reversed, the Florida judge (Judge Cueto) expressed concerns regarding the loss of an employee’s right to wage-loss benefits after an accident.  

 

NPR and ProPublica have been authoring an in-depth series on national workers’ compensation issues. ProPublica reviewed “reams of insurance industry data” and their findings confirmed what many workers’ compensation attorneys suspected for years:  insurance companies are increasingly controlling medical decisions, workers are unable to pick their own doctor in many states, and insurers are denying medical care based on internal “guidelines.”

 

As an example, ProPublica’s article talks about a case in California where the insurance company reopened an old case and denied medical care based on the opinion of a doctor who never even saw the patient. “Joel Ramirez, who was paralyzed in a warehouse accident, had his home health aide taken away, leaving him to sit in his own feces for up to eight hours.”

 

The article also brings up a good point about workers’ comp fraud. Repeatedly studies show “most of the money lost to fraud results not from workers making false claims but from employers misclassifying workers and underreporting payroll to get cheaper insurance rates.”

 

Countertop Workers Face Silicosis Risk from Engineered Stone Countertops

Engineered stone countertops, a popular fixture in today’s homes, pose a health risk to workers who cut and finish them. The danger stems from the material the countertops are made from, processed quartz, which contains silica levels up to 90 percent. Silica is linked to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer and kidney disease.

While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed. When the countertops are cut, silica particles are released into the air, which when breathed in by the workers can start processes leading to silicosis. Manufacturers of the engineered stone countertops assert that worker hazards can be reduced through the use of protective respirators and equipment designed to trap silica dust. Despite this assertion, many safety precautions taken by employers are often inadequate.

The first documented case of silicosis among countertop workers in the United States was reported two years ago. In countries such as Israel and Spain, where engineered stone products gained their popularity, many more countertop workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and have had to undergo lung transplants. The danger of silicosis in the construction industry led OSHA to recently issue new rules requiring construction workers’ silica exposure to be reduced by 80 percent beginning on June 23, 2017.

Daylight Savings: Suggestions to help workers adapt to the time change

Today’s post was shared by Work Org and Stress and comes from blogs.cdc.gov

DaylightSavingsTimeWeb

Spring forward Fall back.

We all know the saying to help us remember to adjust our clocks for the daylight savings time changes (this Sunday in case you are wondering). But, what can we do to help workers adjust to the effects of the time change? A few studies have examined these issues but many questions remain on this topic including the best strategies to cope with the time changes.

By moving the clocks ahead one hour in the Spring, we lose one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour earlier. This pushes most people to have a one hour earlier bedtime and wake up time. In the Fall, time moves back one hour. We gain one hour which shifts work times and other scheduled events one hour later thereby pushing most people to have a one hour later bedtime and wake up time.

It can take about one week for the body to adjust the new times for sleeping, eating, and activity (Harrision, 2013). Until they have adjusted, people can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up at the right time. This can lead to sleep deprivation and reduction in performance, increasing the risk for mistakes including vehicle crashes. Workers can experience somewhat higher risks to both their health and safety after the time changes (Harrison, 2013). A study by Kirchberger and colleagues (2015) reported men and persons with heart disease may be at higher risk for a heart attack during the week after the time changes in the Spring and Fall.

The reason for these…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

What I Wish I Had Known Earlier in My Workers’ Compensation Claim – Thoughts from a Former Client

We frequently reach out to our clients for feedback on how to improve our services. Earlier this year, we received a very thoughtful email from one of our former clients and wanted to share his thoughts.

What I Wish I had Known Earlier

1.  Filing the workers’ compensation claim:  Employees need to know how to properly file a workers’ compensation claim. Also, there needs to be a list prepared for all employers and employees that sets out the steps both of them need to take. 

2.  Nurse Case Manager:  I wish I had better understood the nurse case manager’s role at the outset of the case. I wish I had known everything she was capable of doing, aside from just reporting to the adjuster.

3.  Emotional Toll:  The magnitude of emotional stress involved in going through a workers’ compensation claim was a surprise; was there an option for counseling? This is truly a life changing event. Counseling would have been beneficial to alleviate the stressfulness of the process and the overwhelming feelings of abandonment.  For example, the feelings of “I know I’m hurt but why can’t they see that” or “why don’t they care?”

4.  Communication:  The importance of discussing issues with an attorney as early as possible.

If you have been through a workers’ compensation claim, let us know if you have other items to add. 

How Cold is Too Cold? Tips to Protect Outdoor Workers in the Winter

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

The National Weather Service is warning much of the country about the polar vortex, an arctic air mass that is pushing much of the eastern and central U.S. down to record cold temperatures.

During this wave, workers are at increased risk of cold stress. Increased wind speeds can cause the air temperature to feel even colder, further increasing the risk of cold stress of those working outdoors, such as:

  • Snow cleanup crews
  • Construction workers
  • Recreational workers
  • Postal workers
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Miners
  • Baggage handlers
  • Landscapers
  • Support workers for oil and gas operations

When the body is unable to warm itself, cold-related stress may result in tissue damage and possibly death. Four factors contribute to cold stress: cold air temperatures, high velocity air movement, dampness of the air, and contact with cold water or surfaces.

How cold is too cold?

A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its temperature. Cold air, water and snow all draw heat from the body. The most common problems faced in the cold are hypothermia, frostbite, and trench foot.

wind chill chart

What preventive measures should I take?

Plan for work in cold weather. Wearing appropriate clothing and being aware of how your body is reacting to the cold are important to preventing cold stress. Avoiding alcohol, certain medications and smoking can also help minimize the risk.

Protective Clothing is the most important way to avoid cold stress. The type of fabric even makes a difference. Cotton loses its…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]