Category Archives: Uncategorized

Sometimes You Need Help

Last month our firm held a planning retreat in the beautiful town of Chapel Hill. We reaffirmed our firm’s slogan: “Accidents Happen, Sometimes You Need Help.”

Frequently we speak to injured workers during our free consultation about getting medical treatment. It’s frustrating and scary for an injured person to have to wait for authorization for surgery or a medical referral. Treatment delays are inefficient for everyone. It delays the recovery and, as a result, the return to work. Our goal is to expedite medical care when possible by following up with the workers’ compensation adjuster to have treatment approved and, if necessary, file a motion with the North Carolina Industrial Commission.

In a case I had last year, we were hired because the insurance company was dragging its feet authorizing an orthopaedic back doctor. After several communications, the adjuster agreed the referral to an orthopaedic back doctor was authorized. Sadly, the “orthopaedic doctor” that was authorized by the adjuster was actually a gynolcologist-obstetrician for my male client! Furthermore, it took several additional contacts to finally correct the situation and get my client to the appropriate doctor. Finally, my client was evaluated by an orthopaedic doctor, received medical treatment, and was also able to continue working.

Our firm sees these problems every day. I believe we (injured workers’ lawyers and insurance companies) should have a common goal:  Recovery and return to work. But “sometimes you need help” to get to that point.


Employee Injured during Employer Sponsored Laser Tag Event = Compensable.

One question that comes up frequently, or at least routinely, in North Carolina workers’ compensation claims involves employees injured while playing or participating in recreational activities while on-the-clock or part of an employer-sponsored team building event.


The North Carolina Supreme Court clearly answered this question in Frost v. Salter Path Fire & Rescue, 361 N.C. 181, 185, 639 S.E.2d 429, 433 (2007) when it held that the N.C. Workers’ Compensation Act applied to “injuries occurring during recreational and social activities related to employment” and that this “well established in the jurisprudence of North Carolina.”


Most recently, this issue again arose before the North Carolina Court of Appeals in Holliday v. Tropical Nut & Fruit Co., No. COA14-1030. In Holliday, the employee was attending an out-of-town mandatory sales and marketing conference. One of the activities that was part of the conference was a laser tag activity which was assigned by the employer to the employee. While Plaintiff was “covering the floor [of the laser tag arena],” he felt a sharp pain in his leg and had to stop playing the game. He immediately informed his manager of the injury.


The Court of Appeals affirmed the North Carolina Industrial’s Commission decision finding that Holliday’s leg injury “arose out of his employment” and accordingly awarded him medical and disability benefits. In its analysis, the Court of Appeals considered six factors: 


  1. Did the employer in fact sponsor the event?
  2. To what extent was attendance voluntary?
  3. Was there some degree of encouragement to attend?
  4. Did the employer finance the occasion to a substantial extent?
  5. Did the employees regard it as an employment benefit to which they were entitled as of right?
  6. Did the employer benefit from the event, not merely in a vague way through better morale and good will, but through such tangible advantages as having an opportunity to make speeches and awards?


In the Holliday case, the Court of Appeals found that the employer financially sponsored the laser tag event, expressly mandated employee attendance, took attendance at the events, and benefited from the event. As a result, the injury was found to arise out of the employment and disability and medical benefits were awarded.



Apparent Corporate Negligence Caused Tianjin Explosion in August

On August 12, 2015, a series of chemical explosions in Tianjin, China sent a massive fireball into the sky. The ensuing gulf of fire blazed for hours. Shocking images and video recordings of the apocalyptic scene streamed across the internet. The explosion killed 112 people. More than 500 people were hospitalized as a result of the explosion and at least 34 people are still missing. Hundreds of homes were destroyed, leaving thousands with nowhere to go.

Frighteningly the exact cause of the explosion remains unknown. Chinese prosecutors suspect the explosion was caused by the construction of a hazardous chemical warehouse in the port “despite knowing the location broke safety regulations” and did not “pass safety checks though it did not meet the required standards” (see BBC article “Tianjin Officials Suspected of Negligence Over Port Explosion.”)

The company that owned the explosion site had a license to handle dangerous chemicals but only since June. Their prior license lapsed in October. “After the first license expired, we applied for an extension. We did not cease operation because we did not think it was a problem. Many other companies have continued working without a license,” Yu Xuewei, chairman of Rui Hai International Logistics, was quoted by state news agency Xinhua as saying.

The exact environmental ramifications of the explosion are still unknown. However, it is clear that there is an ongoing need for workplace safety measures. Even though these explosions took place in China, North Carolina has suffered multiple serious explosions in the past decade. The explosions at the ConAgra plant in Garner in 2009 and the Environmental Quality Industrial Services facility in Apex in 2006, illustrate how important it is to closely monitor operations. 

A New Standard for Beryllium

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

collage of metallic items made out of beryllium

Beryllium is a remarkable metal: lighter than aluminum but strong as steel. It’s found in a wide range of products, from cell phones to satellites, is an important material for the defense industry, and it is an essential component of nuclear weapons.

But exposure to beryllium can be deadly. The danger arises when beryllium-containing materials are processed in a way that releases the metal into the air that is breathed by workers.

On Aug. 6, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a long-awaited measure aimed at protecting workers from harmful exposure to beryllium by proposing to dramatically lower the amount of beryllium allowed in the air that workers breathe.

The current allowable amount was set originally by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1948, and adopted by OSHA in 1971, before the risks of long-term exposure were well understood. But we have known for decades that the allowable exposure levels for beryllium are inadequate.

The proposed rule − which would apply to about 35,000 workers − is significant for many reasons, but two are especially noteworthy.

First, this rule will save lives and reduce suffering.

We estimate that each year it will prevent almost 100 deaths and 50 illnesses. This includes cases of the debilitating, incurable condition known as chronic beryllium disease, as well as lung cancer.

Second, we are able to make this announcement because of a historic collaborative effort between industry and labor.

Together, the…

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NIOSH Training for Nurses on Shift Work and Long Work Hours

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

Training and Education

CDC Course Numbers: WB2408 and WB2409

Course Description

The purpose of this online training program is to educate nurses and their managers about the health and safety risks associated with shift work, long work hours, and related workplace fatigue issues and relay strategies in the workplace and in the nurse’s personal life to reduce these risks. Part 1 (CDC Course No. WB2408) is designed to increase knowledge about the wide range of risks linked to these work schedules and related fatigue issues and promote understanding about why these risks occur. This knowledge provides background information for Part 2 of the training program. Part 2 (CDC Course No. WB2409) is designed to increase knowledge about personal behaviors and workplace systems to reduce these risks. Content for this training program is derived from scientific literature on shift work, long work hours, sleep, and circadian rhythms.

Suggested Citation:

NIOSH, Caruso CC, Geiger-Brown J, Takahashi M, Trinkoff A, Nakata A. [2015]. NIOSH training for nurses on shift work and long work hours. (DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2015-115). Cincinnati, OH: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. []

Technical Requirements

Computer hardware (desktop, laptop, tablet, mobile devices); internet connection. To run this course, your web browser must support and enable…

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Federal Regulators Link Workers’ Comp Failures To Income Inequality

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from

A few hours after ProPublica and NPR issued the first in a series of reports about workers’ compensation “reforms” sweeping the country, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration coincidentally released a paper linking workplace injuries to income inequality.

The OSHA paper and ProPublica/NPR stories come to similar conclusions about how some injured workers have been affected by a decade of changes in workers’ compensation laws, including cutbacks in benefits and more difficulty in getting benefits.

But OSHA goes on to say that many injured workers and their families find themselves in “a trap which leaves them less able to save for the future or to make the investments in skills and education that provide the opportunity for advancement.”

Among the paper’s other major points:

  • On average, injured workers earn $31,000 or 15 percent less in the 10 years following a workplace injury
  • Employers pay only 21 percent of the costs of workplace injuries through workers’ compensation. Families end up bearing 50 percent of the costs and taxpayers pay 16 percent when workers resort to food stamps or Social Security Disability.
  • With employers not bearing the full costs, which OSHA characterizes as a subsidy, the incentive to provide a safe workplace is undermined.
  • Fewer than 40 percent of eligible injured workers apply for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • In California, 1/3 of workers with reported amputations at work did not receive workers’ compensation benefits. In…

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Join the conversation: What does it mean to grow old in America

Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from

Editor’s Note: This has been cross-posted from the AOL blog. You can view the original here.


America is aging — as a country. As of last year about one in seven Americans was older than 65, and by 2030 it will be closer to one in five Americans. Aging impacts all of us, regardless of how young or old.

From health care to finances, our aging nation creates new challenges and issues for all Americans — baby boomers and millennials alike.

This Monday, July 13, the White House is highlighting the issues involved with growing old in America today.

As a special part of that event, AOL is teaming up with the White House to help shed light on this important topic. As part of our comprehensive coverage throughout the day, Labor Secretary Tom Perez will be answering questions live on Monday on — and you can be part of the discussion.

Here are the top issues we’ll be discussing:

  • Impact to the work force
  • Health at all ages
  • Retirement security, today and in the future
  • Housing and financial security

Submit questions and join the conversation on how aging is transforming the work force and impacting the economy with @AOL and @LaborSec with the hashtag #WhiteHouseOnAOL on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine — or even in the comments below.

Click here to tweet or submit your questions on Twitter using #WhiteHouseOnAOL, then tune in to @AOL on Monday, July 13th at 12:30 p.m. ET to be a part of the live Twitter chat with @LaborSec.

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The workers’ compensation system is broken — and it’s driving people into poverty

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from

There’s a good news/bad news situation for occupational injuries in the United States: Fewer people are getting hurt on the job. But those who do are getting less help.

That’s according to a couple of important new reports out Wednesday on how the system for cleaning up workplace accidents is broken — both because of the changing circumstances of the people who are getting injured, and the disintegration of programs that are supposed to pay for them.

The first comes from the Department of Labor, which aims to tie the 3 million workplace injuries reported per year — the number is actually much higher, because many workers fear raising the issue with their employers — into the ongoing national conversation about inequality. In an overview of research on the topic, the agency finds that low-wage workers (especially Latinos) have disproportionately high injury rates, and that injuries can slice 15 percent off a person’s earnings over 10 years after the accident.

“Income inequality is a very active conversation led by the White House,” David Michaels, director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, said in an interview. “Injuries are knocking many families out of the middle class, and block many low-wage workers from getting out of poverty. So we think it’s an important component of this conversation.”

There are two main components to the financial implications of a workplace injury. The first is the legal…

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