Monthly Archives: May 2014

Ship Breaking – Unsafe Working Conditions on the Beaches of Bangladesh

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

Today’s post was shared by Kit Case and comes from www.gCaptain.com.

 

Cargo Ships on Beaches…Really?

By On August 30, 2013
 

A perspective on ship recycling and how to end beaching 

Like most other things, ships don’t last forever. After 25-30 years they are no longer commercially usable and therefore taken out of service to be dismantled. The materials are recycled to a lesser or greater extent – since a large cargo vessel may consist of 20-40,000 tons of steel, they clearly have a market value as steel scrap.

The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that.  People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.

Unsurprisingly, ship breaking is one of the most dangerous industries. According to the EU Commission, it is six times more likely to die at work in the Indian shipbreaking industry than in the Indian mining industry, and according to a recent report from Sustainalyitics, 1,000 people died in the Bangladesh ship breaking industry over a 10 year period.

[Read the rest of the article…]

Photo: Shipbreaking at Alang. Photo: IMO, via www.gCaptain.com

“No Trauma” Does Not Mean No Injury

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

I’ve been investigating Wisconsin and national fraud statistics in worker’s compensation to prepare for a national presentation I am making in Cape Cod in July. One fascinating and recurring basis for denial of worker’s comp claims (and potential claims against employees for fraud) stems from an insurance carrier’s review of the initial medical report.

Often the physician or emergency room nurse, physicians assistant or First Responder will ask an injured worker “Did you have any trauma?” If the answer to the question is “no”, the medical records will routinely indicate “no trauma”. This information is translated by the insurance carrier as a denial that an injury occurred. The level of medical sophistication for an injured worker is routinely limited. Most of my clients (and based on inquiries with other workers’ attorneys, their clients as well) believe a trauma is something akin to getting hit by a bus. They do not equate the notion of trauma with lifting a heavy object such as a table or a box. The criteria for traumatic injuries in most states, including Wisconsin, is that a single incident or episode caused the injury or aggravated a pre-existing condition beyond a normal progression. In many cases a lack of “traumatic injury” at the initial medical presentation is not an accurate indication of whether a traumatic injury actually occurred.

Can I Get Fired For Filing Bankruptcy?

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

Low and middle income people are the last people to benefit from any economic recovery. For many economic recovery means a return to work the opportunity to put their household finances in order with steady income provided by a job. Unfortunately unpaid debts often mean that employees get garnished  or even having to file bankruptcy.

Congress intended for bankruptcy to allow for people to get a fresh start so they prohibited discrimination based on bankruptcy and even let employees sue employers for such discrimination. But this law is not as strong as other laws prohibiting discrimination on factors such as race or sex for two reasons.

First of all, your status as a debtor in bankruptcy must by the sole cause of job loss. Discrimination is difficult enough to prove already under either a motivating factor or proximate cause standardsole cause is more exacting than even the difficult proximate cause standard. If your employer has any other legitimate reason to fire you besides your bankruptcy, then a court will likely find the termination was lawful. The only way for an employee to preserve any type of discrimination case is not to give the employee a reason to terminate them because of their poor performance , attendance or poor attitude. But even good employees can get fired legitimate reasons such as restructuring and economicreasons.

Secondly most courts do not believe that bankruptcy discrimination prohibits employers from failing to hire employees based on bankruptcy.

Title VII and most state anti-discrimination laws state that a failure to hire based on certain protected categories is unlawful activity.

Finally in any discrimination claim, the employer needs to be aware of your protected status. In a bankruptcy discrimination case this means that your employer had to have known about your bankruptcy status prior to firing you. Some employees get fired because  employer doesn’t want to deal with a garnishment.  Most people, me included, think that such an action is wrong or unfair. But unless your employer knows that garnishment is linked to your bankruptcy status, then firing you based on that garnishment is legal  – unless the garnishment is a cover or pre-text for another unlawful reason.

I would encourage anyone reading this post to contact their U.S. Senator or Congressperson and ask them to change the bankruptcy discrimination statute to mirror other federal anti-discrimination laws such as Title VII.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Set for April 26

Today’s post comes from guest author Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Mark your calendars! As part of spring cleaning duties, I know people are sorting through the stuff in their homes, donating what they can, and figuring out how to recycle or dispose of what can’t be donated. As a mom of a child with food allergies who requires the use of epinephrine auto-injectors, I realize the challenge in making sure expired or no-longer-needed prescriptions are exposed of appropriately, because of the needles and strong medicine involved in this type of prescription. Many prescriptions should not be thrown away or, worse, flushed down the toilet to affect the water supply. Unused prescription drugs can also be dangerous to people for whom they are not prescribed, so it’s essential to dispose of these prescription drugs properly.

A number of the firm’s clients are injured workers who are often prescribed medication as a consequence of a work injury. But not all of these medications are used or needed, and some even expire, and then sit at home taking up space because folks don’t know what to do with them.

Please extend your spring cleaning to April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This program is coordinated with local law enforcement through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.

The Office of Diversion Control website gives a couple of search options to find a site near you that accepts “unused or expired medication for safe disposal.” Either search by zip code or by county/city and state via either of the two links on the site listed above.

The direct link to the search tends to “time out” and essentially sends you back to the site above, so it’s easiest to click through where it mentions “Locate collection sites” or “Click here for a collection site near you.” In addition, an 800 number, 1-800-882-9539, is available for people to ask questions about the program by speaking to customer-service representatives. But believe me when I say it’s easier to find this information on the website than it is to try to speak with someone. After a couple of easy searches on the website, I am pleased that there are what I consider a reasonable number of sites available in both Nebraska and Iowa.

Why should you and I care to make the effort of participating in a drug take-back day? This informative website from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains in general terms about disposing unused medicine, and it seems that dropping the drugs off at an approved site on April 26 is one of the easier options. In addition to the general good feeling people get from the act of reducing clutter, returning unused, unneeded medicines to a take-back event means we all don’t have to worry about the medicine getting into the water supply, which sometimes happens through flushing, or getting into the hands of a person who might abuse it, which can happen when meds are thrown away. See the site above for additional “Guidelines for Drug Disposal” if there’s not a drug take-back day available close by, so people can make sure medications are disposed of safely.

Thanks in advance for keeping us all safer by disposing of unneeded prescription medicine properly.

Are Forklifts Dangerous?

 The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers forklifts under the section called Powered Industrial Trucks, and you have to be certified to operate these lifts. The smaller ones you see weigh up to 7,000 pounds and they are so dangerous some experts consider them “inherently dangerous.”

It is in violation of federal law to operate a forklift if under the age of 18, and OSHA requires that you be specifically trained. See 29 CFR 1910.178. If operated properly, a forklift is no more dangerous than any other piece of heavy machinery. However, if the operator is not properly trained and certified bad things can happen. We now represent a young man who was allowed to operate a forklift without any certification and the forklift turned over on him and crushed him, damaging several internal organs and his spine. He survived, but he is partially paralyzed from the waist down. He will have a lifetime of pain. He has lost the use of both feet.

Other examples are workers being crushed when a forklift accidentally runs into them. The human body cannot withstand a crush impact from a 7,000 pound machine. If the lifts on the forklift are elevated with a heavy load, the potential for a tip-over is greatly increased, even if the operator is moving slowly. Never underestimate the power of a forklift.

For more information go to osha.gov and review Powered Industrial Trucks.

What Money Can’t Buy

Michael J. Sandel, a professor of government at Harvard, has written an insightful book called What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012) about the “for-sale” sign that applies to almost everything that has value, from sky boxes in football stadiums to police cars in local communities. These days, everything seems to be fair game. For example, a woman allowed her forehead to be tattooed with a brand name for $10,000. Even the tattoo artist tried to talk her out of it.

Are there any moral limits on what corporations can buy, and what the public is willing to sell? Have we entered a great divide where corporate sponsors sit in heated sky boxes while the rest of us shiver during a heavy snow fall at a football game? Are we losing that sense of community of shared experiences?

Sandel summarizes the problem as follows: “Democracy does not require perfect equality, but it does require that citizens share in a common life. What matters is that people of different backgrounds and social positions encounter one another, and bump up against one another, in the course of everyday life. This is how we learn to negotiate and abide our differences, and how we come to care for the common good.”

Somewhere along the way we (as a community, state and nation) have to decide whether we will continue to be polarized or whether we will work together for the common good. How we make that decision will determine our fate over the next several decades.