Category Archives: Safety

Westport, WA Seafood Company Fined More Than $100,000 for Unsafe Forklifts

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

Forklifts are among the most hazardous vehicles in the workplace, with a great risk of injury and death if they’re not maintained and operated safely. Employers who knowingly and repeatedly expose workers to unsafe forklifts may face stiff penalties.

That’s what happened with a company in Westport. The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has cited Ocean Gold Seafoods Inc., a total of $117,740 for willful and repeated serious workplace safety violations at its seafood processing plant. Many of the violations were related to forklift safety.

The fines include a willful violation with the maximum allowed penalty of $70,000 for not performing regular safety inspections and not fixing defective items on the vehicles, like nonworking horns and broken seatbelts.

An L&I inspection found that the company rarely performed forklift inspections, and defects that were reported weren’t fixed. There were several instances where forklift seatbelts weren’t in working order, including one that was pulled completely out and wouldn’t retract. Other defects included machines without working horns. This prevented operators from notifying employees in limited visibility areas that a forklift was coming through the door and put pedestrians at risk of being struck and killed.

The employer was cited for a repeat-serious violation with a penalty of $15,400 after the inspector saw two workers operating forklifts without wearing their seatbelts. The seafood company was cited for the same issue in August 2015.

Being crushed by a forklift tipping over is the leading cause of forklift-related deaths in the U.S. If there’s an accident or tip-over, operators are much safer strapped into the seat because they are at lower risk of falling out.

Ocean Gold was cited for nine additional violations for exposing workers to fall hazards; failure to ensure emergency brakes were set on unattended forklifts; defective stair tread; exposed electrical wires; equipment and clutter stored in front of control panels; and unsafe use of extension cords. The violations carried penalties totaling $32,340.

A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition. A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. General violations are the lowest level and are cited when the violation itself wouldn’t cause serious injury or death.

The employer has 15 days to appeal. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping injured workers and families of those who have died on the job.

 

Lawyers Targeted in Terror Attack

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” is a famous line uttered by a rebel in William Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2. While on its face the quote expresses an extreme distaste for lawyers, it has also been interpreted to praise lawyers as protectors of the rule of law who guard against a totalitarian government. That interpretation is ever more applicable today in light of the recent pre-planned attack on lawyers in Pakistan by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani terror group, which killed more than 70 people, including as many as 60 lawyers.

The attack happened at a hospital where a group of lawyers had gathered to mourn the loss of the Baluchistan Bar Association president, Bilal Kasi, who was shot and killed on his way to court earlier that day. According to Ali Zafar, president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, “We [lawyers] have been targeted because we always raise our voice for people’s rights and for democracy.” Despite the attack, the lawyers vow to continue their work protecting the rights of the Pakistani people.

Back Injuries in Nursing – One Nifty Idea to Avoid Them

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

The American Nursing Association’s Handle with Care campaign seeks to educate, advocate, and facilitate change from traditional practices of manual patient handling to emerging, technology-oriented methods. The campaign seeks to highlight how safe patient handling produces benefits to patients and the nursing workforce.  The ANA’s Handle with Care Fact Sheet provides the following thought-provoking data:

A Profession at Risk

  • Compared to other occupations, nursing personnel are among the highest at risk for musculoskeletal disorders. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists RNs sixth in a list of at-risk occupations for strains and sprains that included nursing personnel, with nurses aides, orderlies and attendants (first); truck drivers (second); laborers (third); stock handlers and baggers (seventh); and construction workers (eighth). 
  • Additional estimates for the year 2000 show that the incidence rate for back injuries involving lost work days was 181.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in nursing homes and 90.1 per 10,000 full-time workers in hospitals, whereas incidence rates were 98.4 for truck drivers, 70.0 for construction workers, 56.3 for miners, and 47.1 for agriculture workers. 
  • Lower back injuries are also the most costly musculoskeletal disorder affecting workers. Studies of back-related workers compensation claims reveal that nursing personnel have the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry. 
  • Research on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses:
    • 52 percent complain of chronic back pain; 
    • 12 percent of nurses “leaving for good” because of back pain as main contributory factor; 
    • 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12 percent considering leaving profession; 
    • 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work; and 
    • 6 percent, 8 percent, and 11 percent of RNs reported even changing jobs for neck, shoulder and back problems, respectively.

One Possible Tool

The website idées créatives posted this elegant video of an automatic bed that could allow for patient repositioning and assist with moving into and out of the bed, shown in a nursing home or hospital setting. 

 

 

 

Seattle Employer Fined More Than $215,000 for Serious Safety Violations

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

A Seattle employer has been cited for multiple serious workplace health violations after a worker became entangled in a rotating shaft while working inside a confined space. In connection with the citation, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) fined Industrial Container Services $215,250 for exposing workers to serious harm or even death. L&I cited the company previously for many of these hazards, but they had not been corrected.

Industrial Container Services refurbishes metal drums and other industrial containers. The company operates a “drum shot-blaster unit,” a 24-foot long tunnel with a series of rotating shafts that move metal drums through as they’re being shot-blasted to remove paint and coatings.

L&I began its investigation in January 2015 after a worker was hospitalized after being injured while working inside a drum shot-blaster. The investigation found that workers were regularly entering the equipment to perform maintenance and repair without the necessary safety precautions.

Working inside a “confined space” area, such as the drum shot-blaster unit, without safety precautions can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Confined space hazards can include suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment and other dangerous conditions. These incidents are fully preventable.

When a confined space has hazardous characteristics that could harm workers, it’s considered a “permit-required” confined space. That means employers must control access to the area and use a permit system to prevent unauthorized entry. Anyone working in or around a permit-required confined space must be trained and there must be safety measures and rescue procedures in place.

L&I cited the company for seven “failure to abate” serious violations related to the confined space hazards, and for not ensuring that moving parts were de-energized to prevent workers from becoming caught in machinery. These violations were originally cited in October 2013 and had not been corrected. Each of the violations carries a penalty of $22,750.

L&I also cited the company for four “repeat-serious” violations and four “serious” violations related to confined-space procedures and energy control measures (lockout/tagout), with penalties ranging from $11,700 to $4,550.

As a result of these safety issues, Industrial Container Solutions has been identified as a severe violator and could be subject to increased scrutiny at all its locations nationwide.

The company has appealed the citation. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For media information or a copy of the citation, contactElaine Fischer, L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.  

 

Photo credit: XcBiker / Foter / CC BY-SA

Tips to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

-Beware_of_carbon_monoxide-_-_NARA_-_513966The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that at least 430 people die each year from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning. Several years ago we represented a young lady who was exposed to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning at a convenience store where she worked. Some repairs were being made to concrete and the workers were using gas-powered tools to cut into the concrete and there was improper ventilation. She collapsed and was taken to the hospital with possible brain damage.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that can severely damage the human body and in some cases it can lead to death. The following tips can protect your family from CO poisoning:

  • Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. These include headaches, dizziness, vomiting, confusion, weakness, blurred vision and nausea. Extreme symptoms include severely impaired mental state, coordination loss, loss of breath, increased heart rate, chest pain and loss of consciousness. Persons experiencing CO poisoning symptoms should be removed from the enclosed environment and taken to a medical professional. Call your local authorities to make a report.
  • Be aware of CO sources in your home. Any gas burning appliance such as a furnace, boiler, gas stove, water heater, fireplace and gas-powered tools can be a CO source. Make sure these types of appliances are serviced regularly to lower the risk of CO poisoning.
  • Don’t put a gas generator in the house, garage or outside your house near a window. Generators have the capability of producing CO levels several hundred times those found in normal automobile exhausts. The CDC recommends that generators should be used at least 20 feet away from your house in a properly ventilated area.
  • Install a CO detector to alert of a possible CO leak.

For more information please visit www.serpefirm.com/personal-injury-blog/.

 

Workers’ Comp Covers Work-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents

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

Do you drive a company vehicle as part of your job?

Many find themselves in the situation where they travel regularly, or on a special errand from time to time, as part of their job. 

In the unfortunate scheme of things, if you are involved in an accident while driving, whether it is your fault or not, you are covered by and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits just as any other employee who suffers an accident on the premise of an employer.

More importantly, if the cause of the accident was not due to negligence of your own, but that of a third party, you have a right to bring a third-party negligence action against the party responsible for causing the vehicle accident. This right is separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. Further, you also potentially have the right to bring an underinsured motorist coverage claim under your employer’s motor vehicle coverage as well as your own underinsured motorist vehicle coverage. These, too, are separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. 

It is important to note that the employer would have a subrogation right to be reimbursed for workers’ compensation benefits paid on your behalf against that of any third-party negligence claim where you obtained a recovery. However, as underinsured motorist coverage is typically viewed as contractual benefits in nature, there is no subrogation right from your employer if underinsured benefits are obtained in Nebraska.

If you or someone you know was injured in a motor vehicle accident that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment, there are significant issues to be aware of in order to obtain a recovery that meets your needs. If you have any questions or uncertainty when dealing with this point of law, please seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help steer you in the best course of action.

Construction Site Falls – Leading Cause of Fatalities in the Construction Industry

On January 23, 2014, a young man, only 30 years old, fell to his death while working on a Raleigh construction site. According to news reports, the deceased was working on scaffolding on an apartment complex and fell approximately five stories. The North Carolina Department of Labor is investigating the accident. It’s unclear exactly what went wrong.

Unfortunately, this was the second construction accident within one week in Raleigh. On January 22, 2014, a platform collapsed at North Carolina State University and three workers were injured. Fortunately, none of the injuries appear to be life-threatening. However, one of the injuries involved a trauma to the head which is always cause for serious concern.

Falls are the leading cause of fatalities in the construction industry. According to OSHA, the four main causes for workplace falls are (1) unprotected sides, wall openings, and floor holes, (2) improper scaffold construction, (3) unguarded protruding steel rebars, and (4) the misuse of portable ladders.

In North Carolina, we follow the “unexplained-fall rule” which holds that “if an employee sustains a fall and there is no evidence that it arose from a cause independent of the employment, compensation [i.e. disability and medical benefits] should be allowed.” North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Law and Practice, with Forms, 4th Edition, Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr.

While workers’ compensation benefits should be provided in these type of cases, in some situations the injured worker may also have a personal injury claim against one of the building contractors. 

Fear of Reporting Safety Claims

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

Workers often fear retaliation if they report a safety violation or work injury related to a violation. Concerns about being fired or other forms of retaliation by employers permeate the process of worker’s comp claims filing. Studies have indicated that retaliatory fear prompts many workers not to file either OSHA or workers’ comp claims. Workers also don’t want to be perceived as careless or complaining. In a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of OSHA reporting, occupational health providers often reported to workers’ fear of retaliation as a reason for underreporting. Fully 2/3 of health providers “reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness.”

Pressure from co-workers also prompts failure to report safety violations and comp claims. Safety incentive programs (sometimes called “safety bingo” ) create incentives not to report, since non-reporting leads to a reward for a work group. If one worker reports his injury, the entire crew may pay the price. The GAO survey found this peer pressure to be a troubling factor contributing to underreporting to OSHA. (Anecdotally, I remember a worker who cut off his finger on a Friday, wrapped it in a hankie and put it in his pocket , rather than report the injury and disappoint his fellow employees looking forward to a case of beer reward for “100 consecutive safe work days”).

OSHA is currently proposing new electronic, public reporting rules for large employers.