Monthly Archives: June 2012

Cell Tower Deaths: More To Come

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from North Carolina. We are deeply concerned about any job-related death and hope that increased safety measures can be implemented for cell tower workers.

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.

Boomer-Workforce

Surprising Findings On Baby Boomers and Worker’s Compensation

You may be surprised to learn that age does not correlate with frequency of injury.

Today we have a guest post from my friend Tom Domer of Wisconsin. 

What is the impact on worker’s compensation from aging Baby Boomers who have postponed their retirement, working much longer than the previous generation? In a study by the NCCI (National Council Compensation Insurance) some interesting and surprising conclusions resulted. It is not surprising that the number of older workers is increasing. The study looked at the frequency and severity across age groups and tried to identify factors that accounted for the severity of injuries between older and younger workers.

Among the key findings are the following:

  • The major difference among age groups occurs between the 25-34 and the 35-44 age groups. All workers 35-64 appeared to have similar costs per worker. These reassuring findings suggest an aging workforce may have a less negative impact on the lost cost per worker than many analysts originally thought.
  • Many workers’ compensation professionals have the belief that younger workers have a much higher injury rate. That appears not to be true any longer. Differences in frequency by age have virtually disappeared.
  • The major factor involving older workers involves severity. Older workers tend to have more shoulder rotator cuff claims and knee injuries while younger workers have more back and ankle sprains.
  • Higher wages for older workers are a key factor leading to higher costs for older workers. On the medical side, more treatment per claim has increased medical costs.

The study indicated that older workers account for an increasing share of the U. S. workforce. In particular, the share of workers age 55-64 has been growing steadily. The number of workers age 45-54 has increased modestly. Workers over 65 were about 3% of all workers in 2000 and about 5% in 2010. Taken as a whole, the percentage of workers over 45 has increased from 34% in 2000 to 42% in 2010. (Our practice has seen a similar increase in older workers, many of whom must remain in their positions due to reduced or non-existent pension benefits, wage and benefit cuts, and an overall poor economy.)

For more on the working Baby Boomer generation, check back with us next week.

NIOSH_Latex_Facts

NIOSH Alerts Home Healthcare Workers About Latex Allergies

NIOSH Latex FactsToday we have a guest post from my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

NIOSH (The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety) has published a booklet to educate Home Healthcare Workers about preventing latex allergies. Latex products are made from natural rubber, and sensitivity can develop after repeated exposure. Limiting exposure to latex can help prevent allergic reactions for both home healthcare workers and their clients.

Once Natural Rubber Latex (NRL) sensitivity occurs, allergic individuals continue to experience symptoms, which have included life-threatening reactions, not only on exposure to NRL in the workplace but also upon receiving or accompanying a family member receiving healthcare services at inpatient as well as office-based settings.

In September of 1997, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a final rule requiring cautionary statements in the labeling of all medical devices that contain natural rubber likely to come in contact with humans. The rule provides that such products must contain the following cautionary statement in bold print: “Caution: This product contains natural rubber latex which may cause allergic reactions.” Additionally, the FDA issued a final ruling that the labeling of medical devices that contain natural rubber, likely to come in contact with humans, shall not contain the term “hypoallergenic”.

Over the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of workers’ compensation claims filed against employers on behalf of individuals who have suffered latex allergic reactions. Scientists and government officials estimate that about 950,000 U.S. health care workers have developed an allergic sensitivity to latex.
…..
For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman 1.973.696.7900 jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Metal-Finishing-Plant

These Things Don’t Have To Happen

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

Today we have a guest post from my colleagues Leonard Jernigan of North Carolina and Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

A 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

tellyourlawyer-300x199

If You Have Symptoms, Tell Your Lawyer Immediately!

If You Have Symptoms, Tell Your Lawyer

Today’s post comes from our colleague Kate Fitzgerald of New York.

We represent a client whose hands were directly injured a few years ago. The insurance company, as part of its defense, is raising a provision in the law which requires an injured worker to file a claim for a direct injury within two years of the accident (WCL § 28). While interviewing the client, we learned that she had been feeling symptoms in her hands years ago, at the same time as she began experiencing the symptoms to other areas of her body. But because she only mentioned that her hands hurt now, we may not be able to get her the compensation she deserves.

Our client told me that originally brought up the symptoms of numbness, tingling and weakness in her hands with her doctor, but he felt these symptoms were related to her neck, another

If you are hurt, tell your attorney everything, even if you aren’t sure if it is relevant.

area where she was injured. The doctor tried to treat her hand symptoms by treating her neck first. He Continue reading

choose-a-lawyer

How To Select A Good Lawyer For Your Problem

Today we have a guest post from our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.

Selecting and hiring a good lawyer is critical in dealing with a legal problem. Lawyers are increasingly limiting the types of cases handled in an effort to provided better representation. The Internet is a common starting point for consumers to locate and select lawyers who have the right kind of knowledge and experience for their problem. I recommend the following steps for selecting a lawyer.

1. Check with family, friends, neighbors, or others whom you trust and respect to learn if they know of a lawyer or law firm who they would recommend for the kind of problem you are dealing with. This approach is the traditional way to find a professional and often leads to a good attorney-client relationship with satisfactory results.

2. Consult a general-practice lawyer you know and ask for recommendations. This approach gives you the advantage of having someone who knows area lawyers help you find the right mixture of knowledge and expertise.

3. Internet searches will turn up a large variety of lawyers who handle the kind of problem you are experiencing. Read several of the websites with a careful eye for the following:

a. Is the firm A-rated by the leading peer-rating organization Martindale and Hubbell? The ratings are very good indicators of how the firm is regarded because they come from judges and other lawyers who work with the firm.

b. Do the members of the firm appear to be actively involved in organizations dealing with your kind of problem? Are the lawyers officers or board members of such groups? Have the lawyers been speakers at seminars? This kind of activity shows the lawyers are interested in improving and protecting the law for people with your kind of problem and respected by other lawyers and judges. Here are some examples of law organizations. For employment matters, see the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA) (please link to www.nela.org). For workers’ compensation organizations, see the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group (link to www.wilg.org). For other personal-injury matters, see the American Association for Justice (link to www.justice.org). For general trial-attorney needs, see the American Board of Trial Advocates (link to www.abota.org).

c. Do the lawyers from a firm belong to any organizations indicating that they have been honored or selected for membership based on knowledge and experience?

d. Do the lawyers appear to belong the bar associations in their area? Have they served on any committees, sections, or governing bodies?

4. Go to www.martindale.com and use the lawyer search. You can search for lawyers by city, state, and specialty. Lawyers are rated as follows. AV® Preeminent™ is the highest rating, followed by BV® Distinguished™ then Distinguished. We recommend only A-rated lawyers if they are available. One way to get the best of the best is to limit the search by checking the box “Featured Peer Review Rated.” The website is very user friendly.

5. Contact the lawyer or lawyers you focus on, and talk to the lawyer. Learn how the lawyer interacts with clients. The following are some questions that might be helpful: Do you feel comfortable talking with the lawyer? Are they Internet users? Will you have a specific team of people working with you? How do they charge? Can you have Skype conferences or do they have other face-to-face conferencing options through the Internet? Will retainer documents be required and available for review before an appointment?

These suggestions provide a framework on how to locate and evaluate an attorney to help you. The references we refer to are industry standards, so they not subject to as much manipulation as other online approaches, such as reviews, testimonials, or video recommendations on lawyers’ websites.

Returning-to-work

Returning to Work Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Roger Moore of Nebraska.

Communicate with your doctor and follow a few guidelines to stay safe when you return to work.

In virtually all workers’ compensation cases an injured worker has to return to work in some capacity. Often these are very stressful situations and it is not uncommon for issues to arrise including conflict with an employer over what a safe return to work actually is. Your goal should be to continue to earn a paycheck while at the same time not risking further injury. Many times this is easier said than done.

Whether it’s a supervisor who ignores your restrictions or a human resources department that actively skirts them, issues frequently come up. We see employers do everything from requiring an injured worker to lift or stand more than they should, to pressuring an employee to return to work the day after a surgical procedure.

You can expect that a nurse case manager or HR specialist from your employer is communicating with your doctor’s office about your return to work. Sometimes they may misrepresent the work that they expect you to do upon your return. It is your job to fill in the gaps.

The most important thing an injured worker can do is communicate with his or her treating physician.

  1. Educate your doctor about the job you were doing when you were initially hurt.
  2. When you are assigned to work, educate your doctor about the light duty job you are doing.
  3. If you are assigned to a job that is difficult for you to perform due to your injury, talk to your doctor about what aspects of that job are difficult. The doctor will likely be willing to restrict you from doing that specific activity.
  4. If your employer is Continue reading
evil-boss

Workers Beware Questionable (Fraudulent) Employer Tactics

It's time to start talking about employer fraud.

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

Over the course of 35 years representing injured workers, I have heard some whoppers – Employers’ questionable tactics that make even my jaw drop. With all the insurance company generated blather about “employee fraud” incidences of employer fraudulent tactics abound. Workers beware of the following:

  • Recorded statements taken by worker’s compensation carrier adjuster while employee is under medication or in the hospital still suffering from the injury. Questions such as “It’s true you had (low back pain, arm pain, fill in the blank pain, etc.) before your work injury, correct? You’ve had lots more pain from (your motor vehicle accident, sports injury, etc.) than you’re experiencing from your work injury, correct?
  • Employer “channeling” a work to its “Return to Work Clinic” (doctors on company payroll whose opinion is “like some athletic coaches, ‘rub some dirt on it and get back in the game’.”
  • Telling employees to take sick leave rather than claim worker’s compensation.
  • Telling employees to file medical bills under their group insurance, not worker’s comp.
  • Nurse Case Manager who initially befriends the employee but later makes every attempt with the worker’s doctor to prematurely return the worker to the job before a healing occurs.
  • Employer paying worker in cash with no payroll stub (or gives workers a Form 1099 rather than a W-2). Continue reading