Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson, from The Jernigan Law Firm.
In light of the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week it may be time to re-evaluate workplace violence, which seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Technically, workplace violence is any act where an employee is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted in the workplace. It can include threats, harassment, and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks by someone with an assault rifle.
Two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. What’s worse is that workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the United States. Last year, for example, one in every five fatal work injuries was attributed not to accidents but to workplace violence, and some employees are at an increased risk for harm. For example, employees who work with the public or who handle money are more at risk (i.e. bank tellers, pizza delivery drivers, or social workers). According to the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, robbers were found to be the assailants in almost a third of homicide/workplace violence cases involving men, whereas female workers were more likely to be attacked by a relative (i.e. former spouse or partner) while at work.
Preventing workplace violence is a challenging task and OSHA advises employers to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Creating a safe perimeter for employees is crucial. Likewise, having an emergency protocol in place should reduce the number of fatalities in an attack, and that’s exactly what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut when the school’s protocol saved the lives of many children.
Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.
Starting in 2013, Nebraska is adopting a federal regulation that bans cell-phone use in any truck over 10,000 pounds. The rule applies to truck-driving professionals with 18 wheels, as would be expected. But it also includes pick-up trucks pulling horse trailers and lawn-care companies – anyone who meets the weight requirements. Many more folks in the state will benefit from decreased distracted driving, so plan ahead to change cell-phone habits! Put that Cell Phone Down and Come Out with Your Hands Up (www.nebraska.tv) Let me call you back when I get to Kansas! That’s what commercial truck drivers will have to start saying starting January 1st of next year.
Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm.
Over the past decade, North Carolina has witnessed an ongoing decrease in the number of workplace fatalities. This past year (2012) there was a total of thirty-five reported workplace fatalities. In 2004, for example, there were 90 workplace fatalities. According to the Department of Labor, the Occupational Safety and Health Division has been working with the state’s most hazardous industries to prevent deaths on the job. However, North Carolina continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 9.2 % (December 2012) and with fewer jobs there are obviously fewer chances of an accidental death on the job.
According to the National Council for Occupational Safety the number of fatalities may be artificially low. In a report published in April of 2012 entitled “North Carolina Workers: Dying for a Job,” the National Council for Occupational Safety alleges that the N.C. Department of Labor’s “report of occupational fatalities greatly understates the true extent of the problem.” (http://www.coshnetwork.org/north-carolina-workers-dying-job). The report further states that the listed fatalities “include only those cases that the state OSHA program investigated” and that their internal analysis found that about thirty additional deaths occurred in 2011. The National Council for Occupational Safety then recommended stricter deterrents to promote safe work environments, imposition of more penalties as permitted under the current statutes, as well as a special emphasis program to protect Hispanic workers.
Let’s hope that on the job fatalities continue to drop in 2013, but beyond “hope” the best way to insure a continued decrease is to make all employees and employers aware of potential life threatening dangers and then enforce compliance with safety standards.
A recent fire at a Pakistani garment factory is reminiscent of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire
Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.
The fires in two clothing factories in Pakistan on August 12, 2012, where locked exit doors and lack of safety inspections helped fuel the flames of death for over 300 people, has similarity with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York (147 deaths) in March of 1911, and the chicken factory fire in Hamlet, N.C. (54 deaths) in 1991. Both sites had locked exit doors that trapped workers. Two brothers owned the Triangle factory and two brothers owned the factories in Pakistan. Garment workers jumped to their deaths in New York and workers in Pakistan were forced to jump out of upper-floor windows to try to escape the flames. It was reported that Punjab province safety inspections were abolished in 2003 to develop a more “business friendly environment,” and the Hamlet factory had never been inspected in 11 years of operation.
The latest news is that the factories that burned in Pakistan were allegedly inspected just weeks before the fires by Social Accountability International (SAI), a nonprofit monitoring group that gets much of its financing from corporations. Western companies (like Gap and Gucci), who make clothes in Pakistan and other countries where the labor is cheap, relied on SAI to give them some peace of mind about working conditions, but the total failure of SAI to do it the job is evident. Either it was sleep walking while doing inspections and just going through the motions, or it was just a front for major corporations.
In the United Sates, as we strive to downsize government in the years ahead, we need to keep in mind that government regulations concerning safety must be enforced. If not, safety everywhere will become an issue - on the highway, in the products we use and the food we eat – and we may similarly find ourselves, or a family member, trapped in a deadly situation, with no way out.
Today’s post comes from guest author Edgar Romano from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.
The AFL-CIO has released its 2012 report on worker fatalities which also examines the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) role in ensuring safe workplaces. The AFL-CIO has been producing this report for 21 years, and we hope they continue to do so.
Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.
In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous— Continue reading
Today’s guest post comes from our colleague Tom Domer or Wisconsin.
The connection between unsafe workplaces and the increased frequency of work injuries seems like a no brainer. A study released by NCCI Holdings indicated worker’s compensation claims rose by 3% during 2010 (the first rise in frequency in over a dozen years). The study attributed the increased frequency to several factors
Because of these repeat violations,OSHA cited United Contracting and placed the firm on its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program”
including increases in employment since the onset of the recession in 2008, workers possibly being less fearful of losing their jobs for filing claims, and a lack of light duty jobs to which injured workers could return because of the poor economy.
One factor not referenced is the connection between increasingly unsafe work environments and work injuries. Two recent news stories in Wisconsin underscored this connection. OSHA fined a Wisconsin contractor $150,000
for violations while working on two bridges along highways in Wisconsin. The violation is more alarming because the contractors were working under a State contract to repaint the bridges. OSHA charged that the company did not have proper scaffolding at the bridges exposing workers to falls, and in fact one worker was injured in June after falling from a scaffold at one of the bridges. Because of these repeat violations, Continue reading
Today we have a guest post by our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.
Question: I was injured at work while violating a safety rule. Am I still covered under workers’ compensation?
Answer: Yes, probably
Even you were hurt while violating a safety rule, you are probably still covered by workers’ comp. This is true whether you violated the rule by accident or intentionally.
However, your claim may be denied if your employer can demonstrated that:
- You have prior repeated violations of safety rules.
- You have been disciplined in the past for a safety rule violation.
Even in this case, you may still be covered, depending on the circumstances. But let’s face it, nobody wants to get hurt, so follow the safety rules at all times to stay as safe as possible on the job!
Today we have a guest post from our colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.
You cannot take for granted that your workplace is safe, or that your employer is even following its own policies. Farmers Union Cooperative Supply of Stanton, Nebraska, a grain elevator, was recently sentenced in the death of an employee, Donald Stodola. Stodola was working in a confined space without proper ventilation. The lack of oxygen in the space caused Stodola’s death. Farmers knew that it was violating both a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation and its own written safety manual. Farmers’ failure to comply with regulations and its own internal policies caused a completely preventable employee death.
Farmers was fined $86,000 by OSHA because it didn’t protect Stodola from an unsafe environment. In addition to the OSHA fine, the company pled guilty to violation of a criminal statute and was fined $100,000 and placed on probation for 2 years. But, according to the Norfolk Daily News, “The criminal statute violated by Farmers provides that a willful violation of an OSHA regulation, which causes the death of an employee, is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to six months, a fine of up to $500,000 or a combination of the two.”
We think that every preventable workplace death should be prevented, and a failure to do so is inexcusable.
We do not understand why the total fines issued by OSHA and the court equal ($186,000) less than 40% of the maximum criminal fine of $500,000. Farmers pled guilty to Continue reading