Category Archives: Workers’ Compensation Reform

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

dystoniafoundation

Dystonia Is Often Misunderstood

Dystonia FoundationToday we have a guest post from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.

Several years ago I had a client in North Carolina who was an insurance man. While taking some papers out of the back of his car at work he slipped, hit his head and developed a neurological conditon called “Dystonia.” I did some research and discovered that it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily.

it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily

Significantly, I also found out it can be caused by trauma, although often dystonia develops without any trauma and may be genetic. The case was denied by the workers’ compensation carrier (and Continue reading

Tom-Harkin

Lobbying In D.C. On Behalf Of Injured Workers

Senator Tom Harkin and I met in D.C. to discuss the legal rights of injured workers.

On April 17, my colleagues from WILG (Workers Injury Law & Advocacy Group) and I gathered in Washington D.C. to lobby Congressional representatives on behalf of injured workers. We discussed several bills that will affect the interests of workers in Iowa and across the United States.

I had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Chuck Grassley, Congressman Bruce Braley and Congressman Dave Loebsack in their offices where we discussed the following bills:

  • The MSP and Workers’ Compensation Settlement Agreement Act of 2012
  • The Akaka Amendment to S. 1789, The Post Service Reform Bill (an amendment to strip from S. 1789 those provisions that deform the Federal Employee Compensation Act).

As I explained at these meetings, the MSP and Worker’s Compensation Settlement Act of 2012 is necessary for three reasons:(1) to bring some reasonable and understandable system to CMS’ current uncertain and regulation-less system of establishing Medicare Set-aside Plans for workers’ compensation settlements; (2) to allow for an appeal of CMS’s MSA determination; and (3) to bring some reasonable time limits to CMS’ process of setting the MSA required for workers’ compensation settlements.

The Akaka Amendment to strip the FECA deform provisions out of S.1789 is necessary because the FECA deform provisions wrongfully reduces monetary benefits and treats the injured worker like a fraud (mandating period independent medical examinations, vocational rehabilitation and field nurses to hound the injured worker).

Workers’ compensation reform is a constant threat to the rights of workers across the country. It is important that all of us who participate in the work’ comp’ system do our part to protect and preserve these legal rights.

grain_elevator

Employer Pleads Guilty For Grain Elevator Death

grain elevator

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

0905_headdown

Death by Overwork: Is It Compensable?

Dangerously long working hours are a problem around the world.

Today we have a guest post from my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

Since the 1960s there has been serious social concern over health problems due to long working hours in Japan. Around that time the term Karoshi, or “death from over work,” became known.

Recent national statistics show that more than 6 million people worked for 60 h or more per week during years 2000 and 2004. Approximately three hundred cases of brain and heart diseases were recognized as labour accidents resulting from overwork (Karoshi) by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) between 2002 and 2005. Consequently, the MHLW has been working to establish a more appropriate compensation system for Karoshi, as well as preventive measures for overwork related health problems.

In 2001, the MHLW set the standards for clearly recognizing Karoshi in association with the amount of overtime working hours. These standards Continue reading