Category Archives: Workplace Injury

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Nanotechnology in the Workplace

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.

During cancer research in 1986 an accident created the first man-made nanoparticle, an incredibly small particle which can absorb radiant energy and theoretically destroy a tumor. One type of nanoparticle is 20 times stronger than steel and is found in over 1,300 consumer products, including laptops, cell phones, plastic bottles, shampoos, sunscreens, acne treatment lotions and automobile tires. It is the forerunner of the next industrial revolution.

What is the problem? Unfortunately, nanoparticles are somewhat unpredictable and no one really knows how they react to humans. A report out of China claims that two nano-workers died as a result of overexposure, and in Belgium five males inhaled radioactive nanoparticles in an experiment and within 60 seconds the nanoparticles shot straight into the bloodstream, which is a potential setup for disaster. In a survey of scientists 30% listed “new health problems” associated with nanotechnology as a major concern.

Lewis L. Laska, a business law professor, wrote an article in Trial Magazine (September, 2012) in which he advised lawyers to become knowledgeable about nanoscience and be aware of the potential harm to workers and others who come in contact with this new technology, particularly because the EPA, FDA and OSHA have neither approved nor disapproved the use of nanostructures in products. It has been said that workers are like canaries in the cage (in mining operations), and if nanoscience is a danger then workers’ compensation lawyers will be the first to see it and appreciate it.

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North Carolina Workplace Deaths Lower in 2012

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.

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Compensation for Secondary Smoke Inhalation

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

Recent article indicates some public health departments are offering incentives to create smoke-free policies in buildings. The idea is to reduce the exposure to second-hand smoke.

While substantial strides have been made in many states to provide both smoke-free public places and smoke-free workplaces, the dangers of secondary smoke inhalation remain. Continue reading

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“I’m In It for the Money!”

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

Surprisingly, many employers and insurance companies actually believe workers hurt themselves on purpose or at the very least put themselves in positions where they think an injury is likely. We hear this a lot as a basis for not settling claims for existing employees. Employers are worried that it will encourage other employees to get injured as well. What does that say about the particular employer who believes this? Either they are downplaying lots of injuries or they truly believe employees are willfully getting hurt.

The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury.

In this age of limited, and in some cases very limited, workers’ compensation benefits, you would have to be an imbecile to actually believe people are willingly causing permanent injuries to themselves to cash in on the “windfall” that is workers’ compensation. Who would honestly trade even thousands of dollars for a lifetime of uncompensated pain and suffering? The reality is that most of our clients come to us because their injury-related medical bills are not being paid or they’re not being paid for time off from work due to their injury. The vast majority of them don’t even ask how much they could get for their injuries in their initial meeting with us, as I’m sure is the case with most workers’ compensation law firms.

This is one of a long line of personal-injury myths perpetrated by the insurance industry to make filing a workers’ compensation claim a stigma. It’s similar to the one about “if you file a claim our premiums will go up and they’ll have to shut down the plant.” Shouldn’t the question really be: are we requiring too much physically of our employees, and if so, what can we do to make things safer? Instead, Continue reading

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The Costs and Complications of The Other Disease on Workers’ Compensation Claims

Source: NCCI

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

Employers and their insurance companies are responsible for the treatment of all medical conditions that arise from an industrial accident or exposure. A recent study published by The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) concludes that costs are soaring as medical conditions become more complicated by other conditions known as comorbidity diagnoses. These conditions are frequently: obesity, hypertension, drug abuse, chronic pulmonary conditions, and diabetes.

While the average medical cost for a workers’ compensation claim is approximately $6,000, the medical cost of an individual claim can be a few hundred dollars or millions of dollars. In 2010, an NCCI study found that claims with an obesity comorbidity diagnosis incurred significantly higher medical costs than comparable claims without such a comorbidity diagnosis. Relative to that study, this study expands the number of comorbidities examined and provides additional information on both the types of claimants receiving comorbidity diagnoses and the types of providers submitting comorbidity diagnoses.”

KEY FINDINGS

  • The share of workers’ compensation claims with a comorbidity diagnosis nearly tripled from Accident Year 2000 to Accident Year 2009, growing from a share of 2.4% to 6.6%. Claims with a comorbidity diagnosis have about twice the medical costs of otherwise comparable claims.
  • Comorbidity diagnoses for hypertension are the most prevalent of those investigated.
  • The initial comorbidity diagnosis tends to occur early in the life of a claim.
  • Hospital and physician visits account for a majority of visits resulting in a recorded comorbidity diagnosis.
  • Only a small portion of visits result in the recording of a comorbidity diagnosis.

View complete report: Comorbidities in Workers Compensation

 

 

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Can Cell Phones Cause Cancer (On The Job)?

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer.

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

An Italian court ruled that excessive mobile phone use can cause cancer. Italy’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling linking a business executive’s brain tumor and excessive mobile phone use. While much of the scientific opinion generally suggests there is not enough evidence to declare such a link, those studies were co-financed by the same companies that produce mobile telephones. The evidence in the Italian case was based on studies conducted between 2005 and 2009 by a group led by Dr. Lennart Hardell, cancer specialist at the University Hospital in Orebro in Sweden. The Italian court, relying on this research, noted this was independent research unlike other research financed by mobile telephone companies. The business executive Innocenzo Marcolini developed a tumor in the left side of his head after using his mobile telephone for 5 to 6 hours a day for a dozen years. He usually held the phone in his left hand while taking notes with his right hand.  He developed a “neurinoma” which affected his cranial nerve, and sought worker’s compensation from the Italian Worker’s Compensation Authority. The initial application was rejected because of a lack of proof but a court in Brescia later ruled there was a causal link between the use of mobile and cordless telephones and tumors.

Wisconsin provides benefits for an employee’s death or disability due to a cancerous condition if causally related to work exposure to carcinogens. There are numerous potential cancer causing agents in the workplace, but none so far have been linked to cell phone use. The causation standard is straightforward in Wisconsin. If the patient suffers from a condition caused by an “appreciable period of workplace exposure” the physicians are asked whether that exposure was either the sole cause of the condition or at least a material, contributory, causative factor in the condition’s onset or progression. This Italian court case suggests a further inquiry into the subject may be appropriate.

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10 Things To Do If You Get Hurt At Work

If you are hurt at work make sure to follow these guidelines to protect your rights

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Jones from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

When you’re injured at work in New York, people often ask what they should do immediately following the accident. There are several basic things you should do to protect your rights under New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.
  1. Report the accident to your supervisor/employer as soon as is possible. Under NYS law you have 30 days to give your employer notice of the accident. Report the injury to your supervisor and be clear about how it happened and that it happened at work.
  2. Follow up with your employer to ensure they have prepared an accident report. If a report is not being prepared, you should write a letter stating the circumstance of the accident for your Supervisor. If you can, send your letter by email or have your supervisor sign a note that acknowledges receipt. A paper trail is always helpful.
  3. When you receive a copy of the accident report, or any paperwork from your employer or its insurance carrier, be sure to make copies for yourself. Keeping your own file is always helpful in the long run. You should bring that file with you to hearings to show your attorney and the judge, if needed.
  4. If you are a member of a union, you should tell your shop steward of the injury as well. Be sure that you report to the shop steward who you gave notice to, when you gave it, and ask what your union policy is on Workers’ Compensation injuries.
  5. Keep a log of<!–more–> all significant contacts you make along the way. Note your doctor visits, conversations in adjusters, and any documents received.
  6. If you are out of work because of your injury, you need to see your doctor every 45-90 days (depending on your injury). The reports that your doctor submits to the NYS Workers’ Compensation Board is the evidence required to support your continuing disability. Without those reports your treatment may be obstructed and any indemnity payments you’re receiving may be stopped.
  7. When you visit the doctor remember to be clear and discuss in detail the circumstances of your injury. Everything from what job you do, to where you were hurt, to the mechanics of the injury (For example: Did you fall backwards? Sideways? Land on your knees? Your back? Some other way?)
  8. If your doctor says you can return to work in a lighter capacity, be sure to get a letter that lays out what physical restrictions you have. You should keep a copy for yourself and provide copies to your employer.
  9. Do not be afraid to follow up with your doctors to get copies of the medical reports they are submitting to the Board. Up to date medical evidence is an essential component of a workers’ compensation claim. You do not want to leave your fate to the efficiency and prowess of others to prepare, scan, and upload documents to State computer programs.
  10. If your doctor tells you that treatment has been denied, discuss the need for treatment with your doctor and ask if he/she needs you to sign a “variance” request to affirm you would like to bring the issue to the Board.

Sometimes the “smell test” is most applicable. If something doesn’t smell right don’t be afraid to consult your attorney (or retain one if you haven’t already). There are a number of moving parts in these cases — doctors, adjusters, independent medical consultants, physical therapists, judges, your lawyers, insurance company lawyers — that asking questions and doing your best to get a firm grasps on the status of your claim is only going to help you as you recover from your injury.

If I am Hurt on the Job, What Should I Tell My Doctor?

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

One of the most important parts of any case is the history of your injury that you provide to your doctor when you first see him or her.

If you were hurt during a specific incident, make sure to tell your doctor how you were hurt, when you were hurt, where the injury took place, and who else was present. Tell him about the pain and symptoms that you have been experiencing. Also be sure to describe in detail all of the body parts that you have injured. Even if one injury hurts more than the others, make sure to tell your doctor about every single injury.

If you have been hurt by repetitive-work activities, be specific about the number of movements that you make. For instance, tell your doctor about the number of times you lift or grip things in an hour, day, or week.

If you have been hurt by exposure at work, whether it is to a hot, humid environment, chemicals, or any other environmental condition, be specific when you tell your doctor about the pain and symptoms that you have due to that exposure.

If you leave work and become better, and then return to work and experience an increase in your symptoms, be specific when you tell your doctor about any changes in your condition.

It is important to be accurate and honest the first time that you seek treatment with your doctor, for both your health and your workers’ compensation claim.