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Memorial Day Holds Much Meaning

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

Memorial Day is another opportunity to reflect and remember. I recently came across a post from Financial Carrier Services Inc. on Google+ that was a nice summary of what Memorial Day really means. Many people spend this holiday with family and friends, and some of these gatherings contemplate the more somber, traditional meaning of the day. Others have to work on Memorial Day and don’t really get a holiday. And other folks are navigating the roadways on one of the few holidays they get from their employer a year. Meanwhile, many truckers are on a schedule with loads and focused on safety with the increased traffic on the weekend that’s the unofficial start of summer. I urge all to be safe on roads, around grills, swimming pools, and in whatever celebration is planned. Please also look into the Memorial Day celebrations that the majority of communities have planned with veterans’ organizations for the day. Regardless of what you end up doing, please take some time today to remember fallen soldiers, explain to your children, and remind your friends and family the true meaning of the holiday.

We would like to take time this Memorial Day to remember the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, and to thank all of our men and women in uniform for their service.

We also know that today is a national holiday and the symbolic beginning of summer, so we hope that everyone is enjoying their time off and being safe. For your information, below is a list of grilling safety tips adopted from a guidepublished by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Gas Grill Safety Tips

  1. Check the tubes that lead into the burner for any blockage from insects, spiders, or food grease. Use a pipe cleaner or wire to clear blockage and push it through to the main part of the burner.
  2. Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  3. Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease. If you can’t move the hoses, install a heat shield to protect them.
  4. Replace scratched or nicked connectors, which can eventually leak gas.
  5. Check for gas leaks, following the manufacturer’s instructions, if you smell gas or when you reconnect the grill to the liquid petroleum (LP) gas container. If you detect a leak, immediately turn off the gas and don’t attempt to light the grill until the leak is fixed.
  6. Keep lighted cigarettes, matches, or open flames away from a leaking grill.
  7. Never use a grill indoors. Use the grill at least 10 feet away from your house or any building. Do not use the grill in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch, or under a surface that can catch fire.
  8. Do not attempt to repair the tank valve or the appliance yourself. See an LP gas dealer or a qualified appliance repair person.
  9. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions that accompany the grill.
  10. Store LP containers upright, and never near a grill or indoors or in a hot car or car trunk.
  11. Do not store or use gasoline or other flammable liquids near the grill.

Charcoal Grill Safety Tips

Charcoal produces carbon monoxide (CO) when it is burned. CO is a colorless, odorless gas that can accumulate to toxic levels in closed environments. Each year about 30 people die and 100 are injured as a result of CO fumes from charcoal grills and hibachis used inside.

To reduce these CO poisonings:

  1. Never burn charcoal inside of homes, vehicles, tents, or campers. Charcoal should never be used indoors, even if ventilation is provided.
  2. Since charcoal produces CO fumes until the charcoal is completely extinguished, do not store the grill indoors with freshly used coals.

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What’s the Connection Between Worker Safety, Employer Profit, and Voting?

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

A recent newspaper article about a Nebraska lawyer fighting against imposing OSHA regulations on small businesses and farms that handle grain illustrates an age-old conflict between Worker (human) safety and Business (corporate) profit. The lawyer argued OSHA compliance is too expensive for small businesses and farms.

I couldn’t disagree more. From my point of view, worker safety is immeasurably more valuable to society than business profit. Human beings are the most important component of any activity, including business. Viewing safety as a cost ignores the cost to the human beings who are burned and maimed by grain explosions, whether they happen at a small business/farm or a huge corporate grain facility.

Farms in Nebraska and Iowa are not required to provide workers’ compensation for their employees. This is justified on the grounds that farms can’t survive such government intervention. I find this an interesting argument from businesses that have long received subsidies from the government. It seems that farm profits are more important than the human beings who do the work to earn those profits.

Our society needs more laws to protect human beings from injury and to compensate them if injured for the profit of others. Candidates for public office need to be asked what matters more to them: Is it human beings or profits that matter more?

Justice Louis Brandeis of the U.S. Supreme Court wrote long ago: “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”  

If we keep electing representatives who favor the concentrated wealth, then human beings will likely be protected less. These are scary times as the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” continues to grow. Ballots are the only way to tell our representatives that the health and welfare of human beings is paramount. Voting is essential, or we will see more and more concern for profit and less and less concern for human beings.

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Summer Means Safety Reminders for Teen Workers

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

L&I urges workplace safety for teens as summer hiring season nears

Teens are gearing up to search for summer jobs and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is urging employers, parents and others to support safety during “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” in May.

A total of 477 youth ages 12-17 were injured in the workplace in 2013, making this year’s observance more important than ever, said Mary E. Miller, occupational nurse consultant with L&I and a youth employment expert. Of the total, 156 were in the food and hospitality industries. The next largest total, 66, occurred in the retail trades. There were no fatalities.

“Teens are eager to work and may not question a workplace situation that doesn’t seem right,” Miller said. “We’re trying to ensure youth perform safe and appropriate work and employers, parents and teachers can all help.”

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a proclamation making May “Safe Jobs for Youth Month” across the state. More information is available at www.TeenWorkers.Lni.wa.gov. The agency also offers presentations from injured young workers for students. Miller can provide a separate talk for employers and teachers.

In recent years, the number of injuries has increased despite an overall decrease the past decade. Injuries in 2003 totaled 1,135. In 2011, injuries reached a low of 425 before increasing the next two years. Injuries range from lacerations, strains and sprains to more serious fractures and concussions, Miller said.

“Employers are eager to give young workers a start in the world of work” Miller noted. “The result is we need to continue to help employers provide teens with tasks appropriate to their age.”

In general, 14- and 15-year-olds may perform lighter tasks, such as office work, cashiering and stocking shelves. Work assignments for 16- and 17-year-olds can be less restrictive and can include cooking, landscaping, and some use of powered equipment and machinery. The limits on the hours of work for all minors vary by age.

Generally, if safety equipment other than a hard hat, eye protection or gloves is required, then it’s not an appropriate job for minors. All minors are prohibited from working with powered equipment such as meat slicers and forklifts, Miller noted.

In agriculture jobs, restricted job duties differ for youth. The agency has specific information on its website at its Agricultural Jobs for Teens page.

 

Photo credit: The Library of Congress / Foter / No known copyright restrictions

Wrongfully convicted man files suit against police, prosecutors

Deon Patrick, right, and his son Deon Patrick Jr., after he was released from prison.

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from articles.chicagotribune.com

A Chicago man who spent more than two decades behind bars for a double murder before prosecutors dismissed his conviction filed a federal lawsuit Monday that alleges police and prosecutors coerced him into confessing to a crime he did not commit.

Deon Patrick, 42, was serving a sentence of life without parole before he was released from prison in January.

"I can never get back what they’ve taken from me," Patrick said in an interview following a news conference with his attorneys. "I just want to be able to take care of my family, make sure my kids are OK, make sure their kids are OK. That’s what I’m trying to do with this lawsuit."

Patrick was a co-defendant of Daniel Taylor, who was convicted in the same November 1992 double murder even though records showed he was in a North Side police lockup when the murders occurred. Taylor, Patrick and six co-defendants all confessed, implicating each other – seemingly giving strength to the confessions that were the centerpiece of the prosecution.

But the records that showed Taylor was in the lockup ultimately undermined the cases. Taylor was freed last summer after Cook County prosecutors moved to drop his conviction. Patrick’s release followed, and both have since obtained certificates of innocence in Cook County Circuit Court. Taylor also has sued police and prosecutors over allegations they conspired to cover up evidence of his innocence.

Authorities alleged that Taylor, Patrick and two others shot Sharon…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

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Obesity Prevalence by Occupation in Washington State

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

Truckers, movers, and police and firefighters are likeliest to be obese. Doctors, scientists and teachers are the healthiest.

Those are the results of a first-of-its-type study the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries sponsored connecting what you do for work with obesity. The study also examined the percentage of workers in specific occupations who smoke, have adequate fruit and vegetable servings, participate in leisure time exercise and report high physical demands of their job.

“This is the first state-level study using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data to estimate occupation-specific obesity.” 

“The objective of the research was to identify occupations in need of workplace obesity prevention programs,” said Dr. David K. Bonauto, associate medical director for L&I’s research division. “Employers, policy makers and health practitioners can use our results to target and prioritize prevention and health behavior promotions.”

The study, “Obesity Prevalence by Occupation in Washington State, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System,” was published earlier this year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study was based on more than 88,000 participants the CDC contacted in the state in odd years from 2003-2009. It found that nearly 1-in-4 workers statewide were obese.

“We know obesity poses a threat to public health,” Dr. Bonauto said. “This is the first state-level study using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data to estimate occupation-specific obesity. All states within the U.S. could have this data if questions about occupation and industry were added to many state and national health surveys.”

Truck drivers were the most obese, nearly 39 percent. The proportion of current smokers was highest also for truck drivers, who – with computer scientists and mechanics – had the lowest proportion of adequate servings of fruits and vegetables. “Truckers are likely influenced by the availability of food choices, such as fast food and convenience stores,” Dr. Bonauto noted.

The study has its limitations. Because researchers used self-reported height and weight, there might be an underestimate of obesity. Also, the body mass index results don’t distinguish between fat and muscle mass. Police and firefighters, for instance, had a high prevalence of obesity but also had the highest proportion of vigorous leisure time physical activity.

Those with less education and an income less than $35,000 had a significantly higher likelihood of being obese, according to the study. Workers who had regular servings of fruits and vegetables and adequate physical exercise were less likely to be obese.

 Photo credit: kennethkonica / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Medical Care Politics in Worker’s Compensation

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

The mythology surrounding employee fraud in worker’s compensation is pervasive. Many of my clients begin their conversations with me indicating the following: “I’m not one of those folks faking their worker’s compensation claim.”  The exaggerated media publicity concerning employee fraud has also resulted in outright worker intimidation regarding filing a claim. I had this conversation today with a prospective client.

Attorney: Why didn’t you report the incident?
Client: I didn’t want to have that on my record.  Nobody will hire me if I have a worker’s comp injury.
Attorney: Why didn’t you seek medical treatment?
Client: I do not have insurance.
Attorney: Can you obtain insurance under the Affordable Care Act?
Client: You mean Obamacare?  No way!

Fear of being stigmatized as a complainer, whiner, or simply a recipient of worker’s compensation benefits has prompted many legitimately injured workers from filing a worker’s compensation claim.

The adverse publicity concerning the Affordable Care Act (and its pejorative popular name “Obamacare”) results in many otherwise qualified workers from obtaining the health care they need, especially when denied by a worker’s compensation insurance carrier. 

The politics of medical care intrudes in the worker’s compensation arena daily.

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Examining the Reality of Workers’ Memorial Day

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm and Emily Wray Stander, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

We write this blog post to bring attention to an article that was a big dose of perspective about all the recent Workers’ Memorial Day celebrations. The official day is April 28 for Workers’ Memorial Day, and many groups spend a lot of effort in organizing events, discussing safety, and holding memorials. Unfortunately, as the article points out, those efforts don’t always translate into safer workplaces and fewer fatalities.

What Karen C. Yotis and Robin E. Kobayashi did was talk to “a few thought leaders in the workplace safety arena” to get the reality of the situation by asking the question: “Has worker safety improved at all during the past year?” The experts they spoke with included “Tammy Miser, Founder/Executive Director of United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities; Kim Bobo, Executive Director for Interfaith Worker Justice; Charles R. ‘Chuck’ Davoli, 2014 President of Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and a Louisiana Workers Advocate; and Rebecca Shafer, attorney, author, and a workers’ compensation/risk management maven who has spent her professional life advocating for safe workplaces.”

There is often a disconnect between thought and reflection and then taking action to change a situation. The blog post treads into the waters of holding people and businesses accountable and also taking action that leads to long-term change in the form of safer work environments.

Attorneys Rod and Jon Rehm are members of WILG’s Board of Directors, which is currently led by Mr. Davoli, and the other attorneys at Rehm, Bennett & Moore are all members of WILG because of the group’s efforts towards both accountability for businesses and safety for workers.

While we urge you to read the entire blog post that’s linked to in the first paragraph, here are a couple of thought-provoking highlights.

First, it is striking that a “cost containment expert” like Ms. Shafer describes how businesses must focus on safety. Although it’s at the end of the linked article, Ms. Shafer’s commentary is excellent – the article says that she “speaks out so passionately on the employer’s obligation to keep an unrelenting focus on safety.” Here’s a partial quote that she gave to the article: “ … the bottom line is that each employer needs to make safety the #1 priority. … Until worker safety is TOP priority, a company will continue to have very little success in achieving a balanced workers’ compensation insurance program.” She writes about making safety a higher priority than profitability, but realistically, companies would be much more profitable if they were also much safer.

Finally, Mr. Davoli shared a list of “nine safety elements” for “the construction and building trades” that a Workplace Safety Task Force created in Louisiana with WILG’s help.

Here’s that excellent list:

“1. A designated safety budget as part of the normal operating budget.

 2. A formal safety committee that meets on a regular schedule.

 3. An employer that pays employees for the hours they spend attending voluntary off-duty safety training sessions.

 4. A formal personal protective equipment training program.

 5. Written and formal safety goals that are updated periodically.

 6. Safety training for subcontractors.

 7. Detailed safety reports to employees on a regular basis.

 8. Regularly scheduled safety training programs for existing employees.

 9. A disciplinary procedure for employees who commit unsafe acts.”

The reflection portion of Workers’ Memorial Day must turn to action. The reality is that until businesses buy into and change their work culture to be safe, there will always be a need to remember those who were killed at work.

Thanks to Ms. Yotis and Ms. Kobayashi for writing such an excellent piece.

Are Forklifts Dangerous?

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

 The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) covers forklifts under the section called Powered Industrial Trucks, and you have to be certified to operate these lifts. The smaller ones you see weigh up to 7,000 pounds and they are so dangerous some experts consider them “inherently dangerous.”

It is in violation of federal law to operate a forklift if under the age of 18, and OSHA requires that you be specifically trained. See 29 CFR 1910.178. If operated properly, a forklift is no more dangerous than any other piece of heavy machinery. However, if the operator is not properly trained and certified bad things can happen. We now represent a young man who was allowed to operate a forklift without any certification and the forklift turned over on him and crushed him, damaging several internal organs and his spine. He survived, but he is partially paralyzed from the waist down. He will have a lifetime of pain. He has lost the use of both feet.

Other examples are workers being crushed when a forklift accidentally runs into them. The human body cannot withstand a crush impact from a 7,000 pound machine. If the lifts on the forklift are elevated with a heavy load, the potential for a tip-over is greatly increased, even if the operator is moving slowly. Never underestimate the power of a forklift.

For more information go to osha.gov and review Powered Industrial Trucks.