Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.
While reviewing some historical cases today, I realized that what is missing from the workplace is the concept of “a job.” America’s economy has dramatically changed, and so have jobs that were once available its workforce.
Even clearer is the fact that the concept of a job has disappeared. The idea of getting up in the morning and going regularly to a job has even vanished. The evolution changed slowly with the young generation claiming that a job cycle transformed from a lifetime position to one lasting two years. Then the next stage in the evolution occurred, where the employee became a transient worker and daily the job changed and no stable employer really exists.
This evolution has eroded the underlining framework of a functional workers’ compensation program and the delivery of benefits. The injured worker becomes lost to the system, and a safe and secure workplace becomes an illusion. Lost in the complexity is the adequate reporting of accidents and occupational disease, and the ability to accurately follow the evolution of latent diseases and medical conditions.
“A new trend in the U.S. labor market is reshaping how management and workers think about employment, while at the same time reshaping the field of occupational safety and health. More and more workers are being employed through “contingent work” relationships. Day laborers hired on a street corner for construction or farming work, warehouse laborers hired through staffing agencies, and hotel housekeepers supplied by temp firms are common examples, because their employment is contingent upon short term fluctuations in demand for workers. Their shared experience is one of little job security, low wages, minimal opportunities for advancement, and, all too often, hazardous working conditions. When hazards lead to work-related injuries, the contingent nature of the employment relationship can exacerbate the negative consequences for the injured worker and society. The worker might quickly find herself out of a job and, depending on the severity of the injury, the prospects of new employment might be slim. Employer-based health insurance is a rarity for contingent workers, so the costs of treating injuries are typically shifted to the worker or the public at large. Because employers who hire workers on a contingent basis do not directly pay for workers’ compensation and health insurance, they are likely to be insulated from premium adjustments based on the cost of workers’ injuries. As a result, employers of contingent labor may escape the financial incentives that are a main driver of business decisions to eliminate hazards for other workers.”
Click here to read “At the Company’s Mercy: Protecting Contingent Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions”
Today’s post is by my colleague Leonard Jernigan of North Carolina.
The proper use of ladders may seem like something better left to common sense, but it really isn’t. Employers explicitly need to teach workers how to use ladders safely.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.” A few weeks ago a gentleman came to see me who had orthopeadic surgical wires and metal bars sticking out of his arm (for those who are not too sensitive, click here to see the photo)
He had fallen from a ladder about 15 feet and landed squarely on his hands and broke both arms. No one was holding the base of the ladder and the ladder was more than 15 years old. Wires and metal bars were now holding his bones in place, and workers’ compensation benefits were holding him financially in place. However, since he was only making $11 dollars an hour his weekly compensation benefits were small. As you probably know, the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide money for pain and suffering, or lost income from other jobs (think about the man who takes on two jobs to maintain a higher standard of living for his family; if he is hurt while working at one job, he is only paid for the income loss at that job, not both).
The employer has a duty to train and teach its employees how to use a ladder. Many employees (particularly young ones) have no idea how dangerous ladders can be: they assume the ladder will hold the load and will be secure when placed in position, and that it is free of defects, no matter how old. OSHA has a list of safety considerations and these tips can be found at the Department of Labor’s web page (click here for a PDF version).
Click through for a graphic video of a ladder accident published by prevent-it.ca, a website run by the Province of Ontario (Canada)’s Ministry of Labor. Be warned that this mock-up video is a public service announcement intended to teach safety. It is scary and not for the faint of heart.
The next time you pull out a ladder at work or at home, think about these warnings and use proper safety techniques to avoid injury.
Image: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Follow these tips to stay safe on winter roads.
Today’s post comes from my colleague Rod Rehm of Nebraska.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently launched a fantastic web page on how to stay safe if you have to work during or after a winter storm.
If the weather is poor, staying off the road is clearly the best thing to do. However, if you have to drive during a winter storm, here are some great tips OSHA offers on preparing your vehicle for dangerous weather.
Inspect your vehicle thoroughly.
- Brakes: Make sure they provide balanced and even breaking. Check that the brake fluid is at the proper level.
- Cooling System: Ensure the proper mixture of 50/50 antifreeze and water.
- Electrical: Check the ignition and makes sure the battery is fully charged and that the connectors are clean. Check that the alternator belt is in good condition.
- Engine: Inspect all engine systems.
- Exhaust: Check the exhaust for leaks and that the clamps and hangers are snug.
- Tires: Check for good tread depth and for signs of damage or uneven wear. Check inflation.
- Visibility: Inspect exterior lights, defrosters, and wipers. Install winter wipers. _ Check your oil levels.
Bring a winter emergency kit including:
Insurance medical exams may seem like regular doctor visits, but these docs are not on your side.
Today’s wise words come from my colleague Matt Funk of New York.
Many times insurance medical examinations are considered by injured employees to be the same as Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs). There is nothing farther from the truth. These examinations are bought and paid for by the insurance company and for their benefit.
The insurance carrier doctor is no friend to an injured worker. He or she is a private consultant paid for by the carrier.
You should be prepared for these examinations by knowing your rights and how to protect them:
1) You have the right right to bring a family member or friend with you to the examination.
You can bring your spouse into the examination room during the examination. This is important because it allows for a witness to testify at court about the validity of the examination and to dispute tests that the doctor claims to have done.
2) You are permitted to audiotape or videotape the examination.
And there is nothing in the law that requires you to tell the insurance company doctor that you intend to tape the examination.
3) You should Continue reading