Category Archives: OSHA

Wisconsin Workplace Deaths on the Rise

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

There is a bad trend in Wisconsin: Deaths on the job are on the rise.

Specifically, OSHA (on December 18, 2017) issued a release that there were five Wisconsin worker deaths in the last 22 days!:

  • (Madison):  On November 27, 2017, a 26 year old employee was abrasive blasting and cut his inner thigh (femoral artery) with the abrasive blasting nozzle.  Reference OSHA’s Abrasive Blasting web page for safety and health related information regarding abrasive blasting operations.
  • (Eau Claire):  On December 1, 2017, a 60 year old employee working on a logging site was struck by a backing forwarder (skidder) machine.  Reference OSHA’s Logging web page for safety and health related information regarding logging operations.
  • (Milwaukee Area Office):  On December 5, 2017, a 32 year old employee was struck in the head when an approx. 50 lb. part being worked on flew out of a CNC machine. 
  • On December 5, 2017, a 59 year old employee was struck in the abdomen by a piece of wood that had kicked back from a table saw.  Reference OSHA’s Woodworking web page for safety and health related information regarding woodworking operations.
  • (Milwaukee Area Office):  On December 9th, 2017, a 36 year old employee was struck-by a materials van and pinned between the van and loading dock the van was being backed up to. Employers are encouraged to review dock areas to identify hazards and take necessary corrective actions.  Reference OSHA’s e-Tool on Powered Industrial Trucks (Forklift) for information on dock safety.

These recent workplace deaths are in the same year as the devastating plant explosion in Cambria, Wisconsin, on May 31, 2017, resulting in the death of 5 workers and injuring many more.  OSHA proposed a $1.8 million fine related to this fatal explosion.

Sadly, these workplace deaths are on the rise in our country as a whole.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released its latest report on fatalities in the workplace, with data through 2016.  Unfortunately, the number of fatalites is the highest ever since 2008.  An informational chart can be found here.

While employers indicate there are ever-increasing safety measures at workplaces, accidents–even catastrophic ones–still happen.  And they are happening with more frequency.

Under Wisconsin worker’s compensation law, there are no pain and suffering damages for those family members left behind by the deceased worker.  A dependent (generally a surviving spouse or children under the age of 18) can bring a claim for death benefits–which are four times the worker’s annual earnings.  This amount can be (and can feel) woefully inadequate following a worker’s death.

Workplace Safety De-Regulation Continues

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

The con continues.  Many American workers were conned into initially voting for Donald Trump, and that con game continues with the Trump Administration and its views on worker safety.  Campaign promises of benefitting the US worker ring hollow with each and every anti-worker de-regulation push.

Recent reports reveal the administration is removing or delaying OSHA protective regulatory standards on numerous fronts.  (Updated OSHA agenda reflects Trump administration focus on de-regulation).   The administration previously acted against improved employer recordkeeping for workplace injuries and illnesses. Now, the anti-worker protection agenda continues with the administration effectively pulling important items from the regulatory agenda.  

From the above-linked report, some of the important issues “removed” from the OSHA regulatory agenda are: Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities; Noise in Construction; Bloodborne Pathogens; and Combustible Dust. 

Failure to have adequate regulations–and penalties–has real world consequences.  Just look at what happened in Cambria, Wisconsin in May 2017 when a corn mill exploded and workers died from what appears to be Combustible Dust.  This was and continues to be a devastating workplace accident for a smaller town in Wisconsin.  Sadly, a Journal Sentinel story indicated:

A review of online OSHA records shows the plant was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards. The records state that plant filters lacked an explosion protective system.

The agency ordered the mill to correct the problem by April 2011. The records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013.

Such minimal OSHA fines or penalties likely provided corresponding minimal incentives to improve safety standards or hazardous practices.  The limited incentives are bolstered by relatively toothless “employer safety violation” penalty in a Wisconsin worker’s compenstion claim, which is capped at a maximum of $15,000.  

Further “anti-regulation” pushes likely increase the lack of safety incentives for employers. Those anti-regulation efforts are alive in Wisconsin and on the federal stage–especially in the Trump agenda.

Workers should be aware that anti-regulation may equal anti-worker.   And anti-safety.


Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Work

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Hundreds of individuals have been exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide while at work, including 150 employees at Middleville Tool and Die in Michigan when a hi-lo vehicle malfunctioned emitting carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide fumes, and 3 construction workers in Berkley, California who were operating a gas power washer inside a building. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a dangerous risk for workers.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and poisonous gas that results from the incomplete burning of natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, oil, propane, coal, and other carbon-containing materials. Workers may be exposed to harmful levels of carbon monoxide in boiler rooms, warehouses, petroleum refineries, steel production, blast furnaces and coke ovens.

Initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, chest pain. Within minutes and without warning, large amounts of carbon monoxide can cause loss of consciousness, suffocation, and death. If caught early, carbon monoxide poisoning can be reversed; however, there may be permanent brain and heart damage from the lack of oxygen to the organs during the exposure.

There are several measures employers can take to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning including installing effective ventilation systems that remove carbon monoxide from work areas and installing carbon monoxide monitors with audible alarms. To be safe, employees should report any situation to their employer that might cause carbon monoxide to accumulate and be alert to any ventilation problems.

If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning move to an open area with fresh air and call 911. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, read the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Fact Sheet.

OSHA Investigates October Incident; Also Focuses Efforts on ‘High-Hazard Manufacturing Industries’

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

The U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently highlighted two news releases that are related to or will affect workplace safety, workers’ injuries, and workers’ compensation in both Iowa and Nebraska. These two states are in OSHA’s Region 7, along with Kansas and Missouri.

OSHA’s news release on Jan. 14 focused on an incident where a Nebraska worker fell more than 20 feet and died in October of last year. The worker had been employed for Custom Contracting Inc., of Lincoln, for just two weeks, according to the news release from OSHA.

There was no fall protection provided to the workers at their construction site, and “the agency also found the company failed to train workers to:

  • “Recognize fall hazards.
  • “Render first aid.
  • “Operate powered industrial vehicles.

“In addition, guard rails were not installed on open sides and ends of platforms to prevent falls, and lift trucks were found to be modified without manufacturer’s approval,” according to the website.

OSHA proposed penalties of $36,000.

“Fatal incidents like these are entirely preventable. They have tragic consequences for the victims, their families, and their communities,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha, as quoted in the news release. “Construction industry employers must protect workers from falls, which continue to be the leading cause of worker’s death in the construction industry.”

In the second news release from OSHA that I’d like to discuss, a regional emphasis has been announced this is focusing on “high-hazard manufacturing industries” in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.

“The increased likelihood that workers in high-hazard manufacturing industries – such as food, furniture, fabricated metal, nonmetallic mineral, machinery and computer products – will be injured on the job is leading federal safety and health inspectors in three Midwestern states to increase its focus on industry outreach and inspections to reduce injury and illness rates,” according to the news release from OSHA.

This “region-wide emphasis program” is expected to last three months and includes “outreach and education to assist employers” to decrease hazards “and increase the probability of inspections at establishments in high-hazard industries with more than 10 employees and those that have not had a comprehensive inspection since 2011.”

If you or a loved one are involved in an incident at work that results in an injury or death, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. This person should also be able to help report your concerns to OSHA as applicable.

Holdrege, Nebraska, BD Plant Cited by OSHA Again

Becton, Dickinson and was recently fined by OSHA for workplace hazards leading to partial amputations of workers’ fingers.

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

“Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.”

This paragraph from a recent news release gives an overview of OSHA’s role. In Nebraska, that role comes into focus when investigators look for safety violations, often after a workplace incident that causes injury, as was the case at Becton, Dickinson and Co. in Holdrege in 2015.

Earlier this month, the news release at the link describes how BD was cited for machine hazards in both April and September of 2015. However, in October, in two separate incidents, two different workers “suffered partial amputations of their index fingers” at the Holdrege manufacturing plant.

“The agency has proposed penalties of $112,700,” after finding one repeat and 12 serious safety violations when the amputations were investigated. Best wishes are being sent to the two workers whose lives were altered after their on-the-job injuries.

In this case, it is obvious that the workers’ injuries were related to these specific workplace incidents, because their amputations resulted in an OSHA investigation of the business. But sometimes there are questions when it comes to workers’ compensation in Nebraska. If a business or its insurance company questions or denies a workers’ compensation claim, then it’s time to get help from an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. Our attorneys are licensed in both Nebraska and Iowa and have decades of experience helping injured workers in situations like the one above, so please contact us if you or a loved one have been hurt on the job.    

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 and review Powered Industrial Trucks.

Fear of Reporting Safety Claims

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

Workers often fear retaliation if they report a safety violation or work injury related to a violation. Concerns about being fired or other forms of retaliation by employers permeate the process of worker’s comp claims filing. Studies have indicated that retaliatory fear prompts many workers not to file either OSHA or workers’ comp claims. Workers also don’t want to be perceived as careless or complaining. In a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of OSHA reporting, occupational health providers often reported to workers’ fear of retaliation as a reason for underreporting. Fully 2/3 of health providers “reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness.”

Pressure from co-workers also prompts failure to report safety violations and comp claims. Safety incentive programs (sometimes called “safety bingo” ) create incentives not to report, since non-reporting leads to a reward for a work group. If one worker reports his injury, the entire crew may pay the price. The GAO survey found this peer pressure to be a troubling factor contributing to underreporting to OSHA. (Anecdotally, I remember a worker who cut off his finger on a Friday, wrapped it in a hankie and put it in his pocket , rather than report the injury and disappoint his fellow employees looking forward to a case of beer reward for “100 consecutive safe work days”).

OSHA is currently proposing new electronic, public reporting rules for large employers.