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Jacksonville Legal Issues Blog

Many variables come into play when assessing worker safety

Workers in North Carolina and elsewhere may be putting their lives at stake each time that they report for duty. According to a report by the AFL-CIO, 5,190 workers were killed on the job in 2016, which is an increase from the death toll in 2015. As many as 60,000 more died because of exposure to chemicals or other occupational diseases. A worker's risk of dying may depend on his or her age, nationality and occupation.

For instance, those who work in agriculture, fishing and hunting or forestry were the most likely to be killed on the job. Those industries had a fatality rate of 23.2 per 100,000 workers with the national average being 3.6 per 100,000. However, the construction industry logged the highest number of actual deaths with 991 in 2016. Latino workers had a fatality rate of 3.7 per 100,000 workers, which was higher than any other group.

Underride crash legislation stuck in committee

Underride accidents on North Carolina highways can lead to serious injuries or death. Some believe that federal regulations could help reduce the likelihood of these crashes taking place. Legislation called the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would require underride guards on the front and sides of many trucks. It would also increase standards for those that are on the back of trucks. An underride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle ends up under a larger truck.

In addition to adding guards, the legislation would require that they be inspected. Furthermore, the bill would require guard standards to be evaluated every five years. However, the legislation is still stuck in the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It is not likely that the bill would receive a hearing until January 2019. According to one member of the committee, manufacturers are taking the lead on making guards safer without any prodding from the government.

Workers' compensation for mental distress

American employees are mostly unaware that, in many states, workers' compensation covers them for mental distress known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Military veterans exposed to shocking experiences during active duty service can develop PTSD; however, civilians can also develop PTSD if they are involved in or witness a traumatic event.

Many workers in high-accident professions can experience or witness violent events. If a worker suffers a traumatic injury event, it is still possible to develop a severe mental health condition as well as a physical injury. Even if a worker is only a bystander, indirect exposure to traumatic events can prove mentally harmful, says the Center for Workplace Mental Health by the American Psychiatric Association.

OIG report is critical of OSHA and MSHA

Employers in North Carolina are generally required to report workplace fatalities and significant injuries to OSHA. However, according to the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General (OIG), there needs to be more done to ensure that underreporting does not occur. The report found that some employers are not fixing errors and that some companies are repeat offenders. According to the OIG, a representative of OSHA said that up to 50 percent of incidents are not reported.

It was revealed that OSHA had made 400 citations on a semiannual basis since December 2015. However, the OIG says that it doesn't know if OSHA has the ability or the resources to provide proper oversight of its rules. OSHA was not the only agency that was scolded in the report. The Mine Safety and Health Administration was mentioned regarding a potential lack of oversight as it relates to the mining industry.

How employees can stay safe during the holiday season

North Carolina businesses should be aware that OSHA is reminding employers to take extra steps this holiday season to protect worker safety and pay. OSHA is especially concerned about large crowds during sales events and unpredictable scheduling.

Retail employers need to be especially cautious around the holiday season to keep their employees safe. For example, a sales event that draws a large crowd can result in physical injuries if barricades and rope lines are not used to keep pedestrians in controlled areas. Crowd control measures, such as employees whose only job is to keep customers calm and organized, are also important. For some employers, it may be necessary to hire trained security personnel. In the event of an out-of-control crowd, employees may be pushed or even trampled. Injured employees should always report injury incidents to their employers so that they have a record of what happened in case they need to seek workers' compensation.

Focus on space when driving near trucks

North Carolina motorists are likely aware that tractor trailers pose a big threat to passenger vehicles. There is some good news to report in that deaths during the transportation of freight across the United States declined by nearly 24 percent between 2000 and 2015. Unfortunately, there are still roughly 4,000 deaths annually caused by collisions involving big trucks. While there are about 10 times that amount caused by other traffic incidents, improving safety around commercial motor vehicles remains a huge priority for regulators and law enforcement across the country.

Statistics show that most collisions between cars and trucks are the fault of the passenger car driver and that taking a few precautions can dramatically reduce the risks of having a wreck when sharing the road with big rigs. Because a tractor trailer can outweigh a car by over 75,000 pounds, a great deal of deference should be given to trucks on the roadway.

How to work outdoors when it's cold out

Even in North Carolina, the ground can be covered in ice and snow during the winter months. This can create treacherous conditions for workers to be exposed to. It can also lead to equipment malfunctions and hazards if they are not taken care of properly. For instance, a snow blower can get clogged with snow after minimal or moderate use. Improper cleaning of the blower could result in broken bones or lacerations.

Workers should not be asked to perform a task if they have not been trained on how to do it safely. According to OSHA, workers who may not be used to winter weather may need time to acclimate themselves. They may also need extra training as it relates to driving in the snow or working on elevated surfaces when covered by ice and snow. It is an employer's responsibility to protect workers against hazardous conditions caused by winter weather.

Wrist pain may be an occupational injury

It can feel trivial to complain about wrist pain compared to other injuries, but a stress injury in the wrists can be debilitating. There are many reasons a wrist injury can occur, and many of the causes are not sudden.

Long-term problems such as repetitive stress are known to lead to wrist pain, which means that for many workers, the repetition of wrist movement is causing chronic issues.

3 causes of holiday injuries for retail workers

As the winter holiday season gets into full swing, your retail store is becoming busier, more demanding and hazardous. Not only can you face distractions and stress due to your personal holiday to-do list, but your job itself may become particularly dangerous during this festive time of year. 

It is crucial to prioritize your health and safety at your workplace during the holiday rush. Your employer and managers should be proactive in ensuring you do not sustain injuries. Here are some holiday safety concerns for retail employees.

The timeline for filing a workers' compensation claim

Getting injured at work is not only painful, but it can be incredibly stressful. Workers must figure out how to pay for their medical care and what to do if they lose wages due to an absence.

Workers' compensation is available to North Carolina employees, but to earn these benefits employees should be aware of the time requirements for a claim.

The Law Offices of John Drew Warlick, P.A. - Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorneys

313 New Bridge Street
Jacksonville, NC 28540

Toll Free: 888-746-8094
Phone: 910-378-0556
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