Author Archives: Rod Rehm

Cutting Corners in Construction Costs Lives

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Today’s blog post was shared by the U.S. Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

This is quite the article that looks at the journey of keeping one Florida construction company accountable for workers’ safety. The original incident sadly resulted in one worker’s death and 20 workers’ injuries. The company, Southern Pan, when faced with a $125,000 fine, went through the appeals process to try to avoid paying the full fine. The company’s lawyers were successful, so the Labor Department’s lawyers appealed, and after eight years of the process, this happened: “… an administrative law judge affirmed OSHA’s citations and ordered the company to pay the full penalty of $125,000.”

Although this situation happened in Florida, deaths because construction businesses took shortcuts in safety are all too common. Here’s a link to a blog post from 2015 that was a follow up to an OSHA investigation in Nebraska where one worker died and another was seriously injured when their employer didn’t provide any fall protection and the workers fell 16 feet off a roof.

“According to OSHA rules, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace.”

This thought was highlighted in a previous blog post from a guest author Catherine Stanton, who works at a New York City law firm. In her blog post, she wrote about the need for safety enforcement in construction and other industries.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, violating safety codes are unlawful acts.

“As a representative of injured workers, I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of work injuries or deaths caused by gross disregard of safety codes and regulations by employers.”

If a business follows OSHA regulations – many of these construction deaths, whether in trenches, as a result of falls, or when a company completely disregards the safety of its workers like in Florida – should be preventable.

It would take a much longer discussion to debate how to make these businesses understand even part of the loss that the loved ones of the workers who died feel, and you can read a few thoughts on this topic at this recent blog post. Because everyone should be able to return home to their loved ones after an honest day’s work.

an image of the collapsed parking garage

an image of the collapsed parking garage

In the construction industry, precision matters – corners need to be square, lines have to be level and plans must be followed. Following the rules keeps buildings and people safe. But when construction companies cut corners, workers often pay the price.

That is exactly what happened in Jacksonville, Florida, in December 2007. A construction company called Southern Pan thought eliminating basic safety procedures would save time and money. The result? A six-story parking garage came crashing down, killing one worker and injuring 20 others. The worker who was killed, Willie Edwards, was only there that day because he decided to pick up an extra shift to buy Christmas presents for his children.

This horrific tragedy could have been easily avoided.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces construction standards designed to keep workers safe from building collapses like this. To keep a building from collapsing during construction, a process called “shoring” is used, which involves wood or steel beams to help support the weight of concrete and other construction loads.

In violation of OSHA’s construction standards, Southern Pan chose to remove most of the shores from the first two floors of the parking garage, ignoring blueprints that required all shoring to remain from top to bottom until the building was completed. The company then knowingly permitted workers, including Edwards, to work in the…[Click here to see the rest of this post]

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workers' Compensation, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , , , .

Series Shows Reality for Workers at Meatpacking Plants

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Here are many recommended reading links for people who care about how workers are treated at places that process the meat that lands on their tables.

I have recently written about how packing plants are still brutal places to work, according to the Government Accountability office, and the articles below reinforce those perceptions.

Harvest Public Media and NET Nebraska recently collaborated on reports that show the reality of life for the majority of people who work in meatpacking plants. Because there is different information in the audio and the written reports, I think it’s best to read and listen to both. The series is appropriately called: Dangerous Jobs, Cheap Meat

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA for short, considers work in food plants to be high-hazard manufacturing industries, and recently completed a 90-day regional emphasis in Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri that focused on such businesses.

Getting hurt working in a meatpacking plant is so common. As a person can read at the links, injury incidents range from repetitive motion problems for workers on the line to a maintenance worker being killed by machinery without the right guards and also amputations for employees struggling to earn a wage and keep up with line speeds.

Even with new reporting requirements that OSHA has, some experts say that injuries are underreported in meatpacking plants. A recent report also showed that working conditions were bad, specifically in poultry plants.

“The rate of meatpacking workers who lose time or change jobs because they’re injured is 70 percent higher than the average for manufacturing workers overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” as quoted in the NET Nebraska article about safety efforts. However, the article says that “meat processing is drastically safer than it was 20 years ago.”

Knowing that a workplace is safer but is a place where “meat and poultry workers are still hurt more often than other manufacturing workers” is a small assurance to those who work there.

The article talks about how companies are trying to change their culture and safety records.

It’s hard to not be skeptical, as injured workers are rushed back to the line, denied treatment, or fired for being unable to perform their jobs. That’s one reason that we represent meatpacking plant employees and families who suffer a wrongful death.

Greta Horner said this in the article about her husband’s “preventable” death as a maintenance worker at a meatpacking plant, and I firmly believe it.

“They need to realize that everybody that works there is a human being with a life and it’s not just a statistic, it’s a person.

“Their employees aren’t cattle that go through the chutes. They’re people with families.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .

Why Not Prosecute Employers for Manslaughter When They Cause Worker Deaths?

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Earlier this week, I read a blog post about a contractor facing criminal charges for gross violations of safety regulations leading to the death of an employee in a trench.

Also recently, another blog post describes large Occupational Safety and Health Administration fines levied against Nebraska businesses for serious OSHA violations relating to a cave-in fatality in Alliance, Nebraska. 

Several years ago, I represented a young mother who lost her husband in a cave-in that took four lives in Nebraska and resulted in an initial penalty of more than $200,000 for multiple violation of OSHA. 

On the way to work the other day, I heard part of an NET series on the radio that talked about the many safety risks in meatpacking plants. What many people don’t know, and that the NET link points out, is that fines are related to the safety problems and violations found, not necessarily related to how badly someone was injured or whether a worker died in the incident that prompted OSHA’s inspection.

“The agency assesses fines based on violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, not based on injuries or fatalities those violations actually cause, (Herb Gibson, OSHA area director for the Denver office) says. A worker death, and possibly a serious worker injury, will spur OSHA into action to conduct an inspection, but a worker death doesn’t necessarily influence the final fine the company pays, even if one of the violations plays a role. 

“‘In my personal opinion, the fines could be modified for fatal cases but that’s not what the law — it doesn’t have a separate penalty for a fatality,’ Gibson says. ‘And that would require legislation to change that particular provision.’”

As a representative of injured workers, I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of work injuries or deaths caused by gross disregard of safety codes and regulations by employers. Trench deaths are an example of such situations. They are highly preventable if OSHA regulations are honored.

Yet, I am unaware of a Nebraska  prosecutor filing criminal charges, even though we have statutes supporting such charges. 

In Nebraska, one definition of manslaughter states: “A person commits manslaughter if he … causes the death of another unintentionally while in the commission of an unlawful act.” 

Violating safety codes or OSHA violations are unlawful acts. Causing human beings to work in trenches that do not follow OSHA  is an unlawful act. Why not make examples of businesses that violate safety laws? Perhaps then more employers would treat safety in the workplace with more diligence and respect for workers and their families.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Jon Rehm to Speak on Retaliation at NSBA Seminar on Friday

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Shareholder Jon Rehm will present on whistleblower and retaliation law

Firm shareholder Jon Rehm will present on whistleblower and retaliation law to about 40 other employment lawyers at the annual Nebraska State Bar Association’s annual Labor and Employment Law Seminar. Rehm will present on this topic with Mark Fahleson, a prominent and respected employment defense attorney.

“Preparing for this seminar has crystallized for me the importance of employees acting as soon as possible if they think they have been retaliated against in the workplace. The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act provides strong protections against retaliation, but employees need to act promptly to pursue those rights,” Rehm said. “Nebraska law favors employees who file a complaint in court or with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission within 300 days of when they were fired or forced to quit.

“The main reason that you want to file a retaliation compliant or charge within 300 days is that an employee can be awarded attorney fees and front pay if they can bring a retaliation complaint under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act.”

However, employees who fail to file a charge or complaint within 300 days may have a legal way to address retaliation as well.

“Nebraska courts have held that certain activities, like filing a workers’ compensation claim or opposing some criminal activities, give employees the right to sue their employer for wrongful termination. This is called the public policy exception to employment at will. These cases have a four-year statute of limitations. You can’t win attorney fees or front pay in these cases, but you can win emotional distress damages and economic damages as well. “

Though the public policy exception cases may not allow employees to collect as much in damages, sometimes they are the only remedy available for a worker, Rehm said.

“The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act only applies to employers with more than 15 employees. So if you work for a small employer, you can’t bring a case under that act, but you can bring it under the public policy exception. The Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act also only applies if you oppose the illegal or unlawful conduct of your employer, not your co-workers. Under the public policy exception, you can actually bring a case for opposing the illegal or unlawful conduct of your co-workers.

“The other lesson that became evident for me in preparing for this presentation is how retaliation can seem straightforward on the surface but can be incredibly complicated. Preparing for this seminar has given me the chance to reflect on over 10 years of representing employees in retaliation cases.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Countertop Workers Face Silicosis Risk from Engineered Stone Countertops

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Today’s post comes from respected colleague and law professor Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina.

Workers should be aware of occupational diseases like silicosis because there is a relatively new source of silica particles that can cause long-term health problems: engineered stone countertops.

“While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed,” Mr. Jernigan wrote.

Because workers’ compensation laws that determine benefits for occupational diseases vary by state, it is important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer with questions that you or a loved one might have about silicosis, other occupational diseases, or incidents at work that result in injury.

Engineered stone countertops, a popular fixture in today’s homes, pose a health risk to workers who cut and finish them. The danger stems from the material the countertops are made from, processed quartz, which contains silica levels up to 90 percent. Silica is linked to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer and kidney disease.

While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed. When the countertops are cut, silica particles are released into the air, which when breathed in by the workers can start processes leading to silicosis. Manufacturers of the engineered stone countertops assert that worker hazards can be reduced through the use of protective respirators and equipment designed to trap silica dust. Despite this assertion, many safety precautions taken by employers are often inadequate.

The first documented case of silicosis among countertop workers in the United States was reported two years ago. In countries such as Israel and Spain, where engineered stone products gained their popularity, many more countertop workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and have had to undergo lung transplants. The danger of silicosis in the construction industry led OSHA to recently issue new rules requiring construction workers’ silica exposure to be reduced by 80 percent beginning on June 23, 2017.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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8 Steps to Keep Workers Safe in the Heat

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Today’s post was shared by US Labor Department and comes from blog.dol.gov

This is a follow up to the blog post earlier this week about resources regarding the heat and staying safe when working outside. With the forecast in our corner of the Great Plains set for the 90s and maybe even triple digits either today or over the weekend, keeping safe while working in the heat should be a concern for all workers and employers. Because Mother Nature doesn’t pay attention to the calendar start of summer, the time to prepare for the heat is literally today.

Please be aware of the heat and what its effects can be on workers, on children and the elderly, and on pets. No one is safe in a closed-up car that does not have the air conditioner running, for example. In addition, every time you or your loved ones are outside, please take the heat index into account, especially if exercising, doing strenuous work, or staying outside for long periods of time.

Prolonged exposure to excessive heat and humidity can result in injuries and diseases covered by the workers’ compensation laws. Workers with heat exhaustion, strokes, heart attacks and skin conditions may be entitled to lost-time benefits, medical expenses and permanent disability benefits if the condition is serious.

It also appears that extreme weather is going to continue into this summer season, with some hail and wind damage already to homes, crops and property. When storms do come, be sure it’s someone’s job to keep the crew safe from sudden weather, regardless of the industry. Enjoy the summer, and contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney if there are questions about a specific incident that occurred at work.

Keep workers safe in hot weather with water, rest and shade.

Keep workers safe in hot weather with water, rest and shade.

Forecasters are calling for above-average temperatures across much of the country this summer. Are you prepared to beat the heat?

Every year, thousands of workers become ill from working in the heat, and some even die. Construction workers make up about one-third of heat-related worker deaths, but outdoor workers in every industry – particularly agriculture, landscaping, transportation, and oil and gas operations − are at risk when temperatures go up.

Heat-related illnesses and deaths can be prevented. Employers and supervisors can save the lives of workers in hot environments by following these eight simple steps:

  1. Institute a heat acclimatization plan and medical monitoring program. Closely supervise new employees for the first 14 days or until they are fully acclimatized. Most heat-related worker deaths occur in the first 3 days on the job and more than a third occur on the very first day. New and temporary workers are disproportionately affected. If someone has not worked in hot weather for at least a week, their body needs time to adjust.
  2. Encourage workers to drink about 1 cup of water every 15-20 minutes. During prolonged sweating lasting several hours, they should drink sports beverages containing balanced electrolytes.
  3. Provide shaded or air-conditioned rest areas for cooling down, and empower workers to use them.
  4. Provide workers with protective equipment and clothing (such as water-cooled…

[Click here to see the rest of this post]

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in OSHA, Safety, Workers' Compensation, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , , .

Heat Injuries Are Included in Workers’ Compensation

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How is your summer going? Is it hot enough for you? Are you used to the heat yet?

These are all good questions for folks to ask each other as the calendar start of summer is coming. When you and your loved ones work outside, do you take breaks? What kind of training has your employer provided to make sure safety is followed in the outdoor workplace?

This link from the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration was found on the Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group’s Twitter feed and has some excellent resources available, including a smartphone app. These key words are really helpful for safety in the summer heat: “Water. Rest. Shade. The work can’t get done without them.” The link also includes educational resources, information about using the heat index, training, and an online toolkit.

Please review and follow these tips with loved ones before someone you know gets overheated this summer. Keep in mind that if a heat-related injury does occur at work, it’s important to talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer for advice on what to do next.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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Packing Plants Are Modern-Day ‘Jungle’

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crete-nebraska-meat-packingBeef and chicken packing plants remain “brutal” workplaces, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the industry. More than 100 years ago, Sinclair Lewis, in “The Jungle,” wrote of brutal work conditions and treatment of Eastern European immigrants. Today the brutality continues, but the immigrants are from Latin America and, increasingly, Africa. The meat industry recruits them. The pay sucks, the conditions are uncomfortable, and the injuries pile on. Wages are frequently below $15 an hour.

Fifteen years ago, Eric Schlosser wrote “Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal,” which was considered a modern “Jungle.” He wrote of fast line speed in the modern packing industry and pointed out how it devastated modern workers. The book was a best-seller and made it to the big screen. It was a noble effort to get changes that protected packing-plant workers. Sadly, the bulk of legal reforms since the book have benefited employers. They attack workers every year in every state legislature. Sadly, the workers who bring us the food we enjoy just keep getting ignored.

It seems the more things change, the more they stay the same for this group of hardworking people.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

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