Category Archives: Health

OSHA Cites Nebraska Food Supplement Plant for 10 Violations

Posted on by

vitamin-food-supplementsWorker safety is essential, and one way to help ensure worker safety is through inspections by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Records of these inspections are often very important documents in workers’ compensation cases after a worker has been injured on the job.

In its first OSHA inspection ever, a Geneva, Nebraska, food supplement plant was cited for 10 safety and health violations and also earned a spot in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, according to a recent news release. The proposed fine was $101,200.

“Bioiberica Nebraska is a subsidiary of Bioiberica S.A. based in Barcelona, Spain. The company, which produces products for the pharmaceutical, food supplement and functional foods industries, employs 322 workers worldwide and 11 at the Geneva site.”

I appreciate OSHA holding this manufacturer accountable, especially with some of the problems that came to light with the inspection. The willful violations alone netted the company $84,000 in fines, according to the citations list.

“The three willful violations were cited for exposing workers to injuries, such as electrocution, burns, crushing, lacerating, amputating or fracturing body parts,” according to the OSHA news release. “These violations included failure to develop written procedures, provide training, and implement a program with locks, tags or other hardware to prevent machines from starting up while employees performed service and maintenance of machinery. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirement, or with plain indifference to employee safety and health.”

I am particularly troubled by one of the serious violations that was mentioned in the citations list. “Employees had not been provided training to recognize, evaluate and control exposure to hazardous chemicals. Hazardous chemicals used in the facility include, but are not limited to, diatomaceous earth containing up to 44% crystalline silica,” according to the listed citation.

I have written about the silica standard and referenced it in regard to its use in Nebraska and Iowa as a raw material, but its use in manufacturing processes and other industrial uses can also definitely be dangerous, especially with workers having no information or training about such hazardous chemicals. The OSHA news release regarding Bioiberica Nebraska’s inspection bears out this concern.

“Silica exposure can cause silicosis, an irreversible lung disease, and other health hazards,” according to the news release.

Although OSHA fines are often decreased once a company is in compliance and shows proper documentation, I hope that this company will be more diligent in providing a safe workplace immediately. Being put in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program means this employer and its workers can look forward to more OSHA inspections in the future.

Nebraska, however, is one of the states that definitely needs more labor inspectors, according to the recent AFL-CIO’s annual report on job fatalities, which was written about in a previous blog post. With one labor inspector for 102,255 employees (for a total of nine statewide), 92 more inspectors in the state would meet the International Labor Office benchmark for labor inspectors, which “is one inspector per 10,000 workers in industrial market economies.” Nebraska also has the dubious distinction of being one of seven states where “the ratio of inspectors to employees is greater than 1 per 100,000 workers,” according to the AFL-CIO report. The other states are Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Texas and West Virginia.

So although Bioiberica Nebraska should be inspected again soon, the idea of “soon” is relative and limited by the number of inspectors available in our state. Let’s hope that efforts for safety are successful at this plant before workers’ lives are affected through death or injury.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day Set for April 26

Posted on by

Mark your calendars! As part of spring cleaning duties, I know people are sorting through the stuff in their homes, donating what they can, and figuring out how to recycle or dispose of what can’t be donated. As a mom of a child with food allergies who requires the use of epinephrine auto-injectors, I realize the challenge in making sure expired or no-longer-needed prescriptions are exposed of appropriately, because of the needles and strong medicine involved in this type of prescription. Many prescriptions should not be thrown away or, worse, flushed down the toilet to affect the water supply. Unused prescription drugs can also be dangerous to people for whom they are not prescribed, so it’s essential to dispose of these prescription drugs properly.

A number of the firm’s clients are injured workers who are often prescribed medication as a consequence of a work injury. But not all of these medications are used or needed, and some even expire, and then sit at home taking up space because folks don’t know what to do with them.

Please extend your spring cleaning to April 26 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This program is coordinated with local law enforcement through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.

The Office of Diversion Control website gives a couple of search options to find a site near you that accepts “unused or expired medication for safe disposal.” Either search by zip code or by county/city and state via either of the two links on the site listed above.

The direct link to the search tends to “time out” and essentially sends you back to the site above, so it’s easiest to click through where it mentions “Locate collection sites” or “Click here for a collection site near you.” In addition, an 800 number, 1-800-882-9539, is available for people to ask questions about the program by speaking to customer-service representatives. But believe me when I say it’s easier to find this information on the website than it is to try to speak with someone. After a couple of easy searches on the website, I am pleased that there are what I consider a reasonable number of sites available in both Nebraska and Iowa.

Why should you and I care to make the effort of participating in a drug take-back day? This informative website from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains in general terms about disposing unused medicine, and it seems that dropping the drugs off at an approved site on April 26 is one of the easier options. In addition to the general good feeling people get from the act of reducing clutter, returning unused, unneeded medicines to a take-back event means we all don’t have to worry about the medicine getting into the water supply, which sometimes happens through flushing, or getting into the hands of a person who might abuse it, which can happen when meds are thrown away. See the site above for additional “Guidelines for Drug Disposal” if there’s not a drug take-back day available close by, so people can make sure medications are disposed of safely.

Thanks in advance for keeping us all safer by disposing of unneeded prescription medicine properly.

Testosterone Drug Use: Watch Out for Dangerous Side Effects

Posted on by

Beware of testosterone drugs. 

Drugs to raise testosterone levels have very dangerous side effects. The drugs come in the form of prescription drugs, patches, creams, gels, deodorant or spray. These heavily promoted drugs have been linked to increased heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolism, blood clots, and death. For instance, men older than 65 taking such drugs are two times more likely to have a heart attack during the first 90 days of use than those who don’t take the drug. That is a sobering, if not outright scary, situation. Men younger than 65 with histories of heart disease are also twice as likely to have heart attacks during the first 90 days of use. 

Human nature and the desire to be healthy, strong and youthful appearing will draw many men to these drugs, particularly with the heavy advertising on TV, radio, online and in traditional print that the public is exposed to currently. The lure of a Fountain of Youth is hard to resist but also very dangerous. 

Sadly, there have been many other instances of new drugs that have been heavily promoted that have had dangerous side effects. The law has provided damages for the now millions of people who have been damaged by various dangerous drugs with serious side effects. I recommend looking into your legal rights if you or a loved one suffered a heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, blood clots or death while taking testosterone replacement drugs or after taking such drugs. Feel free to contact me, and I can arrange for a consultation with lawyers with special knowledge, experience and good ethics to help you or your family member.

How Safe Is Healthcare for Workers?

Posted on by

injured nurseThe article that today’s blog post is based upon is an in-depth look at how one state’s OSHA office interacts with a sector of the healthcare community: hospitals. Like Iowa, but unlike Nebraska, Oregon is one of 27 states or U.S. territories that has an OSHA office at the state level.

The “Lund Report: Unlocking Oregon’s Healthcare System” article talks extensively about nuances within ways that OSHA offices, whether state or federal, can measure the safety of healthcare providers like hospitals and nursing homes.

As evidenced in previous blog posts about senior-care workers and lifting injuries, I have continuing concerns for the safety of healthcare workers.

According to the in-depth article, “A Lund Report review suggests that in Oregon, regulators are de-emphasizing attention to hospital employee safety, despite national data showing that healthcare workers are injured in the U.S. each year at rates similar to farmers and hunters. Most Oregon hospitals have not been inspected by the state Occupational Safety and Health Division in years. And when on-the-job hazards are detected, Oregon’s OSHA office levies the lowest average penalties in the country.”

Should workers get lost as the patients are the focus of these healthcare institutions? Should regulation and inspections or fines by such groups as OSHA be the driving force toward workplace safety for healthcare employees?

It seems to me that healthcare administrators’ emphasis on profit is more important than proper concern for their employees – the nation’s caregivers. And if you or your family member is the healthcare worker who gets hurt on the job, this lack of focus on the worker is more than just a philosophical argument.

Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

Posted on by

The law firm has a number of clients who are injured workers. These workers are often prescribed medication as a consequence of their work injury. However, not all of these medications are used or needed, and some even expire, then sit at home because folks don’t know what to do with them. 

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This program is coordinated with local law enforcement through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration Office of Diversion Control.

The Office of Diversion Control website suggests that to find a site near you that accepts “unused or expired medication for safe disposal,” search either by zip code or by county/city and state via either of the two links on the site listed above. Here’s a direct link to the search, but I’ve found the search function doesn’t always work, so it may be easier to click through from here where it mentions “Locate collection sites” or “Click here for a collection site near you.” In addition, an 800 number, 1-800-882-9539, is available for people to ask questions about the program by speaking to customer-service representatives. After a couple of cursory searches on the website, I am pleased that there are a reasonable number of sites available in both Nebraska and Iowa.

Why should you and I care to make the effort of participating in a drug take-back day? This informative website from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration explains in general terms about disposing unused medicine, and it seems that dropping the drugs off is one of the easier options. In addition to the general good feeling some people get from the act of reducing clutter, returning unused, unneeded medicines to a take-back event means folks don’t have to worry about the medicine getting into the water supply, which sometimes happens through flushing, or getting into the hands of a person who might abuse it, which can happen when meds are thrown away. The Consumer Updates > How to Dispose of Unused Medicines page has additional “Guidelines for Drug Disposal” if there’s not a drug take-back day available close by, so people can make sure medications are disposed of safely.

Why Tylenol Isn’t Always as Safe as People Think

Posted on by

Acetaminophen, known to most of us as Tylenol, is one of the most commonly used drugs for pain. The vast majority of our injured clients take this drug at one stage or another of their treatment and recovery. A recently published investigative report from ProPublica explores just how dangerous this drug is. Everyone who uses this drug would benefit from reading this report

Tylenol is an extremely common drug, but it can be more dangerous than you think, so please both read carefully and follow the directions on the bottle, especially if you’re giving it to a baby or child or if you’re an adult who drinks alcohol, even occasionally. 

The article is lengthy and disturbing because it talks about the makers of Tylenol minimizing the deaths and liver damage of people who took the product. However, ProPublica has done a comprehensive job of including a lot of information and several graphics caught my eye, including “How the Liver Processes Acetaminophen” and “How Much Acetaminophen Are You Taking?”  

The report’s “Major Takeaways” are below, and I hope they make you want to read more of the report. I would urge you to be sure with any drug, even over-the-counter ones, to always read the label, follow the directions, and ask a doctor or pharmacist if you have questions.

Major Takeaways (excerpt from the report)

1 About 150 Americans die a year by accidentally taking too much acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, federal data from the CDC shows.

2 Acetaminophen has a narrow safety margin: the dose that helps is close to the dose that can cause serious harm, according to the FDA.

3 The FDA has long been aware of studies showing the risks of acetaminophen. So has the maker of Tylenol, McNeil Consumer Healthcare, a division of Johnson & Johnson.

4 Over more than 30 years, the FDA has delayed or failed to adopt measures designed to reduce deaths and injuries from acetaminophen. The agency began a comprehensive review to set safety rules for acetaminophen in the 1970s, but still has not finished.

5 McNeil, the maker of Tylenol, has taken steps to protect consumers. But over more than three decades, the company has repeatedly opposed safety warnings, dosage restrictions and other measures meant to safeguard users of the drug.

Paper or Plastic: A Reusable Workplace Hazard From The Grocery Store

Posted on by

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman, from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law in New Jersey. After I got past my initial response of “yuck” with not thinking about the hazards of using reusable bags, I realized that it’s a good idea for many reasons to wash reusable grocery bags occasionally. And if they can’t be washed, to think seriously about whether they should be reused or not. This is an especially timely issue because unfortunately the recent outbreak of cyclospora was traced to contaminated prepackaged salad mix in grocery stores from Iowa and Nebraska. It’s a parasite that’s sickened over 370 people, 78 in Nebraskans and folks in Iowa, Texas, and elsewhere in a total of 13 states, although it’s not known if all the incidents are related to the salad mix according to this article. So even though the culprit of local contamination has been found, it’s still a good idea to figure out a way to keep your reusable bags clean, because after all, they’re transporting food for you and your loved ones.

Most people have been driven by guilt or cost into thinking about using a reusable shopping bag from the grocery store. A recent report indicates that sometimes the bags, because they are not sanitized by regular cleaning, become killer bacteria farms that may be transported into the workplace in a casual fashion.

Brought home from the grocery store, reusable and contaminated shopping bags then become storage and transport containers left baking in the car and carried everywhere for convenience from gyms, to libraries, and then into the workplace for lunch.

A recent report reflects that the reusable grocery bags often become contaminated by bacteria, since they are not cleaned properly nor regularly, and that deadly bacteria colonize in the bags resulting human illness and increased emergency room visits.

“Recent studies, however, suggest that reusable grocery bags harbor harmful bacteria, the most important of which is E. coli. If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death.”

The Problems with States Refusing Medicaid Expansion

Posted on by

Medicaid expansion was a large part of the recent health care reform law under the Affordable Care Act. For reasons that seem to be solely based on politics, some state governors have made public their decision to reject the Medicaid expansion, and as a result, federal funding of the expansion.

Besides the obvious problems this rejection would cause for millions of uninsured Americans and the health care providers who treat these uninsured people, this rejection could have a negative effect on workers, especially injured workers, of these states.

Fellow workers’ compensation lawyer, friend and colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin discussed the possible ramifications when an injured worker does not have access to health insurance. Mr. Domer discussed the following scenario that we see day in, and day out, in a previous blog post:

“The personal toll on the uninsured is devastating, especially for those dealing with work injuries.

As a worker’s compensation attorney, the following scenario plays out on a daily basis: A hard-working individual—who is lucky enough to have health insurance through the employer—is injured at work through no fault of his own. The injury is severe enough to not allow a return to work, or the employer simply terminates the employee (this insidious action happens far too often with far too little publicity). After termination, the injured worker is offered federal COBRA rights to continue paying the health insurance premiums at the full 100%, which of course, is near impossible when you are off work without income. Thus, the worker loses health insurance for himself and for his family.

On the flip side, the worker’s compensation insurance company is supposed to pay for reasonable medical treatment expenses related to the injury; however, the carrier usually hires an “independent” medical doctor to deny the worker’s compensation claim. The injured worker is then left out in the cold with an injury that requires medical treatment, but he has no ability to get that medical treatment without health insurance or workers’ compensation coverage. The worker then calls me and asks the emotionally-laden question: ‘What do I do?’”

Nebraska is one of the states that is “Leaning Toward Not Participating” in the Medicaid expansion, at least according to Gov. Dave Heineman’s public statements on the topic.

This can have a devastating effect on Nebraska workers who have suffered an injury.

As Mr. Domer further states:

“Access to health insurance alters this equation. If the worker had adequate access to health insurance, especially Medicaid, he could obtain the medical care that could allow a return to work, regardless of whether the worker’s compensation insurer accepted or denied the claim. Whether work-related or not, injured individuals should have the opportunity to get healthy in our country.”

So what can be done about this problem? Contact your government officials to encourage them to provide injured workers increased access by expanding Medicaid.