Category Archives: Preventing Injury

Halloween Safety Tips

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trick or treatToday’s post comes from guest author Jon L Gelman LLC in New Jersey. Although Halloween comes every year, for many children, it’s important to remember that they’re more impulsive and are more likely to “forget” the rules because they’re excited for the evening’s plans. Especially if you’re working or driving on Halloween, I would add to the tips below by saying to really watch out for trick-or-treaters, regardless of the weather.

In addition, as a parent of a small child, thanks in advance to everyone who opens up their homes by giving out treats to costumed children.

Something that may be a safety tip for many children is to be mindful that different children approach Halloween differently and it’s not always obvious that a child may be having challenges. There are so many examples I can give, but one that comes to mind includes for a painfully shy child, just saying trick-or-treat and thank you at each house may be an effort in social graces. And trick-or-treaters on the autism spectrum may not be able to speak at all.

In addition, food allergies are much more prevalent. For my family, Halloween safety tips include bringing a charged cell phone, packing our Auvi-Q epinephrine shots to respond if our child were to have a reaction, and making sure he doesn’t eat anything with nuts. (Fortunately, we don’t have airborne allergies, so it is relatively safe for our son to do trick-or-treating, but we practice what he is to say and do numerous times before the actual trick-or-treating. Different parents have different comfort levels for what they’re willing to expose their children with allergies to, so we respect that, too.)

So for those kind enough to give treats, please don’t take it personally if the response from the trick-or-treater isn’t what you expected. Because in addition to the safety tips below, many families are being as safe as they can for their individual situations, and those needs aren’t readily obvious on the holiday.

Thanks in advance for the empathy and for looking out for the community’s children on one of the biggest and scariest days of the year!

Halloween traditionally infers scary and dark. Those elements, complicated by sensory limiting costumes and environment, gives rise to the need for elevated safety concerns in the workplace and at-home surrounding Halloween events.

From a fall resulting in a dislocated shoulder, to an open flame resulting in second degree burns, each year the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) receives reports of injuries involving Halloween-related costumes, décor, and lighting. These incidents are preventable. Using CPSC’s three-step safety check (pdf), consumers can ensure that their fright night fun is not haunted by Halloween injuries

“Too often Halloween make believe has resulted in real life injury,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “Fortunately, prevention is simple. Choose flameless candles, flame-retardant materials, and well-fitting costumes to reduce the risk of injury this Halloween.”

With CPSC’s quick and easy Halloween safety check (pdf) and just five minutes of inspection, consumers can avoid problems that previously have plagued the trick-or-treat trail. This safety check will help consumers to: (1) prevent fires and burns, (2) ensure that kids can see and be seen, and (3) outfit kids for safety.

Halloween-related incidents can involve a number of hazards, including burns from flammable costumes that come into contact with open flames-particularly candles used to illuminate jack-o-lanterns; falls and abrasions from ill-fitting costumes, shoes, and accessories; and fires caused by burning candles left unattended, near combustible decorations or knocked over by kids and pets.

The federal Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA) requires costumes sold at retail to be flame-resistant. To prevent costume-related burns, CPSC enforces this requirement and recalls costumes and other products that violate the FFA. When making a costume at home, CPSC encourages consumers to use fabrics that inherently are flame resistant, such as nylon and polyester.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Halloween ranks among the top 5 days of the year for candle-related fires. To prevent candle fires, CPSC encourages consumers never to leave a burning candle unattended. Battery-operated flameless candles and other flameless lighting are safe alternatives to traditional candles.

Unique jack o’ lanterns and creatively-carved pumpkins are a new popular trend. Read CPSC’s OnSafety blog on pumpkin-carving injuries and how to prevent them

Additional safety tips to help make this year’s holiday safe:


Halloween DecorationsKeep candles and jack o’ lanterns away from landings and doorsteps, where costumes could brush against the flame.

Remove obstacles from lawns, steps, and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
When indoors, keep candles and jack o’ lanterns away from curtains, decorations, and other items that could ignite. Do not leave burning candles unattended.

Whether indoors or outside, use only decorative light strands that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory. Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.

Don’t overload extension cords.


Halloween costumes

When purchasing costumes, masks, beards, and wigs, look for flame-resistant fabrics, such as nylon or polyester; or look for the label “Flame Resistant.” Flame-resistant fabrics will resist burning and should extinguish quickly. To reduce the risk of contact with candles and other fire sources, avoid costumes made with flimsy materials and outfits with big, baggy sleeves, large capes, or billowing skirts.

Purchase or make costumes that are light colored, bright, and clearly visible to motorists.
For greater visibility during dusk and darkness, decorate or trim costumes with reflective tape that will glow in the beam of a car’s headlights. Bags or sacks also should be light-colored or decorated with reflective tape. Reflective tape is usually available in hardware, bicycle, and sporting goods stores.

Children should carry flashlights to be able to see and to be seen.

To guard against trips and falls, costumes should fit well and not drag on the ground.
Children should wear well-fitting, sturdy shoes. High heels are not a good idea.
Tie hats and scarves securely to prevent them from slipping over children’s eyes and obstructing their vision.

If your child wears a mask, make sure it fits securely, provides adequate ventilation, and has holes for eyes large enough to allow full vision.

Swords, knives, and similar costume accessories should be made of soft, flexible material.


halloween treatsChildren should not eat any treats before an adult has examined them carefully for evidence of tampering.

Carefully examine any toys or novelty items received by trick-or-treaters who are younger than 3 years of age. Do not allow young children to have any items that are small enough to present a choking hazard or that have small parts or components that could separate during use and present a choking hazard.

“Anatomy for Lawyers” Seminar Helps Attorney Serve Clients

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human anatomyI can honestly say that the last thing I expected when I applied for law school was that I would need the help of a science course to be a more effective attorney. After all, I was applying to law school, not medical school. However, as the newest attorney at Rehm, Bennett & Moore, I recently had the opportunity to attend an all-day seminar titled “Anatomy for Lawyers” with Prof. Samuel D. Hodge, Chairman of the Legal Studies Department at Temple University. Jennifer Ohmberger and Megan Nicholson, legal assistants with the firm, also participated in the seminar.

The seminar was an anatomy course designed to teach the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently and effectively handle workers’ compensation and personal-injury cases. So much of what we do in working with our clients’ workers’ compensation and personal-injury claims is attempting to understand injuries to the human body. Something as simple as understanding the difference between a sprain and a strain, which parts of the body are most susceptible to injury, or how a doctor interprets a diagnostic test can greatly affect the type of medical treatment a client receives, the ability to return to work, and ultimately, how much compensation they are entitled to.

This process typically requires review of medical records and a considerable amount of translation of medical jargon (which is, by the way, literally another language). Understanding what the medical records say in plain English and putting together the puzzle pieces of medical opinions can be half the battle in understanding our clients’ claims and obtaining compensation for them. The “Anatomy for Lawyers” seminar focused on the very specific challenges attorneys and clients face with injury claims and helped to make more practical sense of the complicated medical world.

Employer Pleads Guilty For Grain Elevator Death

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grain elevatorYou cannot take for granted that your workplace is safe, or that your employer is even following its own policies. Farmers Union Cooperative Supply of Stanton, Nebraska, a grain elevator, was recently sentenced in the death of an employee, Donald Stodola. Stodola was working in a confined space without proper ventilation. The lack of oxygen in the space caused Stodola’s death. Farmers knew that it was violating both a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation and its own written safety manual. Farmers’ failure to comply with regulations and its own internal policies caused a completely preventable employee death.

Farmers was fined $86,000 by OSHA because it didn’t protect Stodola from an unsafe environment. In addition to the OSHA fine, the company pled guilty to violation of a criminal statute and was fined $100,000 and placed on probation for 2 years. But, according to the Norfolk Daily News, “The criminal statute violated by Farmers provides that a willful violation of an OSHA regulation, which causes the death of an employee, is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment up to six months, a fine of up to $500,000 or a combination of the two.”

We think that every preventable workplace death should be prevented, and a failure to do so is inexcusable.

We do not understand why the total fines issued by OSHA and the court equal ($186,000) less than 40% of the maximum criminal fine of $500,000. Farmers pled guilty to Continue reading

Employees’ Health vs. Companies’ Profits

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Does your employer care about you? If corporations are going to get the perks of being “people” then they need to give a darn about their employees for the sake of humanity, argues the international president of the United Steelworkers in the story below. And we think that means holding those “people” accountable when they stumble, easier to do when there’s a dramatic accident, but also important to do for issues like long-term contact to toxic materials.

Dying for Work
Every day, 12 workers die on the job in America — often because a corporation has defied regulations or ignored standard safety procedures. Many more die prematurely from work exposure to toxic materials.

How To Stay Safe On Snowy Roads

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Follow these tips to stay safe on winter roads.

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:

  • Blankets / sleeping bags
  • Cell phone
  • Windshield scaper
  • Snow brush
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Extra winter clothes
  • Shovel
  • Tow chain
  • Matches
  • Traction aids (sand or cat litter)
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Snacks and water
  • Road maps

And keep at least a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times!

OSHA’s page is a rich source of information and I highly recommend taking a look.

Black Friday Special: 10 Worst Toys for 2011

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Today’s post comes to us from our colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey. We hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season!

A consumer group in Boston, W.A.T.C.H., has published its “10 Worst Toys for 2011″ list. The toys nominated represent toys with the potential to cause childhood injuries, or even death. W.A.T.C.H.’s annual “Toy Conference” has generated extensive national press and media coverage. Because of these efforts, and the positive response from both the media and the public, there have been many toy and product design changes.


Twist ‘n Sort


Price: $13.35
Manufacturer or Distributor: Guidecraft, Inc.
Age Recommendation: “Ages 3+”
Warnings: “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD – Small parts.  Not for children under 3 yrs.”

This play set consisting of a “brightly colored geometric block and solid wood base” is sold to provide “years of developmental fun” with “problem solving challenges” and “fine motor practice.” On October 20, 2011, certain lots of these toys were recalled because “[t]he small pegs on three of the four posts can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children”. After issuance of the recall, a newly purchased Twist ‘n Sort toy exhibited the same “choking hazard” identified in the government’s recall notice.


Power Rangers Samurai Mega Blade

Price:  $26.99
Manufacturer or Distributor: Bandai
Purchased: Toys R Us (also available and
Age Recommendation: “4+” and “Ages 4 and up”
Do not: (1) aim toy at anyone, (2) hit anyone with toy, (3) poke anyone with toy, (4) swing toy at anyone….”; and  other cautions and warnings.

Young children are encouraged to pull a release and flip-open this rigid plastic Power Rangers Samurai “sword”, which “extends 2 feet!” according to the packaging. The blade has the potential to cause serious facial or other impact injuries.


Fold & Go Trampoline


Price:  $99.99 Continue reading

Exercise for health is great, but watch out for injuries at the gym!

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Regular exercise is essential to good health. However Nebraskans who exercise at a health club or gym must exercise extra vigilance to prevent injury as a result of a recent Nebraska Supreme Court decision.

In Palmer v Lakeside Wellness Center d/b/a Alegent Health and Precor, Inc., 281 Neb. 780, (Decided June 24, 2011) The Nebraska Supreme court ruled that a waiver that was part of a health club membership application released a health club from ordinary negligence.

The Palmer case makes it difficult for consumers to sue a health club for injuries sustained at a health club or gym. 

The court used that rule to uphold dismissal of a claim made by a woman who was injured after unknowingly stepping on to a moving treadmill and being thrown against an elliptical machine. The court also Continue reading