Category Archives: Safety Gear

3 Keys To A Safe Holiday – A Last Minute Decorating Checklist

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Like our colleague, Mr. Jernigan, Rehm, the staff of Bennett & Moore wishes you a happy and safe holiday season. This means being safe with decorating, regardless of culture, and being smart when traveling to see family and friends who have become family. Take care!

We normally focus on workplace safety, but during the holidays, many of our readers will spend time at home with their families. Holiday decorations are an important tradition, but these decorations, both new and old, can turn a festive holiday into a dangerous one. These important tips will show you how to make your holiday a safe holiday.

1. Trees

If you decide to buy an artificial Christmas tree, it should be fire resistant. Check the tags or labels for this. While “fire resistant” doesn’t mean “fire proof,” it is a step in the right direction.If you buy a natural Christmas tree, check to make sure it is fresh. You can tell a tree is fresh if its needles are green and don’t bend of break between your fingers. Also, the bottom of a fresh tree will have sticky resin and, if you tap the tree on the ground, won’t shed too many needles. Keep your natural tree watered. This means checking the stand every day, especially in a heated room.

No matter what kind of tree you have, do not place it near fireplaces, vents and radiators. Continue reading

My Injury Was My Fault. Does This Mean I Can’t Collect Workers’ Comp?

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If you were not following your employer’s safety rules, you can still collect workers’ comp’, but staying safe is always your best bet.

Our respected colleague from Wisconsin Tom Domer points out in today’s guest post that employee fault can reduce compensation in that state. Nebraska does not reduce recovery for partial fault but does bar recovery if the employee is willfully negligent. The defense is rarely successful.

Workers’ Comp is “No Fault” (even if it is the worker’s fault).

Workers may be reluctant to file a workers’ compensation claim if they feel the injury is due to their own fault. Sometimes they feel that the injury was due to their own violation of a safety rule. In some states, this could bar a workers’ comp, recovery—but not in Wisconsin. An injury caused by the employee’s failure to use a safety device or adhere to a safety rule results in a 15% decrease in workers’ comp benefits, to a cap of $15,000, but the worker can still claim benefits. A worker earning $600/week, with a $400/week disability rate would only lose $60/week.

A worker’s failure to use a safety device causing injury will not reduce benefits if the device isn’t adequately maintained or easily accessible, nor will a worker’s rule violation reduce benefits if the safety rule is unreasonable or not reasonably enforced.

Employers and insurers sometimes deny claims that involve a worker’s intoxication or use of non-prescription drugs. This is inappropriate. However, the benefits can be reduced by 15% if the injury is due to intoxication or drug use.

Ladder Safety Could Save You From A Painful Injury

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Thanks to colleague Leonard Jernigan from North Carolina for this extremely informative blog post. It is essential that we remember basic safety tips like dealing with ladders both at work and at home. Too often people get in a hurry and use faulty equipment or take shortcuts. When it comes to ladder safety, gravity is always in effect, regardless of your profession. There are graphic, but effective and thought-provoking, picture and video pieces in this blog post.

Unsafe LadderThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) says that “falls from portable ladders are one of the leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries.” A few weeks ago a gentleman came to see me who had orthopeadic surgical wires and metal bars sticking out of his arm (for those who are not too sensitive, click here to see the photo)

He had fallen from a ladder about 15 feet and landed squarely on his hands and broke both arms.  No one was holding the base of the ladder and the ladder was more than 15 years old. Wires and metal bars were now holding his bones in place, and workers’ compensation benefits were holding him financially in place. However, since he was only making $11 dollars an hour his weekly compensation benefits were small. As you probably know, the Workers’ Compensation Act does not provide money for pain and suffering, or lost income from other jobs (think about the man who takes on two jobs to maintain a higher standard of living for his family; if he is hurt while working at one job, he is only paid for the income loss at that job, not both).

The employer has a duty to train and teach its employees how to use a ladder. Many employees (particularly young ones) have no idea how dangerous ladders can be: they assume the ladder will hold the load and will be secure when placed in position, and that it is free of defects, no matter how old. OSHA has a list of  safety considerations and these tips can be found at the Department of Labor’s web page (click here for a PDF version).

Click through for a graphic video of a ladder accident published by prevent-it.ca, a website run by the Province of Ontario (Canada)’s Ministry of Labor. Be warned that this mock-up video is a public service announcement intended to teach safety. It is scary and not for the faint of heart. Continue reading

These Things Don’t Have To Happen: Metal Plant Receives $51K Fine After Employee Is Burned

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It seems like there’s almost a headline a day about OSHA violations, and those are only the ones that make it through OSHA’s process, excluding current investigations and issues never reported to OSHA. In fact, we recently wrote about some OSHA fines that resulted from a grain elevator explosion that killed a gentleman in Nebraska. In the following guest post, our colleagues Leonard Jernigan from North Carolina and Jon Gelman from New Jersey remind us how important it is for workers and employers to care about safety every day and strive towards safer environments for employees.

(Original post by Len Jernigan re-posted with permission.)

Following basic safety precautions woud keep employees like these injury-free.

A recent blog post (below) by Jon Gelman about OSHA violations at the Anthony River, Inc plant is another example of why we need to change the lax culture of safely compliance in America. It’s human nature to pick out articles in newspapers, magazines and on-line that interest you, and when I see articles about plant explosions (like the chemical plant explosion in Apex, NC or the chicken processing fire in Hamlet, NC), or mine disasters (West Virginia), or oil spills (Louisiana), I have a heightened awareness because I have represented people in similar tragedies and I know what they are going though.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen. Most of us may notice these events, but until it happens to you it’s usually just a news item and not much more. Employers don’t want these things to happen, but unfortunately some of them are willing to gamble with heath and safety. They have liability insurance and workers’ compensation to clean up the mess they make, and some times they actually think the risk is worth it. No life is worth that risk.

People die and families are devastated, and the really sad thing is that it didn’t have to happen.

Here is Jon’s post (reprinted with permission):

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Anthony River Inc. for nine serious and three repeat violations of workplace safety standards after an employee was burned at the metal finisher’s Syracuse plant.

“While it is fortunate that no life was lost here, this is a graphic example of the harm that workers and businesses can suffer when basic, common-sense and legally required safeguards are neglected,” Continue reading

Workers Beware Questionable (Fraudulent) Employer Tactics

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It’s time to start talking about employer fraud.

Today we have a guest post by our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin.

Over the course of 35 years representing injured workers, I have heard some whoppers – Employers’ questionable tactics that make even my jaw drop. With all the insurance company generated blather about “employee fraud” incidences of employer fraudulent tactics abound. Workers beware of the following:

  • Recorded statements taken by worker’s compensation carrier adjuster while employee is under medication or in the hospital still suffering from the injury. Questions such as “It’s true you had (low back pain, arm pain, fill in the blank pain, etc.) before your work injury, correct? You’ve had lots more pain from (your motor vehicle accident, sports injury, etc.) than you’re experiencing from your work injury, correct?
  • Employer “channeling” a worker to its “Return to Work Clinic” (doctors on company payroll whose opinion is “like some athletic coaches, ‘rub some dirt on it and get back in the game’”).
  • Telling employees to take sick leave rather than claim worker’s compensation.
  • Telling employees to file medical bills under their group insurance, not worker’s comp.
  • Nurse Case Manager who initially befriends the employee but later makes every attempt with the worker’s doctor to prematurely return the worker to the job before a healing occurs.
  • Employer paying worker in cash with no payroll stub (or gives workers a Form 1099 rather than a W-2). Continue reading

Unsafe Workplaces Mean More Injuries

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Unsafe Working Conditions

Today’s guest post comes from our colleague Tom Domer or Wisconsin.

The connection between unsafe workplaces and the increased frequency of work injuries seems like a no brainer. A study released by NCCI Holdings indicated worker’s compensation claims rose by 3% during 2010 (the first rise in frequency in over a dozen years). The study attributed the increased frequency to several factors

Because of these repeat violations,OSHA cited United Contracting and placed the firm on its “Severe Violator Enforcement Program”

including increases in employment since the onset of the recession in 2008, workers possibly being less fearful of losing their jobs for filing claims, and a lack of light duty jobs to which injured workers could return because of the poor economy.

One factor not referenced is the connection between increasingly unsafe work environments and work injuries. Two recent news stories in Wisconsin underscored this connection. OSHA fined a Wisconsin contractor $150,000

for violations while working on two bridges along highways in Wisconsin. The violation is more alarming because the contractors were working under a State contract to repaint the bridges. OSHA charged that the company did not have proper scaffolding at the bridges exposing workers to falls, and in fact one worker was injured in June after falling from a scaffold at one of the bridges. Because of these repeat violations, Continue reading

Is “icing and heating” the new “donning and doffing”?

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Today I received a call from a union official at a local packing plant asking me if the company could force injured employees to apply ice and heat to their injuries during break.

I answered it depends on whether the company or the employee receives the predominant benefit of the icing. The predominant benefit analysis is the framework for deciding “donning and doffing cases.” In donning and doffing cases, the issue is whether taking off and putting on safety equipment before and after a shift as well as during meal and break times should be paid. I think the same analysis could work for “icing and heating.” One argument for icing and heating time not being compensable is that the pain relief predominately benefits the employee. However, employers argued in the donning and doffing cases that wearing safety gear benefits employees, but courts have still found the predominate benefit question to be one answerable by a jury (subscription required).

Wage and Hour trial for Tyson Lexington, NE plant starts May 16th

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Workers at the Tyson Fresh Meats plant in Lexington, Nebraska will get their day in court starting on Monday to determine whether they were wrongly denied pay for taking off and putting on protective safety gear.

The main issue in this case is whether time spent putting on and taking off protective gear at the beginning and end of break and meal times benefited Tyson or the workers. If the jury determines the time spent donning and doffing mainly benefits  Tyson, the employees will win.  Tyson’s argument is that the time spent donning and doffing gear was during break time so the time primarily benefited the employee. Continue reading