Category Archives: Workplace Safety

April 28: Celebrate Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work

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Workers’ Memorial Day and World Day for Safety and Health at Work is set for April 28 this year. The history of Mary “Mother Jones,” whose name graces a progressive magazine, is noteworthy. She fought tirelessly to improve worker safety, and events such as Workers’ Memorial Day are part of her legacy. 

A recent article from John Speigelhoff and Dale Moerke, a pair of Minnesota labor leaders, shares some of her history and calls attention to Workers’ Memorial Day.

I agree with the authors’ closing thoughts, quoted below, and encourage all of our readers to remember and observe Workers’ Memorial Day in some way. I also encourage all worker advocates and activists to keep up the hard work and dedication, because the efforts to limit and outright take away worker protections seem to be like the coming and going of the tide. It never ends.

“On April 28, 2015, take a moment to reflect upon those who have come before us and tirelessly championed the cause of a safer workplace, oftentimes being beaten and imprisoned for their advocacy. Every worker deserves to come home safe to their family. It is only when we remember our history, view ourselves (workers) as having a common bond and demand better working conditions will we prevent tragedy.  Observing Workers’ Memorial Day is the first step.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 AFL-CIO, Legislation, Memorial Day, OSHA, worker rights, Workplace Injury, Workplace Safety and tagged , , .

Is Your Job Causing Asthma or Making It Worse?

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The spring allergy season that also causes asthma concerns is upon us, and this is especially evident in the Great Plains, where the wind blows dust and pollen throughout most days. 

A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that 16 percent of American adults had asthma that was either caused or aggravated by conditions at work. According to the National Institutes of Health, workers who are regularly exposed to chemicals and dust, such as millers, bakers, woodworkers and farm workers, are most vulnerable to work-related asthma. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America states that adults lose 14 million work days per year because of asthma. 

In terms of Nebraska, this means that approximately 134,400 days of work are missed in Nebraska due to work-related asthma. In Iowa, that number is closer to 224,000 days of work that are missed because of work-related asthma. This is an estimate of missed days nationwide in proportion to the population of the states. 

Workers should make sure their employers are providing safety equipment that protects against respiratory injury. Employees should make sure they are carrying inhalers in the workplace if they have been prescribed them by a doctor for asthma. 

But if a worker suspects their work is causing breathing problems or making pre-existing asthma worse, they should report that as a workers’ compensation injury and seek treatment with a specialist in treating breathing conditions. Medical bills for treating asthma should be covered like any other work injury, and any lost time because of work-related asthma should entitle an employee to temporary disability for lost time and permanent disability for permanent breathing problems. 

Work-related asthma would also be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and under similar state laws. Further, an employee has protection against retaliation under most states’ laws, including Nebraska and Iowa, as well as under federal law, for reporting work conditions that cause asthma and/or from claiming workers’ compensation benefits for work-related asthma.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , .

Safety, Health a Struggle at Wal-Mart, Nation’s Biggest Employer

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is the nation’s largest employer, according to USA Today. Including Sam’s Club, 2.2 million people worldwide work there, and more than 1.3 million work for the company in the United States.

Being the nation’s largest employer also should mean being responsible for employees’ health and safety. Sadly, that’s not really the case.

Charlene Obernauer, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH) recently wrote this blog post for HuffPost Business.

Her framework starts with OSHA’s citation of $7,000 when security guard Jdimytai Damour died after being trampled on Black Friday almost 7 years ago. Earlier in March, after spending more than $1 million fighting the fine, “Wal-Mart decided to withdraw their appeal and pay up, not because they admitted wrongdoing, but because of a desire to put the matter to rest,” according to Obernauer’s article.

She goes on to list examples of health and safety violations by “Wal-Mart-affiliated warehouse distributors” and Wal-Mart stores themselves.  This included the following scenario:

“The company was also cited several serious violations for not immediately providing employees with adequate personal protective equipment and never offering a Hepatitis B shot after they cleaned up blood on the job, along with a number of other violations of OSHA’s bloodborne pathogen standard.”

In addition, the firm’s blog has previously featured posts that include Wal-Mart’s attitude toward injured workers on transitional duty and paying workers so little that they need public benefits.

I agree with Obernauer’s final paragraph completely.

“While finally agreeing to stop appealing a $7,000 fine after a worker died on Wal-Mart’s watch is a step in the right direction, it is a puny step down a prolonged path towards creating healthier, safer and more just jobs at Wal-Mart. They have a long way to go.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , .

Workers’ Compensation Covers Fast-Food Workers, Too

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All employees of fast-food restaurants, including part-time workers, students and retirees, are covered by ‪workers’ compensation laws. Frequently, fast-food employees are not aware of these rights or are afraid to make claims, despite recurring injuries in these workplaces. These workplaces are dangerous, and recent efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may result in a safer environment.

In fact, McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have requested OSHA inspections, “alleging they’ve been injured because of a lack of training and protective equipment,” according to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune.

“Scott Allen, an OSHA spokesman, said the agency is investigating some McDonald’s in several states. ‘We do investigate all complaints and take every complaint seriously,’ Allen said.”

Meanwhile, McDonald’s, in the statement quoted below, essentially discounted the complaints as disgruntled workers and activists who are focused on the brand and want to make sure the media is covering the activists’ concerns.

“McDonald’s and its independent franchisees are committed to providing safe working conditions for employees in the 14,000 McDonald’s Brand U.S. restaurants. We will review these allegations. It is important to note that these complaints are part of a larger strategy orchestrated by activists targeting our brand and designed to generate media coverage.”

I would note that as much as we in the general public like to blame the media (or the messenger), respected publications like the Chicago Tribune usually realize when a story is fluff and when it is a legitimate concern. I believe, like the Tribune coverage would show, that this situation falls into the legitimate concern category.

A total of 28 complaints, nine against corporate-owned restaurants and 19 against franchisees’ locations, were submitted to OSHA, according to information from the campaign called Fight for $15.

“Complaints include one from a New Orleans worker who cited lack of training and equipment for burns suffered while filtering grease, according to documents provided by the campaign. The campaign also alleges that a Philadelphia worker who was badly burned when reaching for a cookie tray was told by a manager to use mayonnaise to treat the burn.

“Workers said understaffing and pressure to work faster resulted in injuries. Those injuries, they added, were not properly treated.”

According to another article on the McDonald’s investigation, other unconventional methods of treatment were also suggested, in addition to the mayo mentioned above.

“Some workers have even claimed that after suffering workplace injury, they were told to treat it with condiments like mustard and mayonnaise rather than using medical ointment.”

Hot oil causes burns; slick floors cause slips and falls; and lifting and moving large boxes cause strains and joint damage. Remember: fast-food workers are covered under workers’ compensation.

I recently saw a press release of a product that could help alleviate some of the danger around hot oil. “The main thing FryerGate prevents is the unintended events that cause injuries such as body parts or foreign objects from entering the boiling oil,” according to the release.

“The Executive Director of The National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (COSH), Mary Vogel, stated in a press conference (recently) that over 79 percent, or 2.8 million fast food workers, had been burned in the past year based on a ‘first-ever national survey of fast food workers about health and safety on the job.’ The survey, conducted by Hart Research, states that 54 percent of those burn incidents take place at fryers, which equates to over 1.5 million fryer-related burns. Fifty-eight percent have been burned multiple times.”

If this product lives up to its claims and improves safety for fast-food workers who work in challenging, hurried conditions, this would definitely be a good thing. However, it doesn’t solve the many other issues and claims McDonald’s has against it through the Fight for $15 labor group. Regardless, the OSHA investigation will be an interesting situation to follow. I will continue to do so, and encourage you to do the same.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , .

OSHA: Nebraska Company Cited 7 Times in 10 Years

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If it feels like OSHA and a construction/roofing company in Nebraska was just on the blog after an investigation, that’s because it was.

Except today’s blog post is actually about another company with a similar situation but many different details, and fortunately, it appears that this particular investigation did not involve any workers getting hurt or dying.

Unfortunately, it appears that this company struggles greatly with keeping its workers safe. As OSHA said in its news release talking about Affordable Exteriors in Omaha, this is apparently the seventh time in 10 years that the company has been cited for failing to provide fall protection to roofers. In addition, according to the news release, the “company has failed to address previously issued OSHA citations and pay penalties.”

The construction company was last cited in December 2014 after a June investigation, according to this news release from OSHA, and not only fined $140,000, but also placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

In the most recent news release, an investigation by OSHA’s Omaha Area Office was done in October 2014 because of the Local Emphasis Program for falls. “Falls remain the leading cause of death in this industry,” according to the news release. “About half of America’s 1.6 million construction employees work in residential construction.”

During the investigation on a home being built in Elkhorn, “five employees were observed to be working more than 12 feet off the ground without adequate fall protection,” according to an article on WOWT.com out of Omaha. Proposed penalties are $75,240, based on two willful violations, one repeat violation, and three serious violations.

“OSHA cited two willful violations for exposing workers to fall hazards because the company failed to provide fall protection and train workers on the use of and requirement for fall protection equipment,” according to WOWT.com.

The repeat violation was “for not securing elevated platforms to the rough terrain forklift on the site.” Repeat violations occur if a company “was cited for a similar violation in the past five years.” Affordable Exteriors was cited in May 2013 at an Omaha job site for this violation, according to the WOWT.com article.

Finally, the serious violations were “exposing workers to falls from unprotected sides and edges, improper use of ladders and not training workers on ladder safety.”

The investigation prompted Bonita Winingham, OSHA’s area director in Omaha, to make the following comment via news release.

“With everything we know about how to work safely, it’s troubling to see how many workers are still injured every year in the construction trades, and particularly from falls,” Winingham said. “By refusing to correct these dangerous problems, Affordable Exteriors continues to expose employees to serious – and preventable – physical harm, and this is unacceptable.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , , , .

Norfolk, Nebraska, Manufacturer Cited by OSHA with 15 Safety Violations

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Today’s blog post is information that comes from a news release at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Here’s a link to the original news release.

I found this release from earlier in the month interesting because it happened in Nebraska, which is one of the states where the firm’s attorneys are licensed. Also, when I did an internet search on the topic, the only two things that appeared were short mentions in a newspaper article and on a radio station’s website, and I think topics such as this one should get more coverage than that. Finally, I noticed this situation in particular because the investigation was the result of “a formal complaint from an employee alleging unsafe working conditions,” according to the news release.

OSHA proposed penalties of $54,000 after the inspection last August netted 11 serious violations, including various amputation hazards, fire hazards, and fall hazards. The amputation hazards included the business failing “to adequately guard operating parts of machinery,” according to the news release. The company also did not “protect workers from fire, deflagration and explosion hazards because equipment was not approved for hazardous locations,” in addition to the failure of establishing a fire brigade, according to the news release. Also, unguarded stairs and platforms exposed “workers to fall hazards of up to 12 feet.” Finally, four other violations were discovered.

If you have questions about a safety concern at your job, it would be a good idea to contact an experienced attorney and also file a complaint with OSHA at this website. Take care, and be safe.

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , , .

Worker Safety: OSHA Holds Wisconsin Furniture Plant Accountable

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Just wow. The lawyers and employees who write blog posts for rehmlaw.com and truckerlawyers.com focus pretty frequently on the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Nebraska and Iowa, along with Kansas and Missouri, happen to be in Region 7, so the focus is usually on those news releases from OSHA.

Every workplace safety lapse is one too many, especially when problems come to light because of an incident where a worker is injured or killed. Sometimes a person has to stop and do a double-take as to the specifics, just because the details might seem a little bit more on the extreme or unusual side. Today’s blog post focus of an Ashley Furniture Industries Inc. plant in Wisconsin fits the intense criteria very well, just because of the sheer quantity of injuries and the large fine proposed.

This link from Claims Journal gives more details. The takeaways that just make a person stop are in the numbers listed below.

In less than four years – 42 months:

  • “More than 1,000 work-related injuries”
  • “12 willful, 12 repeated and 14 serious safety violations” from an inspection after a worker lost three fingers in July
  • $1.76 million in fines proposed by OSHA: that’s $1,760,000!
  • The company was “placed in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program for failing to address safety hazards,” according to the Claims Journal article.

Although “Ashley Furniture said less than 1-in-4 of the cases required any time away from work … (and) the most common injury was muscle strains and sprains,” that is still a large number of incidents to consider. The article also contained this quote: “‘At Ashley, each employee’s safety and well-being is an absolute priority,’ said Steve Ziegeweid, Ashley Furniture’s director of health and safety.”

But most workers’ compensation lawyers would tend to side with U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez, as quoted from a news release: “Ashley Furniture has created a culture that values production and profit over worker safety, and employees are paying the price.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 , , , .

Sick Leave Should Be Accessible to All

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Amid the debate about flu and immunizations and preventable diseases lurks a societal problem that’s getting more attention lately and directly affects the spread of those medical crises: paid sick leave for employees.

Although discussing the consequences of Ebola may be interesting, many people in the United States, including Nebraska and Iowa, are living with the consequences of pertussis (whooping cough), a rampant flu season, and measles outbreaks.

This blog has featured this subject in the past, almost exactly two years ago, when there was a flu epidemic. It was argued then, in one of the firm’s more popular blog posts, that sick people should not be forced to work and spread their germs to their co-workers and customers, in addition that working while sick tends to make people even more ill. Not having sick leave available to take becomes a public health and societal risk. In addition, not being able to provide care for sick children or loved ones results in family struggles and workers worrying, rightfully so, while they should be focused on work at work.

The issue is also affecting children, especially those who are low-income, according to the 2014 Kids Count Report in Nebraska.

A recent Marketplace Morning Report article highlighted the need for policy change through the Healthy Families Act “that would guarantee workers could earn up to seven days of paid sick leave per year.” For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is quoted in the story that “24 percent” of those in the restaurant industry and “47 percent of retail workers get paid sick leave.” It also shares the economic burden of the results of people who don’t get paid sick leave coming to work sick. “Underperforming at work, or even damaging equipment or products because of diminished capacity or the effects of medication is known as ‘presenteeism.’” Sickness and presenteeism costs more than $375 billion a year, according to the article.

Esther Cepeda also recently addressed both paid sick leave and presenteeism in a column: “Working while sick even when you can have the time off is a thing. Many workers take great pride in coming to work ill, and there are a fair number of their colleagues who wish they’d stop.”

Although it may be a pretty big challenge in some industries to provide paid sick time, Ms. Cepeda argues that those are the most important industries to have it, as was also argued in the firm’s flu blog post from 2013.

“Food service aside, there are any number of jobs – most of them low-wage, part-time service jobs – where you don’t want the worker to be miserably sick or mentally checked out, worried about their sick loved one, because they can’t afford to call off work and lose the pay or possibly the job.”

Also important to note, being “checked out” can lead to safety incidents and workers’ compensation claims, and having employees mired in presenteeism just isn’t good for anyone.

So as the article in this link mentions, I think it’s very important for both workers and employers to consider the importance of quality of life considerations: keeping healthy people from being exposed to sickness and supporting sick people (or people with sick loved ones) by giving them the chance to stay home and still get paid so they can focus on becoming healthy people again.

Because as Ms. Cepeda argues, it benefits all for people to be as healthy as possible.

“Those of us who have the choice or flexibility to take an available sick day must speak up for those who are penalized for life’s inevitable speed bumps. It’s ultimately in our own best interest.”

The offices of Rehm, Bennett & Moore and Trucker Lawyers are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Six attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 90 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska and Iowa in state-specific workers’ compensation systems. 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 Government, Health, Legislation, Workplace Safety and tagged , , , .