Tag Archives: Nebraska

ALF-CIO Report: Here are Some of Nebraska’s Numbers and Rankings

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How did Nebraska fare in the recent AFL-CIO Death on the Job annual report? Generally speaking, better than some but not as well as all the other states.

Here’s some helpful information that quantifies how things are going for working Nebraskans when it comes to safety at work, looking through information from many sources, including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“When it comes to job safety enforcement and coverage, it is clear OSHA lacks sufficient resources to protect workers adequately. A combination of too few OSHA inspectors and law penalties makes the threat of an OSHA inspection hollow for too many employers,” according to the report.

Staffing levels are stark at federal OSHA. Nebraska is one of 10 states (others include Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia) where “it would take 150 years or more for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace,” based on current staffing levels, with the actual number in Nebraska being 163 years. Though at the current level of state and federal OSHA inspectors there is one inspector for every 71,695 workers, Nebraska is one of the states where “the ratio of inspectors to employees is greater than 1 per 100,000 workers.” That means for the 932,768 employees in the state in 2013, there were 9 actual inspectors, leading to a ratio of 1/103,641, according to the table “Number of OSHA Inspectors by State Compared with ILO Benchmark Number of Labor Inspectors.” Note that Nebraska relies on the federal program only, so unlike Iowa, there is no state OSHA program.

Here’s some statistics from the table “Profile of Workplace Safety and Health in the United States.” For Nebraska, there were 39 fatalities in 2013, meaning a rate of 4.0 fatalities per 100,000 workers, ranking the state 31st in the nation for worker fatalities that year.

In addition, there were 24,700 worker injuries or illnesses reported in 2013, resulting in a rate that was 3.8 injuries or illnesses per 100 workers. OSHA’s penalties in fiscal year 2014 averaged $2,569, or 4th in the nation, for “averages per serious citation for conditions creating a substantial probability of death or serious physical harm to workers,” according to the same table cited above.

The table “State-by-State OSHA Fatality Investigations, FY 2014” shows that 12 OSHA fatality investigations were conducted in Nebraska in fiscal year 2014. A total of $268,671 in penalties was proposed, with the average penalty per investigation being $22,389. The median initial penalty proposed by OSHA was $10,800, while the median current penalty is $4,800.

Businesses often negotiate down their penalties with OSHA, and OSHA also tends to decrease or eliminate penalties once there is evidence of the safety issues being fixed. This is because OSHA’s ultimate focus is on workplace safety, not on holding businesses’ accountable for workers’ injuries or deaths.

To get your questions answered about specific Nebraska or Iowa workplace safety concerns, please contact lawyers who are experienced in workers’ compensation law.

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 , , , , , , .

Youth Minimum-wage Law Not Only Wage Law Affecting Young Nebraskans

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Nebraska appears to be on the verge of repealing part of last year’s successful ballot measure – to raise the state minimum wage from the federal rate of $7.25 per hour to $9 per hour by 2016 – by creating a lower youth minimum wage. I agree with arguments against a youth minimum wage stated by opponents such as state Sen. Adam Morfeld. But this attack on Nebraska’s wage and hour laws concerns me for other reasons.

Many young people work in home health or as salespeople. Federal-wage law exempts home health aides and so-called outside salespeople from minimum wage and overtime laws. Nebraska law has no such exemptions, so home health aides and salespeople are covered by Nebraska’s minimum-wage law, while they are not covered by federal law. If Nebraska legislators can roll back wage rates in our wage and hour laws, it is possible that they might also create more exceptions to our minimum-wage laws.

Besides minimum-wage concerns, young people, especially students, may be working in unpaid internships that violate both state and federal minimum-wage laws. I recommend students (and employers of interns) read an excellent blog post by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division about when interns should be paid. Students (and their employers) should also remember that unpaid internships may violate Nebraska wage and hour laws as well.

Though the Nebraska Wage and Hour Act does not allow punitive damages like the Fair Labor Standards Act, Nebraska law does allow for attorney fees and has a criminal penalty for wage violations not found in federal law. This criminal penalty can force quick settlements from employers if the liability for unpaid wages is clear. If an employee can clearly show they are owed an amount of wages, the employer may be forced to pay a penalty under the Nebraska Wage Payment and Collection Act. This penalty is also an incentive for employers to settle wage claims when liability for unpaid wages is clear.

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.

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Ranked No. 44: As ‘Nice’ as it Gets for Women in Nebraska?

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Nebraska recently changed its tourism brand from the stalwart of “Nebraska … the good life” to “Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice.” However, the wage gap for women in this state is neither nice nor contributing to “the good life” for women and their loved ones in this state.

In all but three of Nebraska’s 93 counties, the percentage of women between ages 25 to 54 who work is well above the United States’ national average, according to an American Community Survey featured recently in an article in The New York Times by Gregor Aisch, Josh Katz and David Leonhardt. This is positive information, particularly when you take into account that places with low levels of female employment have a lot of overlap with high-poverty geographical areas of the United States. 

I was initially encouraged by these numbers. It’s definitely a good thing to have high employment in our state. It’s no secret that Nebraskans can appreciate hard work. That must be part of what they are talking about when they said “the good life.”

However, this encouragement waned considerably when I also noted that a study from the National Women’s Law Center using 2013 data found that Nebraska (again, among the states with the highest percentages of working women in the entire nation) is also ranked as number 44 out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for wage gaps between median male and female earnings.  Forty-four. That puts our great state in the top ten worst states for this disparity. The data showed that full-time, year-round working women in Nebraska are paid, on average, 74.1 cents per every male-earned dollar. This is compared to the national average of 78.3 cents and the No. 1 spot, Washington, D.C., at 91.3 cents.     

Nebraska is saturated with hard-working women, so why do women’s wages appear to not reflect this? Why are Nebraska’s working women earning nearly $1,000 less per month than Nebraska’s working men? Why do Nebraska’s working women have to work more than 16 months to earn what Nebraska’s working men earn in 12 months? It doesn’t seem fair that states with fewer women out working for a living actually rank higher.

To be clear, these numbers do not necessarily show that women in Nebraska are systematically paid less for the same work as men (although this is certainly a nationwide issue). This is not the situation the Equal Pay Act (EPA) was necessarily designed to address. The EPA prohibits wage discrimination “between employees on the basis of sex … for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” 29 U.S.C. §206(d)(1). The numbers in this study are based on median earnings for full-time year-round workers, regardless of occupation.

Even so, again, the percentage of female workers in Nebraska is well above the national average. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women in America make up nearly half the workforce. In 4 out of 10 families, they are the equal, if not main, earner. They are now more educated than men, earning more college and graduate degrees. The many reasons we may present to explain why women earn less apply in every state, not just Nebraska. Yet, here we are, living “the good life” at number 44. And that reality isn’t very “nice” in Nebraska or anywhere else. 

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.

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Let’s Think About Medical Marijuana for Injured Workers

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Nebraska, known for its conservative views, is considering legalization of medical marijuana. Sen. Tommy Garrett writes a passionate, persuasive and practical letter to constituents in support of medical marijuana. 

“Bottom line up front: The Cannabis Compassion and Care Act (LB643) is all about making life better for Nebraskans who are sick and ailing. Period! Nothing more … nothing less. This is entirely about helping very sick people in need who deserve the right to a medication that treats their illnesses.” Sen. Tommy Garrett

Sen. Garrett is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a registered Republican, and his views may surprise some people. He deserves credit for his advocacy on this issue. 

Relief from chronic pain is one use for medical marijuana. Chronic pain is an all-too-common problem for injured people. Current treatment patterns with strong opiates have reached crisis status. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam now allow medical marijuana. It seems now is a good time to study and consider adding marijuana as an alternative to the very dangerous opioids. 

Sen. Garrett put it this way. 

“While Washington may be broken, Nebraska is not. States have rights and I trust that the decision makers here in Lincoln will join me in looking at the research and see that cannabis has demonstrated effectiveness in treating cancer, ALS, MS, Dravet’s syndrome and other terminal and debilitating illnesses. I’m doing this because stuff needs fixing.”

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.

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Workers’ Compensation ‘Reforms’ by State Have Costs, Too

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This ProPublica/NPR series should be required reading for all who care about workers’ compensation and how the process really works – or doesn’t work – for those who are injured on the job. The series shows the very real cost to loved ones when the system doesn’t hold up to the workers’ compensation “grand bargain” that was entered into more than a century ago in many states, including Nebraska. Families are hurt economically, and necessary role changes occur when a spouse and/or children become caretakers, which is often the case. 

Today’s blog post is focused on an excellent and informative, but very sobering, interactive chart that looks at how workers’ compensation “reforms” by state are occurring.

I found the introductory paragraph for the chart enlightening and honest:

“Over the past decade, states across the country have been unwinding a century-old compact with America’s workers: A guarantee that if you are injured on the job, your employer will pay your medical bills and enough of your wages to help you get by. In all, 33 states have passed laws that reduce benefits, create hurdles to getting medical care or make it more difficult to qualify for workers’ comp.”

When benefits are reduced and medical care is denied, the burden of caring for injured workers shifts to taxpayers through social programs because the workers’ compensation system has all too often come up short. This results in taxpayers subsidizing injured workers on the local and state levels through healthcare and the social safety net. At the same time, workers’ compensation insurance premiums for businesses are at their lowest rate in 25 years, partially because the “reformed” workers’ compensation systems can save businesses money while avoiding the costs of caring for these hurt workers.

I urge you to spend some time on the interactive graphic and see where your state stands in its support of injured workers. Although the firm’s lawyers are licensed in Nebraska and Iowa, we work with many who are injured in other states as the need arises and have an extensive network of lawyers who we work with on workers’ compensation, especially focusing on representing truck drivers.

This blog will feature continued commentary and analysis on the ProPublic/NPR report, as was first addressed last week. But if you have specific questions about an injured worker’s situation and need help or are unsure what the next steps are, please contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney like those at Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

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.

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ACA Sign-up Deadline Set for Sunday

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healthcaregov.pngSunday, Feb. 15, is the 2015 deadline to enroll for health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act’s process. The information that’s out there can be pretty overwhelming, and sometimes websites don’t work, especially when enrollment is time sensitive, as it now is. For procrastinators, here are some good places to start, hopefully help to beat the deadline, and most importantly, enroll in insurance coverage.

A good starting place is the healthcare.gov website. Be sure to use the .gov, as other places (.com, .net, etc.) aren’t actually the insurance exchange and at worst, can be scams. From there, if things get confusing, as insurance often does, another option is to call 800-318-2596 for help, according to healthcare.gov. Or, by clicking on “Find local help” and providing a zip code, there are more direct ways to get ahold of someone and ask questions.

The site itself answers such questions as what kind of coverage a person qualifies for when the marketplace application is filled out. Unfortunately, Nebraska is one of the states that has chosen to not expand Medicaid, so clicking on the link about what Medicaid expansion means will help explain how this affect people. However, many folks are qualifying for subsidies, which are automatically applied to specific plans, often the silver level, and help people afford more comprehensive coverage, with the subsidies based on income.

Why should a person go to the effort? Because there are actually financial and societal benefits to having health insurance, especially if something happens and a person has medical needs. That being said, the ACA coverage is not meant to take the place of employer-sponsored coverage for sick workers.

As has been mentioned before in this blog, folks having health insurance coverage benefits more than just the individual.

“You’ll be pulling your weight. Americans pick up the costs of caring for uninsured patients in the form of higher insurance premiums, higher taxes and more expensive care,” according to an editorial around this time last year in the Kansas City Star newspaper.

In addition to the benefits of having health insurance, there is a greater penalty for not enrolling this year than there was last year, according to healthcare.gov. “If you don’t have health coverage during 2015, you may have to pay a penalty. The fee in 2015 is higher than it was for 2014 – 2 percent of your income or $325 per adult/$162.50 per child, whichever is more.”

Just as it’s important for employers to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage, individuals – and their families – should have health insurance to try to plan for the unknown.

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.

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Examining Workers’ Compensation’s ‘Grand Bargain’ and the Upcoming Election

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Here’s why people should support candidates who will protect workers’ rights. Understand that the ongoing workers’ compensation issues faced by state legislatures are not going away, so state legislatures are the front lines when it comes to making sure workers’ compensation systems are not diluted even more for injured workers and their loved ones.

Here’s some background. Over 100 years ago, workers’ compensation law was developed across the United States. Nebraska was actually one of the pioneering states, back when we were more progressive.  Workers’ compensation was viewed as the “Grand Bargain,” with several presumptions on how the system should work. A January 2014 LexisNexis Legal News Room Workers Compensation Law blog post addresses these presumptions. The blog itself is a respected neutral source on workers’ compensation issues.

While employers and insurance companies are chipping away at the protection workers’ compensation systems offer to injured workers and their loved ones through stalling tactics such as disputing if an injury happened at work or just straight out refusing coverage, those same interests are bending the ears of each state’s politicians to further erode the “Grand Bargain.”

Year in and year out, business and insurance groups cause a large number of bills to be filed that take away benefits from workers or make it more difficult for workers to obtain benefits or take control of their treatment for work injuries.

A recent study’s results, written in the same blog by the same author, reinforces what many injured workers, their loved ones, and their attorneys already know: essentially that workers in New Mexico (and I would argue that this is easily applicable to injured workers in many states) are no longer benefitting from the “Grand Bargain.”

The Grand Bargain Is Out of Equilibrium

“An important part of the ‘grand bargain’ between employers and employees within the workers’ compensation arena is the idea that just as the wear and tear on an employer’s machinery ought to be reflected in the price of the employer’s goods or services, so also should the wear and tear on the employer’s work force. A product’s price should reflect the total cost of production, including the costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses. The Seabury study adds weight to the argument that the grand bargain is out of equilibrium, that workers’ compensation benefits do not adequately replace what a worker loses through his or her injury, that the physical and economic costs associated with work-related injuries and illnesses are not being fully addressed, and that the injured worker is at least partially subsidizing the overall cost of America’s goods and services with his or her lost income.”

The bottom line from this respected author is that workers’ compensation benefits should not be reduced, made more difficult to obtain, etc., when workers who get injured already make less money over a 10-year period of time than workers who aren’t injured.

So let’s elect legislators who will both restore and support the “Grand Bargain” for injured workers and their loved ones.

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.

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OSHA’s Region 7 Busy in September

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is frequently referred to as OSHA.

OSHA’s Region 7 covers Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, although Iowa operates its “own OSHA-approved job safety and health programs and cover state and local government workers as well as private sector workers.” In addition, the approved program “must have standards that are identical to, or at least as effective as, the federal OSHA standards,” according to an OSHA web page. The region has had a busy month releasing the results of investigations and resulting fines, so I thought it would be interesting to make this blog post a roundup of the results, which were gleaned from OSHA news releases, found at the web page for Region 7.

Although the proposed fines unfortunately do not reflect the severity of some of the injuries, OSHA’s job is not to punish businesses for injured workers, but for unsafe working conditions. That also means that fines are often decreased or eliminated when the hazard in the workplace is fixed. However, OSHA investigating a business based on an accident can often help an injured person’s workers’ compensation case.

  1. Date and location: Sept. 2, McCool Junction, Neb.

    Proposed fine: $84,000

    Number of citations for safety violations: one repeat, two serious to Farmers’ Cooperative at its McCool Junction fertilizer plant

    Details: A 73-year-old worker died from injuries after falling while loading a tanker truck on May 7, according to OSHA’s news release. Citations were related to lack of fall protection, lack of guard rails, and not providing railing on stairways.

  2. Date and location: Sept. 2, Kansas City, Mo.

    Damages paid to whistleblower: $12,000: $2,000 compensatory and $10,000 punitive

    Law violated: Federal Railroad Safety Act by Farmers’ Cooperative

    Details: A railroad conductor at the Murray Yard complex was disciplined in retaliation after a doctor’s appointment in November 2013 where the doctor told him to stay out of work for the rest of the day because of a personal illness, according to OSHA’s news release. Although the worker notified a supervisor about the doctor’s treatment plan, “the company then accused the employee of violating its attendance policy and subsequently disciplined the employee.” In addition to paying damages, the company must “remove disciplinary information from the employee’s personnel record and provide whistleblower rights information to its employees.”

  3. Date and location: Sept. 22, Omaha, Neb.

    Proposed fine: $133,900

    Number of citations for safety violations: three repeat and three serious, including confined space safety regulations, to Watco Companies of Pittsburg, Kan., a business that specializes in rail car repairs and has 30 employees in Omaha

    Details: A worker “reported suffering from respiratory inflammation after performing welding work inside a rail car in Omaha,” according to OSHA’s news release. An investigation in March was launched after the Nebraska Department of Labor Workers’ Compensation Division notified OSHA via a report of the illness. Repeat violations were “for failure to implement training, procedures and practices for safe entry into these spaces, including the company’s failure to evaluate for hazards, and to provide workers with communication devices or implement measures to prevent unauthorized entry.” Previous citations that made these repeat happened in Texas in 2013. “Serious violations were cited for failure to provide administrative and engineering controls to reduce damaging noise exposure, electrical hazards and lack of atmospheric controls in confined spaces.”

  4. Date and location: Sept. 25, Holdrege, Neb.

    Proposed fine: $14,000

    Number of citations for safety violations: two serious: “for failing to train workers in the recognition of unsafe conditions and to teach them how to access emergency medical services from a job site,” according to OSHA’s news release. The company is Van Kirk Sand and Gravel, operating as Van Kirk Brothers Contracting, which is based in Sutton, Neb.

    Details: One worker died and one worker was hurt after getting hit “by an excavator bucket while installing stormwater drainage in a trench … in Holdrege on July 17.” The inspection by OSHA “found that one of the employees sustained puncture wounds from the bucket after it disconnected from the excavator and rolled into the trench from a height of about 4 feet.” That worker died, and the other worker “suffered contusions and abrasions in the incident and has since returned to work.”

  5. Date and location: Sept. 25, Wichita, Kan.

    Damages paid to whistleblower: $261,787 for back wages and damages; and also reinstatement to their job and removing references to the disciplinary action from the employee’s record

    Law violated: Surface Transportation Assistance Act by Stericycle Inc. of Lake Forest, Ill., which specializes in biohazard waste disposal

    Details: “An investigation found the company wrongfully terminated a transportation supervisor at its Wichita terminal because the worker raised safety concerns after a driver was instructed to pull a trailer without a valid license plate,” according to the OSHA news release. When the employee was fired in September 2012, it was because of his status as a whistleblower. “It was determined that his protected activity was a contributing factor in the company’s decision to terminate his employment on Sept. 14, 2012, in direct violation of STAA.”

In addition to investigating unsafe working conditions, OSHA also works with nonprofits, businesses and industries to promote safety and accident prevention, which is what the remainder of the news releases in September are about.

  • On Sept. 3, OSHA announced that it is forming an alliance with the Heartland Workers Center of Omaha. This effort will “provide HWC staff, immigrant workers and others with education, guidance and access to training resources on protecting the health and safety of workers,” according to the OSHA news release. This includes promoting workers’ rights, how to make an OSHA complaint, what employers’ responsibilities are under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and providing Spanish-language safety and health training.
  • On Sept. 16, OSHA announced that it will work with Holder Construction Group to keep workers safe during the building of a data center called the Oasis project in Omaha, “which will include a chiller plant, administrative areas and supporting mechanical, electrical and plumbing rooms,” according to OSHA’s news release. The estimated 180 tradesmen who will construct the building, along with their employers, will learn “about hazards construction workers face daily on the job, including fall, electrical, caught-in and struck-by hazards.” In addition to other details, “all contractors and subcontractors on the project will be required to have specific written safety and health programs in place and attend meetings before major work takes place.”
  • Finally, on Sept. 25, OSHA announced in a news release that it was National Farm Safety and Health Week Sept. 21-27. Although the way workers’ compensation is handled when it comes to agriculture varies from state to state, ag is a dangerous industry. The news release includes both statistics and resources with many links for ag workers and their loved ones and also employers. The 2014 theme was “Safety Counts: Protecting What Matters,” according to the OSHA news release. “With a fatality rate of 22.2 for every 100,000 full-time workers, agriculture recorded the highest fatality rate of any industry sector,” in 2013. Issues include “awareness of confined space, farm equipment, grain handling … work-related lung diseases, heat exposure, noise-induced hearing loss, struck-by and fall hazards, skin diseases and certain cancers associated with chemical use and prolonged sun exposure.”

While it would be great if OSHA didn’t have to exist because workplaces were safe for employees, it is helpful to see both proactive steps taken to make workplaces safe and also businesses being held accountable when workers are injured because businesses or job sites are unsafe in Region 7.

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.

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