Tag Archives: OSHA

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.

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Improving Workers’ Compensation for Workers: Another View

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There’s a lot to debate and digest in the recent NPR/ProPublica workers’ compensation series. The Center for Effective Government has published an analysis that adds to the discussion. The piece’s catchy title is Six Charts Explain How Workers’ Compensation is Deteriorating. It points to evidence that supports the need for change that protects workers, rather than reducing business costs.

The article points out: 

  • The amount employers pay into workers’ compensation programs is at historic lows.
  • Workers’ comp is not burdening business.
  • The costs of workplace injuries and illness have shifted to workers.

I don’t agree with the author’s recommendations for improving workers’ compensation (federal preemption) but am convinced that the evidence is strongly on the side of ending the current spate of “cost reduction aka profit enhancement” proposals that show up in state legislatures annually. We should be focusing on improving the system for workers and reducing the human and economic costs for injured workers and their families.

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Take the Time for Ag Safety This Holiday Season

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I hope you and yours were able to have a nice Thanksgiving break. Many people aren’t afforded that luxury because of work or other circumstances, so thoughts go out to them during the holidays. Due to an incident that recently happened on a local turkey farm near Waverly, the loved ones of Mr. Joaquin Danilo Mina Munoz are grieving his death. Sympathies are definitely extended to his loved ones.

Although original reports of being “sucked into grain while working with a running auger” were incorrect, Mr. Munoz did apparently die “when his clothing got tangled on the auger blade shaft” of a grain truck, according to the tragic story.

That incident got me to thinking about safety in agriculture. Now that the corn and soybean harvests are done, some folks breathe a big sigh of relief, but they shouldn’t be lax when it comes to safety.

Unfortunately, farming is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. And, as firm partner Todd Bennett wrote in a previous blog post, workers’ compensation is complicated in Nebraska when it comes to ag and farming operations. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only covers a part of the nation’s grain-handling facilities, according to a recent in-depth story in the Lincoln Journal Star. That is why safety in grain handling and in agriculture in general is so important.

In addition, OSHA recently cited Double Dutch Dairy in Shelby, Neb., for four serious violations and proposed fines of $22,500 for an incident on June 17 where a worker was “fatally injured by a front-end loader,” according to the news release in the link. The Wisconsin-based dairy was cited “after an inspection found that the driver’s view was obstructed,” when the driver struck the worker.

Now that the busy harvest season is done and the busy-in-a-different-way holiday season is upon us, I urge all workers, but especially those in agriculture, to review their safety practices and take care so all can have the luxury of spending a little bit of time with their loved ones over the upcoming holidays.

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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