Category Archives: Safety Rules

The Right to a Safe Workplace

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Under federal law, every employee has the right to a safe workplace. If you believe your workplace is dangerous and changes in safety policy are ignored, you can request an inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Workers’ compensation, which is regulated on a state-by-state level, covers medical bills, lost wages, disability and vocational rehabilitation services for employees injured on the job. If you have any questions regarding these benefits, please contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

 If you believe you work in an unsafe work area, here are some tips to be aware of to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, and you protect yourself from significant injury:

  1.  Know the hazards in your workplace.
  2. While in a seated position, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Use good form when lifting.
  3. Injuries occur when workers get tired. Take breaks when you’re tired.
  4. Do not skip safety procedures just because it makes the job easier or quicker. Using dangerous machinery is the one of the leading causes of work injuries.
  5. Be aware of where emergency shutoff switches are located.
  6. Report unsafe work areas.
  7. Wear proper safety equipment.

If you are injured due to an unsafe workplace, and you are unsure of the benefits that you are entitled to, contact an experienced attorney in your area.

Workplace Violence and Sandy Hook Elementary School

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm.

While this post occurred some time ago, the issues related to workplace violence remain relevant.

In light of the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week it may be time to re-evaluate workplace violence, which seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Technically, workplace violence is any act where an employee is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted in the workplace. It can include threats, harassment, and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks by someone with an assault rifle. 

Two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. What’s worse is that workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the United States. Last year, for example, one in every five fatal work injuries was attributed not to accidents but to workplace violence,  and  some employees are at an increased risk for harm. For example, employees who work with the public or who handle money are more at risk (i.e. bank tellers, pizza delivery drivers, or social workers). According to the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, robbers were found to be the assailants in almost a third of homicide/workplace violence cases involving men, whereas female workers were more likely to be attacked by a relative (i.e. former spouse or partner) while at work.  

Preventing workplace violence is a challenging task and OSHA advises employers to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Creating a safe perimeter for employees is crucial. Likewise, having an emergency protocol in place should reduce the number of fatalities in an attack, and that’s exactly what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut when the school’s protocol saved the lives of many children.

Buying a Cheap Shirt at Wal-Mart? Consider the real cost (in lives).

Wal-Mart’s low prices have led to unsafe working conditions.

The recent Bangladesh factory fire killed over 100 workers.  The factor produced goods for Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart now concedes it “needs to do more to control its supply chain.” 

Wal-Mart’s Vice President of “Ethical Sourcing” (irony noted here) said the company control could “only go so far” in preventing an unauthorized factory producing its goods.  Wal-Mart said its Faded Glory clothing should not have been produced in the factory, which Bangladesh officials said was not safe.

Wal-Mart’s “factory certification” program focused on Bangladesh and China was allegedly “dedicated to improving the status of foreign labor.” Tell that to the families of the workers who died.

At a meeting last year where Wal-Mart’s Vice President of Ethical Sourcing was in attendance, the Bangladeshi Garment Workers Union proposed that producers such as Wal-Mart help ensure prices are high enough to provide for safety measures for their workers.

Wal-Mart’s Vice President indicated Wal-Mart could not support such a program because of the high cost.  Consider that next time you buy a cheap shirt at Wal-Mart.

Buying a Cheap Shirt at Wal-Mart? Consider the real cost (in lives).

Wal-Mart’s low prices have led to unsafe working conditions.

The recent Bangladesh factory fire killed over 100 workers.  The factor produced goods for Wal-Mart.  Wal-Mart now concedes it “needs to do more to control its supply chain.” 

Wal-Mart’s Vice President of “Ethical Sourcing” (irony noted here) said the company control could “only go so far” in preventing an unauthorized factory producing its goods.  Wal-Mart said its Faded Glory clothing should not have been produced in the factory, which Bangladesh officials said was not safe.

Wal-Mart’s “factory certification” program focused on Bangladesh and China was allegedly “dedicated to improving the status of foreign labor.” Tell that to the families of the workers who died.

At a meeting last year where Wal-Mart’s Vice President of Ethical Sourcing was in attendance, the Bangladeshi Garment Workers Union proposed that producers such as Wal-Mart help ensure prices are high enough to provide for safety measures for their workers.

Wal-Mart’s Vice President indicated Wal-Mart could not support such a program because of the high cost.  Consider that next time you buy a cheap shirt at Wal-Mart.

Death On The Job – AFL-CIO's Releases Its 21st Annual Report

Today’s post comes from guest author Edgar Romano from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

The AFL-CIO has released its 2012 report on worker fatalities which also examines the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) role in ensuring safe workplaces. The AFL-CIO has been producing this report for 21 years, and we hope they continue to do so.

Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.

In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous— Continue reading

Too Much Government Regulation?

Last week in Chicago I participated in a conference for the Work Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG). I have been a Board member since its inception in 1996, and edit its national magazine Workers’ First Watch. The conference commemorated the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Commission on Worker’s (then Workmen’s) Compensation. The conference presenters, Republican appointees of the Nixon administration, concluded that only a few of the 18 basic recommendations for injured workers (sufficient and timely benefits, medical care, etc) had been reached.

One lonely success story was the OSHA record. Nick Walters, a Regional Director of OSHA, presented devastating news for the “we need less government” crowd. He noted before OSHA was created in 1970, fourteen thousand Americans died annually on the job. Forty years later, in 2010, based in large part on OSHA safety regulations, work related deaths were reduced by 70%. For those on the “job-killing regulation” bandwagon, the undeniable fact is that OSHA is helping prevent employers from killing workers. Additionally, a recent Harvard-Berkley study indicated a Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unsafe Workplaces Equal More Injuries.

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

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

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

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

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