San Antonio driver says he didn’t know immigrants were in truck

Today’s post was shared by Jon L Gelman and comes from www.cnn.com

A federal complaint shed light on the ordeal. One man from Mexico, who crossed the border through Laredo, Texas, said he and his brother traveled for a day before they climbed into the tractor-trailer; another man said he spent nearly 11 days at a Laredo "stash house" with about two dozen others before their journey on the semi.

"This most recent example is an example of human smuggling where individuals were brought into the United States in violation of immigration law," Jack Staton, acting assistant director for intelligence for Homeland Security Investigations at ICE, told reporters on Monday.

When police came to investigate the semi, an officer found "multiple people standing and laying at and around the rear of the trailer," according to a criminal complaint against Bradley.

"Bradley advised the officer that the trailer he was hauling had been sold and he was transporting the trailer from Schaller, Iowa, to Brownsville, Texas," on the border with Mexico, the federal criminal complaint says. Bradley said he was delivering the truck to its new owner in Brownsville at his boss’ request, but that he was not given a time frame nor a delivery address, the complaint said.

Bradley later told authorities he was traveling to San Antonio from Laredo, Texas, after getting the tractor-trailer washed and detailed, the complaint said. After the wash at the Laredo truck stop, Bradley said he drove to the "old truck stop," which was…

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Workplace Safety De-Regulation Continues

The con continues.  Many American workers were conned into initially voting for Donald Trump, and that con game continues with the Trump Administration and its views on worker safety.  Campaign promises of benefitting the US worker ring hollow with each and every anti-worker de-regulation push.

Recent reports reveal the administration is removing or delaying OSHA protective regulatory standards on numerous fronts.  (Updated OSHA agenda reflects Trump administration focus on de-regulation).   The administration previously acted against improved employer recordkeeping for workplace injuries and illnesses. Now, the anti-worker protection agenda continues with the administration effectively pulling important items from the regulatory agenda.

From the above-linked report, some of the important issues “removed” from the OSHA regulatory agenda are: Preventing Backover Injuries and Fatalities; Noise in Construction; Bloodborne Pathogens; and Combustible Dust.

Failure to have adequate regulations–and penalties–has real world consequences.  Just look at what happened in Cambria, Wisconsin in May 2017 when a corn mill exploded and workers died from what appears to be Combustible Dust.  This was and continues to be a devastating workplace accident for a smaller town in Wisconsin.  Sadly, a Journal Sentinel story indicated:

A review of online OSHA records shows the plant was cited in January 2011 for exposing its workers to dust explosion hazards. The records state that plant filters lacked an explosion protective system.

The agency ordered the mill to correct the problem by April 2011. The records show Didion paid a $3,465 fine and the case was closed in September 2013.

Such minimal OSHA fines or penalties likely provided corresponding minimal incentives to improve safety standards or hazardous practices.  The limited incentives are bolstered by relatively toothless “employer safety violation” penalty in a Wisconsin worker’s compenstion claim, which is capped at a maximum of $15,000.

Further “anti-regulation” pushes likely increase the lack of safety incentives for employers. Those anti-regulation efforts are alive in Wisconsin and on the federal stage–especially in the Trump agenda.

Workers should be aware that anti-regulation may equal anti-worker.   And anti-safety.

OSHA’s Campaign to Keep Workers Safe in the Heat

Today’s post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from www.osha.gov

Image of construction workers
Image of construction workers

#WaterRestShade Tweets

Our Heat Illness Prevention campaign, launched in 2011, educates employers and workers on the dangers of working in the heat. Through training sessions, outreach events, informational sessions, publications, social media messaging and media appearances, millions of workers and employers have learned how to protect workers from heat. Our safety message comes down to three key words: Water. Rest. Shade.

Every year, dozens of workers die and thousands more become ill while working in extreme heat or humid conditions. More than 40 percent of heat-related worker deaths occur in the construction industry, but workers in every field are susceptible. There are a range of heat illnesses and they can affect anyone, regardless of age or physical condition.

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.

OSHA’s Occupational Exposure to Heat page explains what employers can do to keep workers safe and what workers need to know -…

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Distracted Driving – A Workplace Hazard

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

The dangers of distracted driving prompted OSHA to launch a Distracted Driving Initiative in 2010. The initiative’s primary focus has been to encourage employers to prohibit their employees from texting while driving for work.

One in ten traffic-related fatalities involved distraction in 2015 (the most recent year for statistics) according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. The U.S. Government Website for Distracted Driving defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” These activities include, but are not limited to, texting, using a cell phone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, using a navigation system, and adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player.

Texting while driving is one of the more dangerous distractions because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. Although it is illegal to text while driving in 46 states, many drivers, especially younger drivers, have admitted to texting while driving. According to OSHA, drivers who text while driving focus their attention away from the road for an average for 4.6 seconds, which at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

To learn more about distracted driving and to take the pledge to drive phone-free, visit www.distraction.gov.

Falls Cause Rising Number of Brain Injuries in Older Adults

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

According to the latest report from the CDC, from 2007 to 2013, the rate for traumatic brain injuries that resulted in emergency department visits, hospitalizations, or deaths increased 39 percent. Traumatic brain injuries contribute to about 30 percent of all injury deaths. It was initially believed that the increase in brain injuries was caused by rising awareness of sports-related head injuries in children and young adults. However, after researchers reviewed the data, they found that the biggest driver in the increase of brain injuries was due to older adults.

The rate for reported brain injuries for elderly Americans increased 76 percent from 2007 to 2013, much greater than any other age group. This increase is believed to be due to falls. Many times they are not reported, and according to Dr. Lauren Southerland, an Ohio State University emergency physician “what may seem like a mild initial fall may cause concussions or other problems that increase the chances of future falls – and more severe injuries.

To address fall-related brain injuries, the CDC has developed the STEADI (Stopping Elderly Accidents and Injuries) initiative to help primary care providers address their patients’ fall risk. The CDC has also launched a HEADS UP awareness campaign to help individuals recognize, respond to, and minimize the risk of concussion or other serious brain injury.

Premiums Drop Again for Wisconsin Employers!

In yet another sign of the stability of Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation system, premiums for work comp insurance decreased by 8.46% for the state’s employers.   The work comp administering agency just released a press release detailing that beneficial decrease.

This is the second year in a row that work comp premiums have gone down–and there is a net decrease for the rates in the past decade.  

Much of this success, as the press release indicates, arises from the efforts of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council.   As we’ve discussed before, this group of labor and management members steadies the system, producing reasoned and vetted changes to the Work Comp Act.  The press release indicates “the Council recommends changes to law to ensure it keeps up with today’s industries and trends.”   This Council process aims to protect the law (and the insurance rates) from partisan swings.

Other states, in stark contrast, may experience wild swings in the substance of their work comp laws–depending on political changes.  Such changes introduce uncertainty and risk–and corresponding insurance rate increases.  Wisconsin, however, remains largely protected from these changes because of the Council’s efforts.

Stable–and decreasing insurance premiums–make Wisconsin a great place for work comp insurance companies and for employers (both big and small).  With decreasing rates for employers, the current climate suggests no need for drastic changes to a Work Comp Act that works for Wisconsin.

Trump Dumps Workplace Safety

When FBI Director James Comey calls President Trump a liar, the world takes notice, but when Trump lies about workplace safety, the world takes little notice.  Trump’s administration has recently provided significant “relaxation” in the government’s approach to occupational safety.  The administration recently delayed action on a rule that would require the employer to electronically report workplace injuries so they can be posted for the public.  OSHA has also put off enforcement of an Obama-era standard for silica, a mineral linked to a disabling lung disease and cancer.  I’ve dealt with many silica exposure claims in Wisconsin particularly coming from the Kohler Corporation in Kohler, Wisconsin where silica is a necessary ingredient in many bathroom fixture manufacturing processes.  The administration has also proposed changes in beryllium exposure limits.  After 40 years of development a new rule under the Obama administration was set to lower workplace exposure to beryllium a mineral linked to a lung disease estimated to kill 100 people annually.  The nation’s largest beryllium producer had agreed to back the new restrictions.  A few weeks ago as the rule was going into effect the new administration proposed changes that many expect may exempt major industries from this tougher standard. 

When asked about the Trump administration’s approach to workplace safety a White House spokesman said “The President and his administration care very much about worker safety…”  Yet another lie.  See also Under Trump, Worker Protections Are Viewed With New Skepticism

Trump’s Budget Cuts and Social Security Disability: Is “Fraud Suspicion” Underlying the Cuts?

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney echoed the mantra of many conservative Republicans who suspect that folks who are Social Security Disability recipients are fraudulent.  “If you are on disability insurance and you’re not supposed to be, you are not truly disabled, we need you to go back to work.”  This conservative trope reflects, without any evidence to substantiate it, the same kind of misinformation about employee fraud that pervades perceptions of workers’ compensation fraud. 

As I have often written about in the past, the public’s perception of injured individuals (whether collecting workers’ compensation or Social Security Disability benefits) is vastly overinflated.  The statistics indicate only about one-sixth of one percent of injured workers in Wisconsin are fraudulent.  That’s about 2 in 10,000.

The Trump administration budget proposed up to $64 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance expenditures, directly contradicting Trump’s campaign promises not to cut Social Security.  The cuts stem mostly from new program rules and processes, and requirements for mandatory participation by program applicants to move disabled beneficiaries from SSDI to work.

While returning to work is always a laudable goal (for both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability), the last eight times that budget proposals have initiated programs to promote return to work “none of the findings reported to date show they would likely lead to a substantial reduction in case load sizes.”  http://www.researchondisability.org/docs/default-document-library/ssa-back-to-work-06-2012.pdf?sfvrsn=2

Through their contributions to Social Security, workers earn a measure of protection against disability retirement and death.  (Disability insurance protects a worker against loss of earnings due to a significant work limiting impairment, and workers earn this protection by having worked and contributed to Social Security.)  Many of my work-injured employees ultimately end up on Social Security Disability and this protection is particularly important to older Americans.  Most people receiving Social Security Disability benefits are in their 50s or early 60s and most had only unskilled or semi-skilled jobs.  Without a college degree, benefits are not significant (averaging about $1,200 per month).  However, over half of Social Security beneficiaries rely on these benefits for 75% or more of their total income. 

The proposed budget cuts to Social Security are another slap in the face to injured workers.