Toxic Substances in the Workplace: A Major Cause of Danger to Workers

Posted by on Apr 12, 2016 in Worker Injuries | 0 comments

In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) was enacted by the US Congress, making it the first federal law that is aimed at ensuring safety of all workers and safety in all workplaces. This task, as specifically defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is geared towards making sure that “employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions”.

The passing into law of the OSH Act was the federal government’s response to the widespread occurrences of workplace accidents that continuously injured millions of workers and took thousands of lives. But while OSH Act’s main purpose was enacting laws, enforcement of these laws and the setting of workplace health and safety standards were made the tasks of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which the OSH Act established in 1971.

Since it came into existence, OSHA, with the help of State and local governments, has worked to significantly reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the workplace. Based on records from the US Department of Labor, because of OSHA, the average 38 daily work-related deaths in the 1970s is down to 13 a day (in 2014). Even work-related injuries which, in the 1970s, was at 10.9 incidents per 100 workers, is now down to 3.2 per 100 workers.

Injuries and deaths, however, are not only caused by dangerous tools, machineries, large and heavy equipment, snarled wires, or any other thing that would increase risk of accident (regardless of the type of workplace where workers perform their job). According to OSHA, there are also hazardous substances which can develop in workers a chronic, deadly disease that can keep them out of work and require continuous medical treatment.

More than 13 million workers in the US, as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are affected by toxic substances and chemical hazards. One example of these hazardous substances is silica or crystalline silica, a very common mineral and a basic component of granite and sand. Silica has caused in millions of workers the development of pulmonary tuberculosis, lung cancer or silicosis, a serious lung disease. Those especially affected are foundry workers, miners and sandblasters.

Many substances, besides causing internal injuries due to inhalation of fumes, can also cause occupational skin diseases (OSD), like skin cancer, skin infection, irritant contact dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis or other types of skin diseases. OSDs are, actually, the second most common type of work-related diseases among those whose line of work fall under construction, agriculture, printing or lithography, painting, cleaning, cosmetology,  mechanics, health care and food service.

As explained in the website of the Williams Kherkher law firm, taking reasonable safety precautions and making sure that workers and visitors are kept out of danger are part of a company’s responsibilities. This means that if an accident occurs due to an employer’s negligence (regardless of the cause of the accident: a faulty equipment, a dangerous condition, poor decisions by management or co-workers, or by exposure to dangerous substances), the injured will have the right to seek compensation for his or her injuries.

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What to Do after a Maritime Accident

Posted by on Sep 25, 2014 in Worker Injuries | 1 comment

There has been a recent expansion in the definition of a seaman under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act), a federal law protecting the rights of an injured seaman, to include particular shore-based maritime workers. If you have been seriously injured due to negligence while working in the maritime industry and you qualify as a seaman under the two-pronged Chandris test, you may be able to file a claim for damages against your employer. Here’s what to do.

Report It

Under the Jones Act, seamen have 7 days to report work-related injuries to a superior in order to qualify for damage recovery. However, a maritime lawyer would urge the injured worker to report the injury immediately to avoid casting doubt over the nature of the injury. The assumption is that if the injury is not reported as soon as possible, it was not serious at all.

State It

The next step is to file an accident report with your company (not the insurer) as soon as you are able to do so reliably. Make sure that you describe the incident sufficiently to indicate the negligence of the employer, if applicable, which is required to make a claim under the Jones Act. While this may be difficult to do, it will help your case considerably if you establish fault early on. You should also make sure that the injury was caused by negligence and serious enough to qualify under the Jones Act or you could be wasting everybody’s time and risking your job for no good purpose. Consult with a maritime lawyer before filing the accident report, or anything else for that matter.

Get Off

As soon as physically possible, get off the ship or shipyard and seek medical attention if you have not yet received more than emergency first aid. Your employer is obliged to ensure that you get proper medical attention by arranging for a medical evacuation when out to sea or in a foreign country with no qualified physician on board, or to go to a hospital when on shore. Once stabilized, seek your own doctor and strictly follow treatment orders to avoid casting doubt on the seriousness of your condition. Your employer’s insurer should be paying for your treatment; if not, consult with a maritime lawyer to find out if you can file a lawsuit, especially if you are looking at financial losses in excess of $15,000.

Settle or File

You can choose to accept a settlement from your employer’s insurer or file a Jones Act lawsuit. Just make sure that before you settle your case that you have explored the extent of your injury or you could be getting less compensation than you need, and once you settle you can no longer file a lawsuit to recover more damages. If the insurer is unwilling to settle the case to your satisfaction, then you will have to sue them.

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On-the-Job Car Accidents: The Benefits the Injured Employee is Entitled to Receive?

Posted by on Jun 9, 2014 in Car Accidents, Worker Injuries | 0 comments

Studies show that besides the private use of cars, more Americans have also been found to be driving for reasons that are related to work. Needing to make a delivery or pick up a package, transporting a co-employee or employer, meeting with a client, making an ocular visit to a job site and so forth, are just some of the reasons and factors that make work no longer just confined inside the office.

Studies also show that a large number of those who get involved in auto accidents are people whose time behind the wheel is part of their job. Thus, it is necessary that these people, as well as everyone else, understand their legal right, especially if the accident they are involved in (or get involved in) results to property damage and/or injuries, or worse, disability or death.

People who sustain job-related injuries, especially injuries that lead to temporary disability (which may last for weeks or months, but less than a year) are entitled to receive financial aid provided by the workers’ compensation benefits program. Going to, or heading home from, work is no longer part of job, thus getting involved in an accident during any of these times is non-job-related. If at any time, however, an employee was required by his/her employer to pick up office supplies or run any errand, and ends up in an accident along the way, then such may be considered as still part of the job (this may be based on the Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947, which recognizes any act performed in behalf of the employer, even outside work hours, as part of work and requiring pay).

The workers’ compensation benefit, which is financial assistance given to employees who sustain work-related accidents (or illnesses) is intended to cover cost of medical treatment, lost wages, vocational rehabilitation, disability, and, in the event of death, funeral expenses and usually wage replacement benefits for the family. In cases wherein permanent disability is sustained, and if disabled employees have earned the required number of merits, then they may file a claim with the Social Security Disability Insurance. Besides the workers’ comp and SSDI, if the accident was not the fault of the injured employee, then he/she may also file a civil case for compensation from the driver at fault.

Experienced Des Moines, IA workers’ compensation lawyers will be aware of how to prepare all required documents and applications, and will know the proper procedure for submitting them. While this may seem like an easy task, applying for workers’ comp or Social Security are never simple matters. Thus having a highly-competent lawyer’s assistance through all this is an important matter.

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