Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

27
Oct 2014
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OSHA’s Top Violations for 2014

Employers have a basic obligation to follow rules set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These rules are designed to prevent hazardous conditions from putting workers at risk of injury or death. Unfortunately, a workers’ compensation lawyer knows that it is not uncommon for employers to fail to live up to even minimum safety standards. 

When an employer allows substandard conditions to exist at a workplace, the lives of employees are endangered. An employee can make a complaint and an investigation may be triggered (the employee is protected by law from retaliation). Inspections are also triggered when a worker is injured or killed and the incident is reported to OSHA. Businesses in Providence, RI and surrounding areas including Barrington, Bristol, East Greenwich, and North Kingstown are supposed to be subject to periodic inspections as well, but unfortunately OSHA is understaffed and these types of inspections in the ordinary course of business do not occur as often as they should.

When OSHA inspectors visit a workplace and find something wrong, a citation may be issued. Recently, Safety and Health Magazine reported that OSHA has released its list of top violations over Federal Fiscal Year 2014, which ended at the end of September. These are the safety standards that employers most frequently failed to live up to.

List of Top OSHA Violations

OSHA unveiled the list of the most cited violations at the National Safety Council’s Congress and Expo. The list included:

  • Fall Protection in Construction (1926.501). A failure to live up to this particular fall protections standard has been the most frequent OSHA violation for four years in a row.
  • Hazard Communication (1910.1200). Employees must be appropriately notified of hazards and dangers to avoid injury.
  • Scaffolding in Construction (1926.451). Scaffolding problems, along with a failure to provide fall protection, are some of the main reasons why falls remain a top cause of death. Falls are considered one of the “Fatal Four,” which means that they are among the four top causes of construction worker fatalities.
  • Respiratory Protection (1910.134). When employees breath in toxins and chemicals, they can become sick. Workers’ compensation covers workplace illnesses.
  • Lockout/Tagout (1910.147). Lockout and tagout procedures are procedures designed to protect workers from a machine or piece of equipment unexpectedly starting.
  • Powered Industrial Trucks (1910.178). This standard relates to the design, maintenance and use of fork trusts and other related equipment powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines.
  • Electrical – Wiring Methods (1910.305). Improper safety processes when it comes to wiring can result in electrocution or burns.
  • Ladders in Construction (1926.1053). Problems with ladders also contribute to falls being one of the top four causes of workplace fatalities.
  • Machine Guarding (1910.212). When machine guards are not properly in place, workers could suffer amputations, other serious injuries or death.
  • Electrical – General Requirements (1910.303). Like problems with wiring methods, a failure to fulfill any electrical safety requirements could have deadly consequences.

Employers and employees need to be aware of these top causes of violations and do everything possible to avoid unsafe conditions in the workplace.

Contact a Providence workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit http://www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation.


22
Sep 2014
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New OSHA Reporting Rules Provide Insight into On-the-Job Risks in Providence

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires workers to report when injuries occur on-the-job. Reporting is necessary so that OSHA investigations can be triggered and accurate records kept regarding the number of people who are hurt and killed in different work environments. 

A workers’ compensation lawyer knows that there are too few OSHA inspectors and that most workplaces are not inspected frequently. It is important for OSHA to be notified when someone gets hurt so problem businesses can be identified and made to improve working conditions for employees. OSHA is taking steps to ensure that more injuries and fatalities are reported in order for the agency to be more effective at protecting workers.

New OSHA reporting requirements could help to ensure that OSHA is notified in more situations and more quickly when an injury happens so more accurate and comprehensive evaluations can be conducted.

New OSHA Reporting Requirements

The new OSHA reporting rules will go into effect on January 1, 2015. Under the new rules, employers are now required to notify OSHA of:

  • Workplace fatalities within eight hours of the time that the employee is killed.
  • In-patient hospitalizations of one or more workers within 24 hours of the time when the worker is admitted to the hospital.
  • Amputations or the loss of an eye within 24 hours of the incident occurring.

Under current rules, companies are required to make a report to OSHA only if three or more employees are hospitalized. Companies are also not currently required to make a report to OSHA after the loss of an eye or after an amputation.

The Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health stated: “OSHA will now receive crucial reports of fatalities and severe work-related injuries and illnesses that will significantly enhance the agency’s ability to target our resources to save lives and prevent further injury and illness. This new data will enable the agency to identify the workplaces where workers are at the greatest risk and target our compliance assistance and enforcement resources accordingly.”

In addition to changing circumstances under which injuries and deaths must be reported, the new OSHA rules also update the list of industries that are exempt from routinely keeping OSHA up-to-date on injury and illness records. These are industries where there are relatively few workplace deaths and illnesses. The old list of industries exempt from reporting was based on the old Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC) that was devised from data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 1996, 1997 and 1998. The new list of exempt industries is instead based on the North American Industry Classification System, which was developed from much more recent data collected by the BLS In 2007, 2008, and 2009.

These changes ensure that more industries will need to report workplace illnesses and injuries if they are no longer as safe as they once were; and also ensures that OSHA has better information about how workers are getting hurt on-the-job.

Contact a Providence, RI work accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit http://www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation.

21
Aug 2014
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Will a New Executive Order Work to Discourage OSHA Violations?

President Barack Obama has issued a new executive order (EO) called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order. The EO is designed to increase scrutiny on companies that are bidding on federal contracts. One of the goals of the executive order is to encourage these companies to do better at making worker safety a priority. The question is, will it be effective? 

While there are many laws in place designed to guarantee safe workplaces and protect employees, companies do not always obey the rules. If you or a loved one is injured or killed on the job, it is important to consult with a workers compensation lawyer who can provide experienced legal help.

New Executive Order Limits Federal Contractors for OSHA Violators

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive order applies to companies who bid for contracts to provide labor or services to the federal government. These potential federal contractors will now be required to disclose any labor law violations that they have incurred. The disclosure requirement extends to violations of several different worker-protection laws including:

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act
  • The National Labor Relations Act
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Fair Labor standards Act relates to working hours and pay; the National Labor Relations Act guarantees collective bargaining rights; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act sets standards for workplace safety and worker protections.

The new executive order is going to be implemented on new contracts in stages starting during 2016. All contracts for more than $500,000 in goods, services or a combination thereof will be affected. The rationale behind issuing the EO is that “taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law.”

Safety News Alert indicates that the contracting officials are going to be considering the most egregious violations when deciding if a business is disqualified from taking on federal contracts. The business will be ineligible only if the violations “rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics.”

Unfortunately, this means that while it may improve conditions somewhat for workers, the executive order does not go very far in actually ensuring that employers follow all OSHA rules and regulations. This is especially true since even companies with serious violations can have the chance to remediate the problems and remain eligible for federal work. A fact sheet on the law says that violators will be “offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems.”

A Government Accountability Office report in 2010 found that almost 50 percent of the companies that received the 50 largest workplace health and safety penalties between 2005 to 2009 were federal contractors. A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee report in 2013 also found that 18 companies that received large federal contracts were responsible for 23 out of 100 of the largest initial penalties OSHA imposed for safety violations.

Federal contractors are routinely endangering workers and the best that lawmakers can do is issue an executive order phased in two years from now that will limit only some violators from getting contracts. It does not seem like nearly enough.

Contact a Providence workers’ comp lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 to schedule your free consultation.

24
Jul 2014
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Musculoskeletal Injury Risk Among Home Health Care Workers

The nursing home and home health care industries are the fastest growing industries in the country as baby boomers age. Unfortunately, nurses and healthcare aids who provide assistance to seniors face significant workplace risks. From potentially violent residents to needle sticks and exposure to disease, these workers are exposed to many -on-the-job hazards. One of the biggest risks that home health care workers and nursing home staff face, however, is the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. 

If a nursing home worker or home health aid develops a repetitive stress or overexertion injury, a workers compensation lawyer can help to make a claim for benefits. Preventing injuries is always preferred and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced new resources that aims to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders.

Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders Among Healthcare Workers

Nursing home and residential care workers experience nearly twice the number of injuries and illnesses than construction workers do and have some of the highest rates of non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses of workers in any field.

According to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, musculoskeletal injuries are “the single biggest worker injury in the healthcare sector.”

Healthcare workers frequently suffer:

  • Muscle strains
  • Low back injuries
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendinitis

OSHA has indicating that working with home healthcare workers who have real-world experience assisting patients is necessary in order to conduct a hazard assessment and to develop tools for preventing injuries. To prevent injuries will also require commitment of management, the use of appropriate equipment to control hazards, training and technology. Each of these different aspects of an injury-prevention program are outlined in OSHA’s new brochure on Safe Patient Handling.

Unfortunately, efforts towards safe patient handling are undermined by many misconceptions and myths. OSHA tackles some of those myths in the brochure, including the following:

  • Mechanical lifting is not as safe or comfortable. This is a myth because once patients realize mechanical lifting is safer and easier than manual lifting, they frequently accept this as an option. Both workers and patients are better off when a mechanical lift is used.
  • Proper body mechanics can prevent injuries. This is a myth because even the best body mechanics, including the use of black belts, is not an effective way to reduce injury on its own. As OSHA says “there is no such thing as safe manual lifting of a patient.”
  • There’s no need to worry about musculoskeletal injuries if workers seem healthy. This is a myth because manual lifting can result in microtrauma to the spine. While workers don’t always feel these small injuries immediately, the cumulative impact of microtrauma can eventually lead to a debilitating medical problem. Workers who are healthier and stronger may be at the greatest risk since they may frequently be asked to move patients.

Experts recommend that any lifts be limited to 35 pounds or less. Mechanical lift technology should be provided and utilized in order to ensure health workers are not lifting more than they should.

Contact a Providence workers compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit http://www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation.

23
Jun 2014
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Teen Landscapers Face Summer Accident Risks in Massachusetts

Landscaping is one of the industries where teenagers are most likely to get summer jobs. Unfortunately, landscaping work can be dangerous for young people, especially if they are inexperienced and do not know how to do the work safely. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is trying to prevent injuries and accidents on-the-job and has launched a multi-year Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign. The goal is to prevent student accidents that happen when young people get summer jobs in landscaping, the restaurant industry, and other fields. If a teen does get hurt at work, a lawyer from the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help the young person and his family member to understand their options for making a workers’ comp claim or for filing an injury lawsuit against a non-employer.

Keeping Kids in Landscaping Safe

Preventing injuries before they happen is always best, and OSHA has advice for employers in landscaping.

First and foremost, labor laws need to be followed. Workers who are 14- and 15-years-of-age are restricted from doing many tasks common in the landscape industry. These young teens are not allowed to operate lawn mowers or trimmers, nor are they allowed to use weed cutters.

Older teens who are not yet 18 are allowed to do more, but still cannot operate power-driven hoisting equipment, circular saws, band saws or guillotine shears. Forbidden power-driven hoisting equipment includes forklifts. Teens under 18 are also not allowed to drive a motor vehicle on the job, nor can they be an outside helper on a motor vehicle.

Employers have the ultimate responsibility for providing training, setting workplace policies and otherwise taking steps to protect teen workers. However, young people who get jobs in landscaping also need to take steps to protect their own safety. OSHA advises teens to:

  • Avoid using equipment until they are trained to use it properly and safely.
  • Use earmuffs or ear plugs in any work area where there is a high level of noise.
  • Use safety goggles or glasses when doing any work where flying particles could be created.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, including shoes that are right for the job.
  • Wear any necessary protective gear that is available or that will protect you from injury.
  • Avoid riding in the cargo section of pickup trucks.
  • Never reach into or do any maintenance on any equipment that is not shut down and de-energized.
  • Use guards and safeguard devices on all tools and machinery.

By following these safety tips, hopefully fewer young teens will be injured or killed when doing a summer job in landscaping.

Unfortunately, every year as many as 60 to 70 teenagers are killed because of job-related injuries and another 250,000 young people are hurt on-the-job. Hopefully, OSHA’s campaign on teen safety and the advice offered to young workers will help reduce the death toll by keeping kids safe at their summer jobs.

If a young worker does get hurt, it is important to make a workers’ compensation claim and to understand your rights for otherwise recovering compensation for damages and losses.

Contact the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 or visit http://www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation.

29
May 2014
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Workers Comp Changes and the Rights of Providence Workers

Nine people were badly hurt in an accident at a Providence, RI circus recently, leaving audiences stunned. The Boston Globe reported that the performers suffered broken bones, head injuries and lacerations after falling 30 feet. 

While this type of accident is unusual, workers do suffer falls and other injuries on-the-job very frequently.  When they do, workers’ compensation benefits should provide the injured employees with disability benefits and with coverage for their medical care. Workers’ compensation benefits provide important protection to workers and those who are hurt should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in Providence for help making a work injury claim. Employers and workers’ compensation insurance providers also need to ensure that they are keeping up with changes and updates that could affect the healthy and safety of workers.

Challenges Ahead for Workers’ Compensation

Recently, the Insurance Journal outlined some challenges that the workers compensation system will face in upcoming years including:

  • Technology changes and innovations. Technology is changing the way in which patients access their medical information and communicate with their doctors. For example, the “Blue Button Project,” which the Veterans’ Administration is undertaking, will make it possible for patients to  access their electronic medical records and contact care providers online. By creating a central portal for workers’ compensation recipients to also access their information, patient care could be streamlined and health outcomes potentially improved.
  • Marijuana legalization. With the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and even recreational use in many states in the U.S., questions are being raised regarding how marijuana use should impact workers’ compensation benefits. An employee on drugs could be denied coverage for a work injury through workers’ compensation. But testing positive for medicinal marijuana should not necessarily disqualify an employee from receiving benefits.  Decisions will also need to be made regarding whether workers’ compensation medical benefits should cover treatment with medicinal marijuana if recommended by a doctor.
  • More manufacturing jobs. A lack of upward wage pressure, a boost in worker productivity and a decline in the prices of natural gas are all contributing to a resurgence in the field of American manufacturing. Manufacturing jobs can be dangerous, especially if new workers enter the field that don’t necessarily have the experience of older workers.  Employers need to provide proper training and guidance to workers new to the industry in order to reduce the dangers.
  • A changing workforce. Older people are retiring and being replaced by a younger workforce that may not have the same skills or experience. Furthermore, the growth of telemarketing means that the workforce is more mobile and employers may not have as much control over a centralized group of workers.  Remote workers could be at risk of injury and employers will need to find new ways to ensure that safety precautions are followed and workers are protected.

Employers need to rise to the challenges to ensure that workers stay safe and that preventable workplace injuries and deaths are avoided.

Contact a Providence accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 to schedule your free consultation.

15
Apr 2014
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Massachusetts Trucking Accident Risks – FMCSA Falling Short

Accidents involving large trucks caused 697 deaths in 2012, which was a 8.9 percent increase over the number of deaths they caused in 2011.  Another 25,000 people were injured in large truck collisions over the same year. These thousands of injuries and deaths could be prevented in many cases if truckers were more careful and if trucking companies followed safety rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Truck accident lawyers in Fall River can represent victims injured because of the actions of a truck driver and help them to obtain compensation. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration works in consultation with federal and state enforcement agencies to reduce the risk of truck accidents throughout the United States.  One recent change the FMCSA made was to institute a new enforcement program called Compliance, Safety, Accountability, or CSA. Unfortunately, while CSA was intended to make it easier to monitor trucking companies and identify carriers at high risk of collisions, both the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have raised some very serious concerns about the program.

CSA Program Has Serious Flaws

The FMCSA reportedly instituted the new CSA enforcement program because the former compliance review (CR) program was resource-intensive and only a small percentage of motor carriers were evaluated to determine if they were following safety rules. Each onsite compliance review required an average of around three to four days to complete and because of limited staff, a very small number of active interstate trucking companies were ever investigated by the FMCSA. Further, the former system for measuring the safety performance of carriers, SafeStat, reportedly did not focus on the behaviors that were known to cause collisions.

CSA, however, may have some of the same problems. The program aims to identify trucking companies that are considered “high-risk” so that they can face enhanced enforcement of truck safety rules. The problems with CSA identified by the GAO suggest that the CSA isn’t doing this for two primary reasons:

  • There is not enough data about carriers. There are around 525,000 active carriers, and the FMCSA can now access safety records for just around 200,000 of them as part of the CSA program. There is thus too little data for the FMCSA to actually effectively compare trucking companies with their peers.
  • The scoring system is flawed. The FMCSA used certain regulations in its scoring system to decide if a carrier was high risk. These regulations, however, weren’t rules that were violated often enough to actually be useful in determining if a trucking carrier should be subject to extra scrutiny. Not only that, there isn’t enough evidence to think that violations of these regulations is actually linked to an added danger of collisions.

The DOT had similar complaints about the FMCSA’s program, pointing out only 10 states had the technology to implement CSA while the rest were still waiting for the technology they needed from FMCSA.

These criticisms are serious and suggest a lot more work needs to be done to try to make the roads safer.

Contact a Fall River truck accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 to schedule your free consultation.

26
Feb 2014
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Providence Health Care Workers at High Risk for Work Injury

Rhode Island’s largest healthcare organization slashed jobs recently amidst a serious financial crisis. Jobs were reportedly cut across the board as hospitals faced losses for more than six months in a row. Uncompensated care, the poor economy, the Affordable Care Act, and cuts in Medicaid and Medicare were all blamed for the healthcare organization’s woes. 

Unfortunately, the reduction in staff was not the first to occur in Rhode Island healthcare facilities. Each reduction leaves already-beleaguered workers with more on-the-job obligations and with a greater risk of being injured at work. Hospital workers already face a high risk of injury due to tough working conditions, prompting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to release educational materials aimed at making healthcare workplaces safer.  Unfortunately, this effort by OSHA is unlikely to have a substantial impact on reducing workplace risks for hospital staff.

Regardless of whether safety rules are followed, healthcare employees can make a work injury claim if they are hurt on the job. A Providence workers’ comp attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl can help injured workers.

OSHA Recommends Safety Improvements for Hospitals

In 2012, a total of 250,000 workplace injuries were reported among hospital workers.  The total cost of losses from these injuries was around $2 billion. Most of the injuries were caused by factors such as:

  • Workplace violence
  • Slip and falls
  • Chemical exposure
  • Moving and lifting patients
  • Exposure to hazardous drugs
  • Infectious disease risks
  • Needlesticks

A total of 6.8 out of every 100 healthcare workers experienced an injury due to these or other factors.  Around 60,000 of the injuries experienced by hospital workers in 2012 were serious enough to necessitate days off from work.

Reducing the rate of injury needs to be a top priority. Unfortunately, OSHA is understaffed and has limited ability to actually inspect hospitals and ensure that safety regulations are being followed to protect workers. Absent the ability to effectively enforce safety rules, OSHA has released some resources designed to help hospitals and healthcare workers take charge of making work conditions safer.

The resources have been compiled on a new educational website, which contains:

  • Training materials.
  • Details about safe patient handling to reduce the risk of overexertion injuries.
  • Information on Safety & Health management systems, which can help to build a “culture of safety” in hospital settings.

OSHA’s educational materials could make it easier for employers and workers to try to avoid injuries. However, employers often need incentive to follow the rules, especially when financial difficulties could create an incentive for corners to be cut.  OSHA has limited ability to actually make employers put a premium on protecting workers, both because of the agency’s understaffing issues and because citations and fines for safety violations are often negligible.  Unless and until employers know that they must protect hospital and healthcare workers or face real consequences, cash strapped hospitals may continue to allow dangerous work conditions to remain.

Contact a Providence workers’ compensation attorney at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl if you are hurt on the job. Call 508-677-4900 or visit www.dgklaw.com to schedule your free consultation. 

9
Jul 2013
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Fall River Electrical Fire Destroys Rentals & Raises Questions of Liability for Apartment Injuries

Over the July Fourth weekend, tenants in eight different apartments on Columbia Street in Fall River were displaced from their homes by a massive fire. The fire occurred in a building above Sagres Restaurant where at least 13 tenants were living in rental units. 

As Wicked Local reports, the fire is believed to have been caused by electrical problems.  Investigators are still looking into the origins and the investigation will hopefully reveal the specific cause of the massive blaze.

Our Fall River injury lawyers know that electrical fires often occur as a result of faulty wiring and improperly maintained electrical systems. If such a problem did occur in this situation, the tenants injured in the fire could have a legal liability claim against the landlord or against whomever was responsible for maintaining the building safely.

Injuries in Apartment Units 

The fire began around 11:40 p.m. on Saturday evening. It is believed that the fire originated in the area between the ceiling of the second floor apartment and the ceiling of the third floor apartment, directly in the core of the building. The fire then spread throughout the walls and floors of the building before breaking out in a second-floor living room.

An estimated eight apartments were affected by the fire, with around 13 tenants displaced from their homes. At least four tenants were rescued by firefighters from their homes on the east side of the building and were transported to the hospital for treatment of their injuries.

Firefighters called to the scene were able to fight the blaze without suffering injury, although there were some firefighters who were still chasing hot spots as late as 3:00 AM. Significant water damage occurred to the building and the damage was widespread due to the fact that the fire spread throughout.

It’s fortunate that no one was killed in the fire. Still, burn injuries are often very serious and costly to treat and can leave injured victims with lasting scars. Smoke inhalation can also affect the lungs when a fire occurs.

When serious injuries are sustained in an apartment fire, it is important to determine who was responsible for the blaze.

Individual tenants are responsible for  securing the safety of items inside of their own apartments, such as toaster ovens and counter top appliances they might bring into the unit. However, landlords are responsible for the structure as a whole including fixed appliances and electrical wiring.

Landlords have a legal obligation to make sure that apartment buildings are safe for tenants living in them and if a landlord fails in his obligations to those living in the apartment, the landlord can be held legally responsible for any and all injuries and damages suffered as a result of his negligence.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact an experienced lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl serves clients in Providence, R.I., Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.

13
May 2013
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Fatal Work Injuries a Serious Concern in New England

For 22 years, the AFL-CIO has released an annual report detailing the status of health and safety protections for workers throughout the United States. The 2013 report has been released and shows little progress has been made in recent years to reduce the number of workers getting hurt or dying on the job. While great strides have been made since the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created in 1970, progress has stalled in recent years and worker safety risks are receiving little national attention. 

Our Providence, RI work injury lawyers know that Rhode Island is one of the better states for workers, with a fatality rate of 1.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers as compared with the national average of 3.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers. Still, there is a long way to go to improve working conditions and to help reduce the number of people who die or are seriously injured while doing their jobs.

Neglect and Lax Regulations Stall Workplace Safety Improvements

The AFL-CIO indicates that 4,693 workers died on the job in 2011, or an average of 13 workers each day. Another 50,000 workers died as a result of occupational diseases while a total of 3.8 million suffered an injury or illness as a result of work.

Unfortunately, with the high number of workers suffering injury or dying on the job, the job fatality rate has not improved from last year. In fact, the job fatality rate has been stagnant for the past three years with few improvements being made to reduce the number of people who die on the job.

The AFL-CIO suggests a number of potential reasons why worksites aren’t becoming safer and why workers continue to suffer injuries and fatalities including:

  • Too few OSHA inspectors. There are an estimated 8 million workplaces in the United States that OSHA has jurisdiction over. Unfortunately, there are only 837 federal OSHA inspectors and 1,065 state inspectors to check work conditions at these eight million worksites. This means that federal inspectors would be able to visit a workplace once every 131 years and state inspectors would be able to visit once every six years.
  • Fines that are too low. Even when OSHA does catch employers committing workplace violations, this is not a major deterrent. For a serious violation, the penalty imposed by federal OSHA regulators was $2,156 on average. For state OSHA, the penalty was just $974. Even when workers die as a result of workplace violations, federal OSHA only imposed a median penalty after settlement of $5,175. These fines are simply not high enough to actually force employers to take safety seriously.
  • Limits on criminal penalties.  Criminal charges can be brought only in cases where a willful violation of OSHA regulations leads to worker death. Even when criminal penalties are imposed, the crime is a misdemeanor. Further, only 84 cases have been prosecuted sine 1970 and defendants who were convicted served only 89 months of jail time.

With few inspectors available and with inspectors having virtually no leverage to ensure compliance, it is no wonder that employers are not actively taking steps to make worksites safer. Unfortunately, this is why the AFL-CIO has named its 2013 report “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.”

If you have been injured in a work accident, contact an experienced lawyer at 508-677-4900. The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl  serves clients in Providence, R.I., as well as Foxborough and Fall River, Mass.