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Orlando Workers' Compensation & Disability Law Blog

Report releases 2012 workplace fatality statistics

An arm of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has published data from 2012 concerning the private industry. The Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, which compares employment statistics each year, is part of the BLS Injuries, Illnesses and Fatalities program. According to the most recent issue of the report, 2012 saw increases in the number of workplace fatalities for several industries. This likely means that injuries were up across the board, underscoring the value of workers' compensation benefits for many people in Orlando, Florida.

Data from 2012 in its preliminary form has been released and is indicating that several industries saw more fatalities last year than in years prior. According to the report, the private construction industry saw 775 fatal work injuries in 2012, an increase of five percent over 2011. That number was the highest figure for workplace fatalities in any major industry for 2012. Still, the figure remains 37 percent lower than it was in 2006. Employees in this field should remain observant in their working environments. The private industry as a whole saw a decrease of six percent from 2011, bringing the number of fatalities down to 3,945.

Settlement does not do justice for mother of deceased worker

A wrongful death suit instigated by the death of one couple's son has resulted in a $1 million settlement for the bereaved parents. Last year, a 30-year-old man was killed while he was working on a construction site. The construction accident that caused the man's death happened when a large tractor crane collapsed. According to federal investigators, the cable holding up the 160-foot boom was badly frayed and the accident could have been avoided. The company overseeing the construction was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with 10 violations and $68,000 in fines.

OSHA added that the company had not properly investigated the crane and said that the owners of the crane had not paid attention to the safety of workers. At the time of the accident, the crane operator was swinging the boom to lift rebar while the 30-year-old worked below the heavy equipment. When the cable snapped, the boom came crashing down onto a roof deck. This caused steel and concrete to land on the 30-year-old, causing his death. His parents, angry by the findings that insisted this accident could have been prevented, decided to file a wrongful death suit against the construction company.

OSHA regulations in place to ensure safety, protect lives

Employers are required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to make sure workers are not exposed to hazardous situations and circumstances while on the job. This means following OSHA regulations. When an on-the-job accident occurs in Orlando, Florida, an agent from OSHA may be sent in, depending on the severity of the incident. In other words, if a fatality occurs due to an injury suffered while in the workplace, employers can expect a representative from OSHA to respond in a timely manner.

This is when OSHA conducts its investigations, making sure that the agency's regulations are being followed. If they are not, the company may be accused of violations and cited for them. Worse yet is when OSHA decides that a worker's death could have been prevented, had the company been following these mandates. This is what happened recently after an investigation conducted by the federal regulator was initiated due to the death of a worker in December 2012. According to reports, the man was killed when he was struck by a broken band saw blade.

New report reveals rates of injury for many industries

A recently released report has revealed state-level and industry-based workplace injury rates across the nation. This study used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to get a clearer picture of what workers are exposed to and where, helping to determine what sort of injuries are occurring in which types of work. For instance, repetitive stress injuries can be caused in a number of circumstances, some leading to conditions like degenerative back disorder. Individuals with conditions like this often have to seek disability benefits because they can no longer work. This is particularly unfortunate when one realizes that such injuries often happen on the job.

The data from the BLS is from 2011 and much of the study examines the injuries that specifically led to job restriction or transfer. According to the report, the top 11 industries with the highest serious injury rates in the U.S. are as follows: amusement parks and arcades, 3.2 cases of job restriction or transfer per 100 workers; animal slaughtering and processing, 3.1; beverage manufacturing and foundries, 2.7; nursing care facilities, 2.6; alcoholic beverage merchant wholesalers, 2.4; motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing, 2.3; poultry and egg production, motor vehicle manufacturing, hog and pig farming, and community care facilities for the elderly, all with 2.2.

Major workplace accident injures eight, many with burns

A tragic incident occurred in Tavares, Florida, a town located northwest of Orlando. Eight workers were injured in a massive fire that happened at a propane plant and four of them were listed in critical condition soon after the incident had been tamed. According to eyewitness reports, flames from the fire reached 200 feet as it was fueled by the large amount of propane stored at the facility. As the fire began, many residents living nearby came out of their homes because they began hearing loud explosions. Some were ready to go to sleep when the explosions began. By the next morning, reports indicate that thousands of scorched propane tanks were present.

The incident happened some time before 11 p.m. Rescue workers reported that some of the workers injured during the fire had skin hanging from their faces, torsos and arms. One of the injured individuals was hit by a car while fleeing from the mayhem. The accident, though, could have actually been much worse had any of the three 30,000-pound propane storage tanks become involved. Fortunately, that did not occur and no fatalities were reported. Had those tanks become engulfed, an emergency responder said many of the workers would have lost their lives. The mayor of the town said he was concerned about the site's emergency water hoses. These hoses were designed to cool tanks during a fire but had to be turned on manually. He added that if Blue Rhino - the company that runs the plant - decides to reopen, these emergency precautions should be automated.

Employers cannot use retaliation against injured workers

It seems that there is some debate over whether declines over the past decade regarding workplace injuries are due to safety programs and employer efforts or retaliation and incentives that encourage employees to leave injuries unreported. According to data from the federal government, the number of workplace injuries has declined by 31 percent over the past ten years.

Some safety experts believe that corporate safety programs in conjunction with investigations conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have contributed to a decline in the number of injuries that led to job restrictions, transfers to different labor or missed work days per 100 full-time workers. Federal data shows that this figure dropped from 2.6 in 2003 to 1.8 in 2011. But OSHA itself believes that many employers are disobeying the law and causing employees to feel that they cannot report injuries. This has led to fewer workers' compensation claims and has allowed the cost of workers' compensation to drop from $2.67 per $100 of payroll in 1994 to $1.79 in 2012.

High-growth industries may neglect safety regulations

When a new industry opens up and grows quickly, people working within it may neglect workplace safety. Reports indicate that this is currently happening in the craft-brewing sector, an area of the economy that has blossomed into a $10.2-billion industry. Two decades ago, craft brewing was a niche market that had a very small following in the U.S. and in states like Florida, but now, it has become something much larger. Because of its size, the industry has found itself on the radar of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Between 2003 and 2011, investigators with the federal agency, as well as state regulators, discovered 547 violations. Of these, 250 were considered serious. Some of them include failing to disable machinery while workers are inside and failing to enclose moving machinery parts. The fines for these violations have added up to $220,000. During the same time period, larger brewers saw just 151 violations with 69 being serious. Such a discrepancy does have a reason for existing though.

Employer terminates new hires for "preventable" injuries

Questionable employment policies were recently highlighted in a ruling made by a workers' compensation board, which was affirmed in an appeals court after the employer requested that the decision be revisited. According to the case, probationary policies for new employees may be considered discriminatory as well as anti-worker if they include provisions that allow the company to terminate a new employee's position after suffering a "preventable" workplace injury.

The New York Workers' Compensation Board ruled that such policies are in direct conflict with workers' compensation laws because they dissuade employees from reporting injuries that they could otherwise seek compensation for. This is because the company gives itself the ability to determine if an injury is preventable or not, as C&S Wholesale Grocers did in the case of at least one of its employees. The company distributes to grocers and supermarket chains throughout the nation with almost two dozen warehouses across the country.

Post-injury practices of employer play heavily into comp claims

Many employers in Orange, Florida, will feel the effects of a workplace injury at some point in the future, if they haven't already. Due to this expectation, a number of companies have post-injury response procedures in place. These are designed to make sure the worker who is injured is treated both promptly and properly. But the reach of such protocol often extends past the treatment and into recovery time. Understanding what employers might expect of an injured employee is important to understanding how any workers' compensation benefits you have received will play out.

Post-injury training programs give employees the ability to understand what they should do in the initial aftermath of an injury. This means that workers' compensation coordinators can gather the information they need from witnesses, supervisors and other coworkers who might have assisted the injured individual after the incident occurred. Once treatment has been completed, many human resource departments will stay in touch with the individual, speaking to them as often as once per week while she or he is off work. During this time, there may also be in-person meetings and updates required from a medical provider. These are to make sure that the injury is getting better, but it is also to make sure that you return to work as soon as you are able.

Supreme Court Strips Workers of Crucial Defences Against Discrimination & Harassment

Last week saw many high-profile decisions handed down by the US Supreme Court, and for American workers Monday was especially important. In two landmark decisions, the Court undercut some of the most important legal tools available for workers who are the victims of discrimination or harassment - and especially for those who take the risk of standing up for themselves.

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