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The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has fined a Georgia company for failing to protect workers on at least seven different occasions from fall hazards. Workers were reportedly exposed to hazards of up to 13 feet on an Alabama project site. scaffolding2

The company, a masonry firm, was fined $130,000. OSHA inspectors reportedly observed employees toiling on second-story scaffolding with no personal fall arrest system or guardrails. There was also allegedly no safe access or egress from the scaffolding via a sturdy ladder.

OSHA reportedly had investigators who came out to inspect this particular project on six different occasions over the course of five years and it has cited the company for fall hazards on each and every one of those visits.  Continue reading →

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Georgia used to be one of 16 states that had enacted some sort of exemption to workers’ compensation coverage for farm or agricultural laborers. Now, it’s one of just 15 states, after the New Mexico Supreme Court handed down a ruling striking workers’ compensation exemptions for farms and ranches as unconstitutional. farming

The case is Rodriguez v. Brand West Dairy, and the decision casts uncertainty as to the future of the law in Georgia and other states. To be clear: This decision won’t immediately impact Georgia workers. Because each state is in charge of handling its own workers’ compensation system, a conflict between states on an issue like this isn’t likely to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Nonetheless, a ruling of this nature by a sister court is one that could open the door for a similar challenge here in Georgia.

According to court records, the New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Act, since its inception in 1917 through its most recent update in 2015, has never required employers to provide workers’ compensation to farm and ranch laborers. Three farm and ranch laborer workers appealed denial of their workers’ compensation injury claims on grounds state statute is illegal under the state’s equal protection clause. The statute specifies that in order to be legal, any discriminatory classifications in economic or social legislation have to be founded on some real difference of situation or condition that reasonably justifies a different rule for the class that suffers the discrimination.  Continue reading →

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Georgia work injuries were reported following an explosion at a Newnan aluminum company. So powerful was the blast, witnesses say, it rocked buildings up to a mile away in this suburb some 35 miles south of Atlanta. alumninum

Five workers were hospitalized, two at the Atlanta Medical Center and three at a local hospital, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of those workers remained in critical condition days after the accident.

The president of Bonnell Aluminum issued a statement extending his wishes for the workers’ speedy recoveries. The plant had to be evacuated and closed while the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) responded alongside local officials and company administrators to ascertain the cause of the blast.  Continue reading →

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Opioid prescriptions in Georgia workers’ compensation cases are down nearly 20 percent, according to a study released recently by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institutepills9

Study authors credit the reduction with changes made at the federal, state and organizational levels in recent years intended to combat opioid overuse, abuse and overdose among injured workers.

It’s been a tough balancing act because those injured in Atlanta work accidents are genuinely grappling with pain. But the question has been raised whether the commonly-prescribed opioids were the best way to deal with that in the vast majority of cases. In fact, workers prescribed opioids on the whole take longer to return to work. Further, because of the noted danger of these medications, workers who suffered an overdose or developed addictions often sought coverage for these secondary claims as well.  Continue reading →

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In Georgia workers’ compensation cases, a “fictional new injury” occurs when an employee is injured on-the-job, but then continues to perform his or her work duties until he or she has to stop because the condition gradually worsens and, at least partially because he or she continued working after the injury.pocketwatch

This differs from what we understand to mean a “change in condition.” A fictional new injury is one in which duties performed at work after the initial injury actually served to make the injury worse.

This was the claim in Rosenburg Forest Products v. Barnes, recently before the Georgia Supreme Court. Continue reading →

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The Georgia Supreme Court recently held that a bus driver’s second job during the summer should be counted as part of her “average weekly wage” in ascertaining how much she should receive in workers’ compensation benefits for an injury suffered in a fall. schoolbus

In Fulton County Board of Education et al. v. Thomas, the bus driver’s employer never contested that she’d been hurt at work or that the injury was compensable. The issue was how much she should be paid.

In Georgia, the average weekly wage is defined in OCGA 34-9-260, and is properly calculated by looking at what the employee earned in the 13 weeks immediately prior to the injury – whether for the same or another employer – and then dividing that figure by 13. If the employee hasn’t worked the whole 13 weeks, benefits can be determined by looking at the wages of a similar employee in the same employment who worked substantially the whole of those 13 weeks. If neither of those methods is feasible, the full-time weekly wage can be used. Other provisions for more detailed calculations are contained in the statute as well. Continue reading →

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The new electronic record-keeping rule finalized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) will require employers to submit injury and illness report information directly to OSHA in electronic form. OSHA will then remove identifying information from these reports and make them public and searchable in a database.workchainsaw

Officials hope the new requirements will improve worker safety nationwide. Specifically, they are counting on the notion that by making this injury information public, employers will want to avoid a bad reputation. They want not only to improve public relations, but also ensure they will still attract the best and brightest workers. Potential employees who can easily access a company’s poor safety track record are going to be reticent to even apply.

It’s worth noting the new rule isn’t applicable to every employer. It will apply to employers in certain industries designated, “high hazard.” Plus, the rule also has a provision that extends further anti-retaliation protections to employees who report workplace safety issues or workplace injuries.  Continue reading →

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A furniture store has been ordered to pay nearly $60,000 in fines by federal regulators after discovery of numerous safety violations following a workplace amputation at a Georgia plant late last year. hand

According to a news release by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the employer was cited for one willful and four serious safety violations after the worker was hospitalized for amputation of a finger.

Workplace amputations are a serious hazard affecting a significant number of workers in Georgia. They are some of the most serious and debilitating work injuries one can endure, and they involve a wide range of equipment and activities. Most often, OSHA reports, they happen when workers are operating an unguarded or inadequately safeguarded power press, power press brakes, conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, food slicers, meat grinders, meat-cutting band saws, drill presses, milling machines, shears, grinders and slitters.

It’s not just normal operation of these machines that can be dangerous, but also prepping, threading, cleaning, setting up, maintaining and clearing jams.   Continue reading →

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A Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) employee was critically injured in a recent work zone crash. It was the second incident in less than a week, with the other resulting in the death of a motorist and injury of another worker. roadconstruction

GDOT is urging caution by motorists, especially as road construction projects are now picking up across the state.

State DOT Commissioner Russell McCurry released a statement saying workers must be allowed to return home to their families at the end of each work day. He said while motorists must always be alert, attentive and cautious on the roads, nowhere is that more important than in a work zone.

“We must keep our employees safe,” McCurry said.  Continue reading →

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Workers’ compensation laws provide that employers who provide workers’ compensation insurance benefits to qualified employees are typically immune from personal injury litigation stemming from workplace injuries and occupational diseases. That’s why workers’ compensation is sometimes referred to as the “exclusive remedy” for workers. scaffoldingsilouette

But questions regarding who is an employer and who is required to provide workers’ compensation insurance and who is a “third party” for legal purposes can be complex, particularly on a construction site. That’s because there are so many different entities – from site owners to general contractors to subcontractors.

When workers are injured on-the-job at a construction site, they should seek guidance from an attorney to explore all possible options.  Continue reading →