January 10, 2013

Your Status as an Employee Can Impact Workers' Compensation Benefits

Under Georgia laws, employees are covered under a benefits system called workers' compensation that entitles them to have their medical bills paid after a work injury. Employees are also provided with temporary or permanent benefits for total or partial disability as well as various other types of compensation.

The key word here, however, is that EMPLOYEES are covered. Those who perform work but who are not classified as employees aren't entitled to workers' compensation benefits and after a work injury are either on their own in paying for the costs or are left to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against one or more parties, which requires a showing of negligence that is not required in workers' comp cases. 601967_employee_entrance_1.jpg

Because the employee designation is so important, our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys urge every employee and every employer to understand exactly when someone is classified as an employee.

Understanding Your Classification
In many cases, whether someone is an employee or not is a relatively straightforward question. If someone is hired to work full time, given a salary or a regular hourly wage and has no designated end date in site for the work term, that person is pretty obviously an employee.

However, there are plenty of situations where things become much more complicated. For example:

  • One issue is the holiday season that is slowly drawing to a close. Employers tend to bring in temporary help during the holidays, such as hiring more people for the big shopping season.

  • Seasonal employees also raise more complicated questions. For example, if a business hires snowplow workers in the winter but doesn't need them in the summer, these employees have a designated work period but not an indefinite gig.

The Rules for Independent Contractors
If you are hired and aren't certain whether you are an employee or not, it is helpful to understand some of the basic rules that have been developed. In general:

  • Temporary employees, seasonal employees and part time employees are all covered under workers' compensation.

  • Independent contractors are NOT covered under workers' compensation.

An independent contractor is someone who performs work for a company but who maintains their autonomy. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sets forth some guidelines for when someone is considered an independent contractor, as opposed to an employee. These guidelines look at:

  • Whether the company has the right to control the behavior of the worker or whether the company just issues an assignment and the worker has autonomy to do the assignment when and how he wants.

  • Whether the company has control over how the worker is paid or whether the worker sets his own rates, pays his own expenses, etc.

  • What type of relationship the employer and worker has, including whether there are written contracts and whether the work performed by the worker is a key aspect of the business.

These and other issues can be considered in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor for workers' compensation purposes. Being incorrectly classified can result in a worker being deprived of workers' compensation benefits and can be detrimental to the rights of the worker. Those who believe they have been incorrectly classified, therefore, need to get legal help to determine if they really are entitled to workers' compensation benefits.

Continue reading "Your Status as an Employee Can Impact Workers' Compensation Benefits" »

January 3, 2013

Does Pressure for Increased Speed in Line Work Increase the Risk of Workplace Injuries?

On January 2nd, 2012, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the USDA had announced plans to reduce the number of inspectors at chicken processing plants and to increase line speeds, requiring inspectors to inspect more birds more quickly.

This new change is part of a widespread trend in multiple industries to require line workers to do more work in the same amount of time. 1248971_chicken.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys are concerned about the impact of the USDA's decision on line workers in chicken plants. We are also concerned that the trend of increasing the speed at which line work is performed could exacerbate the risk of repetitive stress damage and other injuries in jobs that already present significant dangers.

The Potential for Increased Industry under USDA Regulations
The current poultry inspection system has been around since the 1950's but the USDA has been working to modernize it for decades, including studying pilot programs in place in 20 plants since 1999. In their efforts to modernize and update the guidelines, USDA now wants to cut the number of inspectors in chicken plants while raising the number of carcasses inspected from 140 to 175. This is a significant increase in the number of carcasses that a line worker would be expected to inspect.

Line workers are already under tremendous pressure to make sure that the food being produced in chicken plants is safe for the public. With this new change, these workers would be expected to work even harder... and faster.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the president of the Georgia Poultry Foundation indicates that there would be no additional dangers to inspectors and that workplace injuries would not increase. Others, however, disagree.

For instance, the executive director of Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, cautions that workers are not going to be receiving any new training nor will they be required to prove proficiency, which could put the public at risk. Further, the director cautions that the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health study has not yet been completed in order to determine if the increased line speed will have an adverse impact on worker health and safety.

The Atlanta Journal Constitutional also published an article from the National Council of La Raza that indicated that line workers already experience carpal tunnel and other crippling repetitive stress problems. By increasing the speed of the line work, workers would be at even greater risk of injuring themselves.

Workers Facing Risks from Increased Speeds of Line Work
While there are conflicting opinions on whether workers in chicken plants will suffer injury due to the increased line speed or not, it seems clear that when a worker is pressured to do more repetitive work in less time, this can create a potentially bad situation for a worker.

A worker who has to do more with his hands will make the same repetitive motions even more frequently. This wears down on the muscles, ligaments and joints and eventually can cause health problems. Not only that but a worker who is asked to significantly increase his speed, especially without getting additional training or having to prove proficiency, can be at greater risk of making a mistake that injures the worker or others.

Continue reading "Does Pressure for Increased Speed in Line Work Increase the Risk of Workplace Injuries?" »

December 29, 2012

Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments a Top Cause of Workplace Injuries in 2011

Each year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases data on the number of fatal injuries that occur in workplaces throughout the United States. Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys have been taking a look at some of the top causes of injuries, including fall injuries and contact with objects and equipment.

The BLS data on Fatal Occupational Injuries By Event or Exposure for 2011 also shows another common cause of workplace injuries -- exposure to harmful substances or environments. This is a broad category of accidents that cover several common types of substances or environments that a worker may be exposed to and that may cause his death. 1381198_danger_sign.jpg

Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments as a Cause of Workplace Injury
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, exposure to harmful substances or environments was the cause of 401 out of the total 4,609 workplace injuries in 2011. This means that about 9 percent of workers who died did so as a result of being exposed to something dangerous.

There were a variety of different harmful substances and environments that caused these workplace deaths. These included:

  • Exposure to electricity, which was the cause of 171 workplace deaths. When a worker is exposed to electricity, electrocution can result. The electricity can do damage to the nerves, stop the heart or cause severe burns. Exposure to electric current is extremely dangerous and very likely to cause death.

  • Exposure to temperature extremes, which was the cause of 61 workplace deaths. This can involve both a worker being burned to death or being frozen to death. Exposure to temperature extremes often causes death when a worker becomes trapped where he shouldn't be.

  • Exposure to other harmful substances, which caused 130 workplace deaths. This can range from poisons to chemicals to dangerous fumes. The exposure may occur as a result of the substance being inhaled or being absorbed through the worker's skin.

  • Inhalation of harmful substances, which was the cause of 57 of the workplace deaths that resulted from exposure to other harmful substances. When a worker inhales dangerous or toxic chemicals, these chemicals can poison him and result in death.

Workers in any industry could experience these types of exposure injuries and deaths. Those in the construction industry, working in industrial industries or working in a manufacturing environment may be at greater risk than those in an office or retail environment. However, even in these environments, a worker could be exposed to an electrical short, locked in a walk-in freezer or otherwise put into a risky situation where exposure to a harmful substance could result in death.

Worker Protection Rules
OSHA has guidelines in place that are intended to prevent workers from being injured by exposure to harmful substances or environments. For example, hazard zones must be carefully labeled in order to alert workers of the danger. If workers are working with chemicals in the workplace, OSHA requires signs and warnings be posted.

When OSHA guidelines aren't followed, the risk of injury increases. In any case, however, when a worker is injured or killed as a result of exposure to harmful substances or environments, the worker may be able to make a workers' compensation claim to obtain coverage of medical bills and other costs.

Continue reading "Exposure to Harmful Substances or Environments a Top Cause of Workplace Injuries in 2011" »

December 19, 2012

Truck Drivers at Risk of Work Injury in Georgia

Throughout the United States, truck drivers are the primary movers of goods and raw materials. Some of these truck drivers are independent contractors, working for themselves and with the freedom to take transport jobs from any company Others, however, are employed by trucking companies, retailers, shipping companies or countless other employers who have their own professional drivers on staff.

Regardless of who a trucker works for, he is at risk of suffering certain injuries while performing his job. However, a trucker's employment status matters after he has suffered a workplace injury because those who are employed by a trucking company may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. 426156_old_truck.jpg

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys want truckers to understand their legal rights after a work injury. We also want to caution truck drivers about some of the most common causes of workplace injury so they can take proper precautions to stay safe.

Truck Drivers and Workplace Injuries
Truck drivers are at risk for a variety of different injuries including:

  • Injuries when loading and unloading their truck

  • Injuries caused by violent crime while driving their truck

  • Injuries due to falling merchandise during the transport

  • Injuries when performing truck inspections or addressing basic maintenance issues.

  • Slip and fall injuries while on the truck or at the loading facility

While all of these are possible ways in which a trucker can get hurt at work, one of the most common sources of injuries for truckers is traffic accidents. After all, a truck driver spends the vast majority of his career driving his vehicle, thus increasing the chances he'll be involved in some type of traffic crash.

Traffic Accidents and Truck Drivers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks statistics on traffic accidents and fatalities. Statistics released this month for the 2011 calendar year held some bad news for truck drivers -- the number of fatalities increased significantly. In fact, the number of fatalities among occupants of large trucks was up almost 20 percent in 2011.

This increase in trucking accidents is alarming as it means that truck drivers may be in more danger of a fatal traffic accident than in the past. The NHTSA is working with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to try to identify reasons for the significant increase in fatalities.

When a truck driver is killed in a traffic accident, his surviving family members may be eligible for workers' compensation death benefits. In addition, a trucker who is the victim of a crash may also be able to make a workers' comp claim for medical bills and lost wages. The ability of the trucker or surviving family members to make a workers' compensation claim is going to depend upon whether the crash is considered to be work related and on whether he is classified as a covered employee.

Negligence is not a determining factor in workers' comp cases, so a trucker could potentially still make a workers' comp claim in some cases even if there was no negligence on the part of the employer or if the truck driver's own conduct contributed to the crash.

Continue reading "Truck Drivers at Risk of Work Injury in Georgia" »

December 12, 2012

Contact with Objects and Equipment a Top Cause of Workplace Death

In November, our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers discussed the release of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities in 2011. The recently released data provided information on the number of workplace accidents, the number of fatalities, the industries most at-risk and the most common causes of worker injury.

The BLS data provides important insight into what worker safety issues need to be addressed and into the greatest risks presented to workers. In order to help improve worker safety and reduce the number of injuries and deaths that occur, it is helpful to take a look at some of the most common injury causes and to look at some steps that can be taken to minimize the risk of accident. 1336331_construction_machinery.jpg

Contact with Objects and Equipment: A Serious Risk
According to the BLS table on Fatal occupational injuries by event or exposure in 2011, contact with objects or equipment was the cause of 708 workplace fatalities in 2011. This means that contact with either objects or equipment was responsible for 15 percent of all workplace deaths that happened during the year. Some of the different types of contact included:

  • Being struck by some type of equipment or object other than a powered vehicle caused 472 of the 708 deaths arising from equipment/object contact.

  • Being struck by a discharged or flying object accounted for 24 of the 708 deaths.

  • Being caught in or compressed by equipment or objects was responsible for 147 workplace deaths

  • Being caught in running equipment or machinery was the cause of 119 deaths

  • Being struck, caught or crushed in a collapsing structure, equipment or material was the cause of 84 deaths.

These statistics show that there are many ways a person can be harmed by machinery or equipment falling on him, compressing him or otherwise injuring him. These types of accidents can occur in any workplace but are especially common on construction sites and in industrial environments.

How to Stay Safe
Although injuries and deaths due to being caught in or crushed by objects are far too common, there are some things that workers and employers can do in order to try to avoid these types of injuries. For example:

  • All manufacturer instructions should be followed with any equipment.

  • Equipment and machinery should be examined and tested before use to ensure it is in good working order.

  • Equipment and machinery should be properly maintained and used only by authorized, trained personnel.

  • All OSHA requirements for using and maintaining equipment and machinery should be followed.

  • Appropriate warning signs and labels should be posted when equipment and machinery are in use.

  • Workers making use of machines or equipment should wear required safety gear and should refrain from wearing loose clothing that could become caught in machinery.

If employers have strict safety guidelines and policies in place and if workers are extra vigilant when machinery or equipment is in use, these efforts can help to reduce the risk of a death or injury due to contact with objects or equipment.

Continue reading "Contact with Objects and Equipment a Top Cause of Workplace Death" »

December 5, 2012

Fall Injuries Present Risks to Atlanta Workers

Last month, our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers discussed the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on occupational injuries in 2011. As we discussed, the BLS data showed that about 5,000 workers were killed and another 3 million injured on the job in 2011. These workers experienced many different types of accidents that caused them to suffer workplace injury.

One of the most common injuries, however, was workplace falls.

Workplace falls can occur "on the same level," which means that a worker trips or slips and injures himself. Workplace falls can also occur when a worker falls off of something or down into something, such as falling off of a scaffold or falling into a hole. Any type of workplace fall is dangerous and can cause serious injury or even death. As such, we urge all workers and employers to follow some basic safety precautions to minimize the risk of a fall. 1001441_yellow_scaffold.jpg

Understanding The Dangers of Falls in the Workplace
Falls in the workplace happen far too often and present some serious risks. According to the 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics data on fatal occupational injuries, falls were responsible for 666 workplace deaths over the course of the year. Of these deaths:

  • 541 occurred when a worker fell to a lower level.

  • 38 occurred when a worker fell from equipment or from a structure that collapsed.

  • 60 occurred when a worker fell through an opening or surface.

  • 108 occurred when the worker fell from the same level.

Altogether, the 666 fall deaths in 2011 accounted for 14 percent of all workplace fatalities that occurred over the course of the year.

Staying Safe From Falls
Falls not only cause fatalities but they can also cause serious injury that puts a worker out of commission temporarily or permanently. Preventing falls should be a top priority for employers and employees and there are a few simple steps that should be taken in order to minimize the risk of a fall occurring:

  • Follow all OSHA guidelines on scaffolding and working from high heights. These guidelines include details on weight limits, scaffold construction and other protective measures designed to make sure that workers do not fall off the scaffold and that the scaffolding does not collapse.

  • Ensure that all slippery or wet surfaces are cleaned up immediately or properly marked to indicate that they are slippery when they cannot be fixed.

  • Remove debris and clutter from the workplace that a worker could trip over. A clean workplace that is in good order reduces the risk of falls.

  • Avoid setting up a situation where workers have to strain to reach. If items must be kept on high shelves or in elevated locations, provide appropriate assistance to reach high items.

  • Use appropriate fall protection gear as required by OSHA when working at high heights.

If both workers and employers comply with all safety guidelines, exercise reasonable care and are cautious in environments where a fall is most likely to occur, hopefully the chance of an injury or death due to a fall will be reduced and workers will be able to stay safe on the job site.

Continue reading "Fall Injuries Present Risks to Atlanta Workers" »

November 28, 2012

Georgia Workers Face Increased Accident Risk This Holiday Season

Over the holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year's, there are more drivers on the roads and there are more drivers who take risks, including driving drunk or driving when drowsy. All of this adds up to more auto accidents. With car accidents already a leading cause of workplace injury and fatalities, this increased risk of car crashes is bad news for Atlanta employees.

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys want to remind workers that the holidays are a dangerous time for drivers. We also want to alert workers to the fact that Georgia accidents are on the rise. By being aware of the increased accident risk, we hope that workers will continue to exercise caution when driving this holiday season. Remember, vigilance behind the wheel could potentially save your life. 774604_car_accident_1.jpg

Auto Accident Dangers for Atlanta Workers
In Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia, many workers drive for a living, including truck drivers, bus drivers, delivery persons, and postal employees. Even drivers who don't operate a vehicle professionally may have driving as part of their job. From the assistant who goes to pick up coffee for her boss to the traveling sales rep who meets clients and suppliers, driving is simply a necessary aspect of many different careers.

Unfortunately, driving doesn't come without risks and statistics have shown time and again that car accidents are a major cause of workplace injuries and deaths. For example:

  • An April 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control indicated that crashes are a leading cause of fatal workplace injuries.
  • From 2003 to 2008, the CDC reports that 24 percent of all fatal workplace injuries were caused by highway transportation incidents. During this time, 8,173 workers died from deadly car wrecks.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary for 2011 reported that there were 1,898 transportation incidents in 2011. 1,075 of those injuries, or 57 percent, involved motorized land vehicles colliding, while the remainder involved pedestrian accidents or accidents with farm equipment such as tractors.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that transportation incidents were responsible for more than two out of every five fatal workplace injuries during 2011.
These statistics show that many workers are involved in crashes at work, and that many of those crashes can be deadly. With so many fatal crashes already, any increase in auto accident risk can only serve to make things worse.

Unfortunately, there is an increased risk for workers in Georgia. Not only do accidents tend to increase around the holidays in general, but The Telegraph also reports that traffic fatalities are on the rise throughout the state.

From the first of the year through November 14, 1,033 people have already died as a result of car accidents in Georgia. This is much higher than the number of deaths in 2011, when the total number of people who died during the entire year was 1,226. The increase in the number of fatalities has even prompted the state to launch a safety campaign.

How Can Workers Stay Safe Over the Holidays?
Workers who are traveling during the holidays when the risk of accidents is at its peak should take every possible precaution to avoid a deadly crash. Workers should:

  • Avoid speeding, distracted driving, drowsy driving or drunk driving.

  • Remain aware of what other drivers are doing and practice assertive, but not aggressive, driving.

  • Wear seat belts at all times when in the car.

  • Whenever possible, avoid high-traffic areas and areas where there is construction.

  • Whenever possible, avoid driving for work on the busiest days of the year including Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve

By doing these simple things, workers may be able to reduce the chance of becoming involved in a crash. Of course, employers should also have policies in place to protect their workers and should urge caution during this busy holiday season. Employers are ultimately responsible for covering monetary costs arising in a workplace injury through workers' compensation benefits, so it is in both the employer and the employees' best interests to make driver safety a top priority.

Continue reading "Georgia Workers Face Increased Accident Risk This Holiday Season " »

November 23, 2012

Black Friday Shopping Frenzy Increases Risk of Work Accidents

Black Friday events tend to bring shoppers out in droves, leaving stores to deal with crowd control issues and angry shoppers. Unfortunately, in many cases, it is the workers at the stores who are left to handle the Black Friday crowds.

If a store is not prepared or if the store doesn't have effective crowd control and safety policies in place, this can be a recipe for disaster. In 2008, for example, OSHA reports that a worker was trampled to death by customers stampeding to get into a store. This tragic event is not an isolated incident either, as many workers and shoppers have been seriously injured or even killed in Black Friday shopping incidents. 604006_shoppingcenter.jpg

Because of the increased risk of workplace accidents on Black Friday and throughout the busy holiday shopping season, our Atlanta work injury attorneys want to remind both employers and employees of some safety tips.

Avoiding Black Friday Safety Risks
Employers are in the best position to prevent worker injuries on Black Friday. OSHA urges retailers to take proper precautions for crowd management and has provided some key tips including:

  • Employing trained security and having a sufficient number of security professionals on-site to maintain control.
  • Establishing a location for rope lines and barricades where people can wait to enter the store. This location should be away from the doors to the store in order to avoid a mad rush into the store when it first opens.
  • Having a detailed crowd control plan and putting efforts in place prior to customers arriving on Black Friday.
  • Creating a contingency plan in case an emergency arises.
  • Having detailed store rules and educating customers and staff on the rules.
  • Enforcing maximum occupancy limits so customers do not overcrowd stores that are already full.
  • Ensuring that exit doors are kept open and accessible.

By following these tips, employers can help to make sure that their employees do not fall victim to Black Friday injuries.

Worker Tips for Avoiding Black Friday Safety Risks
Ultimately, it is employers who will need to put comprehensive safety policies in place to protect workers. However, if you are going to be working on Black Friday, you can also take some steps to protect yourself as well. For instance, you may wish to consider:

  • Wearing comfortable clothing and shoes that provide good traction.

  • Learning where security is in the store and discussing with security personnel how you can get help if you need it.

  • Speaking up if a dangerous situation seems to be arising. You aren't obligated to risk your life to control crowds for your employer.

It is also important to remember that if you are a worker injured in an accident, your employer's workers compensation insurer can become responsible for paying all costs associated with the workplace injury. This includes medical costs as well as temporary or permanent disability benefits and lost wages if the injuries result in missing work.

Continue reading "Black Friday Shopping Frenzy Increases Risk of Work Accidents" »

November 14, 2012

Amputation Injury Results in OSHA Fine for Rome Company

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has slapped a Rome, Georgia company with a pair of violations after an employee had four fingers amputated while servicing a dust collector's airlock system.

A willful violation alleges the company failed to use required lockout/tagout procedures to ensure the system was de-energized prior to performed maintenance. A willful violation is one committed with intentional disregard for the law or plain indifference to worker safety. A serious violation was issued for failure to properly train workers. A serious violation is issued when there is substantial probability death or serious harm could result from a hazard that was known, or should have been known, to the employer. 342876_cut_2.jpg

Marglen Industries Inc. has 15 days to appeal the $69,300 fine.

Our Georgia workers' compensation attorneys know failure to lockout/tagout equipment undergoing maintenance is a common cause of work injury in the manufacturing sector. Amputation injuries frequently result.

"Although the company has a lockout/tagout program, it was not implemented for this machine, resulting in serious injury to a worker," said Andre Richards, area director of OSHA's Atlanta-West Area Office.

OSHA reports amputation injuries occur most often when workers operate unguarded or inadequately guarded power equipment, including mechanical power presses, power press brakes, powered and non-powered conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming and roll- bending machines, food slicers, meat grinders, meat-cutting band saws, drill presses, and milling machines as well as shears, grinders, and slitters.

Each year thousands of employees lose hands, feet and fingers. Fingertips are the most frequently reported amputation injury.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports about 20,000 amputation injuries a year occur in the workplace.

Likewise, failure to lockout-tagout equipment before performing maintenance is another common cause of all types of serious work accidents, including amputation and crush injuries. OSHA mandates control of hazardous energy sources that can be hazardous to workers via electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other sources in machines and equipment.

29 CFR 1910.147 outlines OSHA's standards for the control of hazardous energy in general industry, including procedures for the maintenance of machines and equipment. The law also requires all employees who work in the area be properly trained not to attempt to restart or energize machines that have been locked out or tagged out.

Employees conducting lockout and tagout procedures must also be trained on the means and methods of isolating and controlling all energy sources.

OSHA's lockout/tagout fact sheet is available here.

These are preventable injuries. By properly training maintenance personnel regarding tagout/lockout procedures -- and by ensuring staff understands never to use such machinery, an employer can drastically reduce the risks of a serious or fatal Georgia work accident.

Continue reading "Amputation Injury Results in OSHA Fine for Rome Company" »

November 7, 2012

Georgia Work Injuries: Government Releases Accident & Illness Stats for 2011

As we recently reported on our Georgia Workers' Compensation Attorney Blog, the number of work fatalities ha declined slightly through the long economic downturn. While officials are reporting less fatal work accidents, they're also predicting a turn in this trend with the improving economy.
About 5,000 employees who were killed at work in 2011. That's down close to 2 percent from the previous year. T

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys note the Bureau of Labor Statistics new numbers show 3 million workers were injured on the job in the United States in 2011. This means that 3.5 workers were injured for every 100 equivalent full-time employee. You might not think that's a lot, but when you factor in the millions of workers we have in the country -- it adds up. What's most alarming is that everyone's at risk. There's not a safe industry out there!

2011 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses:

-The rate of injury and illnesses that resulted in rob transfer among the private industry dropped in 2011.

-All industries, aside from private, saw unchanged rates of injuries and illnesses that resulted in job transfer or days away from work.

-There was a spike in the number of injuries and illnesses among those who were employed in the fishing, forestry, agriculture and hunting industry. This sector was only one of two that saw an increase from 2010 to 2011. Many believe that this increase is the result of both crop and animal production.

-The rate for injuries and illnesses spiked for those in the food and accommodation services.

-The residential care and the nursing home sectors experienced declines in their rates for injuries and illnesses. Officials believe this decline is the direct result of the decline in both residential care facilities and in nursing homes.

-Manufacturing was the only private sector that saw a job transfer rate to be greater than the rate of cases in which employees took days off of work. This is a near 15-year trend however.

-Overall, those in the private industry got to enjoy a decrease in its rate of injury. There was a rate of less than 3.5 cases for every 100 full-time workers.

-The rate of injury and illnesses for those employed within the local and state government was more than 5.5 cases for every 100 full-time workers. This rate continues to sit alarmingly higher than many other injury rates.

More than 40 states participate in the collection of these statistics. The number of these incidents declined in 7 states, increased in 1 state and stayed the same in the rest of the 32 states. Don't take the declines and the steady results as a sign of relief though, as officials predict an increase in accident rates. As more and more workers clock back in, the risks skyrocket. Make sure that everyone at your work site is doing what they can to help to make sure that everyone's safe and stays out of an accident.

Continue reading "Georgia Work Injuries: Government Releases Accident & Illness Stats for 2011" »

October 28, 2012

Atlanta Airport Accidents a Risk for Ground Crews & Support Personnel

Work accidents at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are most likely among the ground crews and other support personnel.

Our Atlanta work injury attorneys understand one of the nation's largest airports would simply cease to function without these hardworking and dedicated individuals. However, they are also at high risk of injuries, including herniated discs, fall accidents and transportation accidents. 556111_loading_airplane.jpg

Hartsfield-Jackson has been one of the busiest airports in the world for nearly two decades and its six concourses also make it one of the world's largest. More than 2,700 flights arrive or depart the airport daily carrying more than 230,000 passengers.

That's a lot of luggage!

Recently the Occupational Safety & Health Administration announced a renewed partnership with the Airline Ground Safety Panel, which will continue to address the hazards and work injuries faced by ground crews. The Airline Ground Safety Panel is a labor-industry partnership that includes 11 airlines and three unions representing about 350,000 workers -- or about 85 percent of the industry.

"Our continued Alliance with the Airline Ground Safety Panel will focus on preventing worker injuries caused by slips, trips and falls and being struck by objects," said OSHA's Dr. David Michaels. "We look forward to working with the panel to educate and train employers and workers on preventing workplace injuries."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual fatal work-accident statistics last month, revealing that 708 workers were fatally injured last year after being struck by objects or equipment. Another 666 died in falls. Airline support personnel are at high risk for both types of injuries.

The alliance will work for the next two years to develop fact sheets and highlight ways to prevent slip, trip and fall accidents, as well as those hazards present while operating high-lift tugs, pushback trucks and other ground safety equipment.

Common Airport Work Accidents Include:

-Injuries caused by falling objects.

-Belt-loader accidents and injuries, including amputation and caught-between injuries.

-Baggage tug and cart injuries.

-Vehicle accidents and collisions.

-Lifting injuries.

-Struck by equipment injuries.

-Carbon Monoxide injuries.

-Ramp Safety.

Back injuries can be particularly serious, both because of the difficulty in achieving an accurate diagnosis and because of the debilitating impact a serious back injury can have on a person's life. The National Institutes of Health reports the most common back injuries are sprains and strains, herniated discs and fractured vertebrae. Treatment options range from medicine and bed rest to physical therapy and surgery.

Making sure you get the best treatment options available can be critical. When an employee feels like he is being pushed into an option by an employer or an employer's workers' compensation insurance company, consulting an outside attorney is the best option. How these injuries are treated can impact the rest of an employee's life and can be a determining factor in prognosis for making a full recovery.

Continue reading "Atlanta Airport Accidents a Risk for Ground Crews & Support Personnel" »

October 22, 2012

Atlanta Job Safety: Workplace Violence a Leading Cause of Death in 2011

A surprise in the recently released report on work accidents in the United States last year is that workplace violence is now responsible for the second-most deaths nationwide, behind only transportation accidents.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports violence in the workplace claimed 780 lives. A total of 4,609 workplace deaths were reported. 449966_handcuff.jpg

U.S. Workplace Fatalities in 2012

Transportation: 1,898
Workplace Violence: 780
Fire: 143
Falls: 666
Exposure: 401
Contact with Equipment: 708

Fatal Georgia Work Accidents in 2012

Transportation Accidents: 45
Workplace Violence: 17
Falls: 16
Struck by Object: 15
Harmful Exposure: 9
Fire Explosion: 5

In recent years, workplace violence has surpassed falls and contact with objects or equipment as a leading cause of fatal injuries among employees.

As we reported recently on our Georgia Workers Compensation Attorney Blog, the ongoing threat to convenience store worker, particularly those who work the night shift, is one aspect of workplace violence we consider less often. As it turns out, convenience store clerks or more likely to be assaulted while on the job than anyone except taxi drivers.

Violence toward police officers and prison guards is another area that gets less attention. But we are all, of course, familiar with the high-profile acts of violence at schools and workplaces nationwide. Each case is unique and consulting an experienced Georgia work accident attorney is always the best bet when it comes to protecting your rights and your family's financial wellbeing following an act of workplace violence.

Shootings was the most common manner of death, accounting for about 78 percent of all workplace homicides. Insect or animal bites are also included in this category and resulted in 37 deaths last year. Forty percent of workplace homicides among women involved a spouse or domestic partner, another 20 percent involved a robber.

OSHA's workplace violence prevention efforts aim to assist employers and employees in creating a safer workplace. Nationwide each year, more than 2 million Americans report being the victim of violence while on the job.

Common risk factors include those who exchange money with the public, those who work with volatile and unstable people, those who work alone or are otherwise isolated and those who serve alcohol are also at increased risk.

Employers must assess the work site, implement a workplace violence prevention program, and provide the proper training to employees. Having a zero-tolerance policy toward violence and an updated evacuation plan are also critical steps in ensuring your job site is as safe as possible when it comes to preventing acts of violence. Common sense strategies include security cameras, a well-maintained and secure premises, and night security lighting.

Do your part to secure your job site: Don't make the mistake of thinking it won't happen to you!

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October 14, 2012

Falls a Leading Cause of Georgia Work Accidents, Construction Accidents, in 2011

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported more than 4,600 employees were killed on the job last year, essentially unchanged from 2010.

Georgia work accidents claimed 107 lives in 2011, compared to 108 in 2010. As we reported recently on our Georgia Workers Compensation Attorney Blog, transportation accidents, workplace violence and workplace falls continue to be the leading causes of serious and fatal work accidents in Georgia and throughout the United States. 1185444_stair_folding.jpg

In such cases, survivor's benefits will pay up to $7,500 for burial expenses and up to $500 a week up to a total of $150,000 for a spouse with no children. A dependent child may continue to receive benefits until age 21 if attending college.

However, most people survive a work accident, even if the result is permanent or temporary disability. Workers' compensation benefits will pay medical expenses and lost wages in such cases.

Fatal Georgia Work Accidents in 2012:

Transportation Accidents: 45
Workplace Violence: 17
Falls: 16
Struck by Object: 15
Harmful Exposure: 9
Fire Explosion: 5

Nationwide, the number of fatal construction accidents declined for the fifth year in a row. There were 721 fatal construction accidents in 2011 compared to 774 in 2010. However, that is not a trend that is expected to continue. In fact, risks are expected to increase as the economy recovers.

To that end, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration has launched a fall safety campaign aimed at construction workers. In 2010, falls were responsible for 264 of the 774 construction deaths reported to the agency. The campaign urges companies to "Plan, Provide, Train."

-Plan ahead: This will help you get the job done safely.

-Provide the right equipment: Workers at a height of six feet or more are at risk of serious injury or death in the event of a fall. Always provide the right kind of ladder or scaffold, as well as the proper safety gear.

Train: Employees need to be properly trained on the use of safety equipment and other ways to eliminate or mitigate risk.

As we reported last month, residential construction accidents are an increasing risk with the recovery of the housing market. While falls in private construction have decreased by 42 percent in the last five years, they are still the leading cause of death.

The government is also reminding employers that work-safety programs pay big dividends. For every dollar spent on work safety, employers typically see a savings of $4 to $6 in reduction of lost time and other costs. Far from an expense to be minimized, these programs can actually add to a company's bottom line.

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October 3, 2012

2011 Fatal Work Accidents Highlight Risks for Georgia Employees

The workforce is getting safer and less people are dying on the job, according to a recent report from CNN Money. But it's not expected to last. As our economy continues to improve and more Americans head back to work, the number of fatal work accidents is expected to rise.
According to the most recent statistics released last week from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 4,600 workers who were killed on the job in the U.S. last year.

That's down more than 1.5 percent from 2011. In 2010, there were close to 4,700 people who were killed on the job, which is an increase of more than 20 percent increase compared to 2001.

Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers understand that the number of workplace deaths has dropped through the recent economic downturn. But regardless of the status of our economy or how many people might be employed, it's an employer's responsibility to make sure that workers are safe on the job.

Work hazards are federally required to be minimized if not eliminated and employees must be provided with the proper safety equipment and safety training to perform each duty safely. This is especially important as the economy recovers because as more people head back to work, some of the newcomers will lack experience and will be more likely to be injured on the job.

The Department of Labor reports that the most common dangerous workplace activity was driving. Traffic accidents accounted for about 40 percent of all on-the-job fatalities. As a matter of fact, more truckers were killed on the job than any other job position.

Just last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a new set of rules to try to improve road safety for truckers. They aimed to cap the time that a driver is allowed to stay behind the wheel. Truckers are now only allowed to drive eight consecutive hours before that have to take a 30-minute break. These drivers are also prohibited from driving more than 70 hours in a week.

Although a smaller number of these workers are killed on the job, fishermen have the highest fatality rate of all U.S. workers -- more than 120 fatalities per 100,000 workers. That's more than five times that of truck drivers.

Key Findings in the 2011Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary:

-The number of fatal work accidents in the private construction sector is down about 5 percent.

-Violence and other injuries by people or animals accounted for close to 800 work-related fatalities.

-Coal mining fatalities fell to 17 in 2011 from 43 in 2010.

-Fatal work accidents in the private truck transportation increased by close to 15 percent in 2011.

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September 27, 2012

Convenience Store Injuries in Atlanta - Robbery Risks are Real

Atlanta police are looking for a convenience store robber who robbed a gas station wearing a clown mask, FOX News reported.

Our Atlanta workers' compensation attorneys understand the risks of working the night shift at convenience stores is no laughing matter in today's 24-hour world. Employers must take steps to protect workers. That may include having proper parking lot and security lighting, installing cameras and an alarm system, scheduling pairs to work together at night, and using common sense in staffing issues.
It may also require a convenience store owner to recognize when the risks of staying open all night outweigh the rewards. Unfortunately, the profit motive often wins that debate and obvious risks are ignored until a tragedy occurs. Statistics continue to show that convenience store clerks are more susceptible to workplace robbery and homicide than any other occupation except taxi cab drivers.

In this case, police say a suspect wearing a clown mask walked into the Express Zone on Jonesboro Road, slugged the clerk in the head, and forced him to empty the cash register and an ATM. Anyone with information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477).

Last month, CBS Atlanta reported a customer was shot during a convenience store robbery on Augusta Road shortly after 3:15 a.m. Last week in Delaware, two store clerks were shot and killed during a robbery.

Too often, serious or fatal injuries involving convenience store staff impact hardworking, low-income families. While nothing can properly compensate for the loss of a loved one, available benefits are not insignificant and may help a family moving forward. Survivor benefits in the event of workplace death in Georgia are the same for convenience store employees as they are for those working in other industries: Burial expenses of up to $7,500. A surviving spouse is entitled to two-thirds of weekly pay ($500 max) up to a maximum of $150,000. Dependent children of a deceased worker may be entitled to receive benefits until the age of 21 if they attend college.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation show convenience store robberies continue to account for about six percent of all robberies reported to police. Some locations may be particularly vulnerable to repeat victimization, including those with low security, significant amounts of cash, and few staff members on duty.

Safety advocates remind customers and employees they should never resist a robber. Higher injury rates are consistently found when employees take resistance measures during a robbery.

In addition to the obvious physical risks, victims of robbery may suffer psychological harm. Average employee work lost per episode is 3.5 days. Average cost per robbery event (which is considered an act of workplace violence) is estimated at $250,000.

Store characteristics that should be taken into account when determining robbery risks include operational hours, interior layout, exterior environment and location, ownership, staff numbers, cash-control procedures and incident response policies. Specific retailer responses that can reduce the risk of robbery include maximizing surveillance, increasing staff during high-risk hours, proper employee training, store maintenance, installation of camera and alarm systems and advanced cash-control procedures.

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