Workers’ Compensation and Repetitive Stress Injuries

Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2019 at 3:11 pm    

Repetitive stress injuries, according to Medical News Today, can affect most every movable part of your body. They are generally associated with repeating the same task over and over again, vibrations, and forceful exertions. Some of the other names for repetitive stress injury (RSI) are repetitive motion disorder, cumulative motion disorder, repetitive motion injury, occupational overuse syndrome, and regional musculoskeletal disorder. 

Generally, in both North Carolina and Virginia, repetitive stress injuries do not constitute valid claims. If one claims, for instance, that due to years of heavy lifting one’s back has started to hurt, that claim will be denied by the insurance company as well as by both the Virginia Workers Comp Commission or the North Carolina Industrial Commission. 

There are, however, a couple of sets of exceptions carved out in the law.  

The first is if the repetitive stress injury is suddenly aggravated by a traumatic event. In Virginia, as long as the doctor can say that the traumatic event caused a “sudden mechanical change” in the injured body part, then this would be a valid injury. Similarly, in North Carolina, a slip, trip or fall that aggravates a repetitive injury would be compensable. 

The second set of exceptions relate to some specific injuries that are very common and generally accepted as either occupational diseases or ordinary diseases of life caused by repetitive work trauma.  

Carpal tunnel syndrome is perhaps the best- known form of RSI. It is treated as an ordinary disease of life that is an occupational disease. It is a condition, according to Orthoinfo, that occurs when a major nerve to the hand (the median nerve) “is squeezed or compressed as it travels through the wrist.” It can be quite painful and generally gets worse over time unless it is treated. For some patients, surgery may be required to take pressure off the median nerve.

CTS is very common in machinist occupations and electrical occupations where repetitive use of the hands is required. 

Some of the symptoms of repetitive stress disorder

Symptoms include:

  • A throbbing sensation or a pulsing sensation in the part of the body affected
  • Loss of sensation
  • Pain or tenderness in affected joints and muscles
  • Loss of strength
  • A tingling sensation
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Reduced flexibility

Symptoms often vary depending on the part of the body that is affected.

Many workers don’t’ realize they have an RSI until the damage to their body is significant. By the time they do feel the pain, they need to stop working and get medical help.

Causes of repetitive stress injury

Some of the general causes of repetitive stress injuries include:

  • Using the same muscle or group of muscles again and again
  • Working in temperatures that are cold
  • Equipment that vibrates
  • Not working in a sound ergonomic work environment
  • Poor posture or keeping the same posture for a long time
  • Tiredness
  • Carry of lifting heavy objects
  • Direct pressure on a certain part of the body

Psychological stress can worsen RSI.

Some of the causes of RSI that cause workers to lose time off from work and file a workers’ compensation claim include:

  • Computer work. This is one of the more common causes of RSI, more specifically carpal tunnel syndrome. Workers who type and type all day long are using the same muscles over and over again. Clicking a mouse, typing on a keyboard, using a smartphone while typing – all can lead to repetitive stress injuries that can make work difficult. Workers should routinely take breaks from typing, make sure their monitor is the right distance away from the keyboard, use keyboards and computer setups that are ergonomic, and try to mix up their work with other tasks.
  • Construction work also often requires that workers perform the same tasks. These repeat tasks including using a jackhammer, hammering nails, digging in the ground, operating a forklift or a crane, cutting tree branches, or other tasks. The repeat work can develop into an RSI over time. Employers and workers should consider rotating tasks so the same muscles aren’t used all the time. Positioning and work techniques can also help reduce the risk of an RSI.
  • Retail work. Most retail workers are on the feet all day long which leads to fatigue. While they’re working, they are doing repeat tasks such as putting clothes on hangers or removing clothes, organizing the inventory, or operating a cash register.
  • Waitressing. Most waitress do the same physical tasks every day. They take order, carry food on trays, take the food off the trays, and unless they have someone to help – clean the dishes and the tables.
  • Standing or sitting in one position all day. These tasks can be bad for the heart and bad for your joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. People who sit in a on office all day long should make an effort to get up, stretch, and walk around. People who stand all day are putting pressure on their whole body. It helps for standing workers to take regular breaks where they can sit for a while.
  • Nursing. Nurses are constantly giving patients medications, moving and turning patients, checking blood pressure and doing other tasks on a repeat basis.
  • Machinist work. Constant working with hand tools can often cause carpal tunnel syndrome. 
  • Electrical work. Using screwdrivers and other tools in tight spaces can often cause carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Other jobs that are known to cause RSIs include delivery work, plumbing, agricultural work, firefighting, stocking shelves, janitors, maid services, and food processors. Professional athletes and professional musicians also do a lot or work that involves repetitive motions.

Treatment for an RSI

The earlier workers begin treatment for an RSI, the better. Doctors will conduct a range of tests depending on the body part that hurts and other factors. These tests include:

  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Electromyogram (EMG) which measures the electrical activity in muscles.
  • X-Rays and MRIs may be used

Treatments for an RSI include:

  • Surgery on the affected body part
  • Medications to reduce the inflammation and the pain
  • Braces and splints may help
  • Steroid injections
  • Certain types of exercises

The recovery process for surgical and non-surgical treatments can take months or even up to a year.

Can you claim workers’ compensation benefits for a repetitive stress injuries?

Unfortunately, other than Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), or aggravation of pre-existing RTS injuries by a single traumatic event, Virginia does not recognize any other repetitive stress injuries as valid, compensable injuries or an occupational disease

In North Carolina, the legislature has carved out a few specific, repetitive stress injuries that are recognized as specific, valid, occupational diseases. 

In addition, in North Carolina, (not in Virginia) repetitive stress injuries can sometimes be classified as occupational diseases and be compensable IF they are proven to be caused by things that are characteristic and peculiar to the employment of the injured person and excluding ordinary diseases of life to which the public is equally exposed. An example is a cameraman who develops a rotator cuff injury over time. His job requires him to carry the heavy camera on his shoulder every day, and if the doctor supports it, this would be an example of a compensable RTS injury in North Carolina. 

One should proceed with caution, however. These types of North Carolina “ordinary disease of life” cases are notoriously difficult to prove. The doctor must not only say that the work caused the issue, but that it was NOT caused by exposure to repetitive stress outside of work. For some jobs, such as daily work with a jackhammer, the proof may be clear. For other jobs, such as computer work, an insurance company may argue that your off-duty typing or exposure to other, off duty activities caused the RSI. 

There are, however, some RTS diseases in North Carolina that are specifically listed by the legislature as an occupational disease. 

The RTS diseases that are specifically listed in North Carolina General Statute Sec. 97-53 as compensable occupational diseases are: 

  • Blisters due to use of tools or appliances in the employment
  • Bursitis due to intermittent pressure in the employment
  • Bone felon [a type of finger infection-ed.] due to constant or intermittent pressure in employment
  • Synovitis, caused by trauma in employment; 
  • Tenosynovitis, caused by trauma in employment 

Examples of repetitive stress injuries that might be compensable in North Carolina, (but not in Virginia) depending on the proof of facts, are:

  • Tendonitis
  • Shoulder and rotator cuff injuries 
  • Tennis elbow, more formally called epicondylitis
  • Muscle strains
  • Trigger finger
  • Many other types of RSIs

If you have a workers’ compensation claim because of a repetitive stress injury, Virginia and North Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq., will explain your legal rights. In most cases, unless you fall into one of the exceptions listed above, there is a good chance you may not have a case. But if you have a valid work injury claim, he’ll work with your doctors to determine your full health condition.  In some cases, he may recommend that you see other doctors who are approved by the state workers’ compensation organizations. To learn if you have a claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 888-667-8295. or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment. Joe Miller has been fighting for injured workers for more than 31 years.

Workers’ Compensation and Back Injuries

Posted on Wednesday, September 4th, 2019 at 3:11 pm    

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), there are numerous reasons why back injuries are a major cause of lost work days. Back disorders generally occur in one of two ways:

  • A single traumatic event
  • Repetitive actions over time
  • A combination of both

A single traumatic event or a combination of a single traumatic event that aggravates an accumulated problem both generally constitute compensable, valid injuries under workers compensation law in both Virginia and North Carolina; however, cumulative injuries by themselves are generally not compensable and do not constitute a valid workers compensation claim. 

Also, while usually in North Carolina, a “slip, trip, or fall” is required to prove an injury by accident, an exception is carved out in the law with respect to back injuries. Evidence of a single, traumatic event is usually sufficient to prove a back injury in North Carolina. 

Virginia also only requires a single, traumatic event, but there must also be a “risk of employment” associated with the accident. This means that if one is simply injured suddenly in the course of performing one’s duties in Virginia, unless there is something that is a “risk” posed by the employment, i.e. a very heavy weight being lifted, a defective piece of equipment, or a weight suddenly shifting, simply feeling sudden back pain will not rise to the level of a valid injury in Virginia. In North Carolina, with respect only to back injuries, it would, so long as the injured worker can point to a specific moment when the pain started during the performance of work duties.

Often, workers and employers fail to treat back problems which accumulate over time – until the symptoms become very so severe, so acute – that the cause a disabling injury. Some of the causes of back injuries include improper lifting techniques or lifting loads that are just too heavy for the  worker’s body.

Often, the single traumatic event is really due to “years of weakening of the musculoskeletal support mechanism by repetitive micro-trauma. Injuries can arise in muscle, ligament, vertebrae, and discs, either singly or in combination.”

Once again, unfortunately, these types of back injuries, if not precipitated or aggravated by a single traumatic event that the injured worker can point to, will not give rise to a valid workers compensation claim. 

OSHA states that back injuries from working aren’t known to cause fatalities. They do, however, cause a lot of pain and suffering and lost productivity. Back injuries affect nearly 600,000 employees on a yearly basis at a cot of nearly $50 billion annually. As the average age of employees increases, the cost to treat and pay disabled workers is likely to rise.

Some of the many reasons back disorders occur

Some of the workplace activities that cause deterioration of muscles, discs, joints, and ligaments – which in turn cause back injuries – include:

    • Poor posture. It’s important to sit and stand properly with good support. This means quality shoes and chairs. 
    • Staying in one position for too long. This means standing up occasionally if you have a desk job and sitting down occasionally if your job requires you to be on your feet all day long.
    • Reaching for objects at the same time you’re lifting. 
    • Using improper body techniques – when you lift, pull, push, or carry objects. There are standard ways, for example, that you should lift objects so the weight isn’t fully on your back.
    • Not being in good shape. Poor physical conditioning can affect your ability to use your back without experiencing pain.
    • Poor ergonomic equipment. Workstations should be designed to enhance your posture, to avoid the need to reach, and to help take pressure off your back. Your employer should consider having you wear a brace if you do a lot of heavy lifting.
    • Using your body instead of equipment. Employers should provide dollies, forklifts, and other equipment to help you mechanically lift and move anything that might be too heavy.

 

  • Twisting or bending while lifting.

 

  • Working while tired. It’s critical that workers be allowed to take periodic breaks. They shouldn’t work too many hours in any one day. Fatigue makes the muscles tired which can make movements harder. Additionally, tired workers are more likely to trip and fall which can result in acute back pain.
  • Not having proper footing. Workers shouldn’t lift, carry, push, or pull on uneven ground, on wet ground, or anywhere where their footing isn’t secured.
  • Working with machines that vibrate a lot. Truck drivers and delivery drivers are especially prone to back injuries if the cargo moves around or the truck can’t handle the load.

Some of the ways to help reduce back injuries

Some loads are much harder to lift or move than other loads. Generally, any load that is more than 50 pounds should be moved or lifted by using some of the following equipment or strategies:

  • Use hand trucks, pallet jacks, and forklifts
  • Try to break the load into smaller sizes and weights
  • Use ramps to load and move objects
  • Suction devices may help if they can carry the weight
  • Be aware that rolling items may help – but rolling may be dangerous if the motion can’t be stopped
  • Request that extra workers be used to lift, carry or move the load

OSHA states the employers and employees can help each other in the following ways:

  • Employers should ask employees what they think about how difficult task are and what their personal experience is with pain
  • Employers should observe first-hand the posture of their workers as they lift. They should also use video to analyze the motions
  • Employers should have a way to weigh objects and materials before lifting
  • Employers need to review how often and how long a worker is lifting
  • Workers should be rotated to different jobs so they’re not using the same muscles repetitively

“Principal variables in evaluating manual lifting tasks to determine how heavy a load can be lifted are: 

  • The horizontal distance from the load to the employee’s spine
  • The vertical distance through which the load is handled
  • The amount of trunk twisting the employee utilized during the lifting
  • The ability of the hand to grasp the load
  • The frequency with which the load is handled”

Other manual lifting variables include examining space constraints, the size of the load, and the stability of the load. 

Once all these variables are known, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the US CDC – has a formula for determining whether a lift is safe or not.

Recommended OSHA safety tips

OSHA further recommends the following safety tips for manually handling objects to help avoid the risk of bank injuries:

  • Minimize the frequency of the activity, the range of motion, and the weight of the objects or materials.
  • Reduce the distance between the worker and the object being handled.
  • “Platforms and conveyors should be built at about waist height to minimize awkward postures. Conveyors or carts should be used for horizontal motion whenever possible.”
  • Pushing is generally better than pulling. 
  • It helps if the items being moved have handles that are easy to grasp.
  • Workstations should be configured properly so the worker doesn’t have to bend over. They should be designed to help the worker remain in a relaxed upright stance or fully supported, seated posture.
  • The worker shouldn’t have to bend his/her upper body and spine. Bins should tilted, elevated, or have collapsible sides– to improve access and avoid the need to bend.
  • Sustained twisting motions or leaning to one side should be avoided. 
  • Heavy objects should be stored at waist level
  • Employers should provide lift tables and lift-assist devices.

Virginia and North Workers’ Compensation Attorney Joe Miller Esq. understands back pain injuries. He workers with your doctors and independent doctors, when necessary, to diagnose your pain and prepare a full prognosis for your recovery. He’s helped thousands of injured workers get just recoveries. For help with your work injury claim, due to a back injury or for any reasons, call lawyer Joe Miller at 888-667-8295. or fill out my contact form to make an appointment.

Scaffolding Injuries and Workers’ Compensation

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2019 at 4:50 pm    

Families of anyone killed due to a workplace scaffolding accident are entitled to death benefits. Survivors of scaffolding falls are entitled to full medical care and wage loss benefits, otherwise known as temporary total disability checks.

Scaffolding is a necessary requirement at many types of construction sites. Scaffolding is generally temporary. Stable scaffolding helps workers rise above the ground to do their job. Unstable scaffolding can easily cause death. Falls from scaffolding can also cause many types of injuries that leave the worker permanently disabled – such as spinal cord injuries which leave a worker partially or completely paralyzed. In the best of cases, workers with spinal cord injuries often live with chronic pain.

If a worker falls on his/her head, the worker can suffer a traumatic brain injury which affects the workers physical, emotional, and cognitive abilities. Workers with a severe brain injury often never return to work. Even workers with mild traumatic brain injury need to treat with neurosurgeons, neurologists, their family doctors, speech pathologists, physical therapists, psychologists and many other types of doctors.

Falls from a scaffold can cause broken arms which usually have to be set and placed in a cast. It takes months before broken bones heal. Other types of injuries include internal organ damage, muscle and ligament damages, severe cuts and lacerations.

OSHA scaffolding statistics

According to the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) nearly 2/3rds of workers who work in the construction industry work on scaffolding. That percentage translates to about 2.3 million workers. According to the Bureau of Labor, nearly 60 people tragically die from scaffolding falls each year. Nearly 4,500 are injured due to scaffolding each year. One Bureau of Statistics study shows that 72% of scaffolding accidents are due either the “planking or support giving way, or to the employee slipping or being struck by a falling object.”

Types of scaffolding

The two basic types of scaffolds, according to OSHA, are:

  • Suspended scaffolds. Here, at least one platform is suspended by ropes or other types of overhead support that is not rigid.
  • Supported scaffolds. Here, at least one platform is supported by rigid supports such as poles, frames, legs, and outrigger.

Other types of scaffolding that are usually classified as “supported scaffold” are scissor lifts and aerial lifts. Other types of scaffolding, according to OSHA,  include “catenary scaffolds, step and trestle ladder scaffolds, and multi-level suspended scaffold.”

Types of workers who work on scaffolds

There are three types of people who work on scaffolding. These are:

  • The workers who assemble and disassemble the scaffolding. These workers should be trained by someone who can identify predictable hazards and who has the authority to take steps to correct these hazards.
  • Scaffolds should be designed by people with proper degrees, such as engineering degrees, and professional experience. Minimum scaffolding design requirements include understanding:
    • The type of scaffolding necessary for a job
    • The maximum load level
    • How to assure a good foundation
    • How to avoid electrical hazards
    • Users of the scaffolding should be trained on the safety do’s and don’ts.

Employers should review OSHA guidelines or contact OSHA directly before allowing any worker to use the scaffolding.

Common safety tips for workers who use scaffolding

Workers should consult with any manufacturing manuals on proper setup and use before beginning any scaffolding work. Some of the many other practical tips for scaffolding work include:

  • Workers should avoid multitasking. When working on scaffolding, it’s best to work on one task at a time.
  • Workers should walk carefully, testing the stability of the scaffolding every step of the way.
  • Any loose objects or tools not needed for the job should be removed before the scaffolding work starts
  • The entire length of the scaffolding should be inspected
  • A key consideration is the weather. Construction companies and contractors should avoid having their workers work on scaffolding if the weather is rainy, it’s snowing, or if it’s too hot. Wind is an especially dangerous problem. Heavy winds are an extremely dangerous. Generally, the manufacturer and OSHA have strict guidelines that require that workers not be on scaffolding when the wind reaches a high level.
  • Fall protection devices should be set up around the scaffolding.  Fall protection includes wearing helmets and setting up padding or other materials to help cushion any fall. Workers should wear harnesses.
  • Proper storage of scaffolding as it’s being torn down or constructed is also important. Heavy scaffolding that is stored incorrectly can fall on workers and cause serious injury.

Workers compensation benefits for workers injured or killed due to scaffolding accidents

There are different types of benefits available depending on the severity of the injuries.

In death cases, the employer’s insurance company should pay up to $10,000 for the funeral and burial expenses. The dependent family members (generally the spouse and minor children) can claim two-thirds (2/3rds) of the worker’s average weekly wages for a maximum of 500 weeks. In a case of North Carolina death benefits,  minor children may be entitled for more than 500 weeks – up to the time they turn 18 years of age. Also in North Carolina, if the widow or widower of the deceased is disabled, she/he is entitled to benefits for the rest of their life or until they remarry.

When workers survive the fall, they are entitled to have all their medical expenses paid that are necessary to their recovery – for the rest of their lives.

Employees are also generally entitled to 2/3rds of their average weekly wages up until the time they return to work or up to 500 weeks. Workers with a total and permanent disability receive the 2/3rds average weekly wage for the rest of their lives.  If the worker has a permanent partial impairment in relation to a compensable, ratable body part, then an additional analysis is made to determine the length of the 2/3rds average weekly wage benefits.

Additional adjustments and conditions may apply depending on whether your claim is in North Carolina or in Virginia.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of attorney Joe Miller Esq., we’ve helped thousands of workers including numerous construction workers get the full workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. There is no need to prove fault in North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation cases. To speak with an attorney experienced at fighting the insurance companies for employers, call lawyer Joe Miller at 1-(888) 667-8295 or complete my contact form to make an appointment.

New Workplace Safety Applications for Wearable Technology

Posted on Friday, April 26th, 2019 at 1:28 pm    

In a previous article, we discussed some of the overall pros and cons of wearing workplace technology. In this article, we address some of the specifics.

According to Lanier Upshaw, a company that focuses on business risk, many businesses are exploring how wearable workplace technology can help employers and employees reduce the number of workplace accidents and the severity of workplace injuries. In addition to wearable technology, mobile applications, and sensors are becoming part and parcel of future workplace safety strategies.

Wearable technology is being used in many different professions and industry sectors including healthcare, police, firefighting, construction, and manufacturing.

Some of the benefits that makers of these wearable technologies say can help workers include:

  • Warnings. The technology can warn employees that noise levels are excessive which can harm an employee’s hearing, the temperature is too hot or too cold which can directly affect a person’s health, and the existence of chemical toxins. Toxins that are ingested can cause breathing and respiratory problems. Toxins that come in touch with the skin can cause itching, burns, and infections.
  • Body movement. Wearables can help identify when a worker isn’t lifting an item properly which can place excess strain on the back and spine. Back and spine injuries can lead to a lifetime of chronic pain.
  • Collecting data. Wearable technology devices use sensors to collect lots of data about work performance. The data can be analyzed to focus on increasing productivity while at the same time helping the worker avoid or reduce the risk of injury. The data can be used, for example, to help design ergonomic equipment and workplace environments that place fewer stresses on the body.

Various types of wearable technology

Some wearable technology is already helping workers in the following ways:

  • Warehouses are using wearable technology, which is worn on the wrist or arm, that gives workers an interface to managers and supervisors to discuss any issues that arise
  • Wearable technology can include barcode scanners to let workers minimize the time and stress of handwriting product and delivery information
  • In the manufacturing sector, workers wear headsets that let them communicate while keeping their hands-free to hold on to work with tools and equipment. Wristbands with software can also enable hands-free communication
  • Backpacks with sensors can include cameras that can scan and capture any environment. These devices can be useful in the construction arena where the landscape continually changes as the work is completed
  • Some workers are wearing smart glasses that have microprocessor and optics to get a 3-dimenisional view of an area
  • Sunglasses and smart-glasses can be used for mobile computing, video and photo recording, data collection, and “waveguide optics.”
  • Helmet clips with sensors can help workers and supervisors increase their knowledge of whether there are dangerous gases, the worker’s locations, and what the vital signs of the worker are
  • Footbeds with sophisticated technology are being used to collect biomechanical and physical data which can reduce the risk of “musculoskeletal injuries”
  • Smart wearable technology can help determine whether a worker is getting tired and needs a rest break or should even stop working until they get enough sleep. This can be especially useful for truck drivers who can easily get fatigued if they push their limits – by driving too many hours without getting proper rest. In one example, wearers have a “smart cap,” which alerts a remote operator to the fatigue. The remote operator then sends an alarm to the wearer. These devices detect brain signals through tiny EEG sensors.
  • Some companies have their workers wear “smart compression suits” to track the worker’s body movements. In some industries where the worker works in dangerous conditions, this technology can be valuable
  • There are holographic devices which give the user a better field of vision by including high-definition holograms to increase their understanding of the view around them.
  • There are devices which expand the viewing perspective so that workers can see things at a 75-degree angle. These devices even include earbuds for a broader audio experience.
  • Some devices can be used to examine the wearer’s perspiration level – specifically, the amount of alcohol in the perspiration
  • Workers who work in mine are using “wearable devices for geolocating personnel and equipment”
  • Shirts can help keep surgeons, pilots, firefighters and others cool through the use of “portable CO2 tanks.” These devices can help reduce the risk of death and heat stroke when the weather gets too hot.
  • Watches can transmit safety alerts
  • Glasses are being combined with Bluetooth technology to transmit emails and other notifications.
  • Bracelets with GPS systems can send data about a worker’s location to a supervisor
  • Some devices have point-of-view devices attached to helmets, headgear, and collars. This technology can help law enforcement be more aware of dangerous situations

There are concerns about all this wearable technology. There are privacy and security issues. Employees should have the right to raise questions about their effectiveness. Are they really helping the worker be safer or are they just being used to help a business make a profit or worse yet, spy on their employees?

Is the focus on protecting the worker or on gather data? There needs to be a balance between helping the employee and helping the company, but in all cases, the safety and security of the worker should always be the #1 priority. The wearable technology may improve worker morale but it may also inhibit worker morale because the devices can be cumbersome. Workers may also tend to over-rely on the sensors instead of their own instincts.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of attorney Joe Miller Esq., we understand that the workplace environment is constantly changing. While we appreciate devices that can help improve worker safety, when injuries happen (for any reason), we demand that employers and their insurance company take care of their workers. This includes making timely payments for medical expenses and wage benefits. We’ve helped thousands of employees get their full workers’ compensation benefits.  For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation case, call us today. Initial appointments are free. You can reach attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 667-8295 or by completing my contact form.

Wearable Technology and Workplace Safety

Posted on Friday, April 19th, 2019 at 3:10 pm    

New technology is helping workers avoid work-related injuries in many ways. Companies should always be on the lookout for ways to improve worker safety. They should understand and follow the latest guidelines and regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They should keep current with latest safety standards.

Businesses should know that providing workers with the best tools possible, the best equipment possible, and the best education possible can help reduce how often work injuries occur. The best way to avoid a work injury claim is to avoid the accident in the first place. When accidents at work do happen, workers should speak with experienced workers’ compensation lawyers to get the best advice possible.

The positives

Most new technology has some computer component and some data component. The wearable technology gathers the data by reading relevant responses from the worker who wears the technology. This new type of technology is often good at measuring things such as fatigue, work-related stress, ergonomic issues, proximity to danger, and other factors.

The overall goal of the technology is two-fold. The first is to improve the safety for the individual worker. The second is to improve the safety of the whole workplace organization.

According to Businessinsurance.com, these are some example of the desired benefits of wearable technology:

  • “Caterpillar Inc. demonstrated a solution it created to reduce accidents involving collisions between heavy machinery and construction personnel. Using a small beacon that fits inside a hardhat and a receiver mounted in the cab of a vehicle or machine, the solution can detect when a worker is dangerously close to the equipment and alert the driver with an alarm.”
  • Two analysts explained how new technology could be used in construction sites, one of the leading industry sectors for workplace accident claims. The new technology would give supervisors the ability to warn workers, through visual and audible alarms to the device they’re wearing – to stay away from certain unsafe areas. The technology was “a worker positioning system using wireless beacons placed around the room and safety vests outfitted with transmitters that allowed software to track their movements throughout the aisles and among audience members in real time.”
  • The analysts touted other wearable devices that could alert supervisors to accidents. Quicker response times could prevent harm to other workers and help the injured worker get more timely help. Workers could be notified when an evacuation of a dangerous site was necessary.

Wearable technology benefits typically, according to the BusinessInsruance.com article, the following three goals:

  • Collect data about the worker on certain activities such as bending and then comparing it to a benchmark or threshold. The hard part is determining the benchmarks and thresholds.
  • Change the worker’s individual behavior. Much of the analysis of this type of benefit has shown that it doesn’t help workers that much. In fact, in one study at the University of Pittsburgh, PA, an experiment was done to determine if wearable devices that monitored diet and physical activity helped or hurt with weight loss. The study actually found that the people who didn’t wear the devices lost more weight than those with the devices. The analysts in the article concluded that behavior is affected more by “organizational culture and systems that try to reinforce desired behaviors and discourage deviations.
  • Make changes to organizational behavior, “such as changing workflows or processes to make work safer or more efficient.”

The negatives

There are concerns with wearable technology. Most wearable technology focuses on collecting data about a worker’s performance. Some of the concerns raised by those who oppose these technologies include:

  • A lack of privacy. The collection of large amounts of data can affect the psyche and well-being of the workers. The information gathered may be used against the worker in various ways such as in the evaluation of the worker’s job performance. The worker’s privacy is impacted.
  • An improper focus. Focusing on the data often means missing many other parts of job performance. Doing a job well depends on experience, ambition, creativity, imagination, an ability to be a team player, and many other factors. Focusing on just physical and emotional responses can miss some of these crucial factors. Often, there are much better, more efficient, and more creative ways to improve worker safety and worker job performance.
  • Digital breaches. Some transfer of information might violate various laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which regulates access to medical health records.
  • A waste of time. All of the data collection isn’t worth the time to collect it if there’s no ability in the technology to assess and evaluate the data.

Wearable technologies should focus on things that can’t normally be evaluated by the human eye or human experience. How much bending a worker is doing can usually be assessed by just looking at the worker. Technology can be useful, for example, in determining (through a glove with sensors) how much “force a worker uses” while gripping.

General guidelines

Education matters. Workers should be told more than just how to use the technology. They should understand how the technology is being used to make for a safer and better work environment.

Employers tend to like wearable devices because the devices may help reduce their premiums while also helping to avoid workplace accidents. Employees may like them if they really help keep them safer.

At the Virginia Law office and North Carolina office of lawyer Joe Miller Esq., we’ve helped thousands of injured workers get justice. We fight to get employees all the benefits they deserve including payment of all their medical bills and their lost wages. We understand that holding employers accountable for workplace injuries is one way to force employers to focus more on workplace safety. For help with your Virginia or North Carolina workers’ compensation claim, call attorney Joe Miller at 1-(888) 667-8295 or complete my contact form to schedule a free appointment. Initial consultations are free.

Many Construction, Transportation, and Manufacturing Workers Compensation Claims are Due to Fatigue

Posted on Monday, April 1st, 2019 at 9:14 am    

According to a report cited by the National Safety Council, 69% of employees say they suffer from fatigue at work. The report is titled “Fatigue in Safety-Critical Industries: Impact, Risks and Recommendations.” The report is based on several studies – one of workers and another was of a more mathematical survey. The NSC studied the utilities sector in addition to the other named work sectors.  

Fatigue at work can cause numerous types of accidents. The report noted that 90% of employers said that fatigue was impacting their businesses. Fatigue, employers understand, also decreases productivity in addition to causing workplace accidents. 72% of workers said they thought workplace fatigue was a safety issue – indicating a disparity between employer and employee views. Fatigue is especially dangerous in industry sectors where machines vehicles, equipment, and tools are part of the job.

Tired truck drivers for example can easily crash into other vehicles, lose control of their vehicles, run red lights, speed, or driver off the highway. These type of truck accidents often cause death. Survivors may suffer catastrophic injuries that leave them permanently disabled. Even workers who eventually can return to work need months or years of medical help.

Some of the other findings from the NSC report

  • In the transportation sector, 97% of employers thought that fatigue impacted their workers. This figure was the highest of all the sectors that were surveyed. 68% of workers admitted to sleep loss and 42% admitted to working long shifts – both are risk factors for fatigue.
  • In the utility sector, 95% of employers agreed that is not safe to drive while tired. Only 2/3rds  of the employees said they agreed that tired drivers make for dangerous drivers
  • In the construction industry, all surveyed workers said they had at least one risk factor for fatigue. 46% of the workers said they worked during times that were high-risk for fatigue – namely at night and early in the morning.

The NSC’s mission is to help prevent deaths at work and elsewhere. Founded over 100 years ago, in 1913, the NSC works with businesses, government, elected officials, and others to help prevent deaths. The fatigue report found that lack of sleeps results in $410 billion yearly in “societal expenses.”

Common accidents where fatigue plays a factor

In the construction industry, fatigue can easily cause a tired worker to slip and fall. Workers can be electrocuted if they don’t follow safety rules. They can be hurt from falling objects. They can fall from scaffolds. They can be struck by moving equipment.  

In the manufacturing sector, tired workers use many different types of heavy machinery. If they’re tired, these workers pose a risk to themselves and everyone in the workforce.

Tired drivers aren’t paying attention to the traffic in front of them. They’re slow to recognize emergencies and too slow to respond. For example, they don’t apply the brakes quickly enough. They don’t steer out of trouble. Many tired drivers are also easily distracted because they’re grabbing for the coffee, rolling down the windows for fresh air, or doing other things to try to stay awake such as taking amphetamines – when they should just get off the roadway.

It is precisely because tired truck drivers are dangerous drivers, that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has federal regulations. Drivers can only drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 hours of rest. There are limits on how many hours truck drivers can work during a 60-hour week and during a 70-hour week.

Some of the symptoms of workplace fatigue

Common fatigue symptoms that workers and employers should be on the lookout for include:

  • Lack of energy
  • General tiredness and fatigue
  • Constant yawning
  • Slow reaction times
  • Impaired decision making
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Needing stimulants to stay awake

Common causes of driver fatigue

  • Working too many days in a row
  • Working night hours
  • Being deprived of sleep due to lifestyle choices
  • Being deprived of sleep due to the need to take certain medications
  • Heavy labor places a lot of wear and tear on a body and can tire people out
  • Doing boring repetitive tasks all work day long
  • Working different shifts in the same week
  • Being absent from work
  • Reduced productivity
  • Getting into more accidents of any type
  • Making mistakes in job performance

How employers can address driver fatigue

Employers should consider making the following workplace changes so that employees are energized so they can better focus on their job duties:

  • Avoid double shifts – day work and night work
  • Avoid multiple night shifts
  • Monitor the hours the employee is working better so they have time to get the rest they need
  • Make sure workers who do strenuous work and who do work long hours are able to take longer work breaks. Breaks should include time to drink, get a bite to eat, and to rest if needed.
  • Job assignments should be rotated so that workers with monotonous jobs can do more interesting work to balance out their work time.
  • Workers who do heavy lifting, use heavy machinery, or do any job which puts a lot of pressure on the body – should be given some assignments that are less strenuous
  • Employers should understand the OSHA and industry safety standards and apply them to reduce the likelihood a tired worker will get into an accident.

 

In workers’ compensation cases, an injured worker is not required to prove that the employer was at fault for the accident. There’s no need to prove the employer made the employee work harder or longer than necessary. There’s no need to show the employer failed to follow proper safety laws.

In North Carolina and in Virginia, if an employee suffers an accident in the course and scope of employment, regardless of fault,  the worker is entitled to state workers’ compensation benefits. Standard work injury benefits include 2/3rds of the worker’s average weekly wages while he/she is unable to work and payment of all reasonable medical bills. Attorney Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured workers in both North Carolina and Virginia get the pay and medical benefits they deserve. For help now, please call me at 1-(888) 888-694-1671 or complete my contact form to schedule a free consultation.

Why Working with Cranes at Construction Sites is So Dangerous

Posted on Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 at 9:51 am    

Most construction work, especially building new public or private structures such as homes and offices, requires that cranes be used to lift, lower, and move workers, equipment, materials, and tools. In addition, many large manufacturing operations require cranes to move heavy equipment and assemblies into place. Injuries from crane accidents can cause death, catastrophic injuries, broken bones, bruises, amputations, neck and back pain, electrocution, lacerations, damage to internal organs, and a host of long-term problems. Catastrophic injuries include spinal cord damage, paralysis, and traumatic brain injury – all of which can prevent a worker from ever having gainful employment again.

Each type of crane has its own dangers.

  • Tower cranes operate at great heights
  • Crawler cranes operate on tracks/crawlers that guide the movement of the cane. These cranes often weigh a lot and move heavy tons of materials. Being struck by one or any object dropped by such a crane may mean instant death.
  • Other types of cranes include overhead cranes, railroad canes, all-terrain cranes, aerial cranes, and floating cranes.

Types of construction site crane accidents

While there is no requirement that an injured worker prove fault, the best way to protect any crane accidents is to avoid accidents in the first place. We have represented severely injured workers hurt by falling debris from a crane. Some of the major reasons crane accidents happen include:

  • Cranes that collide with other cranes, buildings, and nearby objects. Safe crane operation requires proper planning. Sightlines should be visible so that the crane doesn’t strike oil rigs, workers who have already been lifted to great heights, other cranes in the construction site area, and any temporary or permanent buildings. There should be communication between all workers in the area so everyone knows when and where the crane will move. A signalperson should guide the movement of the crane along with the crane operator. Cranes swing around across a wide radius. Anything in the path of the crane swing can be easily hurt or killed.
  • Overhead powerlines. Operators need to check for powerlines at the construction site. The operators and supervisors should assume that the lines are live. In some cases, the lines need to be grounded or deenergized. Extra precautions such as alarms that signal when the crane is too close to the powerline, barricades, or signal persons may be required. Contact with a crane can cause anyone nearby to die from electrocution.
  • Falling materials. The manufacturer requirements should be studied before the crane is placed into operation so that the load is below the safety limits. How the loads are weighed should be clear. The crane apparatus including ropes should be inspected frequently. If the load falls, it can easily strike and kill any workers on the ground or in the vicinity of the crane. In addition, the ‘S’ hooks and other equipment used to attach loads can become damaged and worn over time. They should be frequently inspected and replaced if worn. Even a load that is within the safety limitations of the crane can easily slip out of a worn or defective hook.
  • Tipping-over. Crane stability is a major concern sine most constructions sites don’t have level surfaces. Cranes are constantly running over holes, inclines, and surfaces made of different materials. Civil engineers or other types of engineers may be required to inspect the soil and ground before the crane is used. In some cases, the ground surface may need to dry or be stabilized before the crane is operated.
  • Road-accidents. More and more construction sites are using mobile cranes instead of assembling them at the construction site. The magnitude and awkwardness of these vehicles can create havoc for other drivers on the road. Mobile cranes can make it hard to see. It can be hard to gage how mobile cranes are going to turn.

Some additional reasons why crane accidents happen

  • Bad weather. Cranes should not be operated when the weather conditions are windy or the weather is inclement – foggy, raining, snowing, lightening, or even too sunny.
  • Lack of training. It takes a lot of skill to operate a crane. Some cranes require that the operator have an approved certification. Operators should follow manufacturer and OSHA safety guidelines and not rely on their personal judgment alone.
  • Collapse of the crane boom. There are safe limits on how far the crane boon should be extended. If the crane is extended too far, the crane operator and others near the site can be severely injured
  • Faulty assembly and disassembly. The manufacture guidelines must be followed to prevent injury or death to workers.

OSHA crane operation requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has numerous regulations that employers must follow to help protect employees and all workers. These guidelines are based on recommendations by engineers, employers, and many other professionals and businesses. Some of these guidelines include:

  • Specific education and certification requirements
  • A prohibition against operating cranes in unsafe work areas and informing the operators about these unsafe areas
  • The precise safe distance requirements that cranes must meet when power lines are around. Typically, the cranes should operate more than ten feet away from the power lines
  • Danger areas should be clearly marked with fences and other barricades
  • Cranes should be routinely inspected and maintained. This includes ropes, cables, and all related crane parts
  • Cranes should be operated so they comply with the manufacturer’s specifications

OSHA also has specific requirements for when crane operation is allowed and when it isn’t based on specific wind speeds – as well as other regulations.

Speak with an experienced North Carolina or Virginia Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Today

The insurance company for the employer will fight to deny your claim, force you back to work too son, and limit the amount of your benefits. They’re all about the money. Attorney Joe Miller is all about the person. For more than 25 years, he’s helped workers get the wage loss and medical benefits they deserve. He works hard so that employees return to work when they’re ready – if they’re ever ready. He works with families who have tragically lost a loved one due to an injury on the job. For help now, please phone attorney Joe Miller at (888) 694-1671. You can also arrange to speak with him or provide information to evaluate your case through his online contact form.

Head injuries and Workers’ Compensation in North Carolina and Virginia

Posted on Wednesday, December 20th, 2017 at 2:27 pm    

Injuries to the head can be caused by slips and falls, merchandise or inventory that falls, vehicle accidents, equipment that doesn’t work, diving accidents, and for many other reasons. Some head injuries heal with time. More serious injuries, like severe traumatic brain injuries, can change a life forever. In the worst cases, an on-the-job workplace head injury can cause death.

Industries where head injuries are common

Jobs that have the highest risk for a head injury are:

  • Police officers
  • Construction work
  • Firefighters
  • Loading dock workers
  • Delivery personnel
  • Professional sports
  • Healthcare work

This does not mean to say we have not seen severe head injuries occur in all kinds of occupations such as nurses, certified nursing assistants or truckers. You can slip on water or ice and get knocked unconscious in almost any occupation.

How head injuries are categorized

The various types of head injuries include:

  • Concussions. A concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury (TBI) that occurs due to a violent blow or shaking of the head. Symptoms include memory loss, poor balance, difficulties with concentration, and headaches. A concussion can (but doesn’t necessarily) mean a loss of consciousness. While a single concussion is often temporary, the cumulative effects can be devastating and even cause death. Evidence is now beginning to show that even one concussion often causes permanent damage.
  • A traumatic brain injury (TBI). Aside from concussions, TBIs include:
    • Closed head injuries. Here, the head is injured but the skull doesn’t break. These may include a subdural hematoma, or brain bleed.
    • Open/Penetrating head injury. Here the injury breaks the skull.

Traumatic brain injuries are typically categorized as mild, moderate, or severe.

  • Contusion. This is a bruise to the brain. Surgery may be required to stop any bleeding.
  • Coup-contrecoup. This type of injury causes multiple brain contusions – one at the impact site and another at the side of the brain opposite the impact site.
  • Diffuse Axonal injury. Here, nerve tissue is torn which can affect communication. Car accidents and accidents that cause the head to rotate usually cause this type of head injury
  • Anoxic brain injury. Here, the brain doesn’t get the oxygen it needs.
  • Recurrent traumatic brain injury. A second brain injury that occurs before the first TBI has healed.
  • Skull fracture. Skull fractures are categorized as either a depressed skull fracture or a compound fracture.

Physicians generally use the Glasgow Coma Scale (CGS) do determine the severity of any brain injury. The CGS categories for TBI injuries are:

  • Mild TBI symptoms. Headaches, nausea, difficulty sleeping, problems with memory and concentration, mood swings, and balance problems.
  • Moderate TBI symptoms. Loss of consciousness, coma, headaches, and changes in behavior
  • Severe TBI symptoms. Consequences include coma, minimal responsiveness, and living a vegetative state.

Other symptoms include pain, loss of vision and hearing, inability to reason, and loss of cognitive function.

Finally, there are often symptoms that last for six months to a year after a concussion that may include difficulty concentrating, dizziness, increased irritability, loss of desire to be in social situations, and other symptoms that form a constellation of symptoms known as Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS).  Typically a neurologist would be in the best position to diagnose and treat these symptoms.

Steps to take if you have a head injury

Any employee who suffers any type of head injury should:

  1. Report the injury to your employer. The sooner you see a doctor or go the emergency room, the less likely the employer will claim that your injury isn’t work-related. It is best to report the symptoms and leave the medical classification of your injury to your physician.
  2. Seek medical attention. Head injury symptoms can take a while to appear. Early intervention can save a life. Once you complete the necessary work injury forms, your employer will give you a list of approved doctors to see. These doctors are paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If these doctors aren’t helping, aren’t fighting for you and not the employer, an experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer will help direct you to a doctor of your choice.

In head injury cases, you will normally see a neurologist or neurosurgeon. These doctors will normally order a CT scan to see if you have a skull fracture, hematoma  or other brain injury.  An MRI and in some cases a PET scan may also be administered to head injury patients to evaluate brain function.

In addition, in many cases, a neuropsychologist or neuropsychiatrist may administer a battery of written tests to the brain injury victim in order to determine the extent and nature of any cognitive deficits that may have occurred as a result of the head injury.

Workers compensation benefits for head injuries

Whatever your type of head injury, you are entitled to have the insurance company for the employer pay your medical bills until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Common head injury medical bills include:

  • Any surgeries in a hospital or ambulatory surgery center
  • Doctor visits
  • Medical equipment
  • Medications
  • Diagnostic tests such as EEG’s MRI’s and PET scans.

Many head injury victims also need to see different types of rehabilitative therapists including occupational therapists, speech therapists, psychologists, and other doctors and counselors.

Head injury victims often need attendant care services such as home-health nurses and aides to help them with daily living matters.

Once you reach MMI, an evaluation will be made by your doctor about whether you can return to work at your prior job, a different job – or if you can’t return to work.

Workers are entitled to 2/3rds of their lost wages during the time they can’t work for up to 500 weeks while disabled from work.

Severe brain injuries are one of the categories of injury in Virginia and North Carolina that may entitle a worker to lifetime compensation instead of just the 500 weeks based on permanent and total disability.  This is if the brain injury renders the employee permanently unemployable in gainful employment.

If you can return to work but at a lesser-paying job, you are entitled to 2/3rds of the difference between your current wages and your prior wages.

Employees should never attempt to settle their head injury claim before they reach maximum medical improvement – which can take months or years.

Workers may also be entitled to vocational training if they can’t do their old job but may be able to do a new job – if they acquire new job skills.

Speak with a trusted North Carolina and Virginia work injury attorney today

Attorney Joe Miller understands the complex cases. He works with medical professionals to properly prepare your medical reports and to properly relate your injuries to your inability to work. He has helped thousands of employees get strong work injury settlements. For help now, please phone Joe Miller Esq. at (888) 694-1671 or complete his contact form.

Health Care Workers Suffer Work-Related Injuries in North Carolina and Virginia

Posted on Monday, December 7th, 2015 at 2:00 pm    

Healthcare workers can suffer injury almost anywhere. There are over 18 million health care workers in the US. Some of the common types and areas of healthcare work injury occur:

  • At long-term care facilities. Most of these patients are older have mobility issues. The care at these places ranges from skilled to non-skilled
  • Acute Care. This includes hospitals, ER rooms, ambulatory surgery centers and medical clinics.
  • Home Health Care
  • Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Centers
  • Dental Offices – Dentists and dental assistants

Areas that have bathing rooms, diagnostic units (radiology, X-Ray, MRI), and extended care locations also can cause a health care work related injury.

Health Care Workers Can be Injured Any Day

Some health care professionals are hurt because of one incident at work. Others are hurt due to years of helping handle patients. Whatever the exact cause, all health care workers know is that they need medical care themselves for their pain and an income while they are not working. North Carolina and Virginia lawyer Joe Miller can provide that help. He has successfully advocated for thousands of injured workers over the past 25 years. Contact attorney Joe Miller today at 888-694-1671 and ask for me, Joe Miller, or email me at jmiller@joemillerinjurylaw.com.

Why Health Care Workers Need Workers’ Compensation Help

Posted on Friday, December 4th, 2015 at 2:00 pm    

It’s easy to think that most work injuries happen to men and happen in work industry that involve heavy machinery and construction. The data from the US Department of Labor actually shows that healthcare work is the leading cause of work related injuries. For 2012, there were 621,100 work- related injuries in the United States that were related to health care and social assistance. The second leading group was fire and police. The transportation industry was third and construction was fourth.

As the population ages, it is expected the numbers of health care injuries will only increase.

In addition to musculoskeletal injuries, back and spine injuries; healthcare workers are also susceptible to chemical and biological harm. Injuries and diseases can be transmitted through infections, using a needle on patients and the exchange of blood.

Why are Health Care Injuries Complicated?

Many health employers and insurance companies will contest worker’s compensation claims because often a single incident does not cause the worker to be unable to work. Often, the health care worker suffers many small injuries that continually worsen his/her health until the worker just reaches the point where he or she cannot work anymore. The insurance company will try to argue that they only have to pay for single incident accidents or that factors outside of work also contributed to the worker’s poor health condition.

It is quite common for an employer or insurance company to try to rush the worker back to work before he or she is really ready.

Attorney Joe Miller Advocates for Injured Health Care Workers

Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured workers get their full benefits. He has been fighting for employees for over 25 years. The insurance company will try to limit your pay and try to get you to return to work before you are ready. If you suffered an injury or illness while helping patients, you may have a significant recovery coming your way. To get answers, call Lawyer Joe Miller today at 888-694-1671 and ask for me, Joe Miller, or email me at jmiller@joemillerinjurylaw.com.

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