Streamlined Prosecutions of Workplace Safety Violations Resulting from the Worker Endangerment Initiative

Recently, WorkCompCentral Workers’ Compensation and American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds announced the federal government’s launch of the Worker Endangerment Initiative. This new program combines the prosecution of employer workplace safety and environmental violations. Often, employers who criminally violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), are also violating environmental laws at the same time. The initiative includes data sharing, joint investigations and streamlining the criminal referral program. The goal is to make it easier to prosecute environmental violations.

For one, the Environmental Crimes Section will be able to prosecute not only traditional environmental crimes, but also OSHA violations and other workers’ safety statutes. With this initiative, an employer can be charged with workplace safety violations, environmental law violations, and related offenses such as obstruction of justice and making false statements, in the same case. This will allow prosecutors to combine what would have been several cases into one, and make it more efficient to prosecute employers.

If you have been injured on the job, an attorney can help protect your rights. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

OSHA’s New Reporting Requirements Improve Worksite Safety

With the close of 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the results of the new reporting requirement which was implemented as of January 1, 2015. The new reporting guidelines require any severe work-related injury, including amputations, loss of an eye, or hospitalization, to be reported within 24 hours. The requirement of reporting a fatality within 8 hours remains unchanged.

Recently, WorkersCompensation.com reported on OSHA’s 2015 data on work-place-related injuries. Employers submitted a total of 10,388 cases of severe injuries in 2015. Out of the total, 7,636 were hospitalizations and 2,644 accounted for amputations.

Taking it further than just mere numbers, OSHA implemented the program in order to create safer workplaces. After a report comes in, OSHA works to identify what the hazard is, and what measures the employer can take to remedy it. Most of the cases reported in 2015 did not require a worksite inspection, which is conducted when OSHA deems it necessary.

If you are a worker who has suffered injury due to an employer’s failure to follow safety regulations, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, represents individuals who have been injured on the job throughout the five boroughs of New York City including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens, as well as both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

Frequency of Workers Compensation Claims Decline While the Severity Increases

According to Insurance Business America, over the past ten years the number of workers’ compensation claims is decreasing, but the severity of the injuries reported is increasing. Milliman and Keenan Healthcare analyzed workers’ compensation data and compiled a report showing frequency, severity, and medical and indemnity costs. They considered how reforms may affect the numbers as well. One of the main findings was that losses per $100 of payroll was stable between 2004 and 2014, but during roughly the same time period, the severity of claims increased by approximately 5.5 percent annually. There are ongoing efforts to not only reduce the number of claims, but also the severity.

Additionally, the report showed that from 2013 to 2014, estimated costs per indemnity claim decreased by about 10 percent. In fact, the study showed that younger workers tend to spend more in medical care as compared to other costs, while older workers have larger indemnity losses with about 20 to 25 percent of claims ending up in litigation. Employees between the ages of 36 to 55 approximated more than 50 percent of the indemnity claims paid. Data also showed that the severity of indemnity claims increases with age, and the likelihood of an incident resulting in an indemnity payment rises as well.

In order to remedy the frequency and severity of claims, there is an ongoing effort to improve workplace safety. For example, Workers Compensation reported that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published a final rule on the requirements for personal protective equipment, which takes effect on April 25, 2016. The new rules dictate that more modern and improved eye and face protection should be used in the fields of longshoring, construction, marine and shipyard industries, and other general industries. Multiple outdated devices, as old as 1968 versions, were deleted and replaced with current acceptable standards.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, a skillful workers’ compensation attorney can better guide you on how best to file claims. An attorney can help protect your rights and help preserve your coverage. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

When Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Workers Get Injured

Many municipalities in New York State have volunteer firefighters and/or ambulance workers. The communities appreciate the dedication and passion the volunteers show, and the legislature has acknowledged those that are injured in the line of duty by passing laws to protect their rights. The Volunteer Firefighters’ Law was enacted in 1957, and the Volunteer Ambulance Workers’ Law came much later in 1989. These laws allow for medical care and cash benefits to be awarded to the volunteers injured on the job, unless the injury was caused by intoxication or if the claimant was intentionally hurting oneself or another.

Receiving benefits can be challenging because of the deadlines, hearings, and appeals process. Seeking the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney could make the difference in whether an injured volunteer is properly compensated or not.

One of the challenges is determining whether the injury occurred “in the line of duty.” Some situations are easily identified—such as responding to a 911 call or during training. Other injuries, such as an illness caused by smoke or chemicals exposed to when volunteering, can require a more skilled analysis to determine whether it falls within the statutory guidelines.

Another fact-intensive analysis involved is in calculating the claimant’s earning capacity. Each claimant is analyzed on an individual basis because there is no standard salary associated with the volunteer firefighter and ambulance services. Age, education, training, and experience are all factors to be considered, even if the volunteer is unemployed at the time of injury.

The New York State Compensation Board may hold hearings to weigh evidence and whether the claim is compensable. A workers’ compensation law judge presides over the hearing. After the judge’s decision, both parties have 30 days to appeal the judge’s finding, and if granted, the claim will go before a panel of three board members. If the panel does not come to a unanimous decision, a party may request a full board review as a last resort.

Retaining an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help guide you through the workers’ compensation claims process. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

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Musculoskeletal Conditions Cause Injuries for Employees

It is common to hear coworkers complain of back or neck pain. What some may not realize is that according to the United States Bone and Joint Initiative’s 2012 statistics, the most recent data available, approximately 25.5 million people were unable to work an average of 11.4 days as a result of pain. Back and neck pain are considered to be a musculoskeletal condition, along with arthritis and osteoporosis. In 2012, about 126.6 million Americans were diagnosed with these diseases. Lost wages and annual medical treatment cost Americans approximately $213 billion. This includes costs to individuals, businesses, and medical facilities. When it comes to illness and work performance, aspects of workers’ compensation and employment law are implicated.

Even if an employee’s musculoskeletal condition is not caused by work, the condition may be exacerbated or lead to on the job injuries. Employees need to be aware that workers’ compensation law is complicated, and when injured while performing work duties, it is vital to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for protection of employment status and compensation for medical expenses and related costs. An experienced attorney can help determine if the injury qualifies under workers’ compensation law, and also advise you on what paperwork needs to be filed. Skillful workers’ compensation attorneys can guide employees on which claims to file and how to handle preexisting conditions. An attorney can help protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve.

The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles workers’ compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island. Call (866) 557-7500 for a consultation.

New York Times Expose Reveals Construction Site Safety Violations Linked to Completely Avoidable Deaths and Injuries in New York City

A recent New York Times expose has shed light on the rise of injuries and fatalities in New York City’s construction industry over the last two years.  The investigation found that although construction is increasing throughout the City, the rate of accidents is disproportionate to the new construction.  While the rate of new construction projects increased by 11% in the last fiscal year, the rate of accidents increased by 52%.

Additionally, the investigation uncovered that the same safety violations kept arising on many of the same sites despite safety reports and lawsuits.  After investigating construction accidents for two years, the New York Times concurred with the findings of a federal investigation and determined that many of these fatalities and injuries were “completely avoidable.”

Most of the deaths and injuries that occurred on construction sites affected undocumented immigrants who may be fearful to speak out against safety violations on construction sites due to their legal status. The Times cited one recent tragedy in which an immigrant had fallen 140 feet to his death because he was not wearing a safety harness.  Additionally, guardrails had not been installed at the site, and the elevated platform did not meet the wall as required.  Investigators found that the worker had fake certification for safety training.  The safety administration fined the construction company $42,000 for these and additional violations.

While the accidents that occurred in midtown were widely publicized, they accounted for only a quarter of the accidents throughout the city.  Most of the accidents that occurred took place on smaller sites that used non-union and poorly trained workers.

Other incidents that had occurred in the last two years that the Times referred in the expose included:

  • An immigrant worker falling 14 feet to his death due to lack of guard rails and supervision
  • An Ecuadorian immigrant who fell from a ladder because the construction company demanded jobs be done quickly and without safety training
  • A worker who fell through a floor opening due to slippery conditions that went ignored
  • A worker who was not wearing a safety harness fell two stories on a site that did not provide extension ladders and repair unsafe scaffolding

According to a report issued by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, many construction companies that repeatedly violate safety regulations disregard OSHA citations due to the low number of both OSHA inspectors and monetary penalties.  However, various agencies have begun cracking down on penalizing companies that disregard safety regulations.  For example, although criminality in construction accident cases has often been difficult to prove, the Manhattan DA’s Office filed manslaughter and other charges against two construction companies and managers last August.  The charges were filed after a worker was crushed to death as a result of willfully ignored safety regulations.  Additionally, the de Blasio administration is planning on implementing 100 additional building inspectors as well as new data tools and a code of conduct for the construction industry.  New York City’s investigation department also continues to conduct random inspections that it began in 2012 in an effort to deter the corruption that is so prevalent in the industry.

If you are a construction worker who has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation.  Additionally, if you were injured due to an elevation related accident, you may be able to sue your employer and third parties under New York’s strict liability “Scaffold Law.”  Contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney to discuss your claim. The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP handles Workers’ Compensation claims throughout the five boroughs of New York City including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island in addition to both Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island.  Call (866)557-7500 for a consultation.

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OSHA Issues Violations to Cemetery After Grave Digger is Nearly Buried Alive

Recently, a cemetery worker in Long Island was seriously injured after he was nearly buried alive.  The worker had been digging a grave when excavated dirt had fallen back into the grave opening, burying him up to his waist.  The incident led to an OSHA investigation into the safety practices of the cemetery.

OSHA proposed a total of $123,200 in penalties for two willful and three serious violations.  The investigation uncovered that the cemetery had not implemented the OSHA required support system for trenching or excavation.  According to OSHA regulations, restraining devices must be implemented within two feet of the edge of a trench in order to keep the excavated dirt from falling back into the grave.  The worker’s injuries were a result of failure to implement such support systems.  Additionally, the investigation’s findings included discovering that equipment used for protective systems was damaged or defective; ladders used did not meet the height regulation; and grave slopes not meeting the proper ratio requirements.

Workers in the cemetery industry can face any number of injuries ranging from falls, injuries related to operating machinery or carrying headstones, as well as hazards related to trenching and excavation.  Essentially, digging at a grave site is an excavation like those performed in the construction industry.  In addition to the hazards workers face by the potentiality of a wall collapse without proper trench support, they can also be exposed to hazardous chemicals.  Workers should have their own personal protective gear such as hard hats to prevent head injury from falling rocks or dirt.  In addition, workers should wear respiratory protection to limit the inhalation of elements such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and methane that can appear in the soil.

An individual can suffocate as a result of being only partially buried in soil.  Therefore, it is extremely important to exercise all precautions and follow safety procedures when conducting any kind of excavation to prevent a cave-in.  To learn more about OSHA’s trenching and excavation regulations, click here.

If you are a worker who has suffered injury due to an employer’s failure to follow excavation or trenching safety regulations, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation.  The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, represents individuals who have been injured on the job throughout the five boroughs of New York City including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, as well as both Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.  Call (866)557-7500 for a consultation.

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OSHA Cites Brooklyn Construction Company for Safety Violations Leading to the Death of Worker

Recently, a Brooklyn construction company has been cited for safety violations that led to the fatal fall of a 51 year old worker last April. The citations included one willful violation due to lack of fall protection and five serious violations connected to the accident. OSHA’s director of the Brooklyn area, Kay Gee, remarked that the tragedy could have been prevented with the lifesaving equipment the company knew was required.

The worker had fallen from the sixth floor of a building while raking concrete that had been freshly poured at an edge that was left unprotected.

Upon inspection, OSHA found that workers were not provided with the required fall protection gear, including harnesses and lifelines. Additionally, OSHA found that the construction company did not provide the necessary instruction to workers concerning minimizing fall hazards. The inspectors also found other hazardous conditions such as missing stairway guardrails, defects in the extension ladder, floor holes that were left unprotected, and debris from construction left in stairways and work areas.

The company faces $84,600 in proposed fines if it does not comply with OSHA’s requirements within fifteen days of being issued the citations.

Falls have happened too often on construction sites throughout New York City in the last year. They are the leading cause of death in the construction industry, and are entirely preventable with proper training, equipment, and planning. OSHA has launched a Fall Prevention Campaign to raise awareness of the safety issues when working at elevated heights.

If you have been injured in a workplace related accident, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation. Contact an attorney who is experienced in dealing with Workers’ Compensation claims. The attorneys at McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson & Riordan, LLP have experience representing clients before Workers’ Compensation boards throughout New York City and Long Island, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Nassau County, and Suffolk County.  For a consultation, call (866)557-7500.

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OSHA’S Susan Harwood Training Grants Help Provide Safety Training for High-Risk Workers

Safety training programs are integral to help protect workers in certain industries from the inherent hazards they face as part of their employment.  For the fiscal year 2015, the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration awarded $10.5 million in grants to 80 non-profit organizations nationwide to help educate workers who face high risks of injury.  The program is aimed at helping those workers who are employed by small businesses and vulnerable workers who face high-risk hazards on the job.  The grant program has provided training for over two million workers since 1978.

The purpose of the programs is to help workers gain the knowledge and tools to understand and recognize hazards in the workplace, learn how they can prevent injuries from occurring, and understand their rights.  The organizations that will be funded to provide the instruction include colleges, community groups, churches, labor unions, and employer associations.

Depending on the needs of the worker population, each nonprofit may provide either general safety courses, or educate on a selected topic that is relevant to the targeted audience.  For example, some of the programs provided by the grant include fall prevention in construction; workplace violence education; ergonomic hazards; construction in road zones safety; heat illness prevention; and agricultural safety.

An additional $2.3 million in grants will also be provided to fifteen organizations to develop and provide safety and health training on an on-going basis to workers and employers in the at-risk population.

If you have suffered injury due to a workplace accident, contact an attorney who is experienced in Workers’ Compensation claims.  Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866)557-7500.

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New Regulation Would Protect Workers Exposed to Beryllium

OSHA has recently proposed a new regulation that would help protect workers who are exposed to beryllium.  The chemical, which is released through dust, fumes, mist and in other forms, can cause a fatal respiratory disease in those who are exposed.  Annually, 35,000 workers are exposed to the chemical and 245 new cases of illnesses related to beryllium exposure arise each year.  Such illnesses include lung cancer and chronic beryllium disease- a condition causing inflammation and scarring of the lungs.  Officials estimate that implementing new regulations would prevent 100 deaths and 50 new illness cases annually.

The new regulation would lower the allowed exposure limit from 2.0 to .2 micrograms per cubic meter of air- 1/10th the current level.  The maximum amount of exposure time legally allowed is currently 8 hours.  Additionally, workers would be medically monitored to assess whether they exhibited early signs of beryllium related illness.

Beryllium, a naturally occurring element, is commonly found in the aerospace and electronics industries.  Additionally, it is also used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.  In fact, the Labor Department compensated 2,500 nuclear workers who were exposed to beryllium at a total cost of $500 million, to date.  The chemical can also be found in dental lab work and foundry operations.  The proposed regulation would not apply to those who work in an industry in which beryllium is found in raw materials, such as at coal burning power plants, or aluminum producing facilities.

The proposed rule is open for public comment between August 7, 2015 and November 9, 2015.  To read the proposed rule, click here.

Exposure to beryllium, or any other toxic chemical in the workplace can cause serious health conditions.  If you have suffered adverse health effects from being subjected to exposure to a dangerous substance or condition at work, contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies.  Call The Law Offices of McIntyre, Donohue, Accardi, Salmonson, & Riordan, LLP at (866) 557-7500.

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