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Hickory NC Personal Injury Law Blog

OSHA fines to increase in North Carolina

Employers who do not follow the Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines are likely to see increased penalties for failing to do so. For the first time in over two decades, fines are going to be increased as a result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Improvements Act of 2015. It is expected that the fines will see about an 80 percent increase as of 2016.

In addition to the legislation, one of the reasons for the increased fines is due to the fact that studies show that fines and penalties reduce the frequency at which employees suffer work-related injuries. Research from the Institute for Work and Health shows that there is a direct link between a reduction in worker injuries and penalties.

Vibrating power tools can be health hazards

Many construction workers in North Carolina suffer from a work-related condition called hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS. The condition affects workers who regularly use vibrating tools such as grinders, riveters, jackhammers, chain saws and drills. Some of the symptoms of HAVS include numbness, tingling, pain and loss of color in the fingers that is referred to as 'blanching."

The dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at Texas A&M University says that HAVS is probably the world's most common neuromuscular disorder that affects manufacturing and construction workers. About half of the 2 million U.S. workers who use vibrating hand tools develop HAVS, but experts believe that number may be higher due to underreporting of the condition.

Working conditions in chicken processing still unjust

Workplace safety and conditions for food processing employees, especially in the chicken processing industry, have come to the public's attention in North Carolina and across the nation. A study published by Oxfam America has revealed that workers in the chicken processing industry not only often suffer from low wages and poor compensation practices, but also unhealthy and unsafe workplace conditions.

The Oxfam America study of the chicken industry, which includes accounts from more than 1,000 current and former employees of the processing plants, found that employees often must work at high speeds, processing double the number of birds that were required from the line in 1979. This fast pace and the repetitive nature of the job lead to musculoskeletal injuries, which the cold and humidity of the work environment aggravate further.

Health care facilities fall under OSHA scrutiny

On-the-job illnesses and injuries happening at nursing homes and inpatient care facilities in North Carolina and around the country have been targeted specifically by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. A guidance memorandum from the deputy assistant secretary alerted all regions nationwide to focus on the safety of workers in these health care occupations.

The order to increase inspections and aggressively issue citations for safety violations applies to any type of residential care employers. The list of targeted workplaces includes hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, skilled-nursing facilities, hospices, substance abuse centers and psychiatric hospitals.

Protecting workers against combustible dust

Few workplace hazards cause as much fear among workers in North Carolina manufacturing and processing facilities as combustible dust. Dust comprised of flammable particles can rest undisturbed for years before explosively igniting after a shift in atmospheric conditions. The dust is most dangerous when the particles are small enough to hang in the air, and entire buildings have been destroyed when such clouds have ignited. Analysis of dust explosions reveal that even substances that do not usually burn can become combustible when finely divided into dust.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration say that 281 workplace accidents involving combustible dust killed 119 workers between 1980 and 2005. An additional 718 workers were injured in these incidents. OSHA is thought to be readying a series of rules designed to protect workers from combustible dust, and a Standard 652 from the National Fire Protection Association deals with the issue.

Proper lockout practices for workplace safety

Workplace safety is important for both workers and employers in North Carolina. Workplace accidents can cause injuries that are severe and even fatal. Employers must understand how to make certain their employees are safe. One aspect of the health and safety of workers is to ensure that lockout practices are adhered to.

There are lockout procedures that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has required. Some companies are not using up-to-date practices. Many will have the procedures in strategically located places for workers to be able to read and follow. Sometimes they are simply part of the scenery in a workplace and are left unused. This suggests that workers are doing what they believe is the bare minimum when it comes to energy isolation during machinery shut down.

The dangers of working in the healthcare industry

According to a recent report, hospitals in North Carolina and across the country recorded about 58,000 on-the-job illnesses and injuries during 2013. This means that for every 100 full-time employees in the health care industry, there were 6.4 job-related illnesses and injuries. Addressing this issue, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stated that it intends to look into the causes of those illnesses and injuries and take action within nursing facilities and hospitals regarding trips, slips and falls, tuberculosis, workplace violence, bloodborne pathogens and how patients and residents are handled.

Those who have jobs in long-term care centers, hospitals and nursing facilities are among those who face the greatest risk for incurring preventable illnesses and injuries. In fact, nearly 50 percent of reported injuries happening within the health care field stem from dangerous tasks and overexertion, and among the health care workers suffering the most are nurses and nursing assistants.

Evaluating an increase in fatal workplace accidents

North Carolina employers are obligated to provide a safe work environment, but even with excellent preventive measures, accidents can still happen. Trends, however, can signal issues such as poor communication or inattentiveness to safety regulations and practices. Statistics show that there was a 2 percent increase in fatal incidents in the workplace from 2013 to 2014 in the United States, and communication issues could be among those contributing to such changes.

Although statistics don't indicate how increased fatalities related to the languages spoken by the affected workers, approximately 17 percent of those who died in work-related situations in 2014 were born in foreign countries. Approximately 40 percent of these individuals were born in Mexico. More than 60 percent of Latino workers killed on the job were born outside of the United States.

National Farm Safety and Health Week

During the third week of September, the National Safety Council recognizes the safety concerns of farmers in North Carolina and around the country. National Farm Safety and Health Week has been a yearly tradition since 1944, and this year's farm safety promotion was observed from Sept. 20 to Sept. 26.

National Farm Safety and Health Week is scheduled during the month of September because harvest time is usually the most dangerous time to be an agricultural production worker. Farm workers are advised to put safety first while harvesting crops and remember this year's National Farm Safety and Health Week slogan, 'Ag Safety is not just a slogan, it's a lifestyle."

Long shifts put EMS workers at increased risk of injury

North Carolina emergency medical services workers are at a significantly increased risk of injury and illness if they work shifts longer than 12 hours, according to a recent study. The researchers found that those who work extended shifts are 60 percent more likely to develop a work-related injury or illness. The risk increases with the duration of the shift, with those who work 24-hour shifts at the highest risk.

EMS workers face demanding jobs which require physical strength as well as the ability to remain calm in an emergency situation. Researchers explain that the drain of extended shifts could affect the ability of EMS workers to perform their patient duties as well as their own health. The study analyzed 1 million shift schedules for 4,000 EMS workers across a three-year span. Occupational data from 14 large EMS agencies was also observed.


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Hickory, NC 28601

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Hickory, NC 28603

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