The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory NC Personal Injury Law Blog

Worker injured when machine malfunction causes explosion

A man was injured in an explosion at a North Carolina manufacturing plant on Dec. 4. The man was taken to the hospital with a serious leg injury.

A spokesman for the company, which produces plastic components for tractor trailer and truck interiors, said that the accident happened just before 9 a.m. while the employee was working with high pressure on an injection molding machine. The machine malfunctioned, causing a release of the pressure. The employee was conscious and alert when he was transported to the hospital, according to the representative.

How to prevent the top 5 most common workplace injuries

Every year, thousands of employees suffer workplace injuries across the United States; some injuries are minor, but others are life-threatening. North Carolina workers may find that the most common cause of workplace injuries is overexertion while the fifth most common is being struck by an object. There are ways that the employees could prevent these causes.

Overexertion occurs from excessively pulling, pushing, lifting or carrying materials. The best way for workers to avoid overexertion is to ask co-workers for assistance or use lift-assist devices if possible. Falls on the same level are the second-most common cause, often because the work area is cluttered. Keeping walk areas clear of objects that may cause tripping can reduce workplace injuries while wearing anti-slip shoes or applying an anti-slip coating to the floors may reduce falls.

SUV strikes, seriously injures sanitation worker

On Nov. 19, North Carolina officials reported that an SUV hit a sanitation worker at about 10:30 a.m. on Darwick Road in Winston-Salem. The accident subsequently sent the 59-year-old local worker to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for serious injuries.

According to city officials, this is the third time that a vehicle has hit a city worker since the beginning of 2013, with the other two incidents involving law enforcement officers. In this particular incident, the SUV sustained a big dent in the front bumper due to the impact with the pedestrian.

North Carolina worker dies in pedestrian bridge collapse

One worker is dead and four others are injured after a pedestrian bridge collapsed during construction at the north campus of Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh on Nov. 13. Paramedics responded to the scene shortly before 10:30 a.m., but the wooded terrain and area where the collapse occurred delayed their efforts to reach the five workers. Wake County EMS reported that the highest point of the 200-foot bridge was about 40 feet above the ground.

EMS said that the four hurt workers were transported to WakeMed with serious injuries, and three of them were due to have surgery. One of them suffered neck and back injuries, another suffered a broken leg and a third received treatment for pain. EMS said that none of the workers were trapped under the debris, but at least three people who contacted 911 reported otherwise. Others who were working on the bridge at the time escaped the collapse unharmed.

How can carpal tunnel be diagnosed?

North Carolina residents who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome may know that it causes numbness in the affected hand, loss of sensation and the inability to perform tasks. While common causes include arthritis, obesity and wrist fractures, metabolic and autoimmune disease may also cause carpal tunnel. Overuse of the affected hand or excessive vibratory motion may aggravate or be a causative factor in the syndrome.

In order to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, doctors use a variety of tests and diagnostic criteria. A patient's descriptions of the symptoms, including tingling and numbness when the wrist is bent or nighttime awakening, are common complaints and may lead to a diagnosis. Simple tests such as lightly striking the underside of the wrist or bending the wrist 90 degrees to elicit symptoms may be used.

Workers at risk for traumatic brain injury

It may surprise some North Carolina workers to know that many individuals in the state work in an environment that puts them at risk for suffering a traumatic brain injury, which is a serious non-congenital condition that affects at least one of the brain's myriad functions. Workplace accidents leading to a potential traumatic brain injury could be instigated by an employer's disregard for safety standards or through the recklessness of other employees. Irrespective of the cause, a worksite incident resulting in a traumatic brain injury can be devastating, not just physically but in many other ways as well.

According to the Brain Injury Institute, an online resource for both people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries and their families, 20 percent of workplace injuries involving a traumatic brain injury occurred when an employee fell on an uneven, wet or cluttered surface. While certain industries can be more hazardous than others, a serious fall can happen in almost any occupation, authorities say. An employee who works in an office, for instance, could slip on a coffee spill or trip over a desk that is misaligned.

Tougher penalties considered for workers' compensation violators

The North Carolina Industrial Commission met on Oct. 24 to discuss measures designed to clamp down on businesses that place workers at risk by skirting the rules requiring them to carry workers' compensation insurance. The agency looked at steps that could be taken to punish businesses who knowingly bend the rules to avoid their responsibilities under the program as well as educate business owners who may not realize that some inexpensive policies provide little or no protection for injured workers.

Workers' compensation premiums can mount quickly for businesses when employees perform dangerous work, and regulators say that many employers classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees to avoid these costs. In addition to putting workers who perform dangerous jobs at risk, this practice costs North Carolina millions in lost tax revenue. An investigation by a Charlotte area newspaper revealed that classifying workers as independent contractors in the construction industry costs the state over $450 million each year.

Understanding workplace injuries in the U.S.

Employees in North Carolina may benefit from reviewing 2012 data on workplace injuries and illnesses that was published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the federal agency, employers reported almost 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries during 2012. The report was in concert with the downward trend apparent throughout the past decade, excluding the increase in the injury rates during 2011. None of the private industry sectors realized an increase in workplace injuries rates during 2012.

The rate of injured workers was around 3.3 per 100 in the private sector and approximately 5.6 per 100 in the public sector, both relatively unchanged from 2011. The national workplace injury rate was around 3.4 injuries per 100 cases. In North Carolina, the workplace injury rate was closer to 2.9 per 100 cases. More than 50 percent of the total job-related injuries during 2012 were serious enough to warrant extensive time off work, implementing a work restriction or receiving a transfer.

Lower back injuries in the workplace

North Carolina residents may wish to be wary of spine injuries and lower back strain that may result from conditions in the workplace. These injuries may come from heavy lifting and carrying around the place of employment, long-term strain from sitting or standing in a posture that puts pressure on the back, or other job-related causes.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, there are more than a million cases of lower back pain affecting workers every year. This makes it the second most common cause of lost days at work, exceeded only by the common cold. It has been estimated that the economic toll of lower back injuries exceeds $100 billion a year, of which workers' compensation claims have paid for about $11 billion.

Who is required to carry workers' compensation insurance?

Businesses in North Carolina with at least three employees are generally required to obtain workers' compensation insurance in accordance with the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Act. A business that only maintains one employee is required to carry workers' compensation insurance if that employee works around radiation. The types of businesses that must follow this legal requirement include sole proprietorships, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies.

Certain types of businesses or employers may be exempt from the requirement to carry workers' compensation insurance for some of their workers. These workers include domestic servants who are employed by a household, workers on certain railroads and workers deemed casual employees. The operators of a farm are also not required to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for up to 10 farm laborers.

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Hickory, NC 28603

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