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

Trucking company sued by 2 injured truckers

Truck drivers in North Carolina can be at risk for on-the-job injuries if their trucks are not properly maintained. Swift Transportation, a trucking company that owns a large fleet of tractor-trailers, has been sued by some of its former truck drivers for negligent maintenance practices. Two truckers claim that Swift is liable for the injuries that they suffered while operating company trucks.

In August, a jury ordered Swift to pay a former truck driver $2.6 million for a severe foot injury. The trucker's foot was crushed after a Swift truck ran over it. According to the driver, negligent maintenance practices by Swift were the root cause of his work injury.

North Carolina workers and lockout/tagout procedures

North Carolina workers should be aware of the various equipment and energy sources that can be harmful to them. From electrical, mechanical, chemical, thermal and hydraulic energy sources to workplace equipment, the unexpected release of energy can lead to serious hazards. Servicing and maintaining equipment can be dangerous to employees if the hazardous energy involved is not properly contained. Injuries that stem from a failure to control this energy while employees are performing maintenance can be fatal.

Some of the more serious workplace hazards involving energy release include steam valves that turn on automatically, burning workers who are operating on the downstream connection and jammed conveyor systems that release unexpectedly, crushing workers. Internal wiring that causes an electrical shortage can also be hazardous to workers repairing equipment. Craft workers, laborers, electricians and machine workers are included in the approximately 3 million workers who perform maintenance on equipment and face the highest risk of injury. Injured workers in these positions lose 24 workdays on average.

Managing safety matters on trenching and excavation job sites

Although unusual employee accidents and injuries can occur on just about any North Carolina job, construction professions such as trenching and excavating tend to have higher levels of danger. Equipment and conditions can be problematic even with safety provisions already in place. An excavating business is responsible for employee safety, which can be addressed through pre-shift inspections, safety meetings, training and equipment management checklists. OSHA standards provide the necessary guidelines for those involved in this industry.

Daily site inspections should be conducted prior to the beginning of any work. Additionally, unusual weather conditions or other unusual events may warrant additional inspections. Ongoing monitoring should be conducted so that inspections can be performed as needed. Soil analysis, qualifications in the use of protective equipment and systems and knowledge of OSHA standards are important skills for a site inspector. Issues that might be noted during an inspection include the placement and stability of equipment or systems for access and egress. Additionally, testing of the air in a space is necessary to ensure that proper oxygen levels exist or to ensure that appropriate respiratory equipment is used.

Overexertion a leading cause of workplace injury

According to a recent summary of data related to workplace safety, the leading issue causing injury or illness on the job for 2013 was overexertion. North Carolina workers who are employed in physically demanding jobs might be the most at risk for such injuries, but a worker in any job could deal with physical problems because of an action such as lifting too much or reaching too far. Records from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the number of musculoskeletal disorders improved slightly from 2013 to 2014, which provides employers and employees with an important focus for safety strategies and improvements in future years.

The cost of disabling workplace injuries as a whole for 2013 was $61.88 billion, and approximately one-fourth of these costs were used to deal with overexertion injuries. The top five types of injuries represented about 65 percent of the total spent on work-related health issues. These included falls on a single level, falls from one level to another, and individuals being struck by materials on the job. Other leading issues included vehicle incidents on the road, slips and trips, and equipment accidents.

Record lows in mining deaths for 2015

Safety improvements can be important for both miners and their employers in North Carolina. As safety matters are addressed meticulously, the risk of a fatality on the job can diminish. In 1978, the Mining Safety and Health Administration began to oversee safety issues related to the nation's mines. While the number of mining fatalities that year was 242, the consistent decline over the years has been a reflection of the importance of safety monitoring. The 2015 record includes only 28 mining deaths, 11 of which involved coal mining.

The head of the federal agency noted that aggressive safety efforts have contributed to the reduction in deaths on the job in the mining industry. There are better tools for overseeing activities, and improved training and outreach also have helped in cultivating safer working conditions. Mines plagued by frequent problems with adhering to safety standards have been targeted with enhanced monitoring and regulation. Some of these aggressive practices date to a serious incident that caused 29 miners to perish in a coal mine in West Virginia in 2010.

Job-related illnesses kill more Americans each year than guns

North Carolina residents may be surprised to find out that job-related illnesses claim more lives than firearms each year in the United States. Government estimates place the number of American workers who die from illnesses related to their work at about 50,000 per year, and toxic substances also cause hundreds of thousands of workers to become sick each year.

Safety advocates have long been trying to draw more attention to the problem, and many of them claim that little is being done because of the aggressive lobbying efforts of the business community. The federal government agency responsible for monitoring toxic workplace conditions is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, but OSHA officials concede that the agency lacks the resources to adequately address on-the-job illnesses.

How older workers affect workplace safety

The ranks of older employees in the workplace has continued to increase over the years, and this trend is expected to continue. Although they have a wealth of knowledge because of their lengthy experience, they also increase the risk of injuries and fatalities on the job. North Carolina employers who are seeing this happen could base any counteractive measures on how older workers affect workplace safety.

Most older workers are not likely to suffer an injury at work. According to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees aged 65 and older suffered 94.2 illnesses or injuries per 10,000 full-time employees, which is the least of all the age groups as well as less than the total among all workers.

Awareness of Lyme disease risks on the job

Although North Carolina is not among the states reporting the highest numbers of Lyme disease cases each year, the risks for those working in outdoor settings in the state can be significant for exposure to infected ticks. Because of this, it is important for those employed in forestry, farming, construction, landscaping, and other outdoor professions to be aware of and alert for symptoms of the disease. Statistics indicate that thousands of cases are confirmed each year.

Lyme disease is typically found in rodents such as mice and squirrels, and black-legged ticks that become infected through their contact with these animals can transfer the disease to humans. Workers can face significant risks when their work environments include high grasses, leaf litter, bushes, or trees. The ticks are most active during the period from later in the spring through the summer. If a worker is active in such a setting, it is important to take precautions such as wearing long sleeves and pants, using repellent with at least a 20-percent concentration of DEET, and treating clothing with permethrin. Light clothing colors make it easier to identify ticks.

Workplace safety tips during colder months

While warehouse employees in North Carolina and throughout the country face workplace dangers all year long, cold weather and holiday seasons intensify those dangers and call for additional safety procedures. One of the most obvious dangers during the winter months relates to cold working conditions. In fact, working in cold temperatures carries risks similar to working in hot weather. For instance, employees who work in the cold can become dehydrated. Therefore, employers should allow their employees to have easy access to beverages while they work. Furthermore, to ward off the risk of hypothermia, frostbite and a head cold, employees should take care to dress warmly when working in cold environments.

The risk for trips, slips and falls also increases in many cold work environments as floor surfaces can become severely treacherous. However, business owners and managers can reduce these risks by keeping workplace floor surfaces safe and dry, as well as to invest in adequate lighting, warning signs and rubber mats. They should also supply their employees with slip-resistant footwear.

The effects of flavoring disease

While North Carolina consumers may enjoy flavored popcorn while watching a movie, the workers exposed to such flavorings could be vulnerable to health problems. Specifically, they could come down with a condition called severe obstructive lung disease, also known as obliterative bronchiolitis. The condition occurs when bronchioles in the lung are scarred, which makes it harder for air to flow through them.

Symptoms of the condition include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath during periods of physical exertion. In many cases, the symptoms are progressive and do not improve when workers leave work at the end of the day or while on vacation. However, serious conditions such as night sweats, weight loss and fever can occur suddenly. Doctors may mistake obstructive lung disease as bronchitis, emphysema or pneumonia. They may also believe that the condition is related to smoking as opposed to occupational exposure.


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The Law Offices of
Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC

The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC
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Hickory, NC 28601

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Hickory, NC 28603

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