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

Most common workplace injuries

Most North Carolina employees know that there are certain risks that they face, no matter what their occupation. In May, a major workers' compensation insurance company provided a five-year report to see where the injuries were occurring and why workers were being injured.

According to the report that the insurer released, the most common workplace injuries tended to be simple. For example, strains and sprains from lifting and lowering objects were common. These injuries, in addition to bruises and inflammation, accounted for about 33 percent of all the reported injuries. Slips and falls accounted for about 16 percent of the injuries. Injuries caused by the workers being struck by objects and cumulative trauma that resulted from repeated overuse were even less common. Tool accidents rounded out the top five most common causes of workplace injuries.

New accident reporting regulations

Over the next two years, many companies in North Carolina and throughout the country will be required to comply with new injury reporting standards. While most employers are already required to report on-the-job injuries, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to publicly post injury data from companies that are in certain high-hazard industries. The agency hopes that the reporting requirements will work in much the same way that public posting of health department restaurant ratings encourage cleaner kitchens.

Opponents say that the measure will punish workplaces that have unfortunate accidents or worker injuries that employers are not responsible for, such as heart attacks. They also have expressed concern that the reporting will result in the release of proprietary information and believe that the new reporting regulations violate the previous policy of no-fault accident reporting.

Staying safe at the workplace

No matter what type of occupation a North Carolina resident has, workplace injuries can occur at any time. Whether it is tripping at an office job or falling off a ladder on a construction site, there are various hazards resulting in different degrees of harm. There are roughly 3 million workplace injuries that transpire annually across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A study conducted by the BLS and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company shows some of the most common accidents and injuries people experience at the workplace and what steps they can take to avoid them. The leading on-the-job injury the study found was overexertion from excessive physical work. Overexertion happens when employees carry, pull, lift and push things that are too heavy and result in lower back strains and sprains. Employees can avoid overexertion by lifting properly and getting other employees to help them move heavy objects. Employees who feel pain in their lower abdomen and soreness should stop what they are doing, as these are first signs of overexertion.

Choosing a safe pair of working boots

Foot injuries can be extremely painful, and they can also take a great deal of time to heal. North Carolina construction workers who suffer such injuries on the job could go months without a paycheck, so they tend to choose their work boots with great care. This is a decision that should be based more on durability and strength of construction than style or designer cachet, and there are a number of federal and state safety standards that can whittle down the options and make the choice an easier one.

Employers also have good reason to see that their workers are protected against injury. Studies have found that workers are more productive and happier when workplace safety is a major priority, and taking steps to ensure that employees purchase or are provided with sufficiently protective shoes or boots is a cost-effective step that can boost productivity and improve morale. Several footwear manufacturers claim that their work boots meet all applicable safety standards, but workers who want to be sure may wish to become familiar with these regulations before making their final choice.

Worker statistics worth knowing

The number of work fatalities around the country in 2014 was 4,821, which was the highest total since 2008. That translates to a rate of 3.4 fatalities for every 100,000 full-time workers, which is higher than the 3.3 per 100,000 in 2013, and it is the first increase since 2010. More than 100 such deaths took place in North Carolina. In the private construction industry, there was a 9 percent increase around the country in work fatalities in 2014 from 2013.

The number of deaths in the oil and gas extraction industry was at its highest level since 2007 with 183 recorded deaths. Workers who were age 55 or older accounted for 1,691 deaths in 2014, which is the highest yearly total recorded. That number was 8 percent higher than the previous high. When broken down by race, almost all groups experienced a higher number of fatalities in 2014 when compared to 2013.

ESFI promotes workplace, home and school safety during April

Many North Carolina residents have been injured or killed in electrical accidents. The Electrical Safety Foundation International promotes electrical safety in workplaces, homes and schools, and the nonprofit organization has designated April as National Electrical Safety Month. The effort provides parties interested in increasing safety with resources such as lists of safety tips, templates and infographics.

Efforts to improve workplace safety are an important part of the ESFI campaign. The organization says that thousands of workers suffer shocks each year after touching circuits that they thought had been turned off. Workers are urged to check any circuits they may come into contact with as well as the equipment they use to test them. The ESFI also calls on employers to properly train all workers about the dangers of electricity and provide them with the appropriate tools and protective equipment.

Improving safety for tower workers

As the presence of cellular towers increases in North Carolina and across the country, the safety of workers who are required to climb them has become an increasing concern. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been fielding ideas from interested parties on how to improve safety for tower workers.

A major safety issue that was reported is the subcontracting of workers who are not qualified to climb towers. Stakeholders say that the culture of the industry is part of the problem, with pressure to complete jobs on time. Contractual language to guarantee safety, some say, would not be enough, and could even cause employers who follow the contract to be blacklisted. Suggestions to improve conditions made at a February workshop included hiring independent auditors to inspect work sites and encouraging a strong safety culture.

Sleep apnea and work injuries in North Carolina

Researchers have discovered that people who suffer from sleep apnea may be more likely to suffer injuries at work. This is attributed to the fact that individuals who have this condition wake many times during the night, so they often do not get enough quality sleep, making them tired and less attentive. This is backed up by the fact that the injuries sustained by those with this condition are more likely to be due to inattention.

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person's breathing passages either become blocked or collapse while asleep. Inability to breathe causes individuals to wake up, often several times a night. Many do not recall having been woken up, but sleep studies show that this is happening.

Convention to boost workplace health and safety

Construction workers in North Carolina and across the country may have heard about a safety and health conference involving representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the construction industry and various other agencies. The two-day meeting will focus on improving health and safety at the work site.

The conference will be held October 26 and 27 in Irving, Texas, at the Irving Conventional Center. Those who will attend the meeting will be informed about innovative research, trends and techniques relating to safety and health issues in the construction industry. Participants will also receive safety and health training, practical solutions and ways to improve their networking.

Workers' compensation paying for more employee injuries

According to a study by the Workers' Compensation Research Institute, more and more employers in North Carolina and throughout the United States are relying on workers' compensation benefits instead of group health coverage to pay for their employee's medical needs. This case shifting is mainly due to higher fee schedules and physician assessment results.

A study that took place from 2008 to 2010 found that some injuries such as lacerations, contusions and fractions most often occur on the job; however, with other injuries, such as shoulder and knee strains that occur with soft tissue damage, it may be more difficult for doctors to pinpoint the cause. Nonetheless, case shifting is not the result of fraud rather it is due to fee schedules.

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The Law Offices of
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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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