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

Workers may sue employers for opioid addiction

Many workers in North Carolina who are injured on the job receive a prescription for painkillers. In fact, 25 percent of the drug costs associated with workers' compensation claims are for opioids. While the use of these drugs may help an injured worker to tolerate pain from an accident, it can also lead to a serious addiction.

Now, more and more injured workers and their families are pursuing compensation for the damage caused by opioid prescriptions. In a report entitled 'Prescription Pain Medications: A Fatal Cure for Injured Workers," the National Safety Council pointed out that there have been 15 court cases between 2009 and 2015 in which a lawsuit was filed against an employer because of an opioid prescription.

Workplace safety involving robots

As the use of robots increases in workplaces in North Carolina and around the country, so does the risk of injuries to employees working with them or in their proximity. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is taking a renewed look at the issue, and some observers think that the agency may be issuing new standards in the future in an attempt to increase workplace safety.

Robots are extremely useful, especially in industrial applications, but their speed and strength give them the potential to inflict serious injuries on any workers unfortunate enough to get in their way. The first robot-related fatality in America occurred in a factory in 1984, and OSHA responded over time by issuing some guidance.

Chain of custody processes and hazmat transport

The transportation of hazardous materials represents a serious danger to the public health of North Carolina residents as well as the safety of the people who deal with this as part of their jobs. Innovative solutions are being sought for the improvement of hazmat transportation techniques, and experts are turning to a concept known as the chain of custody process.

Chain of custody is often thought of as a way to preserve and protect evidence in criminal investigations, but authorities hope that by applying these rules to the transport and storage of hazardous materials they may be able to prevent a large number of toxic spills that can often lead to workplace accidents. The process requires that every hazmat container be continuously monitored through its whole journey and only handed off to responsible and prepared individuals at the proper locations.

OSHA's stricter enforcement policies for health care facilities

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released new stricter enforcement policies for hospitals and long-term care facilities in order to reduce some of the most common workplace hazards. Injuries in the health care industry are a serious concern in North Carolina and in other states. OSHA is responding to the very high incidence of injury in these workplaces, as compared to other industries nationwide.

The new policy focuses on five specific hazard areas, including safe patient handling, workplace violence, bloodborne pathogens, tuberculosis and slips and falls. These five areas lead to many workers' compensation claims every year, and OSHA is inspecting facilities in these particular areas even if an inspection began for an unrelated reason. The federal agency plans to conduct employee interviews and examine employment records to seek more information regarding these areas of concern.

Recycling workers twice as likely to be injured on the job

Recycling may not be what first springs to mind when North Carolina residents think about dangerous occupations, but those who work in this field are injured on the job more than twice as often as the average American worker. While these injuries are sometimes minor in nature, 17 recycling workers lost their lives in workplace accidents nationwide between 2011 and 2013. The dangers of working in the recycling industry were highlighted in a report compiled by researchers at the University of Illinois and safety and environmental experts that was released on June 23.

Many workplace accidents involving recycling workers are caused by exposure to hazardous items or toxic substances on the sort line. Recycling bins sometimes contain hypodermic needles, broken glass or dangerous chemicals, and many recycling workers are hired on a temporary basis and lack the training and experience that could help them avoid to avoid injuries. Some of the most serious accidents at recycling facilities occur in close proximity to heavy machinery and equipment.

Collection of workplace data for compliance with executive order

Safe North Carolina workplaces are important not only because of the safety needs of workers but also for the purpose of promoting positive worker morale. However, government contracts could lead to cutting corners on issues such as safety in order to meet deadlines or curb costs. Executive Order 13673, signed by President Obama in July 2014, is designed to promote both fair pay and safe working conditions through the monitoring of relevant data for companies holding or seeking certain federal contracts.

Compliance records of those who bid on such contracts are to be accessible to the Department of Labor as well as to other relevant agencies so that compliance can be evaluated before the contracts in question are awarded. This is reportedly the first time that these details will be available to the entities making decisions about federal contracts.

OSHA targets occupational injuries among North Carolina nurses

Nurses in North Carolina and nationwide are at more risk of being injured on the job than construction workers and automotive employees, according to a new report from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The report notes that nurses incur this higher risk despite the general availability of preventative measures for lifting strains, slip-and-fall injuries and exposure to bloodborne pathogens. To combat this trend, OSHA is gearing up to crack down on occupational injuries among health care workers.

According to the report, which relies on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses are at nearly double the national rate of occupational injury risk, at 6.6 and 7.6 percent in hospitals and nursing homes or extended care facilities respectively. The national average across private industry is 3.4 percent. This leads to more workers' compensation claims stemming from trauma injuries and exposure to bloodborne diseases.

Eye injuries in the workplace

Many North Carolina workers who work outdoors may be aware that the sun can cause serious damage to their skin and that they may be at risk for heat stroke. However, some workers may not realize that outdoor jobs can also put their eyes at risk. Construction workers, for example, often face UV radiation, dust and debris particles floating in the air and even splashing chemicals.

All work sites have different risks that could affect a person's eye safety. As such, OSHA does not have a single standard for eye protection and safety. There are, however, safety guides that managers can use to choose the protective eye wear that is most appropriate for the specific work site. Even with safety guidelines, however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has indicated that workers suffered more than 25,000 eye injuries in 2013 alone.

Nail salon chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, and more

North Carolina nail salon workers could be exposed to as many as 12 chemicals known by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration as dangerous. The worst ones, dubbed by many as the "toxic trio," are dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde and toluene. Health problems believed to be associated with them include cancer, miscarriages, kidney failure, lung failure and birth defects.

The federal regulations that apply to the cosmetics industry were established in 1938. These laws ban harmful chemicals from cosmetics, but the chemical manufacturers are not required by the Food and Drug Administration to test their cosmetics ingredients for potential harmful effects or share information with the agency. Furthermore, no prior approval from the FDA is needed when a new cosmetic product is put on the market.

Animals and work injuries

In North Carolina and other states, most workers are eligible to receive workers' compensation if they are injured by animals or insects while on the job. This can ensure that workers are not impacted by lost wages and medical expenses due to these types of incidents.

In many occupations, workers are exposed to the possibility of contracting animal-borne diseases such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and some may also suffer adverse reactions to the bites of venomous animals. This is expected of workers who are in environments where this is a common possibility, but those who work in office spaces or other work areas can also be injured by animals or insects from an infestation. This is often an issue if the appropriate measures have not been taken by employers to ensure that areas are sanitized and properly secured.

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Hickory, NC 28601

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Hickory, NC 28603

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