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Newburgh New York Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Injured workers: New York's most hazardous winter jobs

When severe winter weather strikes in New York, employees in some outdoor jobs are exposed to serious workplace hazards. Reports of injured workers typically involve slip-and-fall accidents, dehydration and hypothermia. Technicians who work on power lines and meter readers are some of the most at-risk employees. Although power companies do major construction and maintenance during the months of spring or fall, emergencies in winter must be addressed. Despite the protective gear the linemen wear, they risk their lives when they are overwhelmed by the cold and lose focus on the dangers of electricity.

Another group of workers who risk their lives in harsh wind and brutal cold is airport ramp agents. They have to cope with snow and ice while they lift heavy bags, de-ice planes and deal with dangerous, slippery ramps. The danger is even more severe when blizzards and whiteouts occur. The listed physical demands of this occupation include climbing stairs, stooping, standing, reaching, pushing and lifting heavy objects. When done in extreme weather conditions, these actions can be very hazardous.

Can workers' comp benefits be sought for injuries at the office?

Carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, tendinitis and lower back problems are prevalent among office workers in New York. Such injuries at the office can affect the tendons, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels and nerves of employees. However, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, practicing proper ergonomics can prevent musculoskeletal disorders.

Ergonomics fit jobs to workers by eliminating risk factors that expose employees to injuries that may lead to MSDs. These risks include repetitions of particular motions throughout the day. In an office environment, this could be typing, using a calculator, clicking a mouse or flipping through paperwork. The tissue surrounding the joints utilized for these actions can suffer trauma. There is also static loading or sustained exertions that follow long periods of staring at a monitor screen and sitting without movement for extended periods.

Workplace accident at landfill kills 1 when slope fails

Each occupation in New York and elsewhere has its own hazards, and employers must assess the dangers and address them to protect the safety and health of employees. When safety hazards are overlooked, it could lead to a workplace accident with devastating consequences. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the tragic death of a landfill worker in a neighboring state.

According to the manager of the landfill where the death occurred, independent studies and investigations are underway. Reportedly, garbage and dirt buried five employees when a landslide occurred on Feb. 8. Four of the workers managed to get out, but the fifth man was overwhelmed by 40 feet of trash. Rescue workers searched for 48 hours before they were able to retrieve his body.

Claims for workplace illness compensation rejected

Former employees at a gun range in a neighboring state say they were exposed to a dangerous workplace environment. Lead is a known workplace illness hazard in facilities in which workers have to handle firearms and ammunition. The owner of the now-closed business made headlines when police caught him with a vehicle filled with weapons outside New York City last year. His arrest prompted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the business.

That investigation led to 35 safety violations, many of which involved excessively high lead levels in the facility. The workers claim to have suffered illnesses caused by exposure to lead. One former employee says he received some workers' compensation benefits, but it covered only some of his medical expenses. His doctor now refuses to continue treatment until unpaid bills are settled.

Welding industry hazards can cause serious workplace illness

Employees in New York in occupations that involve welding, brazing and cutting are part of over 500,000 workers in the tri-state region surrounding New York City who face serious health risks if they work without proper safety gear. The danger posed by this industry comes in the form of gases and fumes that could be hazardous. Welding activities produce visible smoke -- in the welder's breathing space -- containing harmful gas byproducts and metal fumes that can cause workplace illness.

The metals that can bring about dangerous fumes when welded include aluminum, copper, lead, iron, manganese, tin, silver, nickel and many others. The gases produced that may cause respiratory illnesses include argon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, helium, nitric oxide, nitrogen and more. Only unprotected workers are at risk of inhaling theses hazardous gases and fumes, and illness is preventable if all employers would provide adequate respirators that fit properly.

Can marijuana use affect workers' compensation benefits?

With marijuana now legalized for medicinal use in some states, including New York, the laws regulating it in the workplace may need some updating. Back in 2013, an employee of a juvenile center in another state injured his neck and shoulder while trying to subdue an aggressive youth. His workers' compensation benefits claim was questioned when blood tests revealed that he tested positive for marijuana.

Reportedly, a drug test following the incident showed the presence of pot in his system, and so did a follow-up test on the next day. Although a court determined that the marijuana might not have been the major cause of the incident that caused the injuries, it rejected his claim for compensation. The worker appealed, claiming the court based its finding on only one sentence of the law, rather than applying the entire section in context.

Serious injuries after fall leads to roofer's death

Roof workers in New York and other states face various dangers related to the heights at which they do their jobs. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes strict safety regulations to which business owners in this industry must comply. However, many employers fail to provide fall protection to prevent serious injuries on the job site.

A roofer recently lost his life in an incident that occurred in a neighboring state. A building owner contracted a roofing company to repair damage from last season. While workers were on the roof, part of it collapsed and caused one of the roofers to fall about 20 feet onto the concrete floor of a lower level. Reportedly, some of the damage that was to be repaired were cracked rafters, and that is the suspected cause of the collapse.

Is enough done to prevent construction accidents?

Workplace safety in New York is said to be in need of loads of attention, and part of the cause for the dire situation is the lack of federal inspectors. Reportedly, there has been a significant drop in the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors. In fact, in 2014, only 71 OSHA inspectors were left to cover all industries in New York. This marked a 13 percent decrease, while 18 percent more building permits were issued in New York City. The role that unions play in the number of fatalities in construction accidents in the city seems significant.

Two days before Christmas, a construction worker lost his life on a building site in the Upper East Side. His was the 31st on-the-job death in New York City in two years. Reportedly, this worker who fell from the third floor of a building under construction failed to secure the lanyard of his fall protection to an anchor point. Authorities say he, along with 28 of the other 30 workers who died on the job, was a nonunion worker.

Work injury: Prevention in office environments better than cure

Many New York residents spend most of their hours every day working in offices without realizing that safety hazards are not only present in workplaces such as construction sites. There could be numerous safety hazards in office environments, any one of which can cause a serious work injury. Developing safety protocols for the office may be a smart move -- from establishing emergency exit procedures to making sure any spills at the water station are cleaned before someone suffers a slip and fall accident.

The most appropriate step to address potential hazards might be to consider what could go wrong. Companies should design a plan for action in the event of a natural disaster such as a flood, tornado or earthquake. However, the hazards that seem insignificant are more prevalent and must receive adequate attention. Check fire alarms, carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors frequently and ensure even those employees in offices furthest from the alarm can hear it. Check all electric cords for fraying and make sure they do not cross walkways or passages where it can cause trip hazards.

Fatal work injury: OSHA cites trailer maker for teen's death

The worksites of industrial companies in New York and elsewhere typically pose a variety of safety hazards that employers must address. The results of an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration into a fatal work injury that occurred at a metal fabrication plant last July underscores the importance of compliance with federal safety regulations. The tragedy involved the death of a 17-year-old who had just started the job when he lost his life.

The site of the workplace accident was a trailer maker in another state. Investigators reported that the young worker was underneath the loading table of a laser-cutter system. The machine was active during the time when the man cleared metal scrap away from below the table, and it unexpectedly lowered the table onto him. The table trapped him, and this ultimately caused his death.

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