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Newburgh, New York Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Office workers, beware of back pain risk

We frequently write about the hazards that workers in high-risk industries face on a daily basis. Workers who report daily to work in industries like construction, logging, commercial fishing and commercial trucking understand that they face a higher than average risk of dying on the job and of suffering potentially debilitating injuries as a result of their work. However, workers in high-risk industries are not the only workers who should be concerned about sustaining injuries on the job.

Office workers face a myriad of work-related injury risks, including repetitive stress injuries from typing and neck stiffness from being bent over a keyboard for hours and hours every day. In addition, office workers risk potentially debilitating back injuries and back pain from their sedentary approach to work. Even if individuals are otherwise active, spending many hours each day at a desk can lead to serious back issues.

Hearings held on the new silica exposure limits

Very few people would choose to accept a position at a workplace if they knew that in accepting that position, they would be routinely exposed to a toxic substance and placed at an elevated risk of developing a chronic and potentially fatal health condition. But when it comes to toxic exposure in the workplace, skilled workers in several construction and industrial trades are in fact routinely exposed to just such a scenario.

Among the most prevalent hazards faced by these workers is exposure to silica dust. While minimal and short-term exposure to this substance does not necessarily cause a noticeable health impact, long-term exposure can result in diseases including asthma, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and several types of cancer. Unfortunately, the current standards for limiting exposure to silica dust have not been updated since the 1970s. And in many cases, employers aren’t even abiding by the out-of-date regulations.

Employee whistleblowers are protected under federal law

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced the release of an interim final rule concerning whistleblowers. Specifically, the agency released an interim final rule that will help to protect workers who wish to avail themselves of whistleblower protections provided by the Consumer Financial Protection Act. The new interim final rule outlines timeframes and various procedures that workers must adhere to in order to receive protections under this act.

The Consumer Financial Protection Act specifically protects workers from employer retaliation. The employers affected by this act include mortgage loan companies, private educational loan lenders, payday loan servicers, debt relief companies, foreclosure relief providers, consumer credit companies and mortgage loan modification companies. Employees of these kinds of businesses will now be better protected against retaliation, should they choose to adhere to certain whistleblower requirements.

Campaign targeting fatal construction falls is announced

We have previously written about the fact that risk of falls on construction sites is a very real hazard faced by New York construction workers on a daily basis. Because fall injuries can be fatal, it is imperative that employers and workers alike make efforts to ensure that falls on construction sites are prevented.

In an effort to heighten awareness about the hazards of work-related falls and to help prevent these accidents from occurring, the U.S. Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently announced that it will launch a national safety campaign targeting this issue in early June of this year. At the heart of the campaign is a nationwide stand-down.

An important OSHA enforcement program has major flaws

Last week, we wrote about the fact that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has pledged to divert more of its resources to inspecting high-hazard worksites in 2014. In addition, the agency has opted to undergo a thorough evaluation of its high-hazard inspection process to determine whether or not it is effective. These are welcome developments in the agency’s evolution.

However, it seems that OSHA needs to focus a greater deal of attention on another of its programs. Specifically, it seems that the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program is currently riddled with problematic flaws. This program attempts to hold the very worst workplace safety violators accountable for failure to prevent workplace accidents and for failure to protect workers. However, the program is not currently operating as it should.

OSHA announces plan to address high-hazard workplace risks

We frequently write about numerous hazards which plague the American workforce. While workers can suffer injuries and occupational illnesses in virtually every job imaginable, some industries are more hazardous than others. As a result, highly dangerous industries that regularly report high rates of work-related injuries and illnesses must be more carefully and broadly regulated than very low-risk industries.

Most recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has acknowledged this reality by pledging to direct an increasing number of resources towards inspecting particularly high-hazard workplaces. It pledged this necessary shift while unveiling its 2014 Site-Specific Targeting (SST) inspection plan.

Spike in cellphone tower worker deaths alarms OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) utilizes a variety of different mechanisms in order to promote safety in the workplace. It passes numerous safety regulations, conducts inspections and creates reading material that helps workers to understand their right to a safe workplace. In addition, when OSHA feels the need to communicate with employers regarding a particularly urgent safety matter, the agency sometimes sends affected employers letters directly.

Most recently, OSHA felt the need to send letters to both cellphone tower contractors and businesses which employ cellphone tower contractors and their workforces. The reason that OSHA chose to send urgent letters to these employers is rooted in a recent sharp spike in the rate of fatal accidents involving cellphone tower workers.

Temporary workers are still suffering greater rates of injury

We have previously written about the fact that temporary workers tend to suffer greater rates of injury and occupational illness on the job than full-time and part-time workers do. Studies confirm that this trend is partially borne out of the fact that a great many temporary workers do not communicate primarily in English. Though it is absolutely no fault of the worker, it can simply be harder to train non-English speaking workers and to ensure that they understand all relevant safety protocols.

However, other work-related injuries and occupational illnesses suffered by temporary workers result from inadequate efforts on the part of employers to train these individuals at all. There is a great difference between having difficulty ensuring that non-English speaking workers understand trainings that are given and not granting them access to adequate training in the first place.

Can filing a work-injury claim hurt your chances for recovery?

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirms something that previous research studies have concluded. Namely, the study confirms that when individuals suffer work-related injuries and file injury compensation claims, these individuals tend to experience more negative impacts on their long-term recovery than those who do not file such claims.

There are a number of reasons why poorer long-term recovery is linked to filing injury claims. Some of these reasons may include more significant injuries tied to claims than minor injuries not tied to compensation claims. However, the primary reason that the JAMA study links poor long-term recovery to filing compensation claims is the stress associated with filing these claims.

Falls are causing an increasing number of spinal injuries

For some time, the leading cause of traumatic spinal cord injuries in the U.S. has been motor vehicle accidents. However, a new study authored by experts at Johns Hopkins indicates that these specific kinds of back injuries may now result most frequently from falls. Given that falls are a major potential hazard on New York construction sites, this trend is understandably disconcerting for employers and workers alike.

The Johns Hopkins research suggests that the rate of fall-related traumatic spinal cord injuries is rising most quickly in the U.S. among the elderly population. Whether these individuals fall from their beds, while slipping on sidewalks or as a result of any number of factors, their risk of sustaining serious injury as a result of falls is real.

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