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A Dallas construction worker suffered a fatal accident while working on a third-story balcony of an apartment complex that lacked proper protection from his employers.

44-year-old Jorge Carrion Torres, who had been working on the job for a month at the time of the incident, was applying stucco to the unguarded balcony when he fell and was killed. Torres’s employers, Design Plastering Inc. and Design Plastering West LLC, were cited by The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration for “eight egregious willful and four serious violations” on November 10 with fines estimated to be $407,400. Prior to this citation, Design Plastering had been cited with seven others also regarding fall-related dangers.

“When an employer fails to put up a guardrail or scaffolding, or doesn’t provide personal fall-arrest systems, anyone working at a height of six feet or more is defenseless against a fall. OSHA will not tolerate this kind of employer behavior,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels in a press release.

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Researchers have identified a new predictor that can be used to better help workers dealing with workplace injuries. Researchers conducted telephone interviews with injured workers in 8 states. These states are Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The workers interviewed were injured in 2010 and received workers’ compensation benefits and were then interviewed in 2013.

In their study, Predictors of Worker Outcomes, they have found fear of being fired to be an issue not previously addressed by payers and health care providers. Injured workers feel that after an injury there is a loss of trust between them and their employer. Workers feel that due to their injury their employer will start to look for a replacement because they don’t want to deal with them. They found that workers who were strongly concerned about being fired after the injury experienced poorer return-to-work outcomes than workers without those concerns. These concerns were also associated with a four week increase in the average time of disability. If this fear of being fired can be addressed then injured workers will be able to focus more energy on getting better without the stress of possibly being fired.

The studies also asked the injured workers about certain comorbid medical conditions. Comorbid medical conditions are conditions that exist simultaneously but independently with other conditions. They asked about hypertension, diabetes, and heart conditions. What they found is that workers with any one of those three problems had higher percentage points of not being back at work while the interview was done.

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Thanksgiving is a time when we reflect and give thanks for the things we have. It often prompts us to think of others less fortunate. So our staff was proud to hear of the efforts of our marketing coordinator, Samantha Cody, and her aunt who are gathering donated items this holiday season to help families affected by domestic violence. But their efforts aren’t just helping those in need; it’s a way for their family to remember Sammi’s cousin, Dave Guzick, who died in March as a result of an accident involving a distracted driver.

Sammi and her aunt are collecting everyday necessities such as bathroom tissue, soap, and detergent and placing them into laundry baskets that will be donated to Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWIC). SWIC is a non-profit organization that provides services to victims of domestic violence, here in Schuylkill County.

In an article on the RepublicanHerald.com, Sammi’s aunt said that since Christmas is a time for families to get together, they thought this would be a positive way to remember their nephew and cousin, who was only 24 when he died.

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As anyone who has worked for the law offices of Michael J. O’Connor & Associates will tell you, Halloween is one of our favorite holidays. Staff and attorneys go all out, to come up with creative and eye-catching costumes. And this year was no exception.

MJOC_Halloween_2013_1.jpgKim.jpgOffice festivities included prizes for best costume. There were flappers and pirate girls, a bus and bus driver, and the devil with the blue dress on…complete with accompanying song. Winners included:

First place: a tie between Mario Brothers (including Princess Peach, Mario, and Wario) and Katy Perry

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In September, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry launched a new Workers’ Compensation Automation and Integration System (WCAIS) that was designed to create efficiencies in the process of filing a workers’ comp claim. Less than 2 months later, the new system is more of a headache for all involved.

According to an article on Philly.com, system glitches have plagued the new system, causing hundreds of workers’ comp cases to be in limbo statewide. In some cases, injured workers and their attorneys have not been able to get hearings, in other cases court paperwork has disappeared. Some have not been notified of the decisions on their cases. All involved in the workers’ comp process are feeling the side effects, including lawyers, judges, employers, and employees.

According to the article, State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Phila.) said he became aware of the problems last week. He said he would ask the state Auditor General’s Office this week to review the issues with the system.

In the article, Labor and Industry Department officials said they are addressing many of the problems. Until all the problems can be solved, there is a backlog of cases at the Labor and Industry Department’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

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Boudreaux.jpgThe attorneys and staff of Michael J. O’Connor & Associates had their pick of the litter last week when they announced that Jill Strunk of Pottsville and her Saint Bernard puppy, Boudreaux, were the winners of the “Cutest Pet Contest.” The content began in March when clients were asked to send a picture of their pets to the O’Connor Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mjoclaw). Pictures were posted on the Facebook page through May 1 and the picture of the pet that received the most “Likes” was named the winner. The prize was a brand new iPod Shuffle 2GB, an easy-to-use portable device for storing hundreds of songs.
Congratulations to Jill and Boudreaux! Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

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This Friday (April 19), remember to wear blue and green in honor of the second annual National Donate Life Blue and Green Day in support of organ and tissue donation and in celebration of National Donate Life Month.

Donate Life America is a non-profit alliance of national organizations across the U.S. with a mission to increase the number of designated organ, eye, and tissue donors in order to save and heal lives. They are encouraging the public to wear blue and green on this day, to bring attention to the need for organ and tissue donors.

According to DonorRecovery.org, more than 117,000 people are on organ transplant lists.

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On Saturday, April 13, staff from Michael J. O’Connor & Associates laced up their running shoes to participate in the first ever Yuengling Light Lager Jogger 5K run/walk in Pottsville. Sponsored by America’s oldest brewery, Yuengling, the run/walk attracted 2,500 participants as well as hundreds of spectators. But it wasn’t just a chance to run or walk the race route — part of the proceeds from the participant registrations were donated to Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages with snacks, entertainment items, and personal letters of appreciation addressed to individually named U.S service members deployed in hostile regions, as well as their children left behind, and to Wounded Warriors, veterans, and first responders. After the race, letter writing stations were set up so participants and spectators could write notes to be included in the care packages. It was a great community event that we were proud to take part in!
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Pictured above from left to right: Mary Jo Link, Lorianne Link, Kathy Wagner, Bridget Burke, and Peggy Kellar
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Pictured above from left to right: Samantha Cody, Kathy Wagner, Lorianne Link, and Bridget Burke