COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

Articles Posted in Workplace Safety

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Despite thriving online sales, Amazon.com Inc. has not had a smooth adjustment to COVID-19 and its effects. As its employees struggle to remain healthy and safe, Amazon has been criticized by multiple organizations.  A great example of this points to a local warehouse, as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has begun conducting an investigation into the handling of workers’ conditions at an Amazon, Inc. facility near Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

The Hazleton warehouse, which is often referred to as AVP1, has made national news for its willingness to raise concerns with working conditions.  The primary complaint coming out of the facility is a lack of preparedness to handle the virus. The grievances included workers’ access to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), an inability to maintain social distancing guidelines, access to hand sanitizer, along with other disinfectants, and a lack of time allotted to be able to wash their hands.  Amazon, Inc. has strict production quotas, which have been lifted since news of the allegations surfaced.  In the first week of April, fear of infection grew so large, that employees were instructed not to touch shipments to or from AVP1 for 24 hours.

AVP1 is one of 10 such facilities like it in the United States, and one of many Amazon, Inc. facilities dealing with outbreaks of confirmed COVID-19 cases.  In Staten Island, NY, workers made national headlines by staging multiple protests in the last 30 days.  Amazon, Inc. has disputed many claims made by its employees, and has fired one of the employees that orchestrated the Staten Island protest that sparked a work stoppage.

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During this time of crisis, it’s extremely important to understand that COVID-19, if contracted during your course of work, qualifies as a Workers’ Compensation illness.  In other words, if you end up getting the disease, because of a coworker, client, or anyone else you come in contact with during the course of your work day, you may be eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits because of it.  As the information regarding the disease, and how it relates to Workers’ Compensation benefits grows, the demand will too.

Workers’ Compensation is one of our state’s greatest achievements.  It allows injured workers to receive benefits despite missing time from work.  However, in order to receive these benefits, the cause of your missed time must be work-related. This is the biggest challenge in proving any occupational illness as a workers’ compensation injury, because it can be difficult to prove that you got the virus at work and not from someone outside of work. If you were directly exposed at work to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 and you have bene effectively socially isolating yourself outside of work, you may have a good case.

Why is it important that you are aware of these protections?  As the disease spreads, the likelihood of getting it increases.  If you are considered essential, you will be forced to leave isolation and put yourself at risk for the greater good of our country.  We are so thankful for your sacrifices and continued dedication, but also recognize the risks that come with it.  With growing cases will come growing demand for Workers’ Compensation benefits due to increased exposure.  If you experience COVID-19 symptoms we recommend you immediately contact a medical professional.  If you are forced to miss time from work because of these symptoms, or any other injury/illness, you should immediately contact a Workers’ Compensation attorney.

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Another Day Another Dollar

Picture this; you’ve recently gotten a new job at a local fast food restaurant, you wake up and get ready to go to work, and you get there, clock in for your shift, and get to work like you’ve done every other day. Except today isn’t like every other day… 

BOOM!

Construction
In the United States, there are men and women who work hard every day to support themselves and their families. These men and women work long hours under dangerous working conditions in order to make a decent living. When people are working under unsafe working conditions, they are at risk of being severely injured or even killed. Every year, workers are killed on the job while working under harsh conditions. Many people are losing friends and loved ones due to unsafe working environments. Losing a loved one can cause tremendous hardship to many families, especially if that loved one is the family financial provider.

In August of 2018, two construction workers were killed while working on the job in Orlando, Florida. The incident happened at the site of the planned JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort, a $282 million project with 516 rooms from Marriott International that has been under construction. These two workers fell to their deaths after the scaffolding, which they were standing on, collapsed. A few other workers almost died when scaffolding collapsed but they were fortunate to be saved by the assistance of their co-workers. According to the investigation, “it is not clear why the scaffolding gave away.” These workers were clearly working under very unsafe working conditions.

The two workers who were killed this incident died with no fault of their own. The two men who were killed could have been husbands or fathers who were trying to make money to support their families. No wife or child should have to be told that their loved has been killed in a work accident such as this.

Flooding
Here in Pennsylvania we have had some of the heaviest rains in recent memory. Flooding and damage due to these rains have been widespread across the state and it seems to be getting worse and worse as the late summer progresses. Most people do not consider heavy rains to be much of a health concern, but flooding can lead to a variety of injuries for people at work.

Washed out or flooded roads can easily cause car accidents for people whose jobs involve driving. Car accidents during work can lead to a workers’ compensation claim when the worker is injured in a car accident during their normal job duties.

Floodwaters will often be mixed with hazardous materials such as sewage, farm waste, chemical waste, and others. These have a potential to cause negative health effects for those who come in contact with the water. Any employee who is charged with the task of cleaning up flood damage should make sure they have their shots up to date, especially their tetanus shot.

Falls from an elevated position continue to the leading cause of death for construction employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 37% (370 out of 991) of construction fatalities recorded in 2016 were caused by a fall. The overarching goal of the National Safety Stand-Down campaign is to raise fall hazard awareness across the country in an effort to eliminate fall fatalities and injuries.

Even though falls are the leading cause of construction fatalities, those falls are preventable.  The use of hazard elimination, proper planning, training, and use of proper fall protection equipment can decrease and even eliminate these alarming statistics.Residential_construction_fall_prevention_system_%289253638891%29

The term “safety stand-down” is used to describe an event when normal work is paused and so the entire work site can focus on a specific work safety issue.

National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW) is a campaign held every year in the spring at the beginning of construction season to bring national attention to motorist and worker safety issues and encourage safe driving through highway work zones. The key message is for drivers to use extra caution in work zones. The campaign is a partnership between state departments of transportation, national road safety organizations, government agencies, private companies, and individuals.

MUTCD_G20-5aPAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, there were 136 construction worker deaths caused by roadway incidents involving motor vehicles in 2015.  Being struck by a vehicle is a leading cause of fatalities for roadway construction workers and the ultimate goal of this campaign is to eliminate the risks that cause those deadly accidents.

The outlined goals for NWZAW efforts:

Quad Graphics, a company with facilities all over the world, will be closing its Humboldt Industrial Park location on June 1, 2018.  The closing of the Hazleton area plant will lead to around 165 people being out of work.  Employees were made aware of the closing at a meeting on March 23rd.

Quad Graphics acquired the Hazleton facility as part of its purchase of World Color Press in July 2010.  Quad Graphics specializes in producing printed phonebooks and directories.  Many employees anticipated this closure with the decline of the printing industry.  With so much information available in digital form the need for printed phone books and directories has become outdated and almost obsolete.

After the Friday meeting, alerting them of the closure, employees were sent home for safety reasons.  Officials did not want employees continuing to work dealing with the news that they would be losing their jobs in a few months. Officials with the company said these 165 workers will not be offered a position at Quad Graphic’s other facilities.  According to the press release, full-time employees represented by the union are part of a collective bargaining agreement that provides severance pay.  All other employees will receive separation benefits that include pay, extension of healthcare and assistance with career outplacement.

Federal investigators have charged a Williamsport bridge contractor in a trench collapse in 2015 that led to the death of one of its employees.  The employee was killed when he was crushed by dirt at a jobsite near Millville in Columbia County, PA.

Susquehanna Supply Company was charged Tuesday with violating an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirement that resulted in the death.  Among those OSHA guidelines was a requirement that trenches have an adequate protective system, such as sloped walls.

osha citationsOn July 7, 2015, while rehabilitating a bridge over Little Fishing Creek, the employee entered a trench to remove additional soil. The trench was approximately 12 ft. deep. The company’s site-specific safety program addressed the applicable OSHA regulations. However, they had not implemented a protective system in the trench. One of the trench’s dirt walls collapsed, burying the employee up to his chest and crushing him against the bridge’s concrete support. The collapse killed the employee almost instantly.

Eye injuries are very common in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers suffer work-related eye injuries that require some form of medical treatment. However, eye specialists and safety experts believe the proper eye protection can decrease the severity or even prevent 90% of these injuries.

During Workplace Eye Wellness Month, the American Academy of Ophthalmology hopes to spread awareness to employers and workers and promote the importance of wearing certified and approved eye protection in the workplace.  Maintaining your vision must be a top priority at your job. Damage to the eye is often an irreversible injury.  So preventing it can avoid a lifetime of struggling with a serious and life-altering disorder.

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Eye safety is something that should be taken seriously in all professions.  Even those working in an office setting can be subjected to vision damage.  Office workers are most at risk of what is called Digital Eye Strain.  This is eye and vision-related problems that result from lengthy computer, tablet, cell phone, and other electronic device use.

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