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

Articles Tagged with Workplace Safety

An organization to protect safe and healthy working conditions for employees in the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), has failed its mission in a meat packaging plant in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Three workers have filed a lawsuit in a federal court against the agency claiming that they have caused the plant to become dangerous and potentially fatal to all the employees.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the United States Department of Labor. The organization was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970. The primary goal of OSHA is to protect employees by observing and verifying that working conditions are updated and safe to work in. However, the government foundation was unsuccessful at ensuring secure environments at a meat packaging franchise. Maid-Rite Specialty Foods is a frozen food manufacturer that produces meat products, such as chicken, pork, turkey, beef, and veal. Recently, their plant in Scranton has experienced an influx of attention, due to its questionable practices.

In July, three meatpacking workers decided to file a lawsuit against OSHA for unsafe working conditions after they failed to respond to the incident previously. The employees stated that the company has produced an “imminent danger” throughout the plant by inadequately implementing codes and procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Originally filed in May, the suit states that Maid-Rite did not supply workers with appropriate equipment and failed to implement social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. In response, Maid-Rite reported to OSHA that they were not able to maintain a 6 feet distance between workers on the production lines, but they have provided workers with masks, given them staggered breaks, and performed deep cleanings of the plant. As a result, OSHA closed the case. Since then, one person who spoke out against the manufacturer claims that they did not separate unhealthy workers in the plant, and people failed to tell the company that they were sick. In addition, the employee claimed that Maid-Rite provided workers with an incentive to work by providing bonuses to people who did not miss a day of work. According to public health officials, this decision encourages people to work when they are potentially sick. All the evidence described has led workers to go to a federal court in order to receive changes in their current working conditions.

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.

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.

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.

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.

According 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.

The company has signed a plea agreement that includes a provision for a $250,000 fine.

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.

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.

Forklifts are widely used in many industries. Warehouses, distribution centers, production facilities, and construction sites use forklifts to complete numerous tasks primarily moving heavy and large products.

Since they are used so often (OSHA estimates there are 1.5 million lift operators in the United States) and are often used to move heavy objects, they are a constant danger to all workers on the job site.  The operators, bystanders, and pedestrians are all at risk of injury in an area with forklift traffic.

According to OSHA, there is an estimated 97,000 injuries (35,000 serious and 62,000 non-serious) involving forklifts that occur annually.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 96 U.S. workers were killed in incidents involving forklifts in 2015.  The most common types of forklift related fatalities are overturns and struck-by incidents.

Lifting and carrying heavy objects is one of the leading causes of injury in the workplace.  It affects workers in almost every industry, not only the “blue collar” ones.  Lifting injuries can affect all areas of your body especially your back, neck, shoulders, and hands.

There are 2 types of injuries when it comes to lifting/carrying, sudden trauma and repetitive.  A sudden trauma injury is one that comes about quickly and unexpectedly.  It can occur even if it is only the first time you ever lifted a heavy object.  Repetitive injuries are caused by overuse/stress on the muscles and tissues in the body over the course of time.  This is more likely to occur if your job requires you to lift a lot during your workday.  Many of these injuries are difficult or even impossible to avoid but there are many steps you can take to help avoid self-inflicting these work injuries.

Tips for Safe Lifting and Carrying

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