Workplace Death

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bureau of Labor Statistics on Workplace Injuries and Death

Is the workplace becoming safer or more dangerous?

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a preliminary report on work-related injuries and deaths; final data is scheduled to be released this spring. It is important to remember that such statistics are not merely abstract numbers -- they represent a great deal of pain, physical, emotional, and financial, to victims and their loved ones.

The news for Pennsylvania is somewhat heartening. Workplace fatalities in the Pittsburgh area are the lowest they have been since they were first charted in 2003. There were 18 workplace deaths in 2014, down from 29 the previous year. Across the country, however, the statistics are not leaning in the right direction. The nation has seen a 2 percent rise in worker deaths increasing from 4585 in 2013 to 4679 in 2014.

Common Causes of Worker Fatalities

The causes of worker deaths in Pennsylvania parallel those in other parts of the country --  accidents involving construction, transportation, farming, machine operation, mining warehousing, and slip and fall. Suicides and homicides also feature in the mortality statistics. Women are far less likely to die in the workplace than their male counterparts, because only about a tenth of the jobs in the most dangerous occupations are performed by women.

Examining the trends in worker injuries and fatalities in an effort to curb, or even eliminate, them, Pittsburgh's Area Director for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Christopher Robinson, reports that the decline in fatalities reflects increased enforcement concerning common hazards, improved partnerships with trade associations, and expanded outreach to both employers and employees.

In recent years, OSHA's Pittsburgh office is focusing on falls, the second leading cause of worker injuries in 2014. Robinson declares, "We’ve placed a great amount (sic) of emphasis on enforcement when it comes to fall protection.” In addition, a death due to a mining accident in the southwestern part of the state a few days ago, the second fatality

in that mine during the last year, and the third mining fatality in the U.S. since January 4th, has drawn attention to the stark need for improvement in safety for mining workers.

While OSHA and other government agencies join forces with employers all over the country to improve the statistics regarding work-related injuries and deaths, workers' compensation benefits are available to workers hurt during their employment. If you have been injured in the workplace, it is important that you contact a skilled workers' compensation attorney to help you navigate the difficult waters of bureaucracy in order to obtain your rightful benefits.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Workers' Compensation Board Blames Negligence for Worker's 40-foot Fall

What benefits are available to a worker who is paralyzed following a work-related accident?

Paralysis is one of the most severe workplace injuries an employee can endure, and is likewise compensated as such. In most cases, a paralyzed worker will be unable to ever return to the jobsite, a condition referred to as the “permanent loss of function.” In the event a workplace injury causes the permanent loss of a body part or extremity – either due to paralysis or dismemberment – the worker will likely receive total disability payments, equaling two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage at the time of the incident. If, after 104 consecutive weeks of benefits, the worker is still unable to return to the job, he or she will need to obtain a medical evaluation which must reflect a “profound” disabling condition.

West Chester man paralyzed by workplace negligence

In a truly horrific set of circumstances, a West Chester man was recently paralyzed from the waist down after falling 40 feet from a makeshift platform. Unbelievably, the man’s supervisor ordered another worker to lift him nearly three stories – using a rough-terrain front-loader, which ultimately toppled and caused the resulting 40-foot fall.

Following the incident, the employer was subjected to an immediate inspection by OSHA, which revealed widespread instances of negligent, dangerous workplace protocol. First, the company was cited for routinely misusing front-end loaders for unapproved uses – including, apparently, moving employees from one area to another. Further, the company was cited for failing to provide fall protection, and failing to properly train workers to recognize the instance of fall hazards. Likewise, the employer was penalized for haphazardly using unneeded equipment to weigh down scaffolding bases, a maneuver further solidifying the obvious patterns of carelessness and recklessness within the management of construction projects.

In a statement by the Philadelphia OSHA office, "[t]his tragedy could have been averted if these two companies had not been so careless about worker safety….A young man is now confined to a wheelchair because of the disregard of the employers at this site for the safety and well-being of their workers. Their actions are inexcusable and will not be tolerated.."

If you have suffered a workplace injury, a qualified attorney can help you obtain compensation.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Court Orders Payment of Death Benefits; Widow Alleges Company Literally ‘Worked him to Death’

What are the options for a surviving spouse who has been denied death benefits from the PA Workers’ Compensation Board?

In one recent Bucks County workers’ compensation case, a widow proved that a denial by the Workers’ Compensation Board does not necessarily mean the end of the fight for survivors’ benefits – especially considering the fact she had a small child to care for following her husband’s death.

Earlier this month, the appealing party took her case to the PA Commonwealth Court after the WCB denied her claim for survivorship benefits on behalf of herself and her young daughter. According to the petition for relief, the survivor’s 48-year old husband died of a sudden heart attack after working a 14-hour shift at the Lower Bucks County Joint Municipal Authority.

After its review, the WCB denied her claim, concluding that there was insufficient evidence to link the long shift to the sudden, fatal heart attack. However, the Commonwealth Court came to the opposite conclusion, siding with the widow who contended her husband was literally worked to death.

In the court’s opinion, it referenced “[t]he overwhelming circumstantial evidence...[which] shows that exertion from (Dietz's) regular work activities over the course of a 14-hour workday caused his heart attack…” Moreover, the court highlighted the fact that the decedent was often required to work these lengthy shifts, and worked with a jackhammer for the Municipal Authority for over 20 consecutive years.

The court reviewed medical testimony that pointed to the decedent’s history of smoking as the root cause of his fatal heart attack. However, it gave greater weight to other medical testimony concluding that the final 14-hour work day was the fatal catalyst.

In Pennsylvania, surviving spouses and minor children may receive up to 60 percent of the decedent’s salary, plus $3,000. for burial expenses. In general, the surviving spouse must prove that the decedent’s employment caused his or her death, either due to illness or injury.

If you are considering a workers’ compensation action, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Louis P. Lombardi, III, serving the Philadelphia metropolitan area, as well as Montgomery and Bucks Counties. We can be reached at 610-239-7600 or 888.818.4343.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Driver Injures Four Construction Workers in Pennsylvania Turnpike Crash

Can you receive workers compensation or a personal injury settlement for the work related death of a loved one?

A motorist injured four construction workers in an early morning crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike near the Bensalem Interchange.  The driver was killed during the crash.  One worker was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital and another worker was airlifted to another Philadelphia hospital and rushed into surgery shortly after arriving.  The two remaining construction workers had minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital in Bristol for observation.  Authorities are investigating the incident.      

The construction workers, all male, were working for contractors hired by the Pennsylvania Turnpike to work on a link between the Turnpike and I-95.  This crash comes on the heels of another incident in Bedford County.  In that incident, a state trooper attempted to pull over a car.  The car sped off and swerved into a lane under construction hitting a construction worker.  Thankfully, none of the workers died in this accident. 

Being employed as a construction worker on a main road or highway is a dangerous job.  Many construction workers and others are killed while working on Pennsylvania roads every year.      

As a result of the recent events, the Turnpike Chairman, Sean Logan, requested extra troopers in construction zones to enforce speeding and distracted drivers.  The extra enforcement is part of Operation Orange Squeeze.  A trooper sits inside of a construction vehicle while another trooper waits in a patrol car to pull over the speeding car.  Drivers traveling 11 mph or more in a construction zone face a $200 fine and a 15-day driver’s license suspension.  Last year alone there were 150 crashes in construction zones.  

Unfortunately, no matter how many extra precautions are taken to keep workers safe, work-related deaths will still occur on these roads.  If a member of your family was killed in a work-related accident, the attorneys at Louis P. Lombardi II & Associates may be able to help you with your workers compensation or personal injury claim.  Our Montgomery and Bucks County attorneys can be reached by calling (888) 818-4343.

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