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You Shouldn't Have To Fight For Workers' Comp Benefits

Philadelphia Workers' Compensation Blog

Common types of on-the-job accidents

Employers in Pennsylvania are obligated to provide employees with a safe environment in which to work, but workplace accidents and injuries are common. The most common types of workplace accidents are slip-and-fall, machinery accidents and vehicle or transportation accidents. Employers can take steps to help prevent these types of injuries on the job.

Approximately 33 percent of all workplace personal injury accidents are due to slips, trips and falls. These are among the most common types of injuries that result in claims against workers' compensation. They can cause broken bones, cuts, lacerations, pulled muscles, sprains, strains, back injuries or head injuries. Employers should establish policies requiring diligent housekeeping and proper employee footwear to reduce the risk of these workplace accidents.

Is a lump sum settlement right for your workers' comp claim?

Your workplace accident left you with a painful recovery, lost wages and questions about your future. After applying for Pennsylvania workers' compensation, you thought all you had to do was follow the instructions of your doctor and insurer to secure the benefits you needed to protect your family from financial crisis.

You probably didn't expect the workers' compensation claims process to be as tedious and uncertain as it was, including paperwork, interviews and seeking medical care from approved doctors. After all that, the insurer arrived at an offer of benefits based on your medical bills, missed work and disability. You now have some decisions to make about accepting the offer or pursuing a higher amount.

The first review of a Social Security Disability claim

After applying for Social Security disability benefits in Pennsylvania, an applicant may wonder about the next steps for their claim. The process can be lengthy and arduous at times, but applicants may feel a greater sense of control when they know more about the internal process. An application will be directed to the state agency that handles disability determination services, where a caseworker called a disability examiner will be assigned to the claim. The examiner's job is to review the claim and determine whether the applicant is eligible to receive disability benefits.

The examiner will generally begin by seeking out medical records from the sources listed by the claimant on the initial application. If these records are all dated, in this context 90 days or older, the examiner may request that the applicant come in for a consultative examination. This examination is conducted by a doctor paid by Social Security for benefits review purposes, not to provide additional treatment. In many cases, the physician will have little knowledge of the applicant's additional medical history. These types of exams are frequently unhelpful to a disability benefits claim, except in cases where the applicant has an objectively measurable disability.

Workers in confined spaces face toxic gas threat

Toxic gasses are the primary threat to workers in Pennsylvania and around the country who perform their duties in confined spaces. After investigating the circumstances surrounding 670 confined space workplace deaths, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that atmospheric hazards played a role in about 56 percent of them. The most common dangerous gases found in confined spaces include carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide according to NIOSH.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines confined spaces as areas with restricted access that are not designed for prolonged occupancy but are large enough to perform work assignments. Examples of confined spaces include tanks, silos, storage bins and tanks. The agency requires employers to monitor the air quality in these areas frequently and keep them well ventilated. Toxic fumes can cause incapacity extremely quickly, which is why OSHA regulations call for trained rescue teams to be on hand when workers enter confined spaces.

How to keep workers safe in cold weather

There is no specific OSHA standard that protects Pennsylvania workers against winter weather hazards. However, employers are required to provide employees with protection against hazards that they may face. For instance, they must be trained in how to handle driving on slick roads or working on slick surfaces. They should also learn how to recognize cold stress and the problems that it could cause. Ideally, workers will have clothing designed for cold, windy or wet weather.

Employers should provide tools to keep workers safe while working in cold or windy weather. For instance, lifts could be used to clear roofs or other elevated areas free from snow or ice. It may also be a good idea to keep heaters in proximity to outdoor workspaces to help workers stay warm. Finally, shielding job sites from wind or drafts can keep workers from getting too cold.

Safety practices in winter construction work

Construction workers in Pennsylvania face unique dangers on the job during the winter months. Freezing temperatures and slippery surfaces from ice and snow compel workers and employers to take extra safety precautions during winter, according to experts. Preparation for the oncoming cold can begin before winter.

Roadways and parking areas that have potholes or uneven surfaces cannot be fixed when the ground is frozen. Pre-season maintenance of road surfaces can prevent the problem icy surfaces in winter from being compounded by potholes and other surface problems. Site inspections prior to winter should also include considerations for issues that are unique to cold weather, such as tools or equipment that may not work correctly in freezing temperatures.

If you work with cranes, your job may be getting safer

Crane operators and those who work near cranes will soon have more protections at work, thanks to updated certification requirements.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revised its crane operator certification requirements, which are in effect as of November 10. The rules better establish that it is the employer’s responsibility to guarantee crane operators are properly qualified to safely operate the equipment.

Trenching projects pose a risk for workers

Work can be a dangerous place for construction workers in Pennsylvania and across the country. Because employees in construction handle heavy equipment and deal with incomplete structures, workplace accidents can be devastating. One area of construction is particularly dangerous for employees: trenching and excavation projects. The nature of these projects makes them vulnerable to cave-in and collapse, and too many employers don't abide by safety regulations. The number of fatalities on the job related to trenching projects has drawn concern at a federal level.

From 2011 through 2016, 130 workers were killed while engaged in trenching or excavation projects. Even more concerning, 49 percent of those deaths took place between 2015 and 2016 alone. In response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that inspections, education and enforcement related to these projects were national priorities. OSHA has already taken action to enforce workplace safety rules. One company was fined $400,000 for safety violations involved in trench cave-ins while another firm was fined $250,000 for failing to use cave-in protective systems while workers were in the trenches.

Being tired and stress is dangerous for workers

It is not uncommon for workers in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to feel tired on the job. According to a study from the National Safety Council, 69 percent of respondents said that they were fatigued while at work. It also found that all respondents who worked in construction said that they were at risk for being tired. Transportation workers often said that a lack of sleep and long hours at work lead to their fatigue.

As a general rule, employees and employers had different views as it related to working while tired. Of employees surveyed, 72 percent said that being tired at work was a threat to their safety. However, 90 percent of employers said the same thing. This included 97 percent of employers surveyed in the transportation industry. Working while fatigued could result in accidents, chronic health problems and burnout.

OIG finds evidence of underreporting injuries, deaths to OSHA

In January 2015, some revisions that OSHA made to its injury and fatality reporting rule went into effect. Between that month and April 2017, employers reported 4,185 fatalities and 23,282 severe injuries. They conducted nearly 15,000 investigations to evaluate the causes of those injuries or deaths, and OSHA conducted over 10,000 of its own onsite investigations. Employers in Pennsylvania may think that these numbers are mostly accurate.

According to the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General, however, they are far from representing the reality. The OIG refers to a former assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, who states that serious injuries in that two-year period have been underreported by 50 percent or more.

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