Tag Archives: OSHA

What Football Can Teach White-collar Employees About Layoffs, Severance

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

With football season upon us, I would like to use football to explain some common situations that employees face.

I get a lot of calls from white-collar professionals who have long careers with a company but then are laid off a few months after a new boss is hired. This happens a lot in football when a general manager/athletic director replaces a head coach and the head coach fires the previous coach’s assistant coaches. White-collar employees in middle-management positions are essentially the equivalents of assistant coaches in football. In the world of football, it is assumed that a new head coach can bring in his new assistants. The same assumption holds true in the business world.

Assistant coaches are oftentimes “bought out” of their employment contracts. Sometimes white-collar professionals have employment contracts, but more often than not they do not. Sometimes professionals are offered severance agreements, but unless there is an employment contract, that severance is not a buyout. Employers are also under no obligation to offer severance. If severance is offered, that doesn’t necessarily mean that an employer wrongfully terminated the employee.

Of course, no employee can be terminated because of age, disability, sex, race, nationality, or in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity like filing for workers’ compensation or filing with OSHA. But even if there is some appearance of wrongful motivation on behalf of the employer, the employer can still defeat a potential lawsuit if they have a legitimate business reason for terminating the employee. Going back to a football analogy, if the new head coach wants to switch an offensive or defensive scheme, they have the right to hire the person they choose. The fact the new hire might be less effective than the old hire is not a decision that a court will second guess in a wrongful termination. Sure, if there is something else wrongful going on, it is something a court or a jury could consider, but in a case where there is a recent change in management, employees will have difficult time overcoming the assumption that the new boss just wants to “put in their team.”

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

NY Company Fined for Noise Violations in the Workplace

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that a Queens metal products manufacturer was cited and fined more than $108,900. The manufacturer had committed a number of repeat workplace safety violations, including failure to protect workers from exposure to high noise levels.

Our New York City work injury attorneys know that exposure to loud noises at work can have serious consequences for a worker’s hearing. Employers must use caution to ensure that employees are protected in loud workplaces in order to avoid permanent damage. If an employer fails and a worker’s hearing is impacted, a workers compensation claim could be filed.

Too often, we don’t associate hearing loss with trauma. Yet, workplace noise is a leading cause of hearing impairment.

OSHA on Loud Workplaces

The Queens business cited for noise violations is not the only one that has failed to comply with OSHA noise regulations. There are many businesses, including those in the fields of manufacturing, hospitality, mining and construction, that do not comply with the guidelines designed to protect the hearing of workers. 

This lack of compliance is tragic since the guidelines are simple and effective. The OSHA guidelines related to noise hazards focus on prevention, mitigation, training and correction of problems. For example, OSHA requires that:

  • Employers institute a hearing conservation program if workers are exposed to 85 decibels or more over the course of their day. This program can include audiometric testing (a hearing test) annually.
  • Employers provide hearing protection devices, such as earplugs, in order to minimize the potential damage to hearing caused by loud noises.
  • Employers use either administrative or engineering noise control methods if the noise level would result in exposure exceeding 90 decibels.

Engineering controls center around making the worksite less noisy. This might include redesigning the workplace so machinery noise is reduced; enclosing the source of the noise; enclosing the worker away from the loudest noise; or purchasing quieter equipment in order to replace the older, louder equipment that is causing the hazard.

In the case of the Queens metal products manufacturer recently cited by OSHA, the company failed to create a hearing conservation program for those workers who were routinely exposed to loud noise levels. Since such a program is required, the company could be held responsible for the failure. This was considered a serious violation, and resulted in a fine of $34,650.

The fines that an employer may be required to pay to OSHA for a failure to comply with noise requirements may serve as a deterrent to encourage change, safer behavior and better safety practices in the future. However, for workers who have already been harmed due to noisy workplaces, the fines that an employer must pay to OSHA as a result of violations of workplace safety laws don’t help to cover their costs or meet their bills.

Those who were injured due to excessive loudness at work, however, can file a workers compensation claim. Such claims are available for any work injury and can cover the costs of medical treatment, as well as the costs of any time that the worker must take away from employment due to health problems incurred on the job. 

If you’ve been hurt at work, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today for a free evaluation by calling (800) 692-3717

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

NY Roofing Contractor Fined for Falling Short on Fall Protection

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) works to save workers’ lives throughout New York by fining employers who fail to comply with workplace safety standards. OSHA cites any employer who fails to comply with safety requirements, but one of the top problems that lead to OSHA citations is a failure to provide adequate fall protection.

OSHA reports that one company in New York was fined a total of $159,250 recently for failures to protect workers from falling as they performed work on roofing projects. Our Manhattan work injury attorneys know this employer was just one of many in New York who fail to embrace solutions that would limit or prevent falls in the workplace.

Falls Are a Common & Dangerous Workplace Accident

OSHA assessed the New York roofing contractor a large fine for the lack of fall protection in part because the offense was a repeated violation. The employer knowingly chose not to take steps to protect workers.

Unfortunately, this company is not the only one that fails when it comes to falls. In fact, OSHA reports that falls are the number one killer of construction workers and that many construction sites provide either no fall protection or inadequate fall protection. 

The absence of fall protection contributes to the high number of deaths. In 2011 alone, OSHA reported that there were 251 fall fatalities out of a total of 721 total deaths nationwide on construction sites.  These fatalities were preventable.

OSHA’s Fall Prevention Campaign

With falls as the leading cause of death on construction sites, OSHA has launched a nationwide outreach campaign called Stop Falls in order to raise awareness of the hazards of falls from roofs, scaffolds and ladders.

The campaign focuses on the three steps necessary to prevent falls:

  • Planning: Deciding in advance how a job performed up high must be done. Employers and workers must estimate what safety equipment is necessary in order to complete each task and employers should be sure to factor in the cost of equipment when bidding for a job.
  • Providing: Providing means that employers have to provide safety gear, as well as the right types of ladders and equipment when a worker is working six feet or more up in the air.
  • Training: Safety equipment is only effective if it is used properly. Employers must train workers on how to recognize hazards and on how to use the equipment they need to do their jobs in a safe and effective manner. This means training workers on fall protection systems as well as the use of scaffolds and ladders.

Employers must take responsibility for preventing falls. If a worker gets hurt the employer will be held responsible regardless of whether the employer was negligent or an employee was at fault.

Workers cannot generally sue employers, but they can make workers compensation claims and negligence doesn’t matter in these cases. A worker can be entitled to workers compensation benefits, including payment of medical bills, under any circumstances where his injury arose from a fall at work.

New York also has special scaffolding laws imposing strict liability on property owners and/or project managers in certain cases when scaffolding injuries occur. It is important for workers to understand their rights in scaffolding accidents and when other fall accidents occur.

If you’ve been hurt at work, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today for a free evaluation by calling (800) 692-3717.

 

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

Let OSHA Do Its Job

OSHA is being prevented from fulfilling its mission.

Today’s post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr. from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety & Health Act (the Act), which created the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Among other things, the Act requires every employer to provide a safe workplace. To help employers reach this goal, OSHA promulgated hundreds of rules in the decade after it was created. OSHA’s rulemaking process has, however, slowed to a trickle since then.  

While the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health recently identified over 600 toxic chemicals to which workers are exposed, in the last 16 years OSHA has added only two toxic chemicals to its list of regulated chemicals. This is because Congress, Presidents and the courts have hamstrung OSHA. For example, in March 2001 the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress effectively abolished OSHA’s ergonomics rule, a rule the agency had worked on for many years. 

These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses.

These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers are being injured and killed by known hazardous circumstances and OSHA can’t act.

Congress and the President need to break this logjam – we need to free OSHA to do its job of safeguarding workers.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

OSHA Reaches Employer Agreement to Stop Discouraging Employee Accident Reports

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

Statistics regarding the reporting of accidents have historically been challenged for accuracy as employees have been fearful about reporting events, and employers have been reluctant for numerous reasons, including the potential of increased insurance costs. Now OSHA has taken a significant step to legitimize the process by seeking an employer accord not to take adverse actions against employees for reporting injuries in the workplace.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has signed an accord with BNSF Railway Co., headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, announcing BNSF’s voluntary revision of several personnel policies that OSHA alleged violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act and dissuaded workers from reporting on-the-job injuries. FRSA’s Section 20109 protects railroad workers from retaliation for, among other acts, reporting suspected violations of federal laws and regulations related to railroad safety and security, hazardous safety or security conditions, and on-the-job injuries.

“Protecting America’s railroad workers who report on-the-job injuries from retaliation is an essential element in OSHA’s mission. This accord makes significant progress toward ensuring that BNSF employees who report injuries do not suffer any adverse consequences for doing so,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It also sets the tone for other railroad employers throughout the U.S. to take steps to ensure that their workers are not harassed, intimidated or terminated, in whole or part, for reporting workplace injuries.”

The major terms of the accord include:

  • Changing BNSF’s disciplinary policy so that injuries no longer play a role in determining the length of an employee’s probation following a record suspension for a serious rule violation. As of Aug. 31, 2012, BNSF has reduced the probations of 136 employees who were serving longer probations because they had been injured on-the-job.
  • Eliminating a policy that Continue reading

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

Workplace Violence and Sandy Hook Elementary School

Today’s post comes from guest author Kristina Brown Thompson from The Jernigan Law Firm.

In light of the horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last week it may be time to re-evaluate workplace violence, which seems to be increasing at an alarming rate. Technically, workplace violence is any act where an employee is abused, threatened, intimidated, or assaulted in the workplace. It can include threats, harassment, and verbal abuse, as well as physical attacks by someone with an assault rifle. 

Two million American workers are victims of workplace violence every year. What’s worse is that workplace violence is one of the leading causes of job-related deaths in the United States. Last year, for example, one in every five fatal work injuries was attributed not to accidents but to workplace violence,  and  some employees are at an increased risk for harm. For example, employees who work with the public or who handle money are more at risk (i.e. bank tellers, pizza delivery drivers, or social workers). According to the 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, robbers were found to be the assailants in almost a third of homicide/workplace violence cases involving men, whereas female workers were more likely to be attacked by a relative (i.e. former spouse or partner) while at work.  

Preventing workplace violence is a challenging task and OSHA advises employers to create a Workplace Violence Prevention Program. Creating a safe perimeter for employees is crucial. Likewise, having an emergency protocol in place should reduce the number of fatalities in an attack, and that’s exactly what happened at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut when the school’s protocol saved the lives of many children.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

Cancer Risk, Workplace Carcinogens and a Government Report

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Our law firm recently completed successful litigation involving eight families against various chemical companies. A member of each family got cancer from working at a local plant where industrial solutions were used to make rubber products.

Stating the obvious, cancer is universally bad, regardless of how much money a person has; what their religious or political views are; how old they are; or how/where/why they got cancer. That being said, I think workers especially need to be aware of the dangers and exposures to carcinogens that can occur because of chemicals in the workplace. According to a United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website, “Carcinogens are agents that can cause cancer. In industry, there are many potential exposures to carcinogens. Generally, workplace exposures are considered to be at higher levels than for public exposures. Material safety data sheets (MSDSs) should always contain an indication of carcinogenic potential.” 

Respected colleague Jon Gelman from New Jersey shares his thoughts on the subject in this blog post at http://workers-compensation.blogspot.com/2012/10/romney-regulation-risk-of-cancer.html. And I thank him for sharing the op-ed resource from a recent Sunday’s edition of The New York Times. 

According to the Times piece, lobbyists associated with the chemical industry want to “shoot the messenger” by limiting or getting rid of the U.S. government’s Report on Carcinogens. Because if workers don’t know about carcinogens in their workplace, they won’t get cancer? Or more accurately, at least they won’t be able to tie that cancer to their workplace? Tell that to the American Cancer Society, whose web site includes a page specific to carcinogens and uses various sources, both national and international, to determine what carcinogens are.

Mr. Gelman also mentions in his blog post that certain lobbyists and politicians want to limit the regulation of these chemicals, which the Times story calls “scientific consensus” for their listing as cancer-causing carcinogens. It’s very challenging for consumers to know what substances, either naturally occurring or made by humans are safe to eat and use. To take that confusion into the workplace by limiting the information available to workers to be as safe as possible in their jobs, especially when long-term consequences like cancer are a possibility, is a shame.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.

Death On The Job – AFL-CIO’s Releases Its 21st Annual Report

Death on the Job ReportThe AFL-CIO has released its 2012 report on worker fatalities which also examines the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA’s) role in ensuring safe workplaces. The AFL-CIO has been producing this report for 21 years, and we hope they continue to do so.

Since Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, workplace safety and health conditions have improved. But too many workers remain at serious risk of injury, illness or death.

In 2010, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4,690 workers were killed on the job—an average of 13 workers every day—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers suffer an additional 7.6 million to 11.4 million job injuries and illnesses each year. The cost of job injuries and illnesses is enormous— Continue reading

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.