Author Archives: Edgar Romano

The Dangers of Working with Vibrating Tools

Today’s post comes from guest author Anthony L. Lucas, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Vibration White Finger (VWF) or “Dead Finger,” now known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), is a chronic, progressive disorder caused by regular and prolonged use of vibrating hand tools that can progress to loss of effective hand function and necrosis of the fingers. In its advanced stages, the obvious symptom is finger blanching (losing color). Other symptoms include numbness, pain, and tingling in the fingers, as well as a weakened grip.

It is estimated that as many as 50 percent of the estimated 2 million U.S. workers exposed to hand-arm vibration will develop HAVS. Some common industries and the tools associated with HAVS are listed below:

  • Agriculture & Forestry – Chainsaws
  • Automotive – Impact Wrenches, Riveting Guns
  • Construction – Jackhammers
  • Foundries – Chippers, Grinders
  • Metal Working – Buffers, Sanders
  • Mining – Jack-Leg Drills, Stoper Drills

The time between a worker’s first exposure to hand-arm vibration to the development of HAVS symptoms can range from a few months to several years. Prevention is critical because while the early stages of HAVS are usually reversible if vibration exposure is reduced or eliminated, treatment is usually ineffective after the fingers blanch. 

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Countertop Workers Face Silicosis Risk from Engineered Stone Countertops

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Engineered stone countertops, a popular fixture in today’s homes, pose a health risk to workers who cut and finish them. The danger stems from the material the countertops are made from, processed quartz, which contains silica levels up to 90 percent. Silica is linked to a debilitating and potentially deadly lung disease known as silicosis, as well as lung cancer and kidney disease.

While the countertops do not pose a risk to consumers in their homes, they do pose a risk to the workers who cut and finish them before they are installed. When the countertops are cut, silica particles are released into the air, which when breathed in by the workers can start processes leading to silicosis. Manufacturers of the engineered stone countertops assert that worker hazards can be reduced through the use of protective respirators and equipment designed to trap silica dust. Despite this assertion, many safety precautions taken by employers are often inadequate.

The first documented case of silicosis among countertop workers in the United States was reported two years ago. In countries such as Israel and Spain, where engineered stone products gained their popularity, many more countertop workers have been diagnosed with silicosis and have had to undergo lung transplants. The danger of silicosis in the construction industry led OSHA to recently issue new rules requiring construction workers’ silica exposure to be reduced by 80 percent beginning on June 23, 2017.

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Labor Report Urges Study Of A Federal Role In State Workers’ Comp Laws

Howard Berkes and Michael Grabell have been investigating the decline of workers compensation for Pro Publica and NPR.

Howard Berkes and Michael Grabell have been shining a light on the deterioration of state workers’ compensation benefits over the last decade. A new U.S. Department of Labor report bolsters their investigative journalism, noting that those hurt on the job are at “great risk of falling into poverty” because state workers’ compensation systems are failing to provide them with adequate benefits.

The Workers Injury Litigation Group (WILG) has been fighting against this decline for 20 years, and we will continue to advocate for fair benefits for injured workers. The following is a summary of Mr. Berkes and Grabell’s recent article:

A “race to the bottom” in state workers’ compensation laws has the Labor Department calling for “exploration” of federal oversight and federal minimum benefits.

“Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the agency says in a new report on changes in state workers’ comp laws. Those changes have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In the last decade, the report notes, states across the country have enacted new laws, policies and procedures “which have limited benefits, reduced the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraged injured workers from applying for benefits.”

The 44-page report was prompted by a letter last fall from 10 prominent Democratic lawmakers, who urged Labor Department action to protect injured workers in the wake of a ProPublica/NPR series on changes in workers’ comp laws in 33 states.

The ProPublica/NPR stories featured injured workers who lost their homes, were denied surgeries or were even denied prosthetic devices recommended by their doctors.

A “race to the bottom” in state workers’ compensation laws has the Labor Department calling for “exploration” of federal oversight and federal minimum benefits.

“Working people are at great risk of falling into poverty,” the agency says in a new report on changes in state workers’ comp laws. Those changes have resulted in “the failure of state workers’ compensation systems to provide [injured workers] with adequate benefits.”

In the last decade, the report notes, states across the country have enacted new laws, policies and procedures “which have limited benefits, reduced the likelihood of successful application for workers’ compensation benefits, and/or discouraged injured workers from applying for benefits.”

The 44-page report was prompted by a letter last fall from 10 prominent Democratic lawmakers, who urged Labor Department action to protect injured workers in the wake of a ProPublica/NPR series on changes in workers’ comp laws in 33 states.

The ProPublica/NPR stories featured injured workers who lost their homes, were denied surgeries or were even denied prosthetic devices recommended by their doctors.

“The current situation warrants a significant change in approach in order to address the inadequacies of the system,” the report says.

That’s where federal intervention comes in. The Labor Department calls for “exploration” of “the establishment of standards that would trigger increased federal oversight if workers’ compensation programs fail to meet those standards.”

The agency also suggests a fresh look at reestablishing a 1972 Nixon administration commission that recommended minimum benefits and urged Congress to act if states failed to comply.

“In this critical area of the social safety net, the federal government has basically abdicated any responsibility,” says Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Without minimum federal standards for workers’ comp benefits, Perez adds, the current system “is really putting workers who are hurt on the job on a pathway to poverty.”

Prior to the report’s release, employers, insurance companies and others involved in workers’ comp programs expressed alarm at the possibility of federal intervention.

“There has never been federal ‘oversight of state workers’ compensation programs’,” says a statement posted on the website of a group called Strategic Services on Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation, which says it represents the workers’ comp interests of the business community.

“Federal requirements imposed on a national basis would be inconsistent with the state workers’ compensation system, which has been in place for more than 100 years without federal oversight,” the group wrote.

Federal minimum benefits could ensure that injured workers across the country would not receive lesser benefits for often shorter periods of time simply because they lived in a state where lawmakers dramatically cut workers’ comp costs for employers.

“This is a system with no federal minimum standards and absolutely no federal oversight,” says Deborah Berkowitz, a senior fellow at the National Employment Law Project. “Clearly, more federal oversight is necessary to assure that that this system works for those most in need of assistance.”

No direct administrative or legislative action is proposed in the report, but Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, says he’s “drafting legislation to address many of the troubling findings laid out in this report and will be working with my colleagues to advance it in the next Congress.” 

Brown echoes Perez, saying injuries on the job shouldn’t force workers into poverty.

“But without a basic standard for workers compensation programs, that’s exactly what’s happening in too many states across the country,” Brown adds. 

Another incentive for federal involvement, the report notes, is a shift of billions of dollars in workplace injury costs to taxpayers when state workers’ comp benefits fall short and workers are forced to turn to Medicare and Social Security for treatment and lost wages.

The report lays the groundwork for federal intervention by providing an extensive section detailing the government’s role in promoting national benefits standards in both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back to 1939.

But many in the workers’ comp world consider workplace injury policy and regulation a states’ right and any prospect of a controlling federal role will likely face stiff resistance.

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Senior Partner Jordan Ziegler Discusses Repetitive Strain Injury On Podcast

Jordan A. Ziegler, Senior Partner

Senior Partner Jordan Ziegler recently appeared on RSI Help, a podcast which shares news and information about repetitive strain injury. We have discussed this topic on this blog several times. In addition to listening to the podcast, you can also find out more information by reading these posts:

We also have a section on our firm’s website dedicated to providing you with information about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a common repetitive strain injury. In addition, Deborah Quilter maintains a site with helpful information at RSIHelp.com.

You can listen to the podcast here:

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Congratulations to Partner Matthew Funk, New President Elect of NYSTLA

On June 14, Partner Matthew Funk was formally installed as President Elect of the New York Association of Plaintiff’s Trial Lawyers (NYSTLA). Mr. Funk handles workers compensation cases for Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

In addition to his new role with NYSTLA, he is also Co-Chair of the NYSTLA Workers’ Compensation Committee and a member of the Legislative Committee, No-Fault Committee and Labor Law Committee. Since 1999, he has written for the NYSTLA Decisions program.

Matthew serves on the Executive Board of the Injured Workers Bar Association, participating in online round table discussions regarding the rights of injured workers. He is a Workers Compensation Committee member of the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). Matthew regularly lectures on workers’ compensation law to various labor organizations. Currently, he is actively engaged in extensive workers compensation litigation.

The mission of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, founded in 1953, is “To promote a safer and healthier society, to assure access to the civil justice system by those who are wrongfully injured and to advance representation of the public by ethical, well-trained lawyers.”

Please join us in congratulating Mr. Funk on his new role.

 

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Stand Together With Your Working Neighbors As They Strike At Verizon

Join nearly 40,000 CWA and IBEW members, including 15,000 New Yorkers, as they strike for good jobs and a fair contract at Verizon. Over 10 months of negotiations, Verizon has been unwilling to make a fair agreement. Despite making $39 billion in profits over the last three years, the company is still insisting on devastating givebacks.

Help by signing this peitition to Lowell McAdam, CEO of Verizon, telling him to negotiate a fair contract for workers. And join a picket line near you. Picket locations will be posted at the website StandUpToVerizon.com

For more detailed information, see this article from the New York State AFL-CIO.

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Senior Partner Catherine Stanton Named One Of Super Lawyers 2016 Top Women Attorneys in New York Metro

Congratulations to Senior Partner Catherine Stanton, who has been named one of Super Lawyers Top Women Attorneys in New York Metro 2016. Ms. Stanton is the only Workers’ Compensation lawyer on this year’s list.

Ms. Stanton is a senior partner at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP and head of our workers’ compensation department. She has been named as a Super Lawyer the area of workers’ compensation by Super Lawyers magazine each year 2007-2014. Starting in March 2015, Ms. Stanton earned a spot on the New York Super Lawyers Women’s Edition list. The is the second year in a row that she has received this honor.

Ms. Stanton graduated magna cum laude from St. John’s University in 1986 and the Marshall Wythe School of Law, at the College of William and Mary, in 1989. She began working with the firm as an attorney in 1990 and became a partner in 1998. Ms. Stanton served as President of WILG, Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group from 2012-2013 which is a national non-profit membership organization dedicated to representing the interests of millions of workers and their families who, each year, suffer the consequences of workplace injuries and illnesses. Ms. Stanton is the current Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section for the American Association for Justice, a national organization that supports plaintiff trial lawyers.

Locally, Ms. Stanton was recently installed as a director for the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. She is a past president of the Society of New York Workers Compensation’ Bar Association which is a bipartisan organization compromised of attorneys representing all parties to a workers’ compensation claim to work toward common goals. She is currently the Vice President of the Brehon Law Society of Nassau County which is focused on monitoring and eradication of violations of human rights and civil liberties principally but not exclusively in the north of Ireland.

She also has received the highest rating through AVVO, and was named a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation in March 2015, an honor that is given to attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their practice in the field of workers’ compensation.

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Are Concussions Worth the Risk for Hockey Players?

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Professional hockey, much like football, is considered to be a dangerous, high contact sport. With recent news of San Francisco 49er’s linebacker Chris Borland’s decision to retire at age 24 due to concussions, a lot of NHL players are feeling pressure to step-back and reevaluate if game-related concussions are worth the risk to their long-term health.

Carolina Hurricane’s 22 year-old forward Jeff Skinner has been side-lined three times for concussions since his first season in 2010-2011. Skinner’s teammate Brad Malone, a 25 year-old forward, considers his multiple concussions to be just “situations” and has made the decision to keep playing despite the risk of acquiring a long-term brain injury. According to the News & Observer, Malone stated, “If that situation was affecting my life at home and the people around me, then I think that’s when I sit down and sort of reevaluate.”

The danger of having too many concussions is that they can cause players to develop Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain that is caused by repetitive brain injuries, and according to Sportsmd.com CTE can cause symptoms and behaviors similar to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. CTE is considered to be the only preventable form of dementia. Hockey players are faced with a serious issue: continue to play professionally or quit the sport for the sake of future quality of life.

Original post in the News and Observer by Chip Alexander 3/31/15

Read more about CTE here: http://www.sportsmd.com/concussions-head-injuries/chronic-traumatic-encephalopathy-cte-2/

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