Tag Archives: firefighters

We Protect Workers’ Rights: Partner Mike Gruber Is Installed at WILG President & Helping Injured First Responders

I just returned from the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group’s (WILG) Annual Convention. I am extremely proud to announce that one of my law firm’s partners, Mike Gruber, was installed as the president of this esteemed group of men and women whose common bond is representing the interests of injured workers and their families. Mike is the fourth partner from my firm to hold this office, which includes former partner Lew Heller, Senior Partner Edgar Romano, and me. My firm is proud to continue the tradition of national leadership in an organization that fights to protect injured workers.

This year we were updated on a number of interesting topics including one near and dear to my heart – benefits for first responders. My friend and colleague JR Boyd, a past president of WILG and a leader in his home state of Missouri, lectured about the dangers inherent in firematic duties.  As the daughter and sister of retired firefighters and sister of a current FDNY Lieutenant, I am always trying to keep updated on the latest issues affecting those I love. I have grown up knowing that at any moment tragedy may strike. 

Ironically, on the day of the lecture news broke of the death of New York City Firefighter Chief Michael Fahy. He was on the scene of a reported gas leak and while in the midst of an investigation, an explosion occurred and part of the structure fell on him. Chief Fahy graduated from law school but decided to pursue his dream as a firefighter. He was following in the footsteps of his father Thomas Fahy, himself a retired FDNY Chief.

Chief Fahy is but one of the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their City, their state, or their country. Tragedy can strike without warning in the form of a building collapse, an explosion, a flashover, or when a floor or roof is compromised. First Responders may end up burned, electrocuted, or receive blunt force trauma. These are just a few of the ways firefighting can turn deadly. Unfortunately, our firefighters do not just face immediate dangers on the job, but also must contend with lung issues, cancer, and heart conditions. Three hundred forty-three firefighters lost their lives during the attacks of 9/11, but so many more have died from the after effects of being exposed to toxins in the air.

While there are still nine volunteer fire companies in New York City that respond to calls in their neighborhoods and are covered under the New York State Workers’ Compensation System, the vast majority of residents are protected by a paid force of brave men and women who are employed by the City. The Fire Department of New York is the largest municipal fire department in the United States, employing more than 10,000 uniformed firefighters.

When firefighters get injured, they are paid a salary until they are able to return to work. Some firefighters who get injured on the job as a result of the wrong doing of another may be able to file suit against the negligent party. Some firefighters may receive a three-quarter disability pension if they suffer an injury and are unable to work but benefits may differ depending upon the type of injury sustained and years of service. As a result of the heart, stroke and lung bills, there is a presumption that disabling heart, stroke, and lung conditions are the result of employment as a firefighter. I have seen the damage the job has done to the people I care about and the untimely deaths of many whose health has been severely compromised as a result of the rigors of the job. While benefits do exist, one can never truly repay these brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.

 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy  Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.

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We’re Having A Worldwide Heat Wave: How You Can Stay Safe

A few weeks ago, I read about a crisis occurring in Pakistan and India. In Pakistan, a week-long heatwave killed more than 1,200 people and in India, the heat killed close to 2,200. Tens of thousands more were treated at area hospitals for heatstroke. It appears that the combination of prolonged temperatures above 100 degrees combined with power outages had a devastating impact on people.

As I read the news while sitting in the comfort of my air conditioned home, I thought briefly about the fact that we are all so lucky that events such as this rarely happen in this country. We have the resources and the alternatives available if we lose power or if we don’t have air conditioning during a heat wave. The City regularly opens up cooling centers or keeps City pools open longer so that residents are able to combat some of the more severe heat of the day.  However, not all of us are lucky enough to work inside where it is cool or engage in work activity that is not strenuous. What about those who work outside, or do heavy labor without the benefit of air conditioning? How do they protect themselves from the extreme heat that may be a part of their everyday work?

I was surprised to find out that each year, hundreds of people die due to heat-related illnesses and thousands more become ill. Outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to heat stress.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, thousands of employees become sick each year and many die from working in the heat. In 2012, there were 31 heat-related worker deaths and 4,120 heat-related worker illnesses. Labor-intensive activities in hot weather can raise body temperatures beyond the level that normally can be cooled by sweating. Heat illness initially may manifest as heat rash or heat cramps, but can quickly escalate to heat stroke if precautions aren’t taken.

I am always surprised when I see firefighters on days with extreme heat fighting fires or see construction workers, road workers, or landscapers outside in the day-time heat engaged in strenuous physical. I often wonder how they are able to work without collapsing. The answer is that many of these workers become used to the extreme heat and are acclimated to it. Heat illness disproportionately affects those who have are not used to working in such extreme temperatures, such as new or temporary workers.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a campaign to prevent heat illness in outdoor workers. It recommends providing workers with water, rest, and shade, and for them to wear light colored clothing and a hat if possible. OSHA advises that new workers or workers returning from vacation should be exposed to the heat gradually so their bodies have a chance to adapt. However, even the best precautions sometimes cannot prevent heat-related illness.   According to WebMD, signs of heat exhaustion include fatigue, headaches, excessive sweating, extreme thirst, and hot skin. If you have signs of heat exhaustion, get out of the heat, rest, and drink plenty of water. Severe heat illness can result in heat stroke. Symptoms of heat stroke include convulsions, confusion, shortness of breath, decreased sweating, and rapid heart rate, and can be fatal, so please be aware and seek immediate medical attention if you have any of these symptoms.      

For those who work outside in the boiling heat, heat illness can be prevented. However it can also kill so please be careful and remember – water, rest, and shade. 

Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.   

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Occupational Disease: New Cancer Study and Firefighters

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Worker’s compensation has provided benefits or coverage for occupational diseases for generations.  In Wisconsin an occupational disease is one acquired as a result of working in an industry over an extended period of time. An occupational disease cannot result from a single incident, but rather it is the result of a disease process. Wisconsin has not excluded any occupational diseases from its worker’s compensation benefit provisions. One of those disease processes is cancer. 

Studies are done regularly to determine the cause of disease as medical science advances. A recent study concludes that smoke and chemical exposure by firefighters may cause higher rates of cancer among firefighters. Firefighters, while usually healthier than the general population, have a higher incidence of cancer. A presumption of employment connected cancer exists for firefighters in Wisconsin. The statute applies to any State, County, or municipal firefighter who has worked for ten years with at least two-thirds of the working hours as a firefighter who has cancer of the skin, breast, central nervous system, or lymphatic, digestive, hematological, urinary, skeletal, oral, or reproductive symptoms. For that firefighter whose disability or death is caused by cancer, the finding is presumptive evidence that the cancer was caused by employment. Note, however, no presumption exists for firefighters who smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products for claims after January 1, 2001. Benefits for firefighters include Temporary Total Disability, Permanent Partial Disability, and if the disease (either heart or lung) precludes a return to work, duty disability payable at 75% of the firefighter’s salary, may also apply. 

As medicine and science evolve, there may be more recognized “occupational” diseases and more workers and their families compensated for harm caused by the workplace.

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Are Firefighter Cancer Deaths an Occupational Disease?

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

Workers’ compensation has provided benefits or coverage for occupational diseases for generations. Occupational disease is defined by Nebraska law as: “a disease which is due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation, process, or employment and excludes all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is exposed.” This is a typical definition of an occupational disease. Some examples of recognized occupational diseases are black lung disease for miners, mesothelioma for asbestos workers, lung disease for rubber workers, and leukemia for workers exposed to benzene.  

More studies are done to determine the cause of diseases as medical science advances. A recent study concludes that smoke and chemical exposure by firefighters may cause higher rates of cancer among firefighters. Firefighters, while usually healthier than the general population, have a higher incidence of cancer. More studies need to be done to determine if the peculiar exposure to smoke causes or aggravates cancer.

As medicine and science evolve, there may be more recognized “occupational diseases” and more workers and their families compensated for harm caused by the workplace.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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