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Media Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Does workers' compensation cover my morning commute?

You are likely aware that your Pennsylvania employer is responsible for having workers' compensation insurance for you and your colleagues. This insurance provides coverage for your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses if you suffer an injury on the job or develop a work-related illness. This coverage may be a great relief to you because without it, you may have no choice but to file a lawsuit to recoup your losses or to try to struggle through without assistance at all.

Additionally, you may be aware that there are numerous exceptions that could excuse your employer's insurer from the obligation to compensate you for your injuries. For example, if you were horsing around at work or had an accident on the job because you were impaired by alcohol or drugs, you employer's insurance company would have a legitimate reason for denying your claim. However, what are the rules for when you are injured while not at the office or job site?

America's most dangerous jobs

All workers in Pennsylvania face the threat of workplace accidents and injuries. However, there are certain types of occupations that carry a higher risk of injury or death. In the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, the Bureau of Labor Statistics documents the most dangerous jobs in the country. In 2016, 5,190 civilian workers died on the job, an increase of almost 6 percent from the prior year.

Loggers, fishers and pilots took the three top spots on the BLS' list of dangerous occupations. Logging workers had 135.9 fatalities on the job per every 100,000 full-time workers in the industry. In total, 91 loggers lost their lives in 2016 from work-related causes. In comparison, 75 aircraft pilots died on the job in the same year. Some of the other dangerous jobs included roofing, sanitation professions, truck driving, farming and metalworking. Grounds maintenance workers and front-line construction trade supervisors rounded out the list of the 10 most dangerous occupations.

Injuries at meat plants

Pennsylvania meatpackers are may incur second degree burns, fractured fingers, head trauma and amputations. According to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these are just a sampling of the severe injuries that can be sustained at a meat plant in the United States every week.

Statistics show that the likelihood that American meat workers will sustain a serious injury is three times more than that for an average American worker. Those who work with beef and pork are seven times more likely to develop repetitive strain injuries. There is concern that with the removal of speed restrictions for pig processing lines, the tasks will become more difficult and result in more injuries.

Report on black lung disease says more information needed

Coal industry workers in Pennsylvania are protected against black lung disease by safety measures that control and monitor coal dust. But in recent decades there has been an increase in cases of black lung disease in coal workers. A new report looks at the problem and suggests ways to increase protection for workers.

Black lung disease, also called coal workers' pneumoconiosis, is potentially fatal. It is caused by inhaling coal dust, which may also contribute to lung cancer and emphysema. Federal regulations designed to protect coal workers were passed in 1969, but in the past two decades, there has been an increase in the rate of black lung disease in the industry.

Excessive heat can be dangerous at work

As summer heats up, Pennsylvania workers can face additional threats to their health and safety on the job as a result of heat stress. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has no official regulations governing heat stress in the workplace. However, OSHA has engaged in an ongoing awareness campaign that aims to increase the use of preventive measures in workplaces nationwide to prevent the dangerous effects of excessive heat exposure. Even in states where heat stress is regulated for outdoor workers, regulations governing heat exposure are some of the most frequently violated rules.

There are multiple risks to workplace safety that can accompany excessive heat in the environment. For example, a number of animal studies indicate that the way bodies absorb chemicals in heat varies from their normal rate of absorption. For workers who deal with toxic chemicals, this can mean that their toxic exposure shoots up rapidly in overly hot environments. In order to protect workers from occupational disease, it can be important to take additional protective measures in the heat.

Is your job breathtaking? You might have occupational asthma

Do you work at a chemical plant or a paper mill in Pennsylvania? Or, maybe you work at a gas station, a coal mine or on a construction site. While all these occupations expose you to risks of physical injuries, they also pose hazards that could cause occupational diseases. One such condition is asthma, which is a lung disorder that involves the swelling and narrowing of the airways in the lungs.

If you find yourself wheezing and coughing a lot while you experience a painful pressure and a feeling of tightness in your chest along with shortness of breath, it could be asthma. If this condition occurs after exposure to substances at your workplace, your asthma could be work-related. The environments at many different workplaces can cause this disease or exacerbate the situation in workers who already have asthma.

First responders at risk for traumatic incident stress

When a disaster strikes in Pennsylvania, everyone relies on the first responders who come to put out fires, rescue people and provide first aid. Bad storms, floods, fires, explosions and severe crime events inflict trauma on everyone involved, and first responders often must deal with the situation for prolonged periods of time. Viewing dead and dismembered bodies takes a toll of workers' mental health. Psychologists call it traumatic incident stress, and it could require medical treatment.

Symptoms could strike while a person is on duty, or they might develop days or weeks later. Trauma could induce chest pain, difficulty breathing, serious pain and shock. These symptoms require immediate medical attention. Other worrisome signs of a physical response to trauma include fatigue, nausea, dizziness, jaw clenching or headaches. The stress could also impact cognitive abilities and lead to confusion, inability to concentrate or memory problems.

OSHA outlines initial enforcement for silica standard

According to new enforcement standards released by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers will have an 8-hour time-weighted average permissible exposure threshold to respirable crystalline silica. As of June 23, 2018, a 30-day provisional period will begin, during which employers can receive compliance assistance. Pennsylvania companies will not be punished for violations if they are making a good faith effort to enforce new standards.

Exposure to breathable crystalline silica can increase the risk of developing many different diseases, including lung cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and silicosis. In addition to the 50 microgram per cubic meter of air exposure limit over an 8-hour period, employers are also required to provide engineering controls and medical examinations. These are designed to limit the risk workers in relevant industries face over the long term.

Insect-borne illness cases have tripled in US

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report saying that cases of insect-borne illness have more than tripled between 2004 and 2016. This should concern outdoor workers in Pennsylvania since they are among those singled out by the CDC as being at a particularly high risk for these illnesses.

In that 12-year period, there were over 640,000 cases of domestic diseases like Zika fever, dengue fever, plague and Lyme disease. The diseases are transmitted through mosquito, flea and tick bites, and the symptoms they give rise to include fever, rash, muscle and joint pain, fatigue, neck stiffness and even paralysis.

Silica rule only partially in place on construction sites

For construction workers in Pennsylvania, workplace safety is often a major concern. The industry is a common source of accidents and injuries on the job. Aside from the traditional dangers posed by falls and heavy equipment, exposure to deadly and toxic materials of different kinds can also be a significant concern. One material that is the subject of a newly enforced government regulation yet continues to pose a threat to workers is silica dust.

Silica dust or breathable silica can lead to occupational disease. Specifically, when construction workers breathe in this dust, often thrown off during sanding, drilling and other major projects, particles can become stuck inside the tissues of the lung. When this happens, silica can cause scarring that leads to difficult and labored breathing; when the disease, called silicosis, develops, it can be untreatable and fatal. In response to the silicosis threat to workplace safety, the government ordered the acceptable level of exposure reduced by 80 percent in March 2016.

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Law Office Of Deborah M. Truscello
206 West State Street Suite 300
Media, PA 19063

Phone: 610-228-4376
Fax: 610-892-6906
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