The most common causes of worker injuries and fatalities in Ohio

worker injuriesWorkplace accidents and injuries are an unfortunate reality in the modern workplace. Even more unfortunate is the fact that every year in the United States, thousands of workers die in work-related accidents.

Although any worker can suffer an on-the-job injury, there are certain industries that see more incidents. Continue reading “The most common causes of worker injuries and fatalities in Ohio”

What can employees do about dangerous work conditions?

A Cleveland-area manufacturer was recently hit with nearly $90,000 in proposed penalties after being cited for a variety of dangerous work conditions. Fifteen serious violations, one repeat violation and one other-than-serious violation were issued following inspections earlier this year. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration cited fall hazards, slippery work surfaces, lack of proper machine guarding and electrical safety hazards, among other violations.Dangerous Work Conditions

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4,800 fatal work-related injuries occurred in 2014. Nearly 3 million nonfatal injuries or illnesses were reported in private industry workplaces throughout the same year. Employers are required by OSHA to eliminate known dangers in their facilities, provide employees with proper protective equipment and teach workers about hazards they may encounter.

Dangerous work conditions commonly investigated by OSHA include:

Fall Hazards

Falls from elevated platforms and work stations or into holes in facility floors are among the most common causes of death and serious injury in the workplace. Employers are required to use guard rails, toe-boards and any other means necessary to prevent workers from suffering these injuries.

Eye & Face Hazards

According to OSHA, thousands of employees are blinded each year by preventable workplace injuries. These incidents are often caused by chemical, environmental and mechanical hazards that could have been addressed with proper eye and face protection. Related expenses, such as worker compensation and medical bills, total around $300 million each year.

Respiratory Hazards

OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards require approximately 5 million employees to wear respirators in their workplace. Dust, smoke and vapors are among the threats to the respiratory health of these workers. Hundreds of deaths and thousands of illnesses could be prevented if all employers and employees followed OSHA’s guidelines.

How do I file a complaint or request an inspection of my workplace?

If you believe there are serious health or safety hazards in your workplace, or feel your employer is not following OSHA standards to prevent dangerous work conditions, filing a complaint could prevent injuries or even save a life. OSHA keeps all complaint information confidential, and it is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for exercising their right to a safe workplace.

Three Ways to File an OSHA Complaint

  • Download and fill out an OSHA complaint form. Fax or mail the form to your OSHA Regional or Area Office.

NOTE: Written complaints are more likely to result in onsite inspections.

If you have questions about health and safety in your workplace, email OSHA.

If you or a loved one suffered a serious workplace injury, call 1-800-ELK-OHIO for a free case review or fill out an online contact form

Key Facts About Back Injuries in the Workplace

Human backBack injuries are common in many types of work environments and can happen to anyone, at any time. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than one million workers suffer from back injuries each and every year. Preventing back injuries is considered to be one of the greatest workplace challenges employers and employees face. An employment attorney is trained to help workers who have hurt themselves on the job, including back injuries. Here are some facts about this common work-related health problem:

  • Back injuries account for approximately one out of every five workplace illness or injury claims.
  • Back injuries are especially common in those who handle materials as part of their occupation. Lifting, carrying, and lowering these materials are all to blame. Those in the healthcare field are also prone to back problems, as a result of consistently being on their feet throughout the day.
  • An estimated 4 out of 5 reported injuries are to the lower back.
  • Three out of four reported injuries are directly related to lifting.
  • Ergonomic chairs and tools are designed to help workers maintain a good posture and prevent workplace injuries. Some experts claim that one-third of compensable back injuries could be prevented through the regular use of these items.
  • Workers who experience a back injury and are unable to return to the workplace, either for a short- or long-term period, may be eligible for disability compensation. By hiring an employment attorney, he or she can be sure to receive all compensation that is due.

If you experience an injury at work, it is important to report it right away — even if you don’t think the injury was serious. Failure to report a work related injury now can result in serious future consequences. To learn more about workplace injuries, contact an experienced employment attorney.

Keeping an Eye on Workplace Injuries and Illness

Work place safety.
Photo: Geoffrey Whiteway

An important part of staying current on employment law is analyzing the annual release of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We now have the latest numbers for 2012 and the news overall is good. The total rate of workplace injuries and illnesses is down by a small but statistically significant amount.

In 2012, there were nearly three million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries reported by private industry employers. The BLS reported that “no private industry experienced an increase in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2012.” What is significant and worrisome is that more than half of the nearly three million injury and illness cases were of a serious nature and involved days away from work, transfer, or restriction.

The difference in rates between injury and illness is huge. More than 94.8 percent of 30 million total incidents are classified “injuries,” while only 5.2 percent are reported as workplace illness. Workplace injuries can lead to legal action where the victim seeks help from an employment attorney.

The report highlights risks related to specific industries:

  • Among service-providing industry sectors, transportation and warehousing had the highest rate of injuries and illnesses
  • Workers experienced sprains and strains in transportation and warehousing at a rate 2.5 times the rate for all industries
  • Transportation incidents occurred at a rate more than 5 times the rate for all industries
  • The mining industry had the highest median days away from work, at 21 days

Staying abreast of these statistics helps government and regulatory bodies to spot trends or risk factors for workers. For employment attorneys, it helps to identify areas of concern for clients and areas where employers or industry organizations may be falling short.

 

Sources:

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/osh.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/oshstats/work.html

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/cwc/work-related-injuries-illnesses-and-fatalities-in-manufacturing-and-construction.pdf

Jury Awards $39M in Wrongful Death Case

Elk & Elk personal injury attorney Phillip Kuri obtains justice for client

CLEVELAND, April 4, 2014 /PRNewswire/

Phillip Kuri
Phillip A. Kuri, Partner at Elk & Elk Co., Ltd., obtained a $39 million dollar jury verdict for his client.

The Ohio personal injury law firm of Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. is pleased to announce a $39 million verdict on behalf of a deceased Ohio construction worker who lost his life in a fatal motor vehicle accident in 2010 on Interstate 271, near Richfield, Ohio.

A unanimous jury in Cuyahoga County, Ohio returned the $39 million verdict against The Shelly Company on April 3, 2014 in the case of Lynette A. Roginski v. Shelly Co., et al. The jury ruled that the Thornville, Ohio paving company was negligent and caused the fatal accident, according to official court documents. (Case no. CV-11-760490).

“When corporations put profits ahead of safety, as was the case in Mr. Roginski’s tragic death, families suffer the very real consequences,” said Phillip A. Kuri, a prominent Cleveland attorney and one of two lawyers who represented the plaintiff. “It is our wish that this verdict will put companies on notice and help prevent similar accidents in the future.”

The fatal accident on July 27, 2010 resulted in the death of Randy Roginski, a husband, son, and father of three. Mr. Roginski, a 41-year-old resident of North Royalton was in an active construction zone working for Solar Testing Labs Inc. at the time of the accident, which occurred at 11:58 p.m. just north of Interstate 77, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He was standing on the berm on the right side of the highway when he was struck by a passing motorist. Roginski was pronounced dead at the scene.

The case was brought in 2011 by Mr. Roginski’s widow, represented by Phillip A. Kuri of Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. and Christian R. Patno of McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Lifftman Co., LPA. The plaintiff’s attorneys presented evidence that the paving company cut corners and failed to follow the approved safety plan. The jury determined The Shelly Company was negligent and awarded Mr. Roginski’s widow $19 million in compensatory damages, according to court documents. The Shelley Company was also found liable for $20 million in punitive damages and ordered to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

“Sadly, many workplace injuries and deaths such as Mr. Roginski’s are preventable,” said Kuri. “We hope this sizeable verdict will serve as a reminder to corporate America that if someone dies due to a company’s negligent actions, that business will be held accountable.”

About Phillip A. Kuri

Attorney Phillip A. Kuri, a partner at Elk & Elk Co., Ltd., practices in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice and general tort law, among others. Attorney Kuri has been selected as an Ohio “Super Lawyer,” recognized by the Million Dollar and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forums and is a member of the American Association for Justice Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

About Elk & Elk

The Elk & Elk® personal injury law firm represents clients in cases throughout Ohio. The firm has 18 trial attorneys with experience in motor vehicle collisions, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, defective products, work place accidents, and premises liability. Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. has offices located at 6105 Parkland Boulevard, Suite 200, Mayfield Heights, Ohio 44124 and locations throughout Ohio, including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. For more information, visit www.elkandelk.com.

Contact:

Ken Perdue, Marketing Director
Elk & Elk Co., Ltd.
[email protected]
(440) 442-6677

That Was Close! – Near-Miss Incident Reporting

How many times have you marveled how lucky it was to avoid a close call while on the job? While narrowly escaping a workplace accident may just seem like a fortunate break, it’s actually an important opportunity. Taking the time to report a near-miss incident right now can prevent serious injuries in the future.

tree trimmerThe Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) defines near misses as “incidents where no property was damaged and no personal injury sustained, but where, given a slight shift in time or position, damage and/or injury easily could have occurred.” Near misses also may be referred to as close calls, near accidents, accident precursors, injury-free events and, or near collisions.

Reporting unsafe acts and conditions allow problems to be identified and corrected before an injury occurs. Behaviors or conditions that can cause a near-miss incident:

  • Failure to maintain or repair equipment
  • Removal of machine guards
  • Failure to keep walkways free of slip, trip or fall hazards
  • Inadequate training or personal protective equipment
  • Not following procedures or poor procedure enforcement 

According to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, for every 15 near-miss incidents, there will be one injury. So, why do many near-accidents go unreported? Employees may resist reporting close calls for a number of reasons, including:

Did you know?

In 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 154 fatal work injuries in Ohio. Of those, 52 resulted from transportation incidents, 35 from contact with objects and equipment, and 32 from falls, slips, and trips. Together these three major categories accounted for more than three-quarters of all workplace fatalities.

  • Fear of being blamed for mistakes
  • They don’t want to create more work
  • Nobody cares/Reporting won’t change anything
  • They don’t want to be labeled as a troublemaker
  • Peer pressure not to report
  • Long, complicated forms to complete 

Employers can encourage workers to participate in near miss reporting by creating non-punitive policies that reward employees who take the time to report. The process should be clear and simple, with all new employees receiving training as part of their orientation.

Remember, reporting a near-miss incident can help prevent serious injuries. The life you save by speaking up just might be your own.

 

Source: The value of near-miss reporting” by Joe Thatcher, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, 2004.

 

Ohio Companies top OSHA Penalty List

An average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every single day of the year. In addition, tens of thousands die every year from workplace disease and nearly 4 million workers each year are seriously injured on the job. OSHA’s top 10 offenders in 2013 include five Ohio companies (in red.) The failure of companies to adhere to safe work practices puts workers at risk – in some cases fatally.

  1. Republic Steel (Canton, OH) – $1.14 million This steel mill is no stranger to OSHA violations. Despite numerous citations related to fall hazards in the past, workers still face dangerous conditions. The company was issued citations for 15 willful violations and 8 serious violations.

    Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health. It is unacceptable that Republic Steel has not taken more effective steps to improve safety. – DAVID MICHAELS, OSHA ADMINISTRATOR

  2. Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container (Hubbard, OH) – $589, 000 Responding to a complaint, OSHA discovered the company was still allowing workers to operate dangerous slitter machines without guards in place – despite previous citations on the same equipment. The company was issued numerous citations, including six willful, egregious violations for continuing to expose machine operators to serious amputation hazards.
  3. Dover Chemical (Dover, OH) – $545,000 The paraffin and additive manufacturer has been cited for 47 health and safety violations after an unexpected release of hazardous materials led to the temporary shutdown of the company’s plant and an adjacent highway.
  4. Vordonia Contracting and Supplies Corp./Alma Realty Corp., Masonry Services Inc. and North Eastern Precast LLC (Valley Stream, NY) – $465,410 These contractors were issued two willful violation citations for allowing employees and crane operators to work in close proximity to power lines, and one serious violation for failure to mark power lines with warning signs.
  5. Panthera Painting Inc. (Slatington, Harrisburg and Slatedale, PA) – $459,844 OSHA issued citations for 14 willful violations  and 11 serious violations that included failure to protect workers from lead exposure and failure to provide fall protection.
  6. Highway Technologies Inc. (Menomonie, WI) – $448,000 A worker died after his equipment came into contact with overhead power lines. The company received citations for 6 willful violations and 4 serious violations for failing to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards.
  7. Mahle Engine Components USA (McConnelsville, OH) – $369,000 Six safety repeat violations were issued for failure to mount and identify fire extinguishers, train workers on recognizing electrical hazards and ground pins from electrical equipment. Two health repeat violations were issued related to lead exposure. Additionally, 18 serious violations were issued for lack of machine guarding, improper storage of acetylene and oxygen cylinders, electrical hazards, and struck-by hazards, among others.
  8. Twin Pines Construction Inc. (Plymouth and Reading, MA) – $336,200 A worker suffered serious injuries after wooden roof truss collapsed. Citations for four willful, two repeat and four serious violations were issued for hazards including trusses not adequately braced during installation, fall hazards, impalement and “struck-bys.”

    Falls remain the No. 1 killer in construction work. Employers who deliberately and repeatedly fail to supply and ensure the use of effective fall protection safeguards are repeatedly gambling with their workers’ lives.” – MARTHE KENT, OSHA REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR IN NEW ENGLAND

  9. Environmental Enterprises Inc. (Cincinnati, OH) – $325,710 One worker was killed and another seriously burned in a fire at the waste treatment facility. Citations for four willful violations, serious safety violations, and seven serious health violations were issued for improper hazardous waste handling procedures, inadequate employee training, and improper storage of flammable liquids and lack of a hazard communication program, among others.
  10. Hagel Metal Fabrication Inc. (East Peoria, IL) – $317,000 A worker was fatally crushed by an automated laser-cutting machine. Citations for four willful violations and eight serious violations were issued for improper machine safeguards, unguarded flooring and platforms, failure to inspect powered industrial trucks, and a lack of training, among others.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. In Ohio, claims for workplace injuries are usually filed with the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. However, in some cases, an employee may also file an additional claim in civil court. Such cases, known as Employer Intentional Torts, are very complex and require a skilled employment law attorney.


Source: OSHA’s Top 10: Present and past” by Kyle W. Morrison, Safety & Health, November 25, 2013

Note: This list of OSHA’s top monetary penalties in fiscal year 2013 is comprised of penalties stemming from a single incident or related incidents in which one or more companies allegedly failed to adhere to safe work practices. These fines represent proposed penalties issued by OSHA between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013; dollar amounts may be reduced as part of a settlement agreement or litigation.

 

Ravenna Company Fined for Lead Exposure

Spectrum Machine Inc. is facing $188,300 in penalties for exposing workers to dangerous levels of lead and copper fumes, according to an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Ohio company, which makes bronze and brass parts, received a total of 13 citations and was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

SparkSpectrum Machine’s Ravenna plant was cited for three willful safety violations for failing to monitor their employees for exposure to lead and failing to provide training about potential health hazards and necessary precautions to prevent lead exposure. The company also received citations for 10 serious violations, including failure to develop proper safety programs, provide fire extinguisher training, meet respiratory protection standards, and prevent worker exposure to dangerous copper fumes and lead. In some cases, the levels of lead were more than 15 times higher than permissible exposure limits.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

  • A willful violation is defined as “one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
  • A serious violation occurs when “there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.”

In 2006, the company’s Streetsboro plant also received 13 similar violations. “Failing to monitor worker exposure to airborne metal particles can result in severe illness,” said Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland.  “By failing to develop a lead protection and hazard communication program, Spectrum Machine has demonstrated a lack of commitment to employee safety and health.”

In Ohio, claims for workplace injuries are usually filed with the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. However, in some cases, an employee may also file an additional claim in civil court. Such cases, known as Employer Intentional Torts, are very complex and require a skilled employment law attorney.

For more information, please contact our experienced workplace injury attorneys by calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) or complete our free, no-obligation online form.

 

Sources: 

“Spectrum Machine cited for health violations in Ravenna” by Rachel Abbey McCafferty, Crain’s Cleveland Business, August 7, 2013.

Spectrum Machine’s current citations may be viewed at: http://www.osha.gov/ooc/citations/Spectrum_Machine_858103_0731_13.PDF