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St. Louis Legal Issues Blog

CMV and work vehicle safety ranked by state

The fleet management systems provider Verizon Connect has recently analyzed driving behaviors from more than 6,200 of its fleet customers between October 2015 and September 2017. After considering factors like the number of fatalities per mile driven and speeding events per day, it has been able to rank the safest, as well as the least safe, states for commercial motor vehicle and work vehicle drivers. Missouri residents may be intrigued by the results.

The fleet customers analyzed were comprised mostly of small and midsize businesses with anywhere from two to 200 trucks, including big rigs, light vans and pickups. The safest states were all located on the East Coast. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and New York formed the top five. The most dangerous states were in the upper Midwest and the South: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kentucky, Mississippi and so on.

CVSA anounces dates for annual truck brake safety blitz

Police officers on highway patrol in Missouri and around the country will be paying especially close attention to semi-tractor trailers during the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's Brake Safety Week. During the seven-day initiative, which begins of Sept. 16, safety inspectors will be looking for worn or defective brake components and checking air lines for leaks during extremely thorough North American Standard Level I inspections. The functionality of electronic systems designed to warn truck drivers about possible brake problems will also be put to the test.

Dependable brakes are of crucial importance when they are expected to safely control vehicles that can weigh as much as 40 tons. Despite this, trucks with dangerously worn, poorly maintained or inadequately repaired braking systems remain common on the nation's roads. When researchers from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration inspected trucks that had been involved in accidents over a three-year period, they discovered that almost a third of them had brake-related safety violations. Dangerous braking problems were even more common on tractor-trailers that had been involved in brake-crucial accidents.

Two midsize SUVs receive poor front passenger safety scores

Due to family needs, many Missouri residents are driving larger vehicles, such as crossovers and SUVs. These vehicles can fit more people and allow passengers to haul more in one trip. While all crossovers and SUVs are thought to be safer than sedans, this is not always the case.

In testing the safety of eight different SUVs, the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety destroyed the vehicles in order to raise awareness for the safety of front passengers. To determine just how safe the vehicles are, IIHS utilizes four ratings that range from good to poor. The test that was conducted was the passenger-side small overlap test, which is where the test vehicle's front passenger side hits an immobile barrier. Essentially, the test mimics hitting a post or a tree at speeds of 40 miles per hour.

Summer heat can be a danger on the job

Many Missouri workers face danger from heat stress in the summer months. There is no formal regulation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that refers to heat stress, but the agency has been conducting an ongoing awareness campaign that aims to reduce the threat of workplace injuries and illnesses caused by hot temperatures. Even in states where regulations exist about temperature control for outdoor workers, those are some of the most frequently violated workplace safety rules.

Nevertheless, heat can have a significant impact on health. For example, heat can change the way workers' bodies react to substances. There are a number of animal studies that indicate that chemical exposure can become toxic or dangerous far more quickly in hot weather. In addition, heat directly causes multiple types of illnesses and injuries, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dizziness and cramps. Sometimes these conditions can be so severe that heat exposure leads to death. In fact, in 2017, 24 workers died on the job due to heat stress according to OSHA, although the number could be higher.

What to know when applying for SSDI benefits

If you have an injury or medical condition that is so debilitating that it prevents you from securing and maintaining gainful employment, you may be thinking about applying for Social Security disability benefits from the Social Security Administration. Reserved for those who have particularly severe, long-term disabilities, SSDI benefits can help those who are unable to make their own living provide for themselves and secure the essentials they need to navigate their day-to-day lives.

Developing a better understanding of the SSDI benefits system and application process can help you avoid making errors that could potentially result in an SSDI claim denial, so learning to separate SSDI myths from reality is important before applying. So, before you apply for SSDI benefits, recognize the following:

When employers' neglect of safety leads to employees' deaths

Some workers in Missouri may feel as if their employers are not concerned with their safety. However, one would think that the sheer cost of dealing with a worker's injury or death would lead more companies to address safety concerns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that on average, a worker's death costs a company about $1 million. While this includes medical expenses, workers' compensation claims and legal costs, it doesn't factor the various hidden costs that arise from the reduction in productivity and decrease in employee morale.

Protecting workers from electrocution at work

Missouri residents who work with electricity have been using portable voltmeters for more than 10 years. These devices help electrical workers identify active currents so that they can be turned off. They have helped to substantially reduce the risk of individuals suffering workplace electrocutions.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that workers use a six-part test to make certain that electrical currents have been turned off when they are undergoing lockouts and tagouts. The portable voltmeters meet OSHA's minimum requirements. Now there is a new potential solution that may replace portable voltmeters.

The hazards of working on a garbage truck

Those who work in the sanitation field in Missouri or elsewhere in the country aren't subject to direct OSHA oversight. However, they will scrutinize employers if complaints are made or a worker dies. To help keep workers safe, the American National Standards Institute has come up with a series of guidelines. For instance, a worker should only ride in the vehicle cab or use steps designed to be stood on.

No one should attempt to get out of a garbage truck or similar vehicle until it is stopped. The trucks themselves are designed to help workers avoid accidents or other dangerous situations. They come with mechanical arms that can lift trash cans, dump out the contents and then put the cans back down by themselves. This means that a worker doesn't have to lift a heavy trash bag or can, and it also means that workers don't have to come into contact with potentially dangerous items.

Truck crashes taking more lives on the road

Missouri drivers are facing an increasingly dangerous environment on the road when they get behind the wheel, according to statistics released by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. For example, many drivers are nervous about traveling alongside large trucks and buses, as the size and weight wait of these vehicles is overwhelming in comparison to a car, let alone a cyclist or a pedestrian. From 2015 to 2016, the number of fatalities due to truck accidents increased by 6 percent, as the number of trucks involved in these deadly crashes went up by 3 percent. Some of the most serious accidents took several lives.

This upswing in deadly truck accidents is not an anomaly; on the contrary, it reflects an ongoing upswing in the number of fatalities caused by crashes involving large trucks and buses. This has reversed an earlier trend of improved safety and fewer deaths. Between 2005 and 2009, deaths due to truck crashes declined by 32 percent. However, in the intervening years, most of those gains have been lost. Fatalities have risen 28 percent from 2009 to 2016, including the 6 percent gain between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, 4,317 people died in accidents involving large trucks, while in 2015, 4,094 people lost their lives in these types of crashes.

Can employers be held liable for undertraining workers?

Absolutely, employers can (and should) be held liable for undertraining their workers. For example, nurses who have not received proper training in lifting procedures are at higher risk of injuring themselves and the patients they are lifting.

In a similar vein, a trucking company that does not properly train its drivers has employees who are at risk of injuring themselves plus the many thousands of folks who share their space on the roads. However, are there ways to know if a truck driver was undertrained?

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