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St. Louis Legal Issues Blog

Trench excavation deaths go up in 2016 and 2017

The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded 23 excavation and trench-related deaths across the U.S. in 2016; this is double the average of the previous five years. The year 2017 saw 17 deaths, but when combined with the number of injury reports made to OSHA, it was by far the most dangerous year to date for trench workers. Missouri residents who work in the excavation industry should know what factors into this rise.

One factor is the lack of skilled labor in the face of a revitalized construction industry. Plumbers and excavators under a plumbing contractor would normally perform deep trench work, such as the digging of troughs for water or sanitary lines, but now builders are hiring unskilled young laborers as substitutes. A second factor is that builders often neglect to see if the plumbers and excavators they contract with are reliable.

The challenges facing retail workers over the holidays

With the holiday shopping season come additional work hours and extra pay for retail workers in Missouri. While workers may benefit financially on the one hand, they could suffer from loss of sleep and lost family time on the other. In 2016, 24 percent of U.S. employees said that work interfered with personal and family obligations. This is just one of a few challenges pointed out by OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

OSHA is reminding employers to be mindful of retail workers' safety. Overworked, fatigued employees will become stressed and inattentive. If they ignore safe practices while stocking shelves, packing boxes and delivering products, they may injure themselves in a slip-and-fall accident or suffer back pain through excessive manual lifting.

NIOSH warns against diesel exhaust exposure

Exposure to the diesel particulate matter found in diesel exhaust is a frequent hazard in workplaces across Missouri and the rest of the U.S. Diesel is used in trucks, earth-moving equipment, compressors and generators, to name a few examples; exposure to high concentrations of DPM, when short-term, leads to headaches, dizziness and severe irritation of the throat, nose and eyes.

OSHA has no permissible exposure limit for DPM but only for its components, such as carbon monoxide. Monitoring those components can, however, help in determining the presence of DE and measuring the effectiveness of controls meant to minimize DE exposure.

Dangers to avoid when driving at night

Though people in Missouri and the rest of the U.S. only do a quarter of their driving at night, half of all fatal traffic crashes occur after dark. The risk for a fatal crash goes up three times at night, according to the National Safety Council. With the end of daylight saving time, drivers will want to know how they can reduce their risk.

Darkness can compromise depth perception, color recognition and peripheral vision. Even with high-beam headlights on, older drivers will not see as well as younger ones. For these reasons, one of the best things that drivers can do is slow down. This will give them more time to react to any unexpected dangers ahead. Headlights should be clean and correctly aimed. The dashboard should be dimmed.

Cumulative trauma: Some workplace injuries develop over time

When you think of a workplace injury, you may first imagine an acute condition that results from an accident. For example, slipping and falling causing a wrist fracture, or a falling object giving you a concussion. However, not all work injuries are sudden. Some occupational injuries develop over a long period of time.

Repetitive stress injuries and cumulative trauma disorders can easily occur at virtually any job. Here are some important facts you should know about overuse injuries at work.

Companies develop technology to detect truck driver fatigue

Long hours behind the wheel are a part of life for truck drivers in Missouri, and some fleets have turned to technology to detect fatigue in drivers before accidents occur. A partnership between Trimble Transportation and Pulsar Informatics illustrates how in-cab cameras and data analysis increase the ability of fleet operators to catch fatigue and alert drivers that they should take breaks.

Trimble uses cameras to monitor the performance of drivers and compare it to other drivers throughout the fleet. The company coordinates this data with hours-of-service information collected by Pulsar. Every 15 minutes, the coordinated system updates its analysis of a driver's performance and alerts the fleet manager if a driver appears to be losing focus. The system collects information about sudden stops, sudden starts, lane departures and roll stability warnings to determine the status of a driver.

Programs aim to help teens avoid crashes

Many people in Missouri are concerned about teen drivers and the risks they may pose to themselves and others on the road. This is especially true in the current climate, when teens are often equipped with smartphones, tablets and other gear that could potentially lead to driver distractions. Even without distracted driving, however, new teen drivers are the least experienced and knowledgeable on the road, and they may have difficulty responding appropriately in an emergency situation.

National Teen Driver Safety Week is marked annually in October, highlighting key statistics about teen drivers and emphasizing safety tips that people can follow to reduce the risk of serious car accidents. Crashes are actually the number one cause of death for teens aged 15 to 18, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2015, there were over 1,970 teen drivers involved in fatal accidents, and 99,000 more were injured in crashes. While distracted and drunk driving, excessive speed or poor visibility can all play a role in these disturbing statistics, in many cases teens have little knowledge about how to properly control their cars.

Fleet owners may be ignoring threat of distraction among truckers

In a recent AAA survey, 88 percent of respondents expressed their belief that distracted driving is on the rise, more so than aggressive driving or drunk or drugged driving. Truck fleet managers in Missouri should especially be aware of the hazards of distracted driving; truckers use their smartphones as much as everyone else, but they are also encouraged by the prevailing "productivity culture" to forgo sleep for the sake of meeting deadlines.

There are three types of distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. Texting encompasses all three by taking the eyes, hands and mind off the road. Sending a text can take a driver's attention off the road for as long as five seconds, which means that one going 55 mph would travel the length of a football field before looking back up. Inattention leads to truckers swerving or drifting into other lanes and failing to notice hazards up ahead.

Will workers’ compensation cover a repetitive stress injury?

Let us say that you have worked for the same company for several years and have never suffered a work injury until now. You have developed a painful wrist condition from daily computer use, and your co-worker thinks it is a repetitive stress injury. What is the next step? Will workers’ compensation cover this kind of injury?

About repetitive stress injuries

Long waits in Social Security disability cases

Most Social Security disability applicants in Missouri will face a long wait before they begin receiving payments. Nationwide, the average wait time for a hearing is over 600 days. About 45 percent of applicants are approved for Social Security benefits eventually.

The Social Security Administration has introduced new measures intended to prevent fraud, including reducing the weight placed on the opinion of an applicant's primary care physician. Medical records from an applicant's primary physician are now considered no different than records from one-time medical examiners. Some people feel that this is a mistake since one-time examiners are not able to observe patients over a long period of time.

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