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St. Louis Legal Issues Blog

Summer heat poses a danger to workers

Workers in Missouri may face a particular threat to health and safety in the summer months. The summer of 2018 marked the fourth hottest on record, and many people fear that the increased temperatures are here to stay. Both indoor and outdoor workers can be affected by excessive heat even though people working outside may be more prone to the immediate effects of the temperature. Other aspects of the job may combine with the ambient temperature to escalate the risks of excessive heat, including warm mandatory personal protective gear or hot-running machinery and equipment.

Every year, around 1,300 workers lose their lives due to excessive heat exposure on the job. However, this outcome is not inevitable; proper precautions can help to prevent heat-related deaths and severe injuries. There are a number of steps that can improve workplace safety in conditions of extreme heat. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides guidelines and materials to train workers and managers about the symptoms of illnesses caused by the heat. The Heat Illness Prevention Program is another 45-minute program that provides information on how workers can stay safe in the heat. The federal government requires heat safety training in many industries.

100 deadliest days for teen drivers are in summer, says AAA

Teen drivers in Missouri and across the U.S. run a higher risk of getting in a car crash than adult drivers. That risk goes up especially in the summer season when teens are more frequently out on the road. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has said that the 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are the deadliest of the year for teen drivers: Their chance of a fatal car crash increases an average of 15%.

For this reason, it's important for parents to establish safe practices with their teens. Before going out, teens should know what roads to take. The vehicle should be regularly maintained with an emphasis on things like tire pressure and the condition of the brakes. Parents and teens should, of course, know each other's phone numbers.

Gig economy, other factors lead to rise in construction deaths

According to the investment management firm Conning, nearly half of 2017's workplace fatalities occurred in two industries: construction and transportation. Construction workers in Missouri should note that this trend is being caused by a number of factors, including a lack of healthy workers and a shortage of experienced workers.

The gig economy is considered the top issue, with more than 75 million Americans having no permanent employment but rather going from job to job. Gig workers are at a higher risk for injury than workers who have been with a company for years. With more immigrants entering the workforce, problems are also arising with communication.

Are truck drivers eligible for workers’ compensation?

One reason truck drivers pursue their particular career path is its independence. Out on the open road, you can enjoy the solitude the journey provides. If you have an accident while behind the wheel, this self-reliance may lead you to believe you are on your own to deal with the consequences.

Many truck drivers fail to realize that they may be eligible for workers’ compensation, even in accidents where they may have been at fault. Understanding your available benefits can help expedite your recovery and relieve a lot of unnecessary financial stress.

Experts question the safety of modern car safety systems

Most of the new cars in dealer showrooms in Missouri and around the country feature an impressive array of advanced safety features, and some of them are even equipped with sophisticated autonomous crash prevention systems that monitor traffic and road conditions and can take over the driving duties in an emergency. Road safety experts say that recent advances in electronic safety equipment could save thousands of lives each year, but some scientists and academics are not so sure.

In an article published in the March edition of the Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, a University of California San Diego professor and a NASA scientist argue that modern passenger vehicle safety features could actually make some types of car accident more likely because drivers are not yet familiar with them. They say that the aviation industry experienced a similar safety setback in the 1930s when the first automatic pilot systems were introduced.

Speeding in the spotlight this summer

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance is sponsoring Operation Safe Driver Week in mid-July. While law enforcement will be looking out for a variety of unsafe behaviors, it will be putting the most emphasis on drivers who speed. This is because speeding accounted for 26% of traffic fatalities in 2017 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Furthermore, speeding was a factor in 94% of crashes in 2015.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, speeding was the most common factor in accidents involving commercial and passenger vehicles. Drivers who are caught driving too fast for road conditions may receive citations. While no one likes to receive a citation, doing so has been proven to be an effective deterrent. A 2014 study cited by the CSVA found that increasing citations by 1% resulted in a .28 percent decrease in accidents.

Even light rain ups the risk of fatal wrecks

Missouri drivers know that heavy rain can cause roadways to become slippery. However, they may not realize that light rain can also markedly increase the chances of a deadly car accident.

According to a new study published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, rain, snow and ice boost the overall risk of a fatal car wreck by about 34%. In addition, the study found that even light rain or drizzle can increase the chances of a deadly accident by 27%.

Study: memes, other social media a source of driver distraction

More and more drivers in Missouri and across the U.S. are using smartphones and other mobile devices behind the wheel. If the nearly 2,000 U.S. drivers who responded to an online study from Wakefield Research provide an accurate representation of distracted driving trends, then it seems that ignorance has little to do with this behavior.

In the study, nearly half of all drivers said that distracted driving is their top concern on the road. Nearly 100% say that phone use is among the top three potential distractions that a driver can engage in. Despite this knowledge, respondents admitted to using their phones for an average of 13 minutes a day behind the wheel. Moreover, almost two in five said that the sight of law enforcement does not compel them to stop using their phones.

Most workers are eligible for workers' comp

Federal law defines workers' compensation, but some of the rules are also on the state level. Some of the most important lower-level regulations are exempt from eligibility.

Any claim that a worker is not eligible for the program should be viewed with skepticism and analyzed from a legal perspective. This exemption means legislators specifically decided that certain types of employees do not require the protection of the workers' comp program. In the state of Missouri, the Workers' Compensation Act exempts:

  • Certain realty agents or sellers
  • Some truckers
  • Domestic workers
  • Farmworkers

Electrical rules can help prevent dangerous accidents

Electrical workers in Missouri can face serious dangers on the job. Mistakes with electricity, after all, can be catastrophic and even life-threatening. There are a number of regulations in place that aim to make the workplace safer for employees, especially those dealing with inherently hazardous materials like live electricity. Many of these regulations are implemented federally by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the agency charged with implementing and enforcing rules to protect workplace safety. However, OSHA also generally seeks to expand partnerships with private industry in developing regulations.

One result of such a partnership is NFPA 70E, a standard for workplace safety when dealing with electricity. The standard was initially developed by private industry and is thus responsive to the needs of employers on the job as well. However, it is designed to provide some level of electrical safety on the job. There are two ways to approach this set of regulations: as a set of rules for workplace safety or as overall guidelines to enhance efficiency. While the framework laid out in NFPA 70E is designed to protect workplace safety and prevent dangerous electrical accidents, it can also support increased productivity.

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