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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

Dangers associated with water pipe repair technique

Pennsylvania plumbing construction workers may be interested to know that a frequently used method to fix water pipes can emit dangerous chemicals into the air. Researchers at Purdue University believe that the process should reviewed to accurately determine the hazards it presents to workers, the environment and the general public.

The cured-in-place pipe repair procedure requires placing a tube composed of fabric and resin inside of damaged pipe. Hot water, ultraviolet rays or high-pressure steam is then used to cure the insertion and form a new plastic pipe. For the study, researchers conducted studies on the air at multiple steam-cured, cure-in-place pipe repair facilities in California and Indiana. Two of the facilities handled sanitary sewer-pipes, and the other five handled storm-water pipes. The results of the tests indicated that the processes used at the plants released chemical clouds containing organic compounds and vapors, including carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. The results disputed the assumption that the plume was made of simply steam and that the technology was safe.

Companies lack consistency in injury, illness reporting

Some Pennsylvania employees may work for companies that track injuries and other health and safety issues inconsistently. A follow-up to a 2013 report was released on Aug. 1 from the Center for Safety and Health Sustainability. The report examined data from between June and December 2016 from companies on the Corporate Knights' Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations list and found significant discrepancies in how various companies collected and reported data. From methodology in data collection to definitions used, these inconsistencies make it impossible for companies to create a standardized set of safety and health metrics for the workplace that global sustainability indexes can use.

The CSHS said there had not been much improvement since the previous report and had a number of recommendations for addressing the inconsistency. It suggested that organizations should monitor which work locations have occupational safety and health management systems. It also recommended tracking health and safety throughout the supply chain since a company could have unreported fatalities within that supply chain.

Safety potential of autonomous vehicles not coming soon

Pennsylvania motorists who are thinking about getting a new car might be intrigued by autonomous vehicles, but doubts remain about when they could be widely available on the market. Giant companies like General Motors, Google and Qualcomm have been investing billions in autonomous vehicle technology, but many barriers stand against the mainstream adoption of computer-driven cars.

Before they can be on the roads in large numbers, federal and state governments will need to adopt new regulations. Liability after an accident presents a complicated legal issue. Manufacturers will also need to answer questions about how to program the driving software to make difficult decisions like choosing between striking a pedestrian or preserving the safety of passengers.

FMCSA announces withdrawal of sleep apnea rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced that a proposed rule that would require some truck drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country to undergo mandatory sleep apnea testing will be withdrawn on August 7. The rule was originally proposed to clear up ambiguity about when truck drivers with a high risk of developing the debilitating sleep disorder should be tested. The withdrawal of the proposal means that these decisions will continue to be left to medical professionals, carriers and truck drivers.

While road safety advocates may have supported the FMCSA's proposed sleep apnea testing rule, some industry groups were opposed. A survey published in 2016 by a leading trade publication suggested that the proposed rule would result in about 40 percent of the nation's truck drivers being tested. The Department of Transportation spent a great deal of time working on new sleep apnea testing standards in 2016. Interested parties were encouraged to attend listening sessions held in various parts of the country, and the matter was also discussed by the FMCSA's Medical Review Board and Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

Lack of sleep can lead to workplace injuries

When deadlines are looming, some Pennsylvania workers sacrifice the amount of time they get to sleep in order to get their work done. However, workers who are overtired and who do not get enough sleep are more likely to become involved in accidents, especially if the lack of sleep prevents them from being able to think clearly.

Data from the National Sleep Foundation revealed that workers who are overly tired are 70 percent more likely to become involved in a workplace accident than those who get enough sleep. Further, workers who suffer from chronic insomnia are more likely to report a workplace accident than those who do not. The data also showed that under-rested workers who snore while they sleep are twice as likely to be involved in accidents than those who do not.

Almost 2,000 trucks ordered out of service during safety blitz

Pennsylvania residents may be surprised to learn that a recent one-day safety blitz conducted by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance led to almost 2,000 semi-tractor trailers being ordered off the road. The nonprofit association of trade groups and national and local traffic safety officials concentrated on commercial vehicle braking systems during Brake Safety Day on May 3, and the group says that 1,146 of the 1,989 tractor-trailers that were pulled off the road during the initiative were ordered out of service due to some sort of braking violation or issue.

Inspectors affiliated with the CVSA checked the braking systems and other safety equipment of 9,524 commercial vehicles in all 10 Canadian provinces and 33 U.S. states during Brake Safety Day. The goal of the initiative was to identify trucks that posed an immediate threat to other road users. Inspectors also wished to find out how well commercial vehicle operators were repairing and maintaining their fleets.

Reducing the risks for trench workers

When it comes to the construction industry in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, trenching is considered to be one of the most dangerous tasks. Those who are involved in trenching accidents are at risk of getting crushed under the weight of the dirt, which can weigh up to 3,000 pounds per cubic yard. In 2016, 23 workers were killed in trench collapses while another 12 reported injuries.

There are three main reasons why trenching is often more dangerous than it needs to be. First, many of the workers are not properly trained to work in such a dangerous area. Second, some contractors and subcontractors may cut corners to finish a project on time while still staying within budget. As part of this, supervisor and manager bonuses are often tied into hitting time and cost goals, meaning some may be willing to overlook certain safety procedures. Finally, the company could have a careless safety culture, meaning employee safety is simply not a priority.

Construction firms turning to more protective safety helmets

Pennsylvania construction workers should be informed about the risks associated with their occupation, including falls and serious, potentially life-threatening head trauma. In fact, researchers found that there were more than 2,200 fatal traumatic brain injuries between 2003 and 2010 even though workers are required to use protective headgear in risky areas. In order to decrease the hazards that construction work poses, some firms are making the move to updated protection equipment.

Typically, construction firms provide their workers with hard hats, which are designed to spread the impact of trauma across the shell of the hat. When this protective headgear works properly, the actual impact of the fall or the impact from a falling object is reduced, potentially protecting the worker against serious head injuries. This is accomplished with a suspension band and a pocket of air between the head and the shell of the hat.

Rise in fatal truck and bus accidents

Pennsylvania motorists may not know that the number of large commercial trucks and buses involved in fatal accidents around the country increased by 8 percent in 2015 according to data from NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reports that the large truck involvement rate, which is based on the number of fatal crashes for each 100 million miles traveled by semi-tractor trailers, also increased in 2015.

When traffic accident fatalities as a whole increased by an alarming 7 percent in 2015, the National Safety Council said that a booming economy and inexpensive gasoline were largely responsible. However, the vehicle miles traveled by large trucks increased by only 0.3 percent in 2015 according to the FMCSA report while passenger vehicle numbers surged by 3.5 percent. While the 4,311 buses and large trucks involved in fatal accidents in 2015 is well short of the 2005 high, it still represents a 26 percent increase over the 2009 figures.

Higher speed limits claim additional lives each year

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation announced in May 2016 that the speed limit on long stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other highways was being increased to 70 mph. While long-distance truck drivers and harried commuters may have welcomed the news, road safety advocates likely responded to the announcement with less enthusiasm. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the speed limit increases introduced over the last two decades are responsible for many additional deaths on the nation's roads every year.

While speed limits are set at the state rather than the federal level, Congress was able to set a national limit of 55 mph in 1973 by linking its adoption to crucial highway funding. The restriction was put into place to save fuel and make the United States less dependent on foreign oil, but its most immediate benefit was a dramatic reduction in car accident fatalities. However, the rules were relaxed in 1987, and the law was repealed completely in 1995.