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Pittsburgh Personal Injury Law Blog

OSHA releases fact sheet dealing with shipyard hazards

Fires and explosions caused by flammable coatings and paints and illnesses caused by exposure to toxic chemical compounds are significant on-the-job dangers faced by shipyard workers in Pennsylvania and around the country according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The federal agency says that shipyard workers face particularly high risks because they are often called upon to apply potentially dangerous paints and other materials in poorly ventilated confined spaces.

An OSHA fact sheet reminds shipyard employers that they are responsible for identifying, evaluating and addressing respiratory hazards and ensuring that their workers are properly trained. In addition to providing workers with comprehensive safety training and appropriate protective equipment, the fact sheet urges employers to conduct regular atmospheric tests to help prevent combustible solvent vapors from reaching dangerous levels.

How a workplace might document an accident

Employees in Pennsylvania who have been injured on the job may wonder what kind of documentation could help them prove the circumstances around an injury. Companies should have an accident book that documents even minor injuries. Documentation should include what steps were taken when the injury occurred, such as whether the injured worker was given first aid.

More severe injuries may also be discussed at a health and safety meeting. If such a meeting is held, the discussion should probably be included in the meeting minutes. An injured employee may also want to look into whether there is a risk assessment. This is a document that an employer should have created that details the risks associated with a particular job. The risk assessment should be prepared prior to the accident and not after the fact.

New rule rolled out after delay

After delays brought on by the Trump administration, a new rule that impacts new drivers took effect on June 5. The rule requires truckers in Pennsylvania and around the country who receive their CDL on or after Feb. 7, 2020 to take behind-the-wheel training. However, there is no minimum number of hours of such training needed to get a license. This is a point of contention as original drafts of the rule required at least 30 hours of such training.

It also requires individuals who are who wish to get their CDL on or after that date to be trained by someone on a new FMCSA trainer registry. To be on the registry, a trainer must be certified and meet other Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration criteria. Companies that wish to provide their own training programs must also make sure that they are on the registry. The rule also provides a core curriculum for use in training all drivers who are impacted by it.

Tips for workplace safety

Employers in Pennsylvania can take a number of steps to make their workplaces safer for their employees. The first important thing they should do is perform risk assessments to identify potential hazards. It is important to keep in mind that this does not just mean assessing physical risk. Workplaces that do not have significant physical hazards should still promote environments that are conducive to employees' mental health. This means that in an office where workers are largely sedentary, employers should still consider how people relate to one another and how that affects workplace safety.

Once management has identified the risks, they should develop a safety plan consisting of procedures and rules for minimizing the hazards. This does not need to be complex; in fact, simple may be better. Business owners should also create a plan for dealing with emergencies, both natural disasters and those caused by other people.

Study shows brain injury patients should seek follow-up care

Pennsylvania patients who have had a mild traumatic brain injury may be interested to learn that an estimated 30 percent of sufferers experience outcomes that are unfavorable at the sixth-month mark following an injury. However, the associated study did not differentiate between patients who were hospitalized or not hospitalized. As such, researchers set out to determine if there were differences in the outcomes between hospitalized and non-hospitalized mild traumatic brain injury sufferers.

Patients who were hospitalized following a mild traumatic brain injury were generally more severely injured than those who were not hospitalized. Additionally, the care guidelines that the doctors and medical staff used were also different than the ones used for those who were not hospitalized. For example, hospitalized patients were recommended to have follow-up care while those who were not hospitalized were told to get follow-up care only if they experienced consistent complaints.

Truck drivers may face greater testing for sleep apnea

Truckers in Pennsylvania may soon be subject to additional screenings for sleep apnea. In April, the Supreme Court refused to hear a case involving a man who said a trucking company violated his rights by making him test for the condition. The man, who had a note from his doctor saying the test wasn't necessary, claimed that Crete Carrier violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

With the potential for lawsuits now reduced, companies may require that drivers take sleep apnea tests. They may also require that drivers pay for those tests. While there are many different forms of the condition, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. It causes a person to stop breathing while asleep, which causes a person to wake up. A bad diet, poor sleep pattern or lack of exercise may contribute to the condition.

Study examines child fatality rates in car accidents

According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Harvard, Pennsylvania is one of the states with the lowest percentages of child fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. The study looked at data on fatalities by state among children younger than 15 between 2010 and 2014. In that time, a total of 2,885 children died in traffic accidents. The region with the largest number of fatalities was the South with 1,550. The Northeast had the fewest with 189.

The vehicles that had the fewest fatalities were vans and minivans. More than 60 percent of accidents happened on rural roads compared to 35 percent on state highways. In 9 percent of the fatalities, a driver was under the influence.

HHS delays approval of hair testing for drug use by truckers

It may not be possible for companies in Pennsylvania and throughout the country to use hair testing to detect drug use because the Department of Health and Human Services has failed to issue guidelines. In December 2015, a bill was passed that set a Dec. 4, 2016 deadline for the HHS to set guidelines, but the department failed to act. As a result, the Department of Transportation has not been able to make it a testing method that is federally approved.

On May 18, five senators wrote to HHS requesting action on the guidelines. The American Trucking Association said the delay was having a serious impact on the trucking industry. Hair testing is considered superior to testing for drugs with a urine sample, and its use has also been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board.

What to know about central pain syndrome

Pennsylvania residents may be familiar with a condition called central pain syndrome. The condition is caused by damage or other defects within the central nervous system. It may be caused by a tumor, a stroke or either brain or spinal cord trauma. The severity and location of the pain may differ depending on what caused the condition to present itself in an individual.

However, the pain is usually constant and can be brought about by touch, temperature or even emotions. In some cases, it feels like walking on pins and needles while in other cases it may feel more like an aching or burning sensation. There are a variety of methods that can be employed to reduce pain such as taking medication or making an effort to reduce stress. The condition itself is not fatal, but it can cause chronic debilitating pain in those who have it.

Poultry processing jobs are very hazardous

Pennsylvania residents who work at poultry processing plants have one of the most dangerous jobs, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The report noted that the job ranks 12th among industries with the most employer severe injury reporting in the United States.

In fact, poultry and meat processing plants reported 180 severe injuries to OSHA from January 2015 to September 2016, putting their workers at some of the highest dangers for suffering serious injuries, according to the National Employment Law Project. A NELP representative said that OSHA's severe injury report reveals the serious health dangers that those who work in the poultry industry face, and these employees should not have to risk such severe injuries in order to earn their income. The report further noted that of the 14,000 companies that reported the incidents that occurred during the 21-month period for 2015 and 2016, JBS/Pilgrim's Pride ranked sixth place and Tyson Foods came in fourth place with the most severe injuries.