Keeping an Eye on Workplace Injuries and Illness

Work place safety.
Photo: Geoffrey Whiteway

An important part of staying current on employment law is analyzing the annual release of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). We now have the latest numbers for 2012 and the news overall is good. The total rate of workplace injuries and illnesses is down by a small but statistically significant amount.

In 2012, there were nearly three million nonfatal workplace illnesses and injuries reported by private industry employers. The BLS reported that “no private industry experienced an increase in the rate of injuries and illnesses in 2012.” What is significant and worrisome is that more than half of the nearly three million injury and illness cases were of a serious nature and involved days away from work, transfer, or restriction.

The difference in rates between injury and illness is huge. More than 94.8 percent of 30 million total incidents are classified “injuries,” while only 5.2 percent are reported as workplace illness. Workplace injuries can lead to legal action where the victim seeks help from an employment attorney.

The report highlights risks related to specific industries:

  • Among service-providing industry sectors, transportation and warehousing had the highest rate of injuries and illnesses
  • Workers experienced sprains and strains in transportation and warehousing at a rate 2.5 times the rate for all industries
  • Transportation incidents occurred at a rate more than 5 times the rate for all industries
  • The mining industry had the highest median days away from work, at 21 days

Staying abreast of these statistics helps government and regulatory bodies to spot trends or risk factors for workers. For employment attorneys, it helps to identify areas of concern for clients and areas where employers or industry organizations may be falling short.



OSHA: Is Your Boss Keeping You Safe?

SafetyThe Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) was enacted by Congress in 1970. It governs workplace safety in both the private sector and the United States federal government. The Act’s main goal is to ensure that employers maintain a safe working environment for their employees. A personal injury attorney can help you file an OSHA claim if you are injured in a workplace accident or exposed to unsafe working conditions.

One of the most important parts of OSHA is the general duty clause. This clause imposes three duties upon employers:

  1. Maintain conditions and/or utilize practices that are reasonably necessary to protect employees on the job.
  2. Be familiar with the safety standards applicable to their business establishments.
  3. Regulate and promote employee use of the appropriate safety equipment.

If you think your employer has breached one of these 3 duties, and you were injured on the job, you should schedule a consultation with an injury attorney.

OSHA also created the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, which ensures that employers nationwide comply with the provisions set forth in OSHA. This involves creating and enacting workplace safety regulations, inspecting workplaces and employers to ensure that they comply with those regulations, and imposing sanctions on employers who violate OSHA provisions.

An average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every single day of the year. In addition, tens of thousands die every year from workplace disease and nearly 4 million workers each year are seriously injured on the job. A personal injury attorney can represent employees who have been injured or become ill while working. The process generally involves filing a claim through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and resolving that claim through settlement negotiations or a trial.

Whistleblower Claims

Employees who report violations of various workplace safety laws are protected from employer retaliation by OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Persons filing whistleblower claims, usually receive about 15-25 percent of any recovered damages, but that amount may be higher or lower depending on specific circumstances.

The statute of limitations on such claims can be as little as 30 days. Therefore, in order to preserve your claim, it is important to contact a qualified attorney and file a claim with OSHA as soon as possible.

Dangers of Metalworking Fluids


Metalworking fluids (MWFs) are used as coolants, lubricants and to remove metal particles during industrial machining and grinding operations. According to the CDC, over 1 million workers are regularly exposed to MWFs through skin contact or by breathing the mists and aerosols.

Many industries utilize Metalworking Fluids, including:

  • Automotive
  • Medical Device Manufacturing
  • Wire Manufacturing
  • Aerospace
  • Petrochemical

MWFs linked to serious injuries

Metalworking fluids may contain any number of additives, including biocides, which are used to kill bacteria. One of the most commonly used biocides is Triazine, also known as hexahydrotriazine or HHT. Once mixed with MWFs, Triazine releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde can also speed up the formation of nitrosamines – chemical compounds that have been shown to cause cancer.

If you work or have worked with metalworking fluids, you are at risk for a wide range of debilitating health problems, such as:

  • Nasopharyngeal Cancer
  • Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP)
  • Sinonasal Cancer
  • Pulmonary Edema
  • Lymphohematopoietic Cancer
  • Myeloid leukemia

Asthma and other serious respiratory conditions and cancers have also been linked to MWF exposure.

How much exposure is dangerous?

Contact with the toxins in MWFs can cause an immediate reaction, such as irritation of the skin, eyes, nose or throat. Other, more serious health issues can take years to manifest.

In 1998, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommended a maximum exposure level of 0.4 milligrams per cubic meter of air. While some occupational exposure limits (OELs) are legally enforceable limits, others – like those for MWFs – are merely recommendations, which cannot be enforced.

Do I need a lawyer?

If you worked or are working in a machine shop, industrial plant or factory using Metalworking Fluids or Cutting Compounds and developed

  • Cancer
  • Chronic cough
  • Breathing problems
  • Leukemia

You may be entitled to money damages. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO for a free case review today.

‘Move Over Law’ Expanded to Protect Workers

New law protects workers.Governor John Kasich signed a bill into law on December 19 to protect Ohio road crews. Introduced by Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Senate Bill 137 updates the current “Move Over Law” to include highway construction vehicles.

All motorists are now required to slow down and, if possible, move to an adjacent lane when approaching construction, maintenance and public utilities commission vehicles that are parked on the roadside with flashing, oscillating or rotating lights.

The law previously required motorists to slow down or move over only when approaching police and other emergency vehicles.

According to the Ohio Department of Transportation, since 2008, more than 600 collisions occurred between the travelling public and ODOT vehicles and equipment.

A cornerstone of ODOT’s mission is the safety of all who drive on or work on Ohio’s roads. The expanded Move Over Law is a critical step to improving the safety of our workers, who risk their lives and well-being every day to care for the excellent transportation system the citizens of Ohio have come to expect.
– Jerry Wray, ODOT Director

Although the bill took effect immediately, there will be a 90-day grace period during which violators will receive warnings rather than citations. After March 19, 2014, drivers can be cited with a minor misdemeanor. Penalties will be increased if the driver has had multiple infractions in the last year.

The bill amends sections 4511.01, 4511.04, 4511.213, and 4513.17 of the Ohio Revised Code.
To see a complete copy of the legislation, click here.

Move Over Law (as amended)

Sec. 4511.01(QQQ) “Highway maintenance vehicle” means a vehicle used in snow and ice removal or road surface maintenance, including a snow plow, traffic line striper, road sweeper, mowing machine, asphalt distributing vehicle, or other such vehicle designed for use in specific highway maintenance activities.”

Sec. 4511.213 – Approaching stationary public safety vehicle displaying emergency light.

(A) The driver of a motor vehicle, upon approaching a stationary public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle, vehicle used by the public utilities commission to conduct motor vehicle inspections in accordance with sections 4923.04 and 4923.06 of the Revised Code, or a highway maintenance vehicle that is displaying the appropriate visual signals by means of flashing, oscillating, or rotating lights, as prescribed in section 4513.17 of the Revised Code, shall do either of the following:

(1) If the driver of the motor vehicle is traveling on a highway that consists of at least two lanes that carry traffic in the same direction of travel as that of the driver’s motor vehicle, the driver shall proceed with due caution and, if possible and with due regard to the road, weather, and traffic conditions, shall change lanes into a lane that is not adjacent to that of the stationary public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle, vehicle used by the public utilities commission to conduct motor vehicle inspections in accordance with sections 4923.04 and 4923.06 of the Revised Code, or a highway maintenance vehicle.

(2) If the driver is not traveling on a highway of a type described in division (A)(1) of this section, or if the driver is traveling on a highway of that type but it is not possible to change lanes or if to do so would be unsafe, the driver shall proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle, and maintain a safe speed for the road, weather, and traffic conditions.

(B) This section does not relieve the driver of a public safety vehicle, an emergency vehicle, or a road service vehicle, vehicle used by the public utilities commission to conduct motor vehicle inspections in accordance with sections 4923.04 and 4923.06 of the Revised Code, or a highway maintenance vehicle from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property upon the highway.

(C)  No person shall fail to drive a motor vehicle in compliance with division (A)(1) or (2) of this section when so required by division (A) of this section.

(D)       (1) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.

(2) Notwithstanding section 2929.28 of the Revised Code, upon a finding that a person operated a motor vehicle in violation of division (C) of this section, the court, in addition to all other penalties provided by law, shall impose a fine of two times the usual amount imposed for the violation.

(2013 Ohio SB 137, 1)



‘Move over’ law aims to boost safety of Ohio road crewsAP/Columbus Dispatch, December 30, 2013.

Ohio Companies top OSHA Penalty List

An average of 13 Americans are killed on the job every single day of the year. In addition, tens of thousands die every year from workplace disease and nearly 4 million workers each year are seriously injured on the job. OSHA’s top 10 offenders in 2013 include five Ohio companies (in red.) The failure of companies to adhere to safe work practices puts workers at risk – in some cases fatally.

  1. Republic Steel (Canton, OH) – $1.14 million This steel mill is no stranger to OSHA violations. Despite numerous citations related to fall hazards in the past, workers still face dangerous conditions. The company was issued citations for 15 willful violations and 8 serious violations.

    Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health. It is unacceptable that Republic Steel has not taken more effective steps to improve safety. – DAVID MICHAELS, OSHA ADMINISTRATOR

  2. Ball Aerosol and Specialty Container (Hubbard, OH) – $589, 000 Responding to a complaint, OSHA discovered the company was still allowing workers to operate dangerous slitter machines without guards in place – despite previous citations on the same equipment. The company was issued numerous citations, including six willful, egregious violations for continuing to expose machine operators to serious amputation hazards.
  3. Dover Chemical (Dover, OH) – $545,000 The paraffin and additive manufacturer has been cited for 47 health and safety violations after an unexpected release of hazardous materials led to the temporary shutdown of the company’s plant and an adjacent highway.
  4. Vordonia Contracting and Supplies Corp./Alma Realty Corp., Masonry Services Inc. and North Eastern Precast LLC (Valley Stream, NY) – $465,410 These contractors were issued two willful violation citations for allowing employees and crane operators to work in close proximity to power lines, and one serious violation for failure to mark power lines with warning signs.
  5. Panthera Painting Inc. (Slatington, Harrisburg and Slatedale, PA) – $459,844 OSHA issued citations for 14 willful violations  and 11 serious violations that included failure to protect workers from lead exposure and failure to provide fall protection.
  6. Highway Technologies Inc. (Menomonie, WI) – $448,000 A worker died after his equipment came into contact with overhead power lines. The company received citations for 6 willful violations and 4 serious violations for failing to protect its workers from serious electrocution hazards.
  7. Mahle Engine Components USA (McConnelsville, OH) – $369,000 Six safety repeat violations were issued for failure to mount and identify fire extinguishers, train workers on recognizing electrical hazards and ground pins from electrical equipment. Two health repeat violations were issued related to lead exposure. Additionally, 18 serious violations were issued for lack of machine guarding, improper storage of acetylene and oxygen cylinders, electrical hazards, and struck-by hazards, among others.
  8. Twin Pines Construction Inc. (Plymouth and Reading, MA) – $336,200 A worker suffered serious injuries after wooden roof truss collapsed. Citations for four willful, two repeat and four serious violations were issued for hazards including trusses not adequately braced during installation, fall hazards, impalement and “struck-bys.”

    Falls remain the No. 1 killer in construction work. Employers who deliberately and repeatedly fail to supply and ensure the use of effective fall protection safeguards are repeatedly gambling with their workers’ lives.” – MARTHE KENT, OSHA REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR IN NEW ENGLAND

  9. Environmental Enterprises Inc. (Cincinnati, OH) – $325,710 One worker was killed and another seriously burned in a fire at the waste treatment facility. Citations for four willful violations, serious safety violations, and seven serious health violations were issued for improper hazardous waste handling procedures, inadequate employee training, and improper storage of flammable liquids and lack of a hazard communication program, among others.
  10. Hagel Metal Fabrication Inc. (East Peoria, IL) – $317,000 A worker was fatally crushed by an automated laser-cutting machine. Citations for four willful violations and eight serious violations were issued for improper machine safeguards, unguarded flooring and platforms, failure to inspect powered industrial trucks, and a lack of training, among others.

Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. In Ohio, claims for workplace injuries are usually filed with the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. However, in some cases, an employee may also file an additional claim in civil court. Such cases, known as Employer Intentional Torts, are very complex and require a skilled employment law attorney.

Source: OSHA’s Top 10: Present and past” by Kyle W. Morrison, Safety & Health, November 25, 2013

Note: This list of OSHA’s top monetary penalties in fiscal year 2013 is comprised of penalties stemming from a single incident or related incidents in which one or more companies allegedly failed to adhere to safe work practices. These fines represent proposed penalties issued by OSHA between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013; dollar amounts may be reduced as part of a settlement agreement or litigation.


Ohio factory cited for safety violations

Republic Steel has been cited for 2 dozen safety violations and is facing federal penalties in excess of $1.1 million. Fifteen willful violations were discovered at the company’s steel manufacturing plant in Canton, Ohio.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspected the plant after receiving a formal complaint from the United Steelworks Union which alleged inadequate fall protection and other unsafe practices. OSHA determined that two workers had been seriously injured in due to falls in the past year.

Slag_runoff_Republic_SteelOSHA cited Republic Steel for several safety issues, including: tripping hazards and lack of protective equipment. The company also failed to provide fall protection for employees working at substantial heights – where agency officials found damaged and missing guardrails. In some instances, workers were exposed to falls above the slag pit, which is filled with molten metal. More than half of the violations were deemed “willful,” meaning they were committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law or indifference to employee safety.

This isn’t Republic’s first brush with OSHA. Just last year, the company reached a settlement at its Lorain, Ohio plant, promising to fix similar safety violations.

“Republic Steel has a long history of OSHA violations and disregard for employee safety and health,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for occupational safety and health. He called it “unacceptable” that the company has not taken more effective steps to improve safety at the Canton plant, particularly in light of the 2012 settlement.”

Republic Steel has been in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program since 2011 for committing willful violations, repeat violations, and failing to fix hazards after being cited. As a corporate entity, Republic Steel has been inspected 79 times resulting in the issuance of six willful, 15 repeat, 145 serious and 70 other-than-serious final order citations.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. For more information, contact our experienced workplace injury attorneys by calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) or complete our free, no-obligation online form.



Republic Steel Faces $1.1M in Fines for Violations” by Sam Hananel (AP), ABC News, August 13, 2013.

Ravenna Company Fined for Lead Exposure

Spectrum Machine Inc. is facing $188,300 in penalties for exposing workers to dangerous levels of lead and copper fumes, according to an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The Ohio company, which makes bronze and brass parts, received a total of 13 citations and was placed in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program.

SparkSpectrum Machine’s Ravenna plant was cited for three willful safety violations for failing to monitor their employees for exposure to lead and failing to provide training about potential health hazards and necessary precautions to prevent lead exposure. The company also received citations for 10 serious violations, including failure to develop proper safety programs, provide fire extinguisher training, meet respiratory protection standards, and prevent worker exposure to dangerous copper fumes and lead. In some cases, the levels of lead were more than 15 times higher than permissible exposure limits.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees.

  • A willful violation is defined as “one committed with intentional, knowing, or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or plain indifference to employee safety and health.”
  • A serious violation occurs when “there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.”

In 2006, the company’s Streetsboro plant also received 13 similar violations. “Failing to monitor worker exposure to airborne metal particles can result in severe illness,” said Howard Eberts, OSHA’s area director in Cleveland.  “By failing to develop a lead protection and hazard communication program, Spectrum Machine has demonstrated a lack of commitment to employee safety and health.”

In Ohio, claims for workplace injuries are usually filed with the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation. However, in some cases, an employee may also file an additional claim in civil court. Such cases, known as Employer Intentional Torts, are very complex and require a skilled employment law attorney.

For more information, please contact our experienced workplace injury attorneys by calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) or complete our free, no-obligation online form.



“Spectrum Machine cited for health violations in Ravenna” by Rachel Abbey McCafferty, Crain’s Cleveland Business, August 7, 2013.

Spectrum Machine’s current citations may be viewed at:

Criminal and civil trials are different

Criminal and civil cases differ in many ways. As the table at the bottom of this page illustrates, the legal proceedings can vary widely. Procedural rules affect everything from the parties involved to the types of evidence which may be admitted. Generally, because a defendant faces far greater consequences in a criminal trial, the standard of proof is higher.

The burden of proof is often discussed on television and movies as proving someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that’s in a criminal case where the burden is much higher. Within civil cases, you only have to show proof by preponderance of evidence.

Very simply, proof by preponderance of evidence means you can prove that you are more right than wrong. That’s it. There is no certainty needed, no shadow of a doubt. You just need to prove to the judge or jury that you are slightly more right than the other party. It can be as little as 51% — just one percent more than the other party. You only need to tip the scales in your favor. Watch the video to learn more.


It is important to know that the same conduct can result in both criminal and civil liability for a defendant.

For more information about personal injury law, explore our educational website at If you have legal questions, please phone us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. We welcome your call.


Criminal Case

Civil Case

Parties Crimes are considered offenses against the state, or society as a whole and are prosecuted by the state Civil cases typically arise during a dispute between individuals regarding the legal duties and responsibilities they owe one another
Punishment May involve jail time and/or monetary fines Money damages awarded to the plaintiff; defendant may be ordered to do or not to do something
Standard of Proof “Beyond a reasonable doubt” “Preponderance of the evidence”
(More likely than not)
Jury Almost always allows for a jury May allow for a jury but many cases decided by a judge
Right to an Attorney Defendant is entitled to an attorney, which is provided by the state if he cannot afford one Defendant must pay for his own attorney or defend himself
Protection Defendant may choose not to testify; state may not use evidence obtained by illegal search or seizure Defendant can be compelled to testify, other protections may not apply

Workplace Injuries Should Be Reported

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article stating there has been a 31 percent drop in workplace injury claims over the last decade. While that number appears encouraging, there is more to the story. In that same time period, there has also been a 50 percent rise in employer retaliation claims and some government officials worry that many injuries are not being reported. If you have been injured on the job, it is important to report the incident to your employer and seek medical attention right away.

Employer Retaliation

photo_1115_20060217Many employees feel pressure to keep workplace injuries quiet. Some workers worry that if they report an injury, their employer may withhold a raise or promotion. Others feel they may be fired. You should know that federal law bars employers from retaliating against employees for reporting injuries. Additionally, Ohio statutes provide:

No employer shall discharge, demote, reassign, or take any punitive action against any employee because the employee filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer. (Ohio Revised Code 4123.90)

If you feel that your employer mistreated you because you reported a workplace injury, you may have a claim. It is crucial to handle employer retaliation and other whistleblower claims promptly; you may only have 30 days to file a claim.


Even if an employee does report getting hurt at work, sometimes the severity of the injury is not fully documented. A 2009 study from the Government Accountability Office reported that more than a third of health practitioners were asked by management to provide workers with treatment that wouldn’t require a formal report. If you do get injured at work, don’t try to “play it down.” Be honest with your healthcare provider about any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Peer Pressure

Contrary to popular belief, programs for maintaining safety records don’t always improve safety. When an employer institutes a safety policy that provides bonuses or prizes to groups, it can create peer pressure not to report workplace injuries.

For more information, contact our experienced workplace injury attorneys by calling 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) or complete our free, no-obligation online form.


Source: Workplace Injuries Drop, but Claims of Employer Retaliation Rise” by James R. Hagerty, The Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2013.

Extreme Heat on the Job

As the mercury rises, my heart goes out to workers laboring in the hot sun. They repair our roads, cut our lawns, harvest our food, and in some cases, literally provide the roof over our heads. Many of these jobs have obvious dangers, but in the summer months, workers exposed to hot and humid conditions are also at risk of heat-related injuries.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), “Employers are responsible for providing workplaces that are safe from extreme heat, and should provide training to workers on heat-related illness and their symptoms.”

Heat Index

Both air temperature and humidity affect how hot a person working outside feels. The “heat index” combines both the temperature and humidity level into a single number. For example, if the temperature is 88°F and there is a humidity level of 60%, it would feel like 95°F. The higher the heat index, the hotter the weather feels because less sweat evaporates. This hinders the body’s natural cooling system and increases a worker’s risk of developing heat illness.heat_index-sm

Take Heat-related Illnesses Seriously

Heat illnesses range from simple heat rash and heat cramps to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke requires immediate medical attention and can result in death. When heat stroke doesn’t kill immediately, it can shut down major body organs causing acute heart, liver, kidney and muscle damage, nervous system problems, and blood disorders. Workers suffering from heat exhaustion are less alert and can get confused, putting them at greater risk for accidents.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

 Heat Exhaustion:

  • Heavy sweating
  • Extreme weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness, confusion
  • Nausea
  • Clammy, moist skin
  • Pale or flushed complexion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Slightly elevated body temperature
  • Fast and shallow breathing
Heat Stroke:   (Call 911)

  • Hot, dry skin or profuse sweating
  • Hallucinations
  • Chills
  • Throbbing headache
  • High body temperature (>103°F)
  • Confusion/dizziness
  • Slurred speech



Heat-related illnesses affect everyone differently, and not all symptoms may be present. Environmental factors such as working in direct sun or if there is no breeze can increase body temperature. Other risk factors include doing strenuous work, wearing bulky protective clothing, and wearing or using heavy equipment. New workers who have not built up a tolerance to hot conditions are especially susceptible to heat illness.

Water, Rest, Shade

OSHA gives this advice for beating extreme heat:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes, even if you’re not thirsty
  • Rest in the shade to cool down
  • Wear a hat and light-colored clothing
  • Learn the signs of heat illness and what to do in an emergency
  • Keep an eye on fellow workers
  • Gradually increase workload for new workers to build a tolerance for working in the heat
  • Report any symptoms to a supervisor immediately