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

 

 

BP Fighting Payments to Spill Victims

Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010.
Dark clouds of smoke and fire emerge as oil burns during a controlled fire in the Gulf of Mexico, May 6, 2010.

In what appears to be an effort to intimidate oil-spill victims, BP is sending out hundreds of letters, warning settlement recipients they may have to return part of the money. BP is currently appealing the settlement process, alleging administration errors that resulted in overpayments and “fictitious awards.”

According the Houston Chronicle, “One of the letters says if the appeals court reverses a claimant’s award, BP reserves its right to recover money the client received as well as the cut that went to the claimant’s lawyers.” A hearing for the case is scheduled for July 8 in the Fifth Circuit court of appeals in New Orleans.

The oil company agreed to a settlement last year for its part in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe that killed 11 people and released 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Recipients include local businesses and individuals that sustained economic losses, ranging from property damage to medical bills.

The letters are just part of the BP’s full-out media blitz. The London-based company also took out full page ads in main U.S. newspapers, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal accusing “trial lawyers and some politicians” of encouraging businesses to submit thousands of claims for inflated or non-existent losses. Lawyers for the plaintiffs contend that “it’s “BP’s problem” if the corporation underestimated the total amount of the settlement. Payments were clearly spelled out in the agreement and that BP “shouldn’t be allowed to push the rewind button now.”

Stand up to bullies

It is important to know that businesses will use every measure available to them in order to protect their bottom line. BP’s carefully worded letter announces that it “reserves any rights it may have to recover funds…”  However, it does not say that BP actually has any rights to recover settlements it already paid.

Intimidation tactics are just one of the ways a corporation may try to discourage injured parties from pursuing legal action. If you have been injured and a corporation or insurance company is denying your claims, call 800-ELK-OHIO or contact us online for a free consultation.

 

Source:BP warns some oil spill claimants” By Harry R. Weber, Houston Chronicle, June 27, 2013.

Workers’ Comp may not pay for PTSD

The Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that an injured truck driver suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may only receive workers’ compensation benefits for his physical injuries since the cause of his psychiatric condition was the horrific nature of the accident, not the injuries themselves.

The case stemmed from a 2009 motor vehicle accident. While driving a dump truck for the John Jurgenson Company, Shaun Armstrong saw another vehicle rapidly approaching from behind. Fearing the worst, he braced for impact. After the accident, he peered into his mirror only to see fluid spilling out of the vehicles. Afraid they may catch fire; he got out of his truck and called 9-1-1. Then he saw the other driver — bloodied and motionless — Armstrong feared he was dead. At the ER, Armstrong was treated for multiple injuries. He also found out, much to his dismay, the other driver had perished in the accident.

Armstrong applied for, and was granted, workers’ comp benefits for his physical injuries. Then, when he was diagnosed with PTSD, he filed an additional claim. The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation approved his claim, which was then challenged by his employer. While no one disputes Armstrong has PTSD, the parties offered differing expert testimony as to the cause of it. Unfortunately for Armstrong, the jury decided that his injuries did not cause his PTSD.

The court came to its decision after parsing a simple phrase, “arisen from injury.” According to Ohio law, the BWC will only pay a claim for a psychiatric condition when it has “arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant.” Writing for the majority, Justice French opined that the injured worker “must establish that his PTSD was causally related to his compensable physical injuries and not simply to his involvement in the accident.” Simply put, the court decided that the injuries themselves must be the cause of the PTSD for it to be covered under workers’ compensation, not just because they both stemmed from the same incident.

Workers’ compensation and other injury claims can be complicated. Our accident attorneys have nearly 50 years of experience helping clients with serious injury cases, filing thousands of claims for compensation. We have the experience, the knowledge and the resources to provide advice and guidance throughout the legal process. We serve clients statewide from offices throughout OhioCall 1-800-ELK-OHIO (1-800-355-6446) to schedule your free consultation. You may also contact us online.

 

Sources:

Workers’ comp need not cover mental-health claim, justices ruleThe Columbus Dispatch, June 5, 2013.

Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co., Slip Opinion No. 2013-Ohio-2237

Ohio launches new variable speed limit signs to make work zones safer

Summer is right around the corner. That means besides warm weather and having the kids home from school, we should expect to see lots of orange barrels on the roads.

Public safety officials are urging Ohio drivers to slow down in work zones. Over the past decade, the number of work zone crashes in Ohio hasn’t been below 5,000.VSL-Photo-2

National Work Zone Safety Awareness Week is April 15 through April 21. As part of the week, the state Transportation Department is trying out a new piece of equipment that could help reduce the number of crashes in construction work zones. The number of work-zone accidents increased to 5,188 in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. Sixteen people died in Ohio work zone accidents in 2011.

ODOT is piloting the new safety weapon, known as variable speed limit trailers. The portable devices come with technology that can be programmed to display a safer, slower speed, but only on the stretches of roadway where construction workers are present.

Around the state, there are 10 construction projects this year that will pilot the use of variable speed limit signs:

  • Franklin County – Resurfacing and pavement repair on Interstate 71
  • Henry County – Resurfacing a four-lane highway on U.S. Routes 6/24
  • Portage County – Spot pavement repairs on Interstate 76
  • Fairfield/Licking Counties – Bridge maintenance and repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
  • Madison County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 70
  • Montgomery County – Pavement repairs at various locations on U.S. Route 35 west of Interstate 75
  • Shelby County – Pavement repairs at various locations on Interstate 75
  • Ross/Pike Counties – Resurfacing of U.S. Route 23
  • Two projects in Athens County – Resurfacing of U.S. Routes 33 and 32/50

An ODOT analysis found that 56,945 vehicle crashes occurred in Ohio work zones from 2003 to 2012. Of those crashes, 20,590 happened when construction workers were present.

The top causes of work zone crashes are speed, following too closely, failure to control and improper lane changes. All four of these are easily preventable if drivers would just use a little more caution. Slow down, keep your eyes on the road and leave a little extra room between you and the car in front of you when you are driving through construction zones. And if the construction is in an area you drive through as part of your daily commute, make sure to plan extra time into your drive or find an alternate route.

If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a work zone accident, let the personal injury lawyers of Elk & Elk help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-ELK-OHIO today or fill out our free, no-obligation online consultation form.

New laws tackle social media password issue

By Arthur Elk

Last year, we started hearing about a new privacy concern for employees and even job seekers. News stories were popping up everywhere about bosses and interviewers asking for social media passwords so they could see what people were posting online.

At that time, it was obvious that existing laws in most states didn’t cover this issue. Unfortunately, it always takes time for the law to catch up with technology, and this was another case of that happening.

In 2013, five states have new laws going into effect that will make it illegal for employers to demand social networking passwords or non-public online account information from their employees or job applicants.

California and Illinois had laws go into effect on Jan. 1 and Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware have new laws taking effect later this year. Michigan enacted a similar ban last year, making a total of six states with a ban.

Other states are also considering similar Facebook password laws that will protect an employee’s or potential employee’s personal information.

I am glad to see state legislatures taking action to protect workers’ privacy. No employer should be able to force them to give up their personal, private information.

Tip: Make sure that your social media privacy settings are at the level you want them. If you don’t have them set properly, anyone may be able to see things that you only intended for your family and friends to see. And then no law will help you.

What do you think about these laws? Should employers be able to ask an employee or job applicant for their social media passwords? Please let us know by commenting on this post.