Category Archives: Safety

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Seattle Employer Fined More Than $215,000 for Serious Safety Violations

A Seattle employer has been cited for multiple serious workplace health violations after a worker became entangled in a rotating shaft while working inside a confined space. In connection with the citation, the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) fined Industrial Container Services $215,250 for exposing workers to serious harm or even death. L&I cited the company previously for many of these hazards, but they had not been corrected.

Industrial Container Services refurbishes metal drums and other industrial containers. The company operates a “drum shot-blaster unit,” a 24-foot long tunnel with a series of rotating shafts that move metal drums through as they’re being shot-blasted to remove paint and coatings.

L&I began its investigation in January 2015 after a worker was hospitalized after being injured while working inside a drum shot-blaster. The investigation found that workers were regularly entering the equipment to perform maintenance and repair without the necessary safety precautions.

Working inside a “confined space” area, such as the drum shot-blaster unit, without safety precautions can be deadly to workers and would-be rescuers. Confined space hazards can include suffocation, toxic atmospheres, engulfment, entrapment and other dangerous conditions. These incidents are fully preventable.

When a confined space has hazardous characteristics that could harm workers, it’s considered a “permit-required” confined space. That means employers must control access to the area and use a permit system to prevent unauthorized entry. Anyone working in or around a permit-required confined space must be trained and there must be safety measures and rescue procedures in place.

L&I cited the company for seven “failure to abate” serious violations related to the confined space hazards, and for not ensuring that moving parts were de-energized to prevent workers from becoming caught in machinery. These violations were originally cited in October 2013 and had not been corrected. Each of the violations carries a penalty of $22,750.

L&I also cited the company for four “repeat-serious” violations and four “serious” violations related to confined-space procedures and energy control measures (lockout/tagout), with penalties ranging from $11,700 to $4,550.

As a result of these safety issues, Industrial Container Solutions has been identified as a severe violator and could be subject to increased scrutiny at all its locations nationwide.

The company has appealed the citation. Penalty money paid in connection with a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.

For media information or a copy of the citation, contactElaine Fischer, L&I Public Affairs at 360-902-5413.  

 

Photo credit: XcBiker / Foter / CC BY-SA

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Workers’ Comp Covers Work-Related Motor Vehicle Accidents

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Do you drive a company vehicle as part of your job?

Many find themselves in the situation where they travel regularly, or on a special errand from time to time, as part of their job. 

In the unfortunate scheme of things, if you are involved in an accident while driving, whether it is your fault or not, you are covered by and entitled to workers’ compensation benefits just as any other employee who suffers an accident on the premise of an employer.

More importantly, if the cause of the accident was not due to negligence of your own, but that of a third party, you have a right to bring a third-party negligence action against the party responsible for causing the vehicle accident. This right is separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits that you are entitled to. Further, you also potentially have the right to bring an underinsured motorist coverage claim under your employer’s motor vehicle coverage as well as your own underinsured motorist vehicle coverage. These, too, are separate and distinct from the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. 

It is important to note that the employer would have a subrogation right to be reimbursed for workers’ compensation benefits paid on your behalf against that of any third-party negligence claim where you obtained a recovery. However, as underinsured motorist coverage is typically viewed as contractual benefits in nature, there is no subrogation right from your employer if underinsured benefits are obtained in Nebraska.

If you or someone you know was injured in a motor vehicle accident that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment, there are significant issues to be aware of in order to obtain a recovery that meets your needs. If you have any questions or uncertainty when dealing with this point of law, please seek the advice of an experienced attorney who can help steer you in the best course of action.

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The Right to a Safe Workplace

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Under federal law, every employee has the right to a safe workplace. If you believe your workplace is dangerous and changes in safety policy are ignored, you can request an inspection from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Workers’ compensation, which is regulated on a state-by-state level, covers medical bills, lost wages, disability and vocational rehabilitation services for employees injured on the job. If you have any questions regarding these benefits, please contact an experienced lawyer in your area.

 If you believe you work in an unsafe work area, here are some tips to be aware of to make sure your workplace is as safe as possible, and you protect yourself from significant injury:

  1.  Know the hazards in your workplace.
  2. While in a seated position, keep your shoulders in line with your hips. Use good form when lifting.
  3. Injuries occur when workers get tired. Take breaks when you’re tired.
  4. Do not skip safety procedures just because it makes the job easier or quicker. Using dangerous machinery is the one of the leading causes of work injuries.
  5. Be aware of where emergency shutoff switches are located.
  6. Report unsafe work areas.
  7. Wear proper safety equipment.

If you are injured due to an unsafe workplace, and you are unsure of the benefits that you are entitled to, contact an experienced attorney in your area.

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Fear of Reporting Safety Claims

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

Workers often fear retaliation if they report a safety violation or work injury related to a violation. Concerns about being fired or other forms of retaliation by employers permeate the process of worker’s comp claims filing. Studies have indicated that retaliatory fear prompts many workers not to file either OSHA or workers’ comp claims. Workers also don’t want to be perceived as careless or complaining. In a Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of OSHA reporting, occupational health providers often reported to workers’ fear of retaliation as a reason for underreporting. Fully 2/3 of health providers “reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness.”

Pressure from co-workers also prompts failure to report safety violations and comp claims. Safety incentive programs (sometimes called “safety bingo” ) create incentives not to report, since non-reporting leads to a reward for a work group. If one worker reports his injury, the entire crew may pay the price. The GAO survey found this peer pressure to be a troubling factor contributing to underreporting to OSHA. (Anecdotally, I remember a worker who cut off his finger on a Friday, wrapped it in a hankie and put it in his pocket , rather than report the injury and disappoint his fellow employees looking forward to a case of beer reward for “100 consecutive safe work days”).

OSHA is currently proposing new electronic, public reporting rules for large employers.

 

 

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BP Cherry Point refinery cited for willful and serious workplace safety violations, fined $81,500

Image © BP p.l.c.

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (DLI) has cited the BP Cherry Point petroleum refinery in Blaine for six violations, including one “willful violation,” of workplace safety and health rules related to management of pipeline and refinery processes. The proposed penalties total $81,500.

 

A willful violation is the most significant civil classification that can be issued.

 

A willful violation is the most significant civil classification that can be issued. It is used when DLI alleges that the violation was committed with intentional disregard or plain indifference or substitution of judgment with respect to worker safety and health regulations.

DLI began the inspection in February after a major fire caused the refinery to shut down for a period of time. One employee was nearby when the fire erupted, but he was able to escape without harm.

The fire occurred when a corroded “deadleg” pipe ruptured. Deadlegs are pipes that aren’t often used but still must be monitored for integrity for when they are needed to carry material used in the refining process.

DLI cited the company for a “willful” violation for not ensuring that inspection and testing procedures for process piping followed recognized and generally accepted good engineering practices for all deadleg piping circuits. The proposed penalty for the willful violation is $65,000.

The five additional violations cited were for failing to comply with Process Safety Management standards, the requirements for managing hazards associated with processes that use highly hazardous chemicals.

The company has until Sept. 13 to appeal the citation.  A copy of the citation is available upon request.

For more information about this or other DLI news, click here.