Articles Posted in Work Accident

It is well-established under Alabama’s workers’ compensation law that the exclusive remedy workers have to pursue action against their employer is worker’s compensation. That means employees in most cases can’t sue their company for on-the-job injuries.

However, workers can pursue legal action against third parties who may be responsible for injuries arising from employment.

Such was the case in Lemley v. Wilson, wherein a city-employed worker was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic. He later died of his injuries. The worker’s father pursued legal action against the driver who struck him.

The case went to trial, and jurors sided with defendant. However, trial court granted plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. Defendant appealed, and the issue of the new trial was heard by the Alabama Supreme Court, which reversed and remanded. The high court ruled there was ample evidence to support jury’s findings, even if there was also ample evidence to support plaintiff’s assertions.
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The anecdotes are numerous:

  • The contract worker from Alabama who died after falling down an elevator shaft at a Louisville cement factory;
  • The temp worker at who died after being crushed by equipment at the plant’s New Jersey facility;
  • The 21-year-old Florida temp worker who died his first day on the job at the Jacksonville Bacardi Bottling facility after he was crushed by a palletizer machine.

Our work injury lawyers in Montgomery wish we could say these incidents were fairly uncommon. But fact of the matter is, temporary workers are at grave risk of harm on the job. This is particularly true in occupations such as warehousing and manufacturing.
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In 2010, more than $9.3 billion dollars of business in Alabama was generated by commercial construction companies and the industries that feed construction. The commercial construction industry provided 150,000 full time jobs for Alabamians during that year. While the construction industry experienced a slow-down after the 2008 collapse of the housing market, things are looking up again in Alabama, with a surge in the Consumer Confidence Index reflecting an expected increase in sales, profit margins and staffing levels in the field of construction.Our Montgomery construction accident lawyers know that the thriving construction industry is good news for job-seekers. Unfortunately, more people working construction does have one downside: the risk of construction injuries is once again on the rise.
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We want to go to work each day and not worry about our safety. It’s federal law for employers to make sure that the workplace is safe for everyone on site. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and various risks and hazards put employees at risk.If someone is injured on the job, sometimes a workers’ compensation claim can suffice. But many times, these victims are entitled to additional compensation because the injury was caused by the negligence of another party. T
Our Montgomery work accident attorneys know fall injuries and transportation accidents are among the most common. According to newly-released statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were close to 4,500 people killed on the job in the U.S. in 2012. While that’s a slight decline from the number of the previous year, it’s still far from acceptable. The rate of workplace fatalities for U.S. employees last year was 3.2 per 100,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) workers, showing a decrease from a 2011 rate of 3.5 per 100,000.
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Ladder falls have been played for laughs in slapstick comedies for years.However, in real life, a ladder fall is anything but humorous. In fact, it can be deadly, as the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration reports in, “Falling Off Ladders Can Kill: Use Them Safely,” as part of the agency’s ongoing “Stop Falls” campaign.

While our Montgomery work accident attorneys aren’t aware of any Alabama-specific statistics on this matter, we do know that ladder-related accidents are on the rise in the U.S.

Researchers at the Columbus Children’s Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy, in a study published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, indicate that ladder-related injuries across the country climbed more than 50 percent between 1990 and 2005.

During those years, more than 2.1 million people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for ladder-related injuries. On average, that works out to more than 136,000 injuries annually.

Of those, about 10 percent had to be admitted to the hospital, which is twice what the average rate is for other injuries related to consumer products. Men accounted for nearly 80 percent of ladder-related injuries. The most common kinds of ladder injuries were fractures, mostly to the feet and legs.

Study authors said part of the problem is that many people who use ladders don’t consider them a danger, the way they would, say, a power saw. Therefore, they don’t use the kind of caution they probably should.

Construction site supervisors are often guilty of the same kind of oversight.

Some the tips OSHA advises to ensure ladder safety are:

  • Make sure you are using the correct ladder for the job. As an example, make sure the ladder is tall enough for you to reach your work area without having to stand on the top rung.
  • When using ladders to access another level, secure and extend the ladder at least 3 feet above the landing point to provide a safe handhold.
  • Make sure the base of the ladder is secured.
  • Wear the right shoes – non-slip, flat footwear.
  • Put the ladder on an even surface.
  • Make sure the ladder is totally extended before you start working.
  • Keep passersby from walking near or underneath the ladders by posting up cones or having a co-worker serve as a lookout.
  • Keep three points of contact on the ladder at all times. For example, two hands and a foot or two feet and one hand.
  • Don’t carry any of your tools or other materials in your hands when climbing up the ladder.
  • Avoid leaning away from the ladder to do the task at hand. Keep your weight centered between the side rails at all times.
  • Don’t use the ladder near a doorway, or if you must, make sure the door is locked.
  • Don’t use a ladder if it’s bent, missing a step or if it has no locking device on the spreader bars.

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A man conducting pipe repairs for the Alabama Department of Transportation in Bay Minette, about two hours south of Montgomery, was rushed to the hospital following a trench collapse.Our Montgomery construction accident attorneys understand that he was working in a hole when the dirt that surrounded him began to collapse. Other workers on the site were able to respond quickly and dig him out to safety.

But such incidents should never happen in the first place if those who manage the sites are adhering to the guidelines set forth by the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration.

The fact is, excavating is well-known to be one of the most dangerous jobs on a construction site. The greatest risk in a trench is a cave-in, like what happened here, and these incidents are much more likely than others on a job site to result in worker deaths. Consider that one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car. Entering an unprotected trench is akin to walking into an early grave.

In addition to a cave-in, other potential problems workers in a trench might anticipate would be:

  • Falls;
  • Hazardous atmospheres;
  • Falling loads;
  • Mobile equipment failures.

If the trench you are in is more than five feet deep, there needs to be some sort of protective system in place to prevent a collapse. The only exception would be if the excavation site is comprised entirely of stable rock.

Trenches that are 20 feet deep or more need to be outfitted with a protective system that is designed by a professional, registered engineer. Safe access and egress devices have to be set up for workers in any kind of trench that is more than 4 feet deep.

Some other basic general guidelines that need to be followed in trench work includes:

  • Keeping all heavy equipment far away from the edges of a trench;
  • Any excavated soil or other materials should be a minimum of 2 feet away from the edge of the trench;
  • Site supervisors need to know where the underground utilities are located before the digging even starts;
  • With trenches greater than 4 feet deep, supervisors should be testing for potential atomospheric hazards, like low oxygen levels, toxic gases or hazardous fumes;
  • Make sure the trench isn’t positioned under raised or suspended materials or loads;
  • If there is a situation or condition that could have altered the stability of the trench (such as heavy rain), it needs to be re-examined;
  • Everyone working inside the trench should be outfitted with bright, reflective clothing.

OSHA actually recommends that trenches be looked over every day by a “competent person” before a worker goes inside. This would be an individual who knows how to identify any existing or predictable dangers or working conditions that could pose a risk to employee health or safety.
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The government reports more than 4,600 people were killed on the job last year — or about 13 people a day. Hundreds of thousands of others are seriously injured, sometimes disabled, as a result of an accident on the job.

Our Montgomery work accident attorneys note the risks are expected to increase with economic recovery. Though in the Bureau of Labor Statistics report just released, fatal work accident statistics for 2011 show Alabama saw decline, from 92 in 2010 to 74 last year.Nationwide, there were 4,609 people who died on the job last year — compared to 4,690 in 2010. However, the government expects to add about 150 to the total as final cases are reported, making any change a statistical wash.

Fatal Alabama Work Accidents

Transportation Accidents: 36
Contact Object/Equip.: 17
Falls: 10
Violence: 6
Exposure: 4
Fire: 1
Safety advocates, including the Occupational Safety & Health Administration continue to push safety programs aimed at addressing three core risk areas: Transportation accidents, falls, and workplace violence.

“On average, 13 workers lose their lives each and every day, and that loss ripples throughout their communities — Children, parents, brothers, sisters and neighbors all bear an enormous burden when a loved one dies on the job,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “We know how to prevent these fatalities, and all employers must take the steps necessary to keep their workers safe.”

Nationwide, violence in the workplace now accounts for more deaths at work than any other type of accident except transportation accidents. A total of 780 people were killed in acts of workplace violence. In many cases, negligent security may be to blame.

Transportation accidents — and particularly distracted driving — continue to be a focus. The federal government now forbids all federal employees from using cell phones behind the wheel. And organizations like the National Safety Council continue to push employers to adopt distracted driving policies. Those that don’t are opening themselves up to liability in the event of an accident. Employees who are involved in an accident on the job should always consult an experienced attorney about the best course of action.

The number of construction accidents in Alabama and elsewhere has declined throughout the economic downturn. The U.S. Department of Labor reports 721 deaths in construction accidents last year, compared to 774 in 2010. However, that trend is also likely to reverse as the housing market recovers. The Los Angeles Times is reporting the housing market is recovering faster than many economists anticipated.

OSHA also continues to be concerned about the large number of construction accidents among Latino workers. While the overall number of workplace fatalities has declined by about 20 percent in the last decade, the number of fatalities among Hispanics has increased 35 percent. This is particularly true among those in the construction industry.
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