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Gastonia Injury Law Blog

Amazon's worker safety problem

Amazon has assumed a pervasive reach in the retail market in North Carolina and around the world. Many people place orders with Amazon because they can expect fast deliveries of the products that they want. However, the company has a history of worker safety at its distribution and transportation centers both in the U.S. and around the world.

According to EHS Today, Amazon has had a pattern of worker fatalities, allegations of unsafe work conditions and injuries in its distribution facilities. The company uses automated robot machinery in many of its centers, and the robots pose a serious risk of danger to workers.

OSHA criticized in OIG workplace safety report

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is not doing enough to enforce regulations that require employers in North Carolina and around the county to report workplace injuries and fatalities in a timely manner. This was the conclusion reached by the Department of Labor in the Office of Inspector General's Nov. 30 report to Congress. The semiannual report marks the second time in a matter of weeks that the DOJ has criticized OSHA's less than vigorous pursuit of persistent violators.

According to an OIG audit of OSHA enforcement practices, the workplace safety watchdog has issues just 400 citations for failing to report injuries or deaths or reporting them late since December 2015. The regulations were revised and stiffened in January 2015. The OIG blames the lax enforcement on OSHA's information gathering protocols. One of the agency's former senior officials has claimed that only about 50 percent of serious workplace injuries are reported.

Getting ready for winter road conditions

Winter weather can create hazardous driving conditions on roads in North Carolina and throughout the United States. In some cases, snow or ice can coat surfaces without warning. Therefore, it can be a good idea for drivers to tell friends or family members where they are going ahead of time. In the event that a driver becomes stranded, he or she should remain close to the vehicle.

It is important not to start the vehicle if it has a blocked exhaust pipe. Furthermore, it may be a good idea to crack a window to ensure proper ventilation while the car is running. Having fresh air circulate in a car or truck can prevent a person from getting carbon monoxide poisoning. To minimize the chances of getting stuck or in an accident, a car should be inspected prior to the winter season.

Safety tips for outdoor winter workers

During the winter, outdoor workers in North Carolina are liable to develop hypothermia, frostbite and other conditions if they are not properly protected. They may also slip on icy and snowy surfaces, especially when removing snow off roofs, and they could get in accidents when driving. OSHA has provided some safety tips for employers on its Winter Weather resource site.

It all starts with providing hazard training. New employees who come from less severe winter climates will need special attention. Employers must also provide the right personal protective equipment, including insulated gloves and coats. Though there are no specific OSHA guidelines on rooftop snow removal, it is regulated by OSHA's guidelines on fall protection systems, ladders and aerial lifts.

OSHA may need revised standards for robot safety

Robots are used in industries across North Carolina to take on hazardous and repetitious tasks, but without the proper guarding or adequate safety training for employees, these machines can cause injuries. Robot safety has long been a concern for OSHA, which first issued its Guidelines for Robotics Safety back in 1987. At that time, robots posed a danger not just when in operation but during programming, testing and inspection periods.

Thanks to advanced computer intelligence, robots are now safer, and they can be found playing a role in the manufacturing, warehousing and retail industries. However, some experts are saying that OSHA has failed to keep up with these advances and therefore requires updated regulations.

Top reasons for workers comp denials

For injured workers in North Carolina, workers' compensation can offer a way to get the benefits they need to tide them over while coping with their injuries. Many depend on these benefits to get medical care and pay bills during times when their injuries or conditions limit their ability to work.

Learning the insurance company has denied your claim can be discouraging. Avoiding the following common pitfalls can increase your chances of getting benefits sooner rather than later.

Driving safely at night

Many people in North Carolina are injured in crashes every year. According to National Safety Council research, the risk of being in a fatal crash is three times greater when driving at night. Drivers should use extra caution to make driving at night safer.

Many people find that their driving abilities are compromised at night due to poor night vision. To combat this problem, it is important to have annual vision exams. If the problem is serious enough and removing distractions does not help, it may be necessary to limit driving to daytime hours.

Workplace safety violations put employees at risk

North Carolina workers may face an array of safety hazards on the job, including those that can lead to severe injuries or serious workplace accidents. At the 2018 National Safety Council Congress, a deputy director of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration highlighted a top 10 list of the leading violations issued by the agency against employers in the past year. The statistics covered the period from October 2017 through the end of September 2018, and in many cases, they revealed similar patterns of safety problems to prior years.

For several years running, the most commonly cited safety violation has been a failure to provide fall protection to employees. Employers have a duty to ensure that workers have the proper gear to help prevent falls and to save lives in case an incident does occur. However, 7,270 violations were found during the year. In some cases, employers failed to provide protective equipment to workers operating near open edges or on roofs. This wasn't the only type of protective gear often not provided to workers. Coming in at number 10 on the list was a failure to provide proper eye protection. During the year, 1,536 employers were cited for failure to provide eye or face protection to workers dealing with flying objects or caustic gases and vapors.

Halloween and the threat of reckless drivers

The northeast chapter of AAA offers some safety tips for those who are going to be out for Halloween night. Parents and partygoers alike in North Carolina will want to review this information so that they can reduce accident risks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that the time between 6 p.m. on Oct. 31 and 6 a.m. on Nov. 1 are the peak hours for drunk-driving crashes.

Of all the fatal traffic crashes that took place between that 12-hour period from 2012 to 2016, 44 percent involved at least one drunk driver. In 2016, nearly half of those accidents were caused by people between 21 and 34 years old. On the other hand, no pedestrians were killed on Halloween night 2016.

How tech can address trucker fatigue and distractions

Truckers in North Carolina are probably aware of the dangers they face on the road, especially distraction and fatigue. NHTSA reports that there are as many as 100,000 fatigue-related crashes every year, and the National Center for Statistics and Analysis finds that distracted driving is behind 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 15 percent of all injury crashes.

There are technologies that can help prevent truckers from falling asleep or engaging in distracting activities, partly by rewarding truckers for safe driving and coaching them on best practices. Omnitracs has products that can keep track of real-time driving behavior, weather and traffic conditions as well as the trucker's hours-of-service data, alerting the trucker when he or she is at risk for a "fatigue event."