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Seeking workers' compensation after prescription drug abuse

Workers' compensation insurance programs in Tennessee and other states generally allow employees to receive benefits when an injury or illness happens on the job. This can pay for the medical expenses an employee faces and may include costs for surgeries, necessary tools like crutches or prescription drugs. In the case of prescription drugs, some organizations like the National Safety Council are worried about the potential for abuse and how this relates to employers.

A report recently issued by the NSC focused on workers who were prescribed painkillers after an injury that allowed for workers' compensation benefits. The NSC looked at 15 court cases that took place between 2009 and 2015 where a plaintiff sued because of the opiate painkillers that were prescribed. The prescribed use of opioids puts employees at risk for overdose or addiction, and courts have ruled that death or addiction due to prescribed painkillers after an injury are covered under workers' compensation.

Robotic safety in the workplace

As technology advances, more and more workers in Tennessee perform jobs around robots. This can be hazardous if employers do not take appropriate safety precautions. After the first robot-related fatality occurred in 1984, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published safety guidelines for people who work near robots.

One of the key aspects of robotic safety is designing a safe robotic workstation. A robot will likely require more space to perform a task than a human would need. According to safety guidelines, a robotic workstation should be surrounded by a fence that is equipped with an electrical interlocking gate. When the gate is opened, this should cause the robot to stop working.

Standards for protecting construction workers from falls

Iron workers have some of the most hazardous jobs in the construction industry. Every year, falls are consistently among the top sources for injuries and fatalities on construction sites in Tennessee and nationwide. Meanwhile, fall protection violations lead the list of citations reported by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration annually. However, by carefully following OSHA's fall protection standard, employers can greatly reduce risks on the construction site.

According to OSHA, employers must protect every employee walking or working more than 15 feet above a lower level. Employees must be protected from falls by guardrails, safety nets, fall restraints, positioning devices or personal fall arrest systems. The easiest way to prevent falls is learning to recognize a fall hazard when it is seen. Employers should carefully observe work sites for clearly dangerous conditions and work to correct them. This can be done by either choosing a different method for completing a task or by taking measures to protect workers who must complete the task. Employers who fail to do this could leave themselves open to lawsuits in the event of a worker's death.

OSHA to help improve worker safety in Tennessee

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a statement on June 25 that it was going to expand enforcement of worker safety rules for health care workers. It will be focusing on five specific hazards unique to hospital, residential care and nursing home workers. These hazards include slips and falls, safe patient handling as well as exposure to bloodborne pathogens. It is the second time in two months that OSHA has announced plans to increase enforcement regarding these issues.

OSHA says that it will inspect for compliance in these areas even if an inspection was being conducted for unrelated reasons. As part of the inspection process, OSHA will ask for employee medical records and interview employees to confirm the information contained in those records. It is expected that hospitals may receive an increased number of citations due to increased inspections and the thorough nature of these inspections.

Technology could prevent truck accidents

Tennessee motorists may find it interesting to learn about a new technology that would allow drivers to "see through" large trucks ahead of them on the roadway and know when it is safe to pass them. The concept was developed by the South Korean electronics conglomerate Samsung.

The Samsung safety truck uses a wireless camera mounted on the front of the truck to stream video to four large screens placed on the back. That means anyone driving behind the truck can essentially see what the truck driver is seeing and choose a safe and appropriate time to pass the vehicle.

Alcohol, speed and youth major factors in motor vehicle accidents

As many Tennessee motorists know, speeding remains a leading factor in motor vehicle accidents. The total number of fatalities dropped by almost 10,000 to 33,561 between 2003 and 2012, yet speeding was still cited as a factor in about 30 percent of the deaths. Rather than viewing speed as a lone causative factor, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration puts it in context with a common co-factor and looks at the incidence by gender and age.

A blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is considered driving under the influence in every state. NHTSA data showed that in any fatal motor vehicle accident during 2012 that involved a speeding driver, there was a 42 percent chance that the driver was also intoxicated. The total number of fatal accidents where one speeding driver tested for some alcohol in their system was almost as high as the number showing no alcohol.

The prevalence of health care worker injuries

Tennessee residents who work as nurses in residential care facilities or hospitals may not be surprised to read that health care continues to present the highest rate of injuries relative to any other general industry. The hazards of the profession, primarily tied to lifting and transferring patients, have been highlighted in a number of media reports, including one about a 43-year-old nurse who was unable to walk until she received surgery for a back injury after she helped lift a heavy patient who had fallen. Injuries like hers are unfortunately common in an industry that, according to reports, lacks sufficient lifting equipment to assist nurses with tasks that can strain muscles and joints and even result in permanent disorders.

In order to significantly reduce the number of workplace injuries reported by nurses in health care facilities, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is extending a program that is both collaborative and punitive in nature for facilities that violate the federal agency's broader workplace safety guidelines. Specific federal mandates for equipment used to lift and transfer patients or similar ergonomic measures, however, do not exist, but OSHA does promote their implementation as a best practice, and it will examine their use as well as the use of broader patient handling policies in multiple facilities operated by the same corporate entity in order to determine their overall impact on the industry's injury rate.

Salon chemical use under increased scrutiny

Tennessee manicurists may not know about reports that link potentially dangerous chemicals in some nail salon products to serious health problems. Nail salon products that include chemicals such as formaldehyde may be associated with serious medical problems such as cancer, miscarriages, asthma and respiratory disease. Efforts to regulate these chemicals have generally been unsuccessful.

After the New York Times oublished articles meant to draw attention to the issue of possibly harmful chemicals in salon products, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio came out against the chemicals. Cuomo issued emergency regulations on these potentially harmful chemicals in an attempt to make work safer for nail salon employees. De Blasio also announced that he would be making efforts to regulate the chemicals as well.

The leading causes of fatal car accidents

In Tennessee and around the country, car accidents claim the lives of many people each year due to various causes such as driving while under the influence and texting while driving. Using data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on fatal car accidents between 2009 and 2013, the Auto Insurance Center has compiled a list of the leading causes in each state as well as the District of Columbia.

In Tennessee and a majority of the other states, the primary cause was the failure of a driver to keep in the proper lane. In Mississippi and Kentucky, overcorrecting was the leading cause of fatal car accidents. The only other state that had that as the number one cause was South Dakota.

Airbag recall expanded to include 34 million vehicles

Tennessee motorists may wish to visit a website provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to find out if their vehicle is included in what safety experts say is the largest vehicle recall in history. The auto parts maker Takata had already recalled approximately 18 million vehicles because of defective airbags, but that number has since been doubled. Many of the vehicles involved were manufactured by Honda, but Takata also provided airbags to several other manufacturers for installation in vehicles produced between 2000 and 2011.

The Japanese company has been widely criticized for resisting the efforts of regulators to get their defective products off the road, but recalls were ordered when exploding airbags were linked to five U.S. deaths. The victims were drivers and front seat passengers hit by shrapnel following an airbag explosion. The faulty airbags have also been linked to at least 10 serious injuries.

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