Every year, between 5,000 and 6,000 workers test positive for dangerous levels of lead in their blood, caused by on-the-job exposure. The latest reports come from California’s state OSHA agency –which also found Hispanic workers to be over-represented among the victims. But across the country, companies continue to ignore basic safety measures to protect workers from poisoning. Consider this recent case:
In January, federal OSHA issued 14 willful and 11 repeat violations to Panthera Painting for exposing its employees to lead. The workers were using abrasive blasting equipment to remove lead paint from bridges over the Pennsylvania Turnpike … The OSHA inspector described how the Panthera crews didn’t have the proper equipment or training to minimize their exposure to lead dust: One worker simply had a shield taped to the front of his hard hat. Another didn’t have new filter cartridges for his respirator, “so he wore the old ones and tied his shirt over his face,” the inspector wrote.
Lead exposure in adults can cause hypertension, serious kidney damage and mental deterioration. If the dust is carried home to young children, the damage can be even worse. Painters and workers who manufacture or store batteries are among the most at risk. But the numbers of workers with lead poisoning is probably underestimated, especially among those who breathe in contaminated fumes. If companies aren’t testing the air, most likely they are not testing workers’ blood levels either.
Workers who are made ill by lead exposure are entitled to compensation under the Illinois Occupational Disease Act. Call Elfenbaum Evers and Amarilio for more information. Thanks to the folks at the Pump Handle Blog for an important update on an old workplace hazard!
No, this is not an occasion brought to you by Wal-Mart’s billionaire owners. On June 7th the champion of Low Wages, Scarce Benefits and No Respect will get a visit at the shareholder’s meeting in Bentonville from Wal-Mart employees who have been on strike for the past two weeks at locations around the country.
Here in Chicago, Jobs with Justice is holding a “People’s Board Meeting” outside the Wal-Mart at 570 West Monroe at 10:00 am. They’ll be joined by members of Warehouse Workers for Justice (employees of the big nonunion Will County warehouses that supply local Wal-Marts and other big-box stores); Fight for 15, the bold new coalition of low-paid retail and service workers; and labor unions like UFCW and Workers United. They’ll deliver petitions in support of the employees’ demands and kick off a movement to support Wal-Mart workers locally.
While the pâté made Jim Carrey sick whilst playing a pet detective, his lack of workers’ compensation insurance made him ill last week when the NY Workers Compensation board fined Mr. Carrey $72,000.00 for not carrying workers compensation insurance.
While we joke about this, lack of workers compensation insurance is a serious problem in Illinois (not to mention a felony). Far too many employers skirt the law, making it more expensive for law abiding businesses to purchase insurance. These free-riding employers hurt more than their employees, they hurt all taxpayers when these injured workers fall onto the state rolls for medical care.
We at Elfenbaum Evers and Amarilio PC fight for your right to full benefits under the law, even when your employer fails to follow the law.
Should your employer be a free rider, or a law abiding one, please call us at 312-226-2650 to discuss all your rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
We look forward to helping you.
A study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, released this week, gave us a sobering reminder of the real human cost of injuries.
The authors studied veterans using the VA health system for treatment from 2006 through 2008. They found a heightened risk of suicide for patients experiencing chronic pain – even after adjusting for depression and other mental-health conditions. Suicide rates were 13% higher than the average for patients with chronic back pain, and 34% higher for migraine sufferers. The biggest increase (58%) was for a small group of patients with “psychogenic pain” – those whose symptoms did not have a clear cause and were believed to be psychological.
For most people living with chronic pain, there are no easy answers. Many treatments can help, but few people recover completely. Medications often come with side effects and a risk of dependence, even for those who follow doctor’s orders to the letter. The past ten years have seen a troubling rise in prescription drug addiction and overdose, much of it fueled by drug companies’ aggressive promotion of various narcotic pain medications. From 1999 to 2010 the number of prescriptions quadrupled. So did overdoses, which killed 16,651 Americans in 2010.
Here at EE&A we have also noticed a “backlash” problem – insurance companies that simplistically blame the patient in pain and demand that he or she be “weaned” from prescription painkillers without suggesting any alternatives. Patients in pain deserve compassion and individualized care directed by doctors – not insurance adjusters, drug companies or law enforcement. It’s time to stop treating patients like criminals. The cost can be too high.
Please feel free to call us at 312-226-2650 for a free consultation to discuss your work-related pain condition.
In the wake of the West, Texas tragedy, a video of workers’ compensation history from the students at Nimitz High School in Houston, Texas has been circulating the web-o-sphere.
We share here with our workers compensation clients in Illinois and any one interested in protecting workers rights and lives. Click on the picture below to be redirected to the video. Thank you.
This reminder about the hazards of table saws came to us courtesy of the Workplace Injury Litigation Group (WILG), a national organization of lawyers serving injured workers:
Table saw injuries per year requiring treatment: 67,300
Emergency room visits: 33,450
Cost per injury, including lost wages, medical care etc.: $35,000
Total annual cost of table saw injuries: $2.36 billion
At Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio we stand ready to help you out if you’re injured by a power saw – but we would rather not have to! Remember: it only takes a couple of seconds’ distraction to lose a finger, or even a hand. And no matter how experienced and careful we are, none of us is perfect. Accidents can also happen when pieces of scrap become trapped or when material “kicks back” due to poor quality wood or a dull blade.
That’s why ALL table saw blades should be protected with up-to-date guards, and jobs should be set up with guides, push sticks etc. to minimize guiding the material by hand. Blades should also be kept sharp to guard against kickbacks.
Click here for an OSHA report on table saw hazards and recommended safety measures. There’s a more detailed Guide to Woodworking Safety here. (And remember: All this applies to that table saw you have at home, too!)
Today in the Chicago Loop, minimum-wage workers in fast-food and retail businesses are walking off the job. They’re members of Fight for 15, and they’re demanding a hike in the minimum wage that keeps them in the growing ranks of the working poor. ($15 per hour is their estimate of what it takes to keep your head above water in Chicago. The current minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 – and most of these workers don’t have health insurance or paid sick days.)
They’ll be joined by supporters from labor and faith communities for a march on Michigan Avenue this afternoon at 3:30, stepping off from St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron. The workers themselves are already marching from business to business, rallying in front of Niketown, Forever 21 and McDonald’s.
You can sign their petition here , and get more information about their campaign.
A few facts: About eighty percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, not teenagers. The majority are women, and many are parents trying to raise children on poverty wages. Close to one in ten American children has a parent working in the minimum-wage economy.
They’re willing to risk their jobs to stand up and say ENOUGH. They deserve our support.
I was watching Chris Hayes’ new show “All In” on MSNBC over the weekend and he put up a statistic that was stunning:
1. “Terrorist Attack” related deaths in the U.S since 2000: 3,033
2. Workplace Deaths in the U.S. since 2000: 60,394
3. Firearms related deaths in the U.S. since 2000: 335,609
Think for a minute about the complete and utter shift of our government’s priorities and resources following 9/11. Everything was re-dedicated to stopping terrorism. Trillions of dollars spent in Treasure, and much more lost in Blood.
Well, we have lost 100 times as many people to gun-related deaths in the U.S. and the Senate is completely unable to do anything to stem that tide of death, as they once again failed to provide even minimal resources to a much more devastating problem.
This process repeats itself with workplace safety. 20 times as many people have died in the workplace than in “terrorist attacks” since 2000. 12 people leave for work everyday and never come home. That is terrifying. Yet, we do not see a massive shift in resources and legislation to stop it.
What is really terrifying is that little, if anything, is being done to limit these workplace deaths. As we are seeing in West, Texas, the toll of lives lost in the workplace is just as devastating as in a “terror attack,” though workplace deaths are infinitely more preventable.
Though little is happening to prevent these preventable worker deaths. The only thing that seems to be happening is that safety regulations and workers’ compensation laws are under attack throughout the country for being “anti-business.”
Caterpillar, after screaming bloody murder about workers compensation rates in Illinois in 2011 (which led to reduction in benefits for workers and an increase in insurance rates), and locking out employees last year, reducing their wages and benefits, gave their CEO a 32% pay hike in 2012 to $22.4 million.
Real people lose their lives at work every day, real people lose their jobs everyday in this “new economy,” real people can’t find work at a living wage everyday, and we as a people keep spending our nearly unlimited resources on the wrong things and shouting about the wrong things.
We have to ask ourselves if we want to live in a country where a race to the bottom between states for mediocre jobs that kill our citizens is worth CEOs reaping all the gains while the rest of scrape for crumbs off of the floor. The answer is obvious. But, they will keep distracting you from the obvious as long as they possibly can.
Of all the obstacles and difficulties an injured worker faces, one of the most difficult is the realization that they cannot return to their former occupation due to the severe and permanent nature of their work injury. Our clients take pride in their careers, have friends at work and, like anyone, are devastated when they learn that their work injury will not allow them to return to their usual and customary occupation.
So, what happens next? Well, if you don’t have a workers’ compensation attorney in Illinois, you may have your benefits cut-off and wished well by the insurance company. Or, maybe they will try to place you with a vocational company whose interest is in keeping the insurance company happy, and not getting you into an occupation that best fits your skills and interests. If you have a work injury in Illinois and you think you will not be able to return to your former occupation, please call us at 312-226-2650 to help manage your return to work.
In today’s economy, returning to work following a more than six month gap from the labor force is proving near impossible, and you need to protect yourself. A recent study by the Boston Fed indicates that the long term unemployed (i.e. six or more consecutive months off of work) are not able to return to work in the same manner as they were able to do so prior to the great recession.
This is stunning news, and it is consistent with what we are seeing on the ground with our clients. As a consequence many injured workers are often deemed permanently disabled from returning to work after a work injury and begin to receive government benefits in the form of Social Security Disability.
When a work injury destroys the earning potential of an individual, we all suffer, and the insurance companies try to escape their obligations on the cheap…once again, socializing losses and privatizing gains.
Should you have any question about your work injury in Illinois and your ability to return to your former job, please call Elfenbaum Evers & Amarilio for a free consultation at 312-226-2650. We look forward to helping you.
The search for survivors has ended in West, Texas, site of Wednesday’s deadly fertilizer plant explosion, according to Gov. Rick Perry. It’s now a matter of recovering bodies. Fourteen have been found so far. As many as sixty people are unaccounted for, although some could simply have gone to stay with relatives. But the head of the Texas State Fireman’s and Fire Marshals’ Association calculates that eleven first responders died in West, including five of the town’s volunteer firefighters and four paramedics.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News reports that Texas environmental regulators considered the plant to pose a low risk of hazards to the nursing home, the middle school and the residential neighborhood nearby. As for OSHA? Their records indicate they inspected West Fertilizer in person once – in 1985. None of the agencies responsible for guarding the workers lives and health of the community realized that the plant was handling not just anhydrous ammonia, but highly explosive ammonium nitrate as well. That’s the fertilizer used by Timothy McVeigh to blow up the Oklahoma City Federal Building back in 1995.
Fourteen dead and counting. Including eleven of the brave “first responders” whom politicians love to shower with words of praise. An entire town devastated. If there were any chance this had been the work of “foreign terrorists,” there would be calls for all-out war. At the very least, national leaders would be thundering that those responsible would feel the heavy weight of justice – “make no mistake.” Will those who swung the budget axe to gut public safety protections, limit workers compensation benefits, and those who looked the other way, pay a price for the deaths in West, Texas? Don’t hold your breath.