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Welcome to Texas Work Injury Law Blog

This website is maintained by the Law Offices of Dean Malone, P.C., a Dallas, Texas law firm representing people across Texas for work injury cases. We have attempted to provide useful information for those harmed by work injuries.

Posts Tagged ‘Employment’

Work Injury Attorney Dallas – Extreme Heat in Summer Demands Safety Steps for Texas Employers

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

English: HOUSTON, Texas (Dec. 11)--The Port of...

English: HOUSTON, Texas (Dec. 11)–The Port of Houston, the busiest in the nation in terms of foreign tonnage, is accessed by a 54-mile long ship channel. In an average day more than 700 vessel transit the channel. Here, a ship passes under the Fred Hartman bridge on the Houston ship channel, December 11. USCG photo by PA2 James Dillard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All year around, employers have a responsibility to provide workers with a safe workplace environment. When a job involves outdoor work in summer, extreme caution is necessary. Heat-related injuries and fatalities occur every year, though they are virtually always considered preventable. Texas employers will hopefully avoid placing workers in circumstances that allegedly took the life of a 59-year-old man in 2015 in Houston, Texas. The man had been hired for the day to sort aluminum cans, but the heat was excessive. According to OSHA area director Joann Figueroa, the man died of heat illness at a recycling company based in Houston. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been waging annual campaigns to prevent heat illness and heat-related fatalities among outdoor workers. The following information regarding heat stress is from OSHA.

Why is heat hazardous to workers?

In a hot environment, the body must get rid of excess heat, in order to maintain a stable internal temperature. Sweating and circulating blood to the skin are the main ways the body does this. If the air temperature is too close to or warmer than normal body temperature, however, it becomes more difficult to cool the body. The blood that is circulated to the skin can’t lose the extra heat. Sweating is only effective if the humidity level is low enough to allow for evaporation and if salts and fluids that are lost in the heat are replaced adequately.

If the body is unable to get rid of excess heat, it begins storing it. This causes the heart rate to increase and the core temperature to rise. A person in this condition will begin having trouble concentrating and focusing on tasks. He or she may become sick or irritable. The desire to drink is often lost. There are various other symptoms, including fainting. If a person isn’t cooled in time, death can occur.

–Guest Contributor


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After 2 Workers Die, Company is Fined $1,475,813 and a Man is Charged with Manslaughter – Part 4

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

English: The Frances Perkins Building of the U...

English: The Frances Perkins Building of the U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed penalties of almost $1.5 million against Atlantic Drain Service Company, Inc., in Boston, MA, following an inspection instigated by two workplace fatalities. In addition, the owner faces two manslaughter charges as well as other criminal charges in connection with the workers’ deaths and safety issues on the job.

News sources revealed more details about the deaths of workers Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks. As they were working in a trench that was approximately 12 feet deep, the trench collapsed. The men were both trapped by soil up to their waists. Tragically, the collapse of the trench caused an adjacent supply line to a fire hydrant to break. The trench was quickly filled with water from the broken water pipe, and the men were trapped underwater within seconds. Coworkers tried desperately to save the men, but they both drowned.

The man who oversaw the work at Atlantic Drain on the day the workplace fatalities occurred, the same man criminally charged, allegedly failed to:

  • Install a trench support system to protect workers in a 12-foot trench from a trench collapse;
  • Prevent the adjacent fire hydrant line from breaking, by virtue of failing to prevent a trench collapse;
  • Remove workers from the dangerous trench conditions;
  • Provide the workers with training that would equip them to identify and address dangers associated with excavation work and trenching;
  • At all times provide a ladder so that workers could exit the trench;
  • Support structures near the trench that posed overhead dangers; and
  • Provide workers with eye protection and hard hats.

Atlantic Drain was cited for 18 willful, serious, repeat, and other-than-serious violations of safety standards for the workplace. In 2007 and 2012, OSHA alleges to have cited the company for similar hazards related to trenching worksites.

See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this continuing series.

–Guest Contributor


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After 2 Workers Die, Company is Fined $1,475,813 and a Man is Charged with Manslaughter – Part 3

Wednesday, May 10th, 2017

The seal of the United States Department of Labor

The seal of the United States Department of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposed penalties of almost $1.5 million against Atlantic Drain Service Company, Inc., in Boston, MA, following an inspection instigated by two workplace fatalities. In addition, the owner faces two manslaughter charges as well as other criminal charges in connection with the workers’ deaths and safety issues on the job.

The following are more details about specific citations against Atlantic Drain for willful safety violations that were allegedly committed:

The employer allegedly failed to instruct each employee on being able to recognize and avoid unsafe conditions or on regulations applicable to his or her work environment, so that they were equipped to control or eliminate any dangers or other exposure to injury or illness. More specifically, employees were allegedly routinely exposed to hazards from power tools, cave-in hazards, and other dangers, including vehicular traffic. The employer also allegedly routinely fails to instruct individual employees on the recognition and avoidance of hazardous conditions associated with unsupported utilities, tools, trenches, and traffic. The proposed penalty for this alleged serious violation is: $126,749. This proposed penalty was listed five separate times for specific workers, at $126,749 for each.

The employer allegedly exposed employees to cave-in hazards while they were working in trenches. A safe means of access/egress was not kept in the trench at all times, as required. The proposed penalty for this alleged serious violation is: $126,749.

See Part 1 and Part 2 of this continuing series.

–Guest Contributor


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A 23-year-old Construction Worker Dies in an Industrial Accident

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

English: A Caterpillar 930G fitted with a load...

English: A Caterpillar 930G fitted with a loader rake on a residential construction site in South Florida. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On April 5, 2017, in El Campo, Texas, one construction worker was killed and another critically injured in an industrial accident that occurred at about 11:30 a.m. The fatal accident occurred at a construction site on Marek Lane. According to authorities, a 70-year-old front-end loader operator was moving a large tire and set of wheels. Two men were crushed by the tire when the operator set the load down. Twenty-three-year-old Anthony Pedro Cruz died from his injuries that day. Fifty-five-year-old Jose Luna was transported to a Houston hospital, where he was said to be in critical condition.

When the tragic accident occurred, the front-end loader operator was being directed by another work, but neither of them saw Cruz or Luna. The incident is being investigated by the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) will also conduct an investigation; it’s standard procedure when a fatal workplace accident occurs.

A foundational approach to addressing this type of hazard is to have a spotter. Employees need to be trained on where blind spots are located. Those who work around industrial vehicles benefit from spending time in the driver’s seat. This allows them to get a clearer understanding of where blind spots are and what the driver can see.

OSHA provides specific safety standards regarding struck-by hazards, which covers incidents like this tragic construction fatality that occurred last week. A couple of those guidelines follow:

  • Workers must be highly visible at all times of the day or night. Red or orange vests must be worn.
  • Workers on or near a construction zone are advised not to place themselves in a situation of being at risk of being struck by a vehicle or getting caught in a situation that has no escape route.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers have a safe workplace environment. When they fail in that responsibility, they are subject to being cited and fined by OSHA.

–Guest Contributor


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A 43-year-old Oilfield Worker is Killed on the Job in Brazoria County, Texas

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

English: Oil well An oil rig used for training.

English: Oil well An oil rig used for training. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Tuesday, March 14, 2017, a fatal workplace accident occurred in Brazoria County, Texas, south of Pearland near Highway 35 and County Road 129. A piece of equipment weighing between 2,500 and 3,500 pounds was being lifted when it broke free and fell to the ground, also striking and killing 43-year-old Antonio Perez of El Campo. The tragedy occurred at the Denbury Resources Oil Field. The oilfield worker was pronounced dead at the scene, and an investigation into the accident is ongoing.

There are certain risks associated with all work environments, and an oil field is among the more dangerous workplaces. Employers have a responsibility to workers to follow safety guidelines provided by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The following are safety hazards that are associated with oil and gas extraction activities, as identified by OSHA:

  • Machine hazards
  • Struck-by, caught-in, and caught between hazards
  • Vehicle collisions
  • Explosions and fires
  • Falls
  • Ergonomic hazards
  • Confined spaces
  • Electrical and other hazardous energy
  • High pressured lines and equipment

For each of these hazardous areas and more, OSHA provides safety guidelines. Employers have access to what they need to maximize the safety in every work environment. When companies fail to follow safety rules, there is a greater likelihood that someone will be seriously hurt or killed.

Many would argue that when it comes to hazardous machinery and equipment in the workplace, the oil and gas industry ranks first. Dangerous machines often operate in unguarded areas, which puts workers at further risk. The following are examples of operations that should be performed with great caution by competent operators:

  • Spinning chain
  • Heavy lifts and hoists
  • Traveling derrick
  • drilling
  • Loading and unloading materials

–Guest Contributor


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36-year-old Man Dies in a Construction Site Trench Collapse in San Antonio, Texas

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

San Antonio is the largest city in South Texas.

San Antonio is the largest city in South Texas. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On March 9, 2017, 36-year-old David Allen Williams was working at a construction site in San Antonio, Texas, in wet weather when he fell into a trench that collapsed. He was trapped in heavy clay soil, up to his neck. At about 4:30 pm, when rescue firefighters arrived on the scene, they found that co-workers were attempting to rescue Williams. The firefighters continued the attempt, but Williams died while efforts to help him were still underway. The tonnage of the soil that entrapped him was more than anyone could withstand, according to Chief Charles Hood of the San Antonio Fire Department. He also said the conditions for trying to dig someone out were some of the worst.

During the extended period of recovery, the trench walls had to be secured once again, to prevent any further collapse.

This tragic workplace fatality will be investigated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This is the federal organization designed to hold employers responsible for the safety of their workers.

Trench collapses are well covered in OSHA safety guidelines because trenches are known to be potentially deadly. Construction sites virtually always involve some sort of trenching. There are a number of dangers associated with trenching, including:

  • If heavy machinery gets too close to the edge of a trench, the result can be a dangerous collapse;
  • Working too close to traffic can cause sides of trenching to be more unstable;
  • Electrical hazards are present overhead and underground.
  • Natural gas can also be a dangerous underground utility in a construction trench.
  • It is required the trenches be tested for toxic gases before workers enter, since that is another common threat to worker safety.
  • In wet weather conditions, when it is difficult to stabilize soil, workers are not supposed to work in trenches.

Enforcement of trenching and excavation operations has been increased by OSHA in recent years, due to the risks involved and the number of lives lost. It is of utmost importance that employers protect workers with correct trenching measures, since even one square yard of soil is more weight than a person may be able to survive.

–Guest Contributor

 


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An Oklahoma Company is Hit with $535,411 in proposed OSHA Fines

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

English: Logo for the United States Occupation...

English: Logo for the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) holds employers responsible for failing to provide employees with a safe work environment. Companies must understand the safety standards for their own industries and comply or face penalties. BigTex Trailer Manufacturing Inc., doing business as CM Truck Beds, out of Oklahoma allegedly created a work environment in which employees could be killed or seriously injured, according to OSHA area director in Oklahoma City, David Bates. As a result of a complaint alleging that the working conditions were unsafe, an investigation of the facilities was done in July 2016. OSHA investigators issued citations for 20 alleged serious violations, two alleged repeat violations, one alleged willful violation, and several other-than-serious alleged violations. Proposed penalties issued in January 2017 amounted to $535,411.

The following are brief descriptions of some of the 20 serious alleged violations CM Truck Beds was cited for. The company allegedly failed to:

  • Label chemicals properly.
  • Ensure the safe use of powered industrial trucks.
  • Ensure the safe use of the spray booth in order to prevent overexposure.
  • Store compressed gas tanks properly.
  • Cover floor holes safely and ensure exits are properly labeled and accessible.
  • Inspect and guard sprockets and chain slings.
  • Ensure safety guards on a portable grinder were in place.
  • Maintain a program for hazardous energy control and train workers on safety procedures.

The one alleged willful violation involved failing to provide machine guarding in order to protect operators and other workers in the area from hazards such as those created by flying chips and sparks, rotating parts, ingoing nip points, and point of operation. The proposed OSHA penalty for this alleged violation alone is: $124,709.

Learn more specifics about various alleged violations in this ongoing series.

–Guest Contributor


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A Female Construction Worker is San Antonio Crushed by a Backhoe

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

A CONSTRUCTION WORKER DRILLS THROUGH SOLID ROC...

A CONSTRUCTION WORKER DRILLS THROUGH SOLID ROCK ALONG ESCOWEE STREET ON THE BANK OF THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER PRIOR TO… – NARA – 557735 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 19-year-old woman was killed at a construction site in San Antonio, Texas, when the bucket of a backhoe was dropped on top of her. The shocking workplace fatality occurred on the morning of Monday, January 23, 2017. The woman was pronounced dead at the scene, and the foreman who was driving the backhoe and said he didn’t see the woman was hospitalized, most likely for shock, according to Bexar County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Roger Pedraza.

The deceased was a construction worker at the construction site, which is on Potranco Road in the 13700 block. Police were called at about 10:30 am and reported that the woman had been crushed to death by the backhoe.

At least two dozen members of the accident victims’ family went to the site. According to one of the victim’s siblings, her sister had been injured at the construction site the previous week. Allegedly, the same backhoe operator knocked her in the leg with the machine, giving her a bruise about the size of a grapefruit. The sibling also claimed that her sister had complained about lack of adherence to safety guidelines on the worksite.

A construction worker at the scene who has been at the site for about a month alleged that the same foreman involved in this deadly accident was frequently careless on the job, resulting in a lot of broken pipes.

Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe workplace environment. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be conducting an investigation, prompted by this tragedy. If the employer is found to be in violation of safety guidelines, the company will be cited and will face proposed penalties. OSHA penalties have just been increased for the first time in a quarter century. The new amounts have the potential to seriously impact small businesses, which will hopefully serve to motivate employers to improve worker safety procedures. This tragic construction fatality in San Antonio was allegedly a senseless, preventable act.

–Guest Contributor


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With OSHA Changes, Employers have Additional Motivation to Keep Workers Safe

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

The seal of the United States Department of Labor

The seal of the United States Department of Labor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the first time in a quarter of a century, maximum penalties for workplace safety violations have been increased by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Small business owners need to take more care than ever to follow safety regulations, since the maximum penalty for a serious violation jumped from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for a repeat or willful violation dramatically shot up from $70,000 to $124,709. These laws were mandated by Congress in the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act, making them likely to remain intact with the incoming administration.

Creating a culture of safety within the workplace is the most effective way to avoid OSHA inspections and resulting financial penalties. It has perhaps never been so crucial for small business owners to avoid OSHA penalties; the following information can be helpful:

  • OSHA representatives are not required to give any type of advance warning about an investigation. A company may get a visit simply because the industry it’s in has a high-hazard classification.
  • Many times, complaints are investigated over the phone. By immediately and fully handling such matters, a follow-up on-site inspection can usually be avoided.
  • When OSHA investigators arrive on site, they conduct an open investigation with a goal for complete transparency. In fact, employers and chosen representatives are free to join compliance officers on their walk-through tours of the workplace. When hazards are resolved at the time discovered, it demonstrates good faith. Inspections can take place over a course of hours, days, or weeks. The size of the workplace and the nature of the inspection both determine how long the process takes.
  • Once the walk-around during an inspection is finished, OSHA compliance officers are required to meet with employers and employer representatives to discuss all findings. OSHA has six months from the time an alleged violation occurs to impose financial penalties and issue citations.

Workers have a right to a safe workplace. Any extra effort given to ensure worker safety is a very good thing, no matter the motivation.

–Guest Contributor

 


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OSHA Cites a Navasota, Texas, Company for Hearing Hazards & More

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

English: The Frances Perkins Building of the U...

English: The Frances Perkins Building of the U.S. Department of Labor headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(See Part 1 of this 2-part series.)

A follow-up inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was initiated on August 24, 2016, resulting in eight alleged serious violations and two alleged repeat violations against ST Feed Mill in Navasota, Texas. Total proposed penalties amount to $91,911.

One of the alleged serious violations committed by ST Feed Mill is failing to administer an effective, ongoing hearing conservation program. Employers are not to be exposed to noise exposures that equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level of 85 decibels measured on the A scale or equivalently a dose of 50%. More specifically, a pellet mill operator was allegedly exposed to continuous noise levels at 78.6% of the permissible daily dose exposure or an equivalent sound level of approximately 88.2 dBA during the 400-minute sampling period on 8-25-16. Included in the exposure calculations is a zero increment for the 80 minutes not sampled. The proposed penalty for this alleged serious violation is: $9,603.

Another alleged serious violation was that one or more methods of machine guarding was not provided to protect the operator and other workers in the machine area from hazards such as those created by rotating parts, flying chips and sparks, ingoing nip points, and point of operation. More specifically, on or about August 24, 2016, employees in the bagging area were exposed to struck-by hazards when operating a robot that was stacking animal feed bags on pellets without barrier guarding surrounding the entire operating envelope of the robotic arm. The proposed penalty for this alleged serious violation is: $6,859.

–Guest Contributor


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