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Slidell Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Is workers comp compatible with Social Security Disability?

Workers in Louisiana who suffer potentially debilitating injuries on the job may be concerned not only about their short-term ability to provide income for themselves and their families but also the long-term effects if they cannot return to work for the foreseeable future. Some people may be under the mistaken impression that if one collects benefits under an employer-sponsored workers compensation insurance plan, he or she may be ineligible to collect from Social Security Disability Insurance. The good news is that, in most cases, this is not true.

While Social Security Disability Insurance is administered through the federal government, workers compensation insurance is mandated and stipulated by each state. The two entities do not coincide or conflict with each other directly. However, there are limitations on how much a person can collect from SSDI if workers compensation is also being collected. The combination of the two cannot exceed 80 percent of the person's prior income before becoming injured.

OSHA silica rule withstands judicial scrutiny

Data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reveals that about 2 million workers in Louisiana and around the country have jobs that expose them to silica. The federal workplace safety watchdog took action to protect these workers in March by reducing the permissible levels of silica to 50 micrograms in each cubic meter of air during an eight-hour shift, but the revised Crystalline Silica Rule was quickly challenged by trade groups and labor advocates.

Silica crystals can penetrate lungs and have been linked with potentially deadly diseases including lung cancer and silicosis, but trade groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenged the revised OSHA silica standard in court claiming that the medical evidence supporting it was unconvincing. The lawsuit also alleged that the revised rule violated the Administrative Procedure Act and that meeting the stricter standard would not be feasible for many businesses.

How Sodexo will address issues with work safety

Sodexo is a provider of quality of life services that help companies better manage themselves and their employees. Business owners in Louisiana who are faced with issues concerning worker safety may want to know what Sodexo's North American branch had to say at the 2017 Safety Leadership Conference, which took place in Atlanta.

The most pressing need, the North American branch's vice president claims, is that of instilling a "zero-harm mindset" among workers and leaders. This means building the shared work culture anew, changing work and interaction habits from day to day.

OSHA reveals top 10 safety violations for 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is in charge of regulating workplace safety. Failing to comply with the agency's guidelines can lead to citations and fines. Every year, OSHA releases a list of the top 10 safety violations based on the number of allocated penalties. The results for fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017) are similar to those of previous years, but there are some differences that business owners in Louisiana should be aware of.

For the sixth year in a row, violations of fall protection requirements topped the list. In fact, more than 6,000 claims were issued to companies that failed to protect workers and work areas with the proper safety equipment. This equipment ranges from railing for elevated work areas to harnesses and lines for the employees. The rest of the top five includes violations under the hazard communication, scaffolding, respiratory protection and lockout/tagout requirements.

Safety risks of gig economy work

Many people in Louisiana and across the U.S. are engaging in more gig economy work. These workers contract with various employers, employment agencies or internet platforms for short-term tasks, being paid per project rather than through an hourly wage. Rideshare services and e-commerce sites are common providers of gig work.

In 2016, the Freelancers Union estimated that 55 million Americans do some form of gig work every year. The Pew Research Center released a study that same year stating that 8 percent of American adults performed online gig work in 2015. Nearly 30 percent of these individuals claimed that the wages provided for their basic needs.

How to avoid overcomplicating job safety

Business owners in Louisiana are often concerned with preventing accidents in the workplace. A lot depends on the effectiveness of the safety program, and it is in crafting these that employers often fall under several misconceptions.

For example, some mistakenly believe that workers are safe as long as they take their time. Faster does not necessarily mean less safe, and rushing is seldom the only cause of an accident. It does, however, lead to workers taking shortcuts and forgetting integral steps. What is missing here is the idea of hazard recognition.

Protecting Louisiana workers against burns

Each year, more than 2,000 workers throughout the country are sent to the hospital because of arc flash explosions. Of those, roughly 400 will die from their burns or because of a resulting infection. In many cases, the accidents that lead to these injuries are caused by improperly working in an energized area. Workers may reduce the risk of these incidents by wearing protective equipment.

Management can do its part by stressing the importance of not taking shortcuts on a job site. Ideally, workers will wait until a work area is no longer energized or only do so with protective clothing. Recent changes to arc flash suits mean that they are more comfortable, which allows a person to do his or her job with less hassle. Any personal protective equipment that a person wears should be flame resistant.

Adapting to age diversity in the workforce

In Louisiana and around the country, more and more people are putting off retirement. The Pew Research Center has found that the workforce percentage of Americans 65 and older who work full- or part-time increased from 12.8 percent in May 2000 to 18.8 percent in May 2016. This has led to greater age diversity in the workplace, especially in the construction industry and other fields involving manual labor.

To adapt to the needs of both older and younger employees, employers are encouraged to do several things. First, they should bridge the communication gap by bringing together employees for group activities. Second, they should regularly check in on elderly employees and assign new tasks when current ones are becoming too strenuous.

The importance of proper equipment in the workplace

Louisiana warehouse workers who need to reach items on high shelves need to be provided with the proper equipment and training to be lifted to those shelves safely. A warehouse worker was fatally injured when he fell 7 feet to a concrete floor after standing on a pallet that had been lifted by a forklift to a top shelf. This was common practice in his workplace, and the workers did not have another way to safely access high shelves.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration investigated the incident and found that the employer should have prohibited this practice, which was against the forklift manufacturer's instructions. It also said that the employees should have been provided with training and with equipment that would allow them to be safely lifted. One option is a personnel platform. Requiring written approval from the manufacturer of the forklift, this platform comes with fall protection such as a guardrail. Another option is a high-lift order picker. This is an industrial truck class that includes fall arrest equipment.

Debate rages over hiding names of deceased workers

On Aug. 25, the names of thousands of workers who died on the job were removed from OSHA's website. Three of the victims were killed while they were welding a 30-foot tank for the Packaging Corporation of America in Louisiana. The men were thrown 200 feet when the tank exploded.

The company was fined $63,375 by OSHA, and the association added the workers' names to an online scrolling list of workplace victims. OSHA says that their names were later removed to protect the privacy of their family members. However, some of the victim's relatives said that their names should remain as a way to hold employers accountable for their actions. One said that choosing to remove this information makes victims seem more like statistics.