One of the most difficult aspects of being injured at work is understanding what your next step should be. Obviously, you should seek medical treatment for your injury, but even that is not as clear cut as it may seem. How much will your doctor’s visit cost and can you afford it? Since you were injured at work, will your employer pay for your medical bills? Can you see any doctor, or must you see a company-approved physician? What if you can’t work anymore? Yet these complicated questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the rights of an injured worker.
Spring has a dual personality. As winter fades, the sun is shining more, the breezes are warmer, and April showers really do bring May flowers. But those same showers also reflect the darker side to spring – harsh and violent storms. Not only do rain and lightning storms increase in frequency as the warmer months approach, North America’s deadly tornado season spans from April to June. While avoiding injury from these storms can be as simple as staying indoors, for those whose jobs require working outside, staying safe can be a challenge. One study by the Bureau of Labor statistics noted that eleven job-types classified as “outdoor work” made up a third of the reported job-related fatalities. So as spring storm season revs up, workers should understand the variety of hazards they may face.
At one time in our working career, many of us have worked in the food service industry. It’s practically a rite of passage as a teenager’s first job, pays tuition for numerous college students, and serves as a full-time career for many adults. In fact, approximately 9.7 million people in the United States work in the dining and beverage service industry. Though there are many advantages to these jobs, there are multiple drawbacks as well. Long hours, sore feet, and demanding customers are just a few of the downsides of the industry. A greater concern, however, is the number of safety and health hazards faced by food service workers.
One thing is certain when an economic crisis hits – jobs become scarce and people become desperate for work. This was especially true during the Great Depression, when unemployment in the United States averaged 25%. As the need for jobs increased, not only were more workers willing to take riskier employment, fewer employers were making the effort to ensure worker safety. Few events highlight this more than the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster where hundreds of workers died or were sickened by exposure to silica dust. This tragedy not only raised awareness of silicosis, a dangerous occupational disease, but helped to improve safety standards and working conditions for all workers today.
Most workers today have heard of the condition known as carpal tunnel syndrome. While a few decades ago the injury was not well known or understood, now even those outside the medical community are aware it is a common and damaging workplace injury. However, many are still unaware that carpal tunnel has a sibling. This injury, known as tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS), is very similar in cause and symptoms, but affects the leg and foot rather than the arm and hand. And though it is also a fairly common injury, lack of awareness about the condition among workers too often means that their pain goes unreported and untreated.
From January to April, most in the United States are witness to three seasons: winter, spring and tax season. Whether April still has you shoveling snow or mowing your lawn for the first time, in all parts of the country people will be shifting through receipts and mounds of paperwork as the dreaded deadline for filing your taxes looms. Often, we are most thrown when filing for the first time after a new life event. Perhaps you had your first child, retired, changed jobs or lost your job – your tax forms will be different this year. And one of the most confusing life changes comes when you have been injured on the job. While you may be used to filing for your regular income, many are unprepared for how workers’ compensation will affect their taxes. It is helpful, therefore, to understand the current taxing regulations on workers’ compensation income.
When a worker files a workers’ compensation claim, a major hurdle can be proving that the injury or illness was caused by or at work. Too frequently, the employer and/or insurance provider may try every means possible to deny responsibility. One tactic is to deny a claim by stating that the injury or illness is due to some factor other than those at work. But a recent ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court may help workers whose claims are wrongly denied on the inflated basis of preexisting or mitigating factors.
Be thankful the holidays featuring turkey are nearly a year away, otherwise a recent accident at the Jennie-O turkey plant might inspire you to make it a tofurkey Thanksgiving. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently cited the Jennie-O Turkey Store with eleven safety violations. The citations came after an inspection of the plant which was triggered by a gruesome accident in July 2011. In the incident, an employee’s arm was severed below the shoulder after becoming entangled in an energized turkey shackle. The worker was working alone in a confined space, and after the accidental amputation, had to travel down a flight of stairs and across a production floor by himself to obtain help from a co-worker. Predominant among the citations were violations of safety standards for working in confined spaces. Such working conditions are present across a variety of industries and professions, and carry with it a number of safety concerns.
Carpal tunnel syndrome, an injury which affects the wrist and hands, continues to be one of the most commonly reported work-related injuries. The carpal tunnel is a narrow area of the wrist through which the median nerve and tendons pass from the arm into the hand. Repetitive motion or injury can cause this area to swell, putting pressure on the nerve and tendons, and causing carpal tunnel syndrome. Syndrome sufferers experience symptoms in the affected hand and wrist ranging from varying degrees of pain, reduced range of motion, tingling and/or loss of feeling, and even a total or near-total inability to use the affected hand altogether. As nearly every job function requires the use of the hands, often in repetitive motions like keyboard or tool use, this injury is responsible for an exceptionally large number of injuries in the work place. With so many workers facing this potentially debilitating injury, it can be helpful to understand what treatment options are available.
For the injured worker, achieving workers’ compensation benefits should be simple. Many, at first, assume it will require just a few phone calls and some paperwork. And yet, seldom is it as easy as it should be. The required red-tape can seem designed to discourage rather than help an injured worker. And this becomes even more complicated when your employer or workers’ compensation insurance provider opposes your claim. Each claim costs them money, and regardless of how justified your claim, their policy is often to automatically block or limit it. In fact, a recent case in Illinois highlighted too well the type of tangled ploys an injured worker can face when fighting for their benefits.