Friday, May 17, 2013

150 Work Related Deaths Per Day in America

This statistic from a report by the AFL-CIO is appalling.  Work-related deaths will never be completely eliminated but we need to do a much better job than this.  See the report here.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

New Cure for Back Pain??

Many of my clients suffer from back pain.  Whether it is caused by a work related injury or a car or truck accident or a fall in the grocery store, I see back injuries all the time with my clients.  So, when I read stuff (and I read a lot of stuff...) I'm always interested in medical research related to the injuries and conditions that affect my clients.  That's why I was very interested in this new report regarding new research in curing back pain.....from

"Up to 40% of patients with chronic back pain could be cured with a course of antibiotics rather than surgery, in a medical breakthrough that one spinal surgeon says is worthy of a Nobel prize. Surgeons in the UK and elsewhere are reviewing how they treat patients with chronic back pain after scientists discovered that many of the worst cases were due to bacterial infections.

Specialists who deal with back pain have long known that infections are sometimes to blame, but these cases were thought to be exceptional. That thinking has been overturned by scientists at the University of Southern Denmark who found that 20% to 40% of chronic lower back pain was caused by bacterial infections.

“This will not help people with normal back pain, those with acute, or sub-acute pain – only those with chronic lower back pain,” Dr Hanne Albert, of the Danish research team, told the Guardian. “These are people who live a life on the edge because they are so handicapped with pain. We are returning them to a form of normality they would never have expected.”

In the first report, they explain how bacterial infections inside slipped discs can cause painful inflammation and tiny fractures in the surrounding vertebrae. Working with doctors in Birmingham, the Danish team examined tissue removed from patients for signs of infection. Nearly half tested positive, and of these, more than 80% carried bugs called Propionibacterium acnes.

The microbes are better known for causing acne. They lurk around hair roots and in the crevices in our teeth, but can get into the bloodstream during tooth brushing. Normally they cause no harm, but the situation may change when a person suffers a slipped disc. To heal the damage, the body grows small blood vessels into the disc. Rather than helping, though, they ferry bacteria inside, where they grow and cause serious inflammation and damage to neighbouring vertebrae that shows up on an MRI scan.

In the second paper, the scientists proved they could cure chronic back pain with a 100-day course of antibiotics. In a randomised trial, the drugs reduced pain in 80% of patients who had suffered for more than six months and had signs of damaged vertebra under MRI scans.  Albert stressed that antibiotics would not work for all back pain. Over-use of the drugs could lead to more antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are already a major problem in hospitals. But she also warned that many patients will be having ineffective surgery instead of antibiotics that could alleviate their pain."

So, in summary, this potentially could be a huge help in curing chronic, long-lasting back pain.  It really is a fascinating read.  Take a look at the link above.

Monday, April 29, 2013

State law leads to workers' compensation drops for firefighters in Northeast Pennsylvania

From the Towanda Daily Review:
Insurers are pulling workers' compensation coverage from cash-strapped municipalities in response to a 2011 law linking firefighting with increased cancer risks. 
Dubbed the Firefighters Cancer Presumption Act, Act 46 of 2011 recognizes every form of cancer found in a firefighter as a work-related illness. The onus to prove otherwise is on the municipality. Before the law, a claim could be filed going back 300 weeks. The law doubled that to 600 weeks. 
"Because of the financial risk to the companies suddenly having all these claims, they are choosing not to do the workers' compensation," Smith said.Many are choosing the State Workers' Insurance Fund for firefighters workers' compensation because it is deemed the most cost-effective way to provide the state-mandated coverage. Using SWIF for firefighter coverage allowed Clarks Summit to keep MRM coverage for everything else, Kehoe said. 
Lawmakers who support the law have balked at talk of making modifications.  "I support the measure in its entirety and would not support tweaks to the statute that protects our paid and volunteer firefighters who in turn protect our communities," said Rep. Kevin Haggerty, D-112, Dunmore. "To say that those who are charged with protecting public safety are too costly for insurance carriers is an insult; especially those who volunteer to keep our families and communities safe and in doing so, have contracted cancer." 
Don Konkle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fire and Emergency Services Institute, said lawmakers have a responsibility to look out for firefighters.  "We believe that protecting firefighters from financial ruin for doing their job is just good policy," he said.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bradford and Lycoming counties record most crash-related fatalities in 2012

From The Towanda Daily Review

"Bradford and Lycoming counties had the most crash-related fatalities in 2012 in Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) District 3-0.  According to information released by PennDOT, Bradford and Lycoming counties each had 15 such fatalities each last year.  In each county, 14 were on state roads and one was on a municipal road. 

In addition, Bradford County had the most crash-related fatalities involving large trucks in 2012, with three, PennDOT noted. PennDOT Assistant Traffic Engineer Bill Houpt said there is no particular reason for the number of fatal crashes. When asked for comment by The Daily Review, he stated, "Each crash would need to be evaluated, based on the crash report and its own specific circumstances. Crashes (and fatalities) tend to be cyclical."  For example, total crash-related fatalities in Bradford County in past years are as follows: 2009, 10; 2010, 20; and 2011, 10."

My immediate thought is that the high amount of large truck related fatalities is related to the gas industry and the huge increase in truck traffic in Bradford County and the surrounding counties of Tioga, Sullivan and Susquehana.  Obviously, we don't know for sure without looking at each incident specifically.  But it's a quite surprising that one of the most rural counties in the state has the highest vehicular related fatalities in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Two-Thirds of Older Workers Plan to Delay Retirement

I saw an interesting post from about the aging of our work force and the effect the Great Recession has had on our older workers.  According to a recent study, 62 percent of workers between 45 and 60 years old plan to delay their retirement due to falling wages and job uncertainty. why am I posting this on my Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation blog?  Here's the work force ages, there will be a corresponding increase in work injuries.  It's just plain physiology.  Further, as the average worker's age range shifts higher we may see different types of work-related injuries that we have not seen before.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

DuPont's Towanda Plant Celebrates Safety Record

From the give credit where credit is due file.......From the Towanda Daily Review:

Led by a veteran group of employees who collectively accounted for 1 million non-hazardous and hazardous exposure hours out of 57 million total, the DuPont Towanda site has recorded 40 consecutive years without an event-related, lost workday case.
The safety milestone, unprecedented for DuPont Pennsylvania-based operations, was achieved by a total Towanda plant population that has varied from over 1,000 to 500 employees over the past four decades. 
It was officially celebrated by the site Jan. 5 with special DuPont Safety Coin recognition given to each member of the veteran group including Leland S. Ayers, Wayne R. Brown, David C. Browning, Dennis L. Cox, Timothy E. Davidson, Dennis P. Fries, Douglas W. Hicks, Gregory J. Kelley, John H. Rees, Thomas D. Roof, Ralph H. Schoonover II, C. Scott Turner and Dale C. Vanderpool. 
"Led by these 13 employees, this outstanding accomplishment is but one example of the total team commitment that all of our employees live out in support of DuPont's Core Values," said James Rodenhizer, plant manager, who added that before starting the current 40-year safety run, Towanda employees had worked 27 years without an ER/LWC, giving the site just one case in a total of 67 years. "The 40 year milestone allows us to pause and appreciate the safe work of not only our current employees, but also past employees. It's wonderful to be a part of this great team." 
"57 million exposure hours without a major injury is an amazing accomplishment," said Michael Betzen, DuPont Electronics & Communications supply chain leader, who attended the Jan. 5 celebration. "It has to be one of the best lost workday records in the company's history."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Trench Collapse Leads to $1.12 Million Verdict

There are so many way to injure or kill yourself in the construction injury.  This is the reason why we have a lot of regulations that control what contractors need to do regarding safety of their employees.  For example, there are regulations and safety standards when digging trenches.  Depending on the size of the trench, if there is a collaspe, a worker could be bured alive and either killed or seriously injured.  See the following case for an example:

A 100-pound mound of dirt collapsed onto Plaintiff while he was installing a 12-inch water pipe into a trench. The impact crushed Plaintiff’s left ankle, causing fractures and torn tendons and ligaments. Plaintiff also suffered a lumbar-disc herniation and radiculopathy. Consequently, Plaintiff underwent multiple debridement procedures, physical therapy, epidural injections, a lumbar fusion, a laminectomy and surgical repair of the tendons. According to Plaintiff’s experts, Plaintiff is considered permanently disabled and can no longer perform physical labor. Plaintiff also claims he needs counseling for psychiatric issues associated with the trench collapse, including major depressive disorder.

At the time of the incident, contractor Miniscalco Construction, LLC (Miniscalco) had been hired by Aqua Pennsylvania Inc. (Aqua) to supervise Plaintiff’s work. According to a U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) expert, Aqua discovered that the trench was not in compliance with OSHA regulations, which required shoring to brace the walls of trenches over five feet deep. Aqua ordered Miniscalco to shore the trench wall, which Miniscalco did. Nevertheless, the OSHA expert testified that Miniscalco did not continue to enforce the OSHA regulations to ensure the walls were properly shored and braced thereafter.