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Connecticut Legal Blog

Composting and recycling industry promotes worker safety

When households and businesses in Connecticut send their yard or food waste to composting facilities, the workers must operate heavy machinery to process the solid materials. To inform workers of their workplace hazards, the Solid Waste Association of North America has launched the "Five to Stay Alive" campaign. The association has made flyers and posters available to employers in English and Spanish meant to increase awareness among workers of procedures for limiting accidents.

Composting large amounts of municipal waste requires physical labor and heavy machinery within busy work environments. These conditions create the potential for serious injuries and even deaths. Within the United States, the waste collection and recycling industry has been identified as the fifth-most deadly occupation. A composting specialist said that the industry had been focused on training workers in the scientific process of composting, but safety has now become a priority.

Following safety regulations is vital for trench work

Trench digging is a necessary task for a multitude of Connecticut construction projects. In order for water lines, natural gas supplies and even electrical cables to be laid safely, workers may need to dig trenches into the ground.

Depending on the job, trenches can be anywhere from a few feet in depth to over 10 feet. Workers must enter these trenches to install the materials and make sure that everything is fitted correctly. However, if the trench is not supported correctly, workers face dangerous and sometimes lethal situations. Recently disturbed ground can shift at any moment and put workers in serious danger.

Driver fatalities rise along with the economy

Economic recovery in Connecticut and across the country could potentially have the side effect of a higher risk of death in a car accident. A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that as the economy improves, more drivers are taking the road, more frequently and more dangerously.

For 2014 car models, IIHS statistics showed a driver death rate of 30 per one million registered vehicle years. This was an increase from 28 per one million for 2011 automobiles. While improved technology and new vehicle designs have driven drops in vehicle deaths, discretionary driving has risen along with the number of jobs and the improved economy.

Increasing speed limits leading to more deaths

While many Connecticut drivers like to get to their destinations quickly, a study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that the speed limit increases that have occurred throughout the country since 1987 have resulted in an estimated 33,000 additional deaths. According to the vice president for research and statistical services for the IIHS, the car accident fatality rates would have been lower if speed limits had not been raised.

States are responsible for setting speed limits within their borders. During the 1970s and 1980s, speed limits were held to 55 mph due to potential financial penalties. This was due to the fact that there were concerns over the availability of fuel. Since 1987, however, states have been slowly raising the posted speed limits as the fuel availability concerns were fading. Restrictions were first lifted for rural highways and later for main highways. Six states now have 80 mph speed limits.

Fourth of July weekend dangerous for drivers

Connecticut drivers faced one of the most dangerous holidays of the year on Independence Day. Insurance statistics have shown that there is as much as a 7 percent increase in auto accident claims over the holiday weekend for the Fourth of July.

There is a higher rate of auto insurance claims over this summer holiday than on the Memorial Day and Labor Day holiday weekends that bracket the summer season. Because it is a holiday weekend, many more drivers are on the road than usual and traffic jams are far from uncommon. As with any crowded driving period on the roads, there is a higher risk of encountering distracted, tired or confused drivers.

Oil and gas industry workers face hazards from flammable vapors

A new hazard alert highlights the risk of fatalities occurring in the oil and gas industry in Connecticut and across the country by vapors igniting when vehicles and motorized equipment are in use. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Service, Transmission, Exploration & Production Safety Network released this hazard alert to draw attention to this potentially deadly problem.

Vehicles or other motorized equipment can pose a hazard when placed too close to a wellborn or other flammable site or vapor source. These flammable sources could include flowback, frac or production tanks. According to the alert, there were 85 deaths in the oil and industry from fires or explosions from 2005 to 2015.

The importance of safety signage

Many Connecticut workplace accidents could be prevented with adequate safety signs and proper labels. Employers should not underestimate the importance of safety signage in term of keeping employees away from certain hazards and dangers, particularly when signs and labels can be made on the premises.

The main objective of safety signs at work is to inform employees in a timely, clear and unobtrusive manner. Some employers believe that posting red "Danger" signs all over the workplace is a good strategy; however, such an abundance of warning signs could actually become a distraction. Employers who are more interested in spending the least on safety signs are known to purchase the cheapest signs they can find at an office supply stores. However, this might not be a wise decision, as lower-quality signs could rapidly deteriorate in some workplace environments.

Facts regarding texting and driving in Connecticut

In April 2017, a Connecticut police department carried out their Distracted Driving High-Visibility Enforcement Campaign. As a result, law enforcement issued 209 violations to drivers that broke the state's mobile phone laws.

Officers from the Milford Police Department collaborated with the Connecticut Highway Safety Office. Together, they issued violations to drivers that were ignoring the laws regarding the use of mobile devices while operating a vehicle. First-time violations cost $150, and the fine for third and subsequent offenses is $500. Those who commit a second offense may have to pay $300.

Remembering the importance of worker safety

Connecticut residents may be appalled to learn that an average of about 150 American workers died each day in 2015. This was according to a report issued by the AFL-CIO. Of the 4,836 who died that year of workplace injuries, 903 were Latino workers, and a total of 943 immigrants die. The rate of Latino deaths was 18 percent higher than the national average while the number of immigrant deaths was the highest in almost 10 years.

In addition to the fatalities due to workplace injuries, there were another 50,000 to 60,000 people who died of occupational illnesses. In the report, the AFL-CIO blamed corporate negligence as well as weak safety laws for the number of injuries and deaths that workers experienced. Overall, the cost of job injuries and illnesses was estimated to be as high as $360 billion.

Bipartisan Budget Act prompts large incresaes in OSHA fines

The fines assessed against employers in Connecticut and around the country for violating workplace safety regulations increased by up to 78 percent in August 2016. These financial penalties had remained largely unchanged for several years, but a key provision of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act required federal agencies covered by the legislation, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to update their penalties in order to bring them into line with increases in the cost of living.

Under the revised penalty schedule, the average fine assessed by OSHA for serious workplace safety violations against employers with 250 or fewer workers increased by 54 percent from $3,285 to $5,087. However, large employers will now be fined an average of $10,065 for each serious violation. This represents an increase of 70 percent over the previous fine schedule.

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