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Connecticut Legal Blog

BLS releases 2016 workplace fatalities report

Traffic congestion may not be what Connecticut residents think of first when it comes to on-the-job dangers. However, government data reveals that transportation accidents are the leading cause of workplace deaths in the United States. According to figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 percent of the workers killed in 2016 lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes. Among the dead were 632 truck drivers, 116 farmers and 62 landscapers.

The BLS releases a Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries every year, which includes a list of the nation's most dangerous occupations and how often workers in these sectors lose their lives while on the job. Workers in the logging sector face the highest risks, according to the 2016 data, but truck and sales drivers were killed in far higher numbers. Construction workers, roofers, steel workers, trash collection and recycling plant workers, pilots and fishing industry workers are also killed at rates far higher than workers in other sectors.

New auto technologies are increasing distracted driving

Car manufacturers are constantly attempting to improve their information and entertainment products to impress their clients. However, Connecticut residents might be surprised to learn that a study from AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that these same systems might be contributing to distracted driving and the resulting accidents.

The study is one of many that focuses on the impact of new systems designed to provide information and entertainment and help drivers on the road. The result, however, has been that those same systems might be distracting drivers and contributing to a number of car accidents. Some of the systems are installed in the vehicles while others are used through cell phone apps. Either way, the systems demand enough concentration that drivers have a harder time focusing back on the road after using them. In fact, available data suggests that young drivers between the ages of 17 and 22 spend at least 12 percent of the time they are driving using their cell phones.

Costs of workplace injuries stack up

Far too many companies in Connecticut fail to put sufficient attention on protecting workers' safety on the job. While many corporations proudly proclaim their commitments to safety, their practices may leave much to be desired. Many workplace injuries are considered to be the result of on-the-job accidents, but most of those accidents result from unsafe practices that are often overlooked or even welcomed in the workplace. In addition, many employers may consider some level of injuries to be a cost of doing business. Where improving workers' safety means rising costs or lowered profits, companies may choose to look the other way.

However, the costs of blatant disregard for workers' safety can be significant. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration can fine companies $129,336 for each incident caused by willful neglect. At the same time, that standard can be difficult to prove and is only infrequently applied. The costs of serious workplace injuries can go far beyond the imposition of fines or other state or federal sanctions, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the average cost of a fatal workplace injury is $1 million. That striking number includes insurance fees, workers compensation, medical bills, legal costs and similar expenses.

Injuries and deaths from large truck accidents on the rise

Connecticut motorists may be interested to learn that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recently published new data about the number of fatal truck accidents. After analyzing nationwide wrecks, the agency reported a 3 percent increase in deadly truck accidents in 2016. The top causes of fatal crashes for both commercial trucks and passenger vehicles were speeding and distracted driving.

The FMCSA report 2016 Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts totaled large truck deadly wrecks at 4,074 in 2015 and at 4,213 in 2016. These accidents translated into 4,094 deaths in 2015 and 4,317 deaths in 2016. Injuries also went up during the same period. The report attributed approximately 145,000 injuries to truck accidents in 2016. This was a sharp rise compared to the 116,000 truck-accident-related injuries recorded in 2015.

Startup's wearable tech could keep workers safe

Employers and safety managers in Connecticut may be able to improve the work environment for their employees with the help of an Insuretech SaaS startup based in Des Moines. Its name is MākuSafe, and it has recently developed a wearable band for employees that will record, in real time, all environmental and motion data. It can automatically report near-misses and hazardous situations as well as track information like lighting and temperature settings.

This data is stored in a cloud platform for workplace safety managers. It doesn't take a data scientist to analyze the data, which is made more consumable. Most importantly, the devices are able to highlight hazardous trends and determine what areas of the workplace are at the highest risk for accidents. This can then encourage managers to take preventative measures, such as setting up safety equipment and supplies.

Bill Paxton's family files wrongful death lawsuit

Connecticut residents may remember that actor Bill Paxton died during surgery in February 2017. His estate claims that his surgeon and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were negligent in diagnosing, managing and treating him. However, the hospital and the doctor said that Paxton knew that the surgery could be risky. They also claimed that the actor had an existing condition that made the procedure an even bigger risk.

The estate claimed in a wrongful death lawsuit that information had been concealed from Paxton prior to the surgery or had not been properly explained. It further claimed that the doctor was using an uncommon surgical approach that was beyond his scope to perform and that he had little experience with. Complications from the initial surgery would result in additional procedures that would ultimately lead to his death because of a stroke.

Associated Builders and Contractors safety rules reduce injuries

Construction worker deaths have been on the rise in Connecticut and across the U.S. In fact, data from the Center for Construction Research and Training shows that overall deaths in the construction industry increased by 26 percent between 2011 and 2015. Fatal accidents involving caught-in and caught-between injuries spiked by 33 percent over the same period. However, a new report by the Associated Builders and Contractors, or ABC, claims that companies that follow its safety program can vastly reduce workplace injuries and deaths.

ABC has created a safety program called the Safety Performance Evaluation Process, or STEP. The program utilizes proactive safety measures to foster a safer working environment for workers. These measures include new-hire orientations and substance abuse programs. The association says that following the STEP program can help construction companies become 670 percent safer than the industry average. It also says that the program can reduce reportable safety incidents by 85 percent.

An important message about distracted driving

According to the NHTSA, there were 3,477 deaths attributed to distracted driving in Connecticut and throughout America in 2015. Distracted driving occurs when a driver is doing anything that takes his or her focus from the road. This could include eating while driving, talking with a passenger or changing a radio station. Sending text messages is another dangerous and common way in which drivers can be distracted.

While it only takes about five seconds to send a text, vehicles traveling at 55 miles per hour can cover the length of a football field in that amount of time. Roughly 660,000 drivers use their phones during the day according to NHTSA data. Teenagers are the age group most likely to be using a phone to send text messages or for other purposes. However, there are ways to help curb distracted driving before it results in another injury or death on America's roads.

Construction workers face dangers in trenches

Construction workers in Connecticut often face dangerous work on the job that can be an inherent part of dealing with shifting earth, unfinished structures, heavy machinery and physical labor. However, on far too many job sites, the health and safety of workers can be compromised by a failure to implement proper safety protocols and follow federal regulations. One of the most dangerous areas of work in the construction industry involves dealing with trenches and excavations, caverns or depressions created in the ground through the removal of large amounts of earth, stone or other materials.

Because trenches and excavations are underground and created by removing tons of soil or rock, they are at a particular risk for dangerous workplace accidents like collapses, cave-ins and falls. Since 2011, approximately two construction workers have been killed on a monthly basis due to collapsing trenches or cave-ins. However, in 2016, the number of fatalities for construction workers doubled over the average that had remained steady for the previous five years.

Theater alliance seeks to avoid workplace accidents

While the entertainment industry is known for glamour and excitement, entertainment workers in Connecticut and across the country can deal with many dangers in the workplace. Common sources of on-the-job injuries include falls and electrical dangers as well as issues caused by poor ergonomics. That's why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will renew its alliance with entertainment industry groups in order to help promote safer workplaces.

The alliance, which was renewed for five years, partners OSHA with the United States Institute for Theatre Technology and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. The three organizations involved will share relevant resources and information in order to help prevent workplace accidents and injuries in the entertainment industry. While OSHA will share information with the industry groups about relevant standards for safety, the industry and union representatives will also provide additional details about safety technologies for portable power and fall prevention.

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