Pennsylvania firefighters routinely put their lives on the line to keep others safe. But, the immediate risk of getting hurt in a burning building isn't the only chance of injury they face. Many firefighters are exposed to a significant amount of smoke, hazardous chemicals and other carcinogens. Some will develop cancer as a result of this exposure.
Although the economy is on an upward trend, employees in Pennsylvania and across the country continue to be burdened with stress and heavy workloads. More than 80 percent of the more than 1,000 employees surveyed nationally in a recent study said they felt stress due to work and too little pay; that is a 10-percentage-point increase in just one year. A number of reasons were listed, in order of their impact on employees: low pay, feeling overworked, annoying coworkers, traffic and the drive to work, unsatisfying work and a lack of balance between work and home life. Some people don't realize, however, that many workplace illnesses, high divorce and even strokes can result from stress.
Two defendants in a workplace injury case are asking that the case be moved to federal court, according to reports. A suit filed in Pennsylvania state court in March by a Philadelphia man who was injured while unloading a truck names two individual defendants, who are residents of Pennsylvania, as well as companies The TJX Companies Inc. and The Marmaxx Group. The suit's plaintiff claims that he was injured on the job while delivering a load of merchandise to a store in New York in April 2011. The man alleges that, during transportation, the contents of the tractor trailer he was driving had shifted because the load was not properly secured before transport. When he opened the trailer door to unload the cargo, the contents that included boxes fell on him, causing multiple injuries.
Under current regulations, only those who have $2,000 or less in assets qualify for Supplemental Security Income benefits. That requirement has been in place for 24 years without being adjusted, even for inflation. As such, many Pittsburgh residents who are living with a disability may not qualify for this program, despite being financially distressed.
Employees in Pennsylvania and across the country are spending the majority of their days sitting. To combat this burgeoning trend, a company called Lifespan Work Solutions is innovating solutions for a healthy workplace. They incorporate furnishings that encourage office-bound employees to exercise as they work, reducing the risk of workplace illness and promoting overall wellness among employees.Studies reveal that the average American worker sits for up to 11 hours a day. For many workers, cramped cubicles mean that in order to complete the task assigned to them, they must stay in a sitting position for most of those 11 hours at their work desk. Now, some employers are trying to incorporate features into those workplaces that make getting staying healthy while working easier. Devices such as the "standing desk" encourage employees to stand as they work on computer terminals, which engages the leg and core muscles.
A Queen Lane Water Treatment Plant guard has filed a personal injury claim against Hinkle Trucking Inc. The worker, who has been diagnosed with corneal inflammation and removed to restricted work duties, claims the trucking company is responsible for several negligent acts, including poor and improper use of safety procedures and equipment. After being injured on the job, the Philadelphia worker filed the lawsuit in Philadelphia's Common Pleas Court. The company has requested the case be heard under federal jurisdiction.The incident involved a delivery of lime by one of the company's trucks. The lime was blown into the victim's face, which resulted in the diagnosis of chemical keratitis. Plaintiff documents state the condition results in chronic redness and irritation, permanent sensitivity to light, permanent and partial disability, and the need for lifelong treatment.
The Social Security disability insurance program has recently been the subject of a lot of media attention and scrutiny. Many critics have broadly characterized recent increases in enrollment as unnecessary and wasteful spending. The reality, however, is that thousands of Pittsburgh residents are living with disabilities that make working very difficult. This is why they have sought the basic financial security afforded by SSDI benefits.
Residents of Pittsburgh may have recently learned that according to new studies spearheaded by workplace safety experts, the silica dust that is released in the fracking process may act as a severe workplace hazard to extraction personnel. Hydraulic fracturing relies on sand, water and chemicals to open up cracks in oil-rich earth and release oil and gas. The machines that transport the sand generate huge clouds of respirable silica dust. The inhalation of silica dust has long been known to cause serious illnesses like cancer or silicosis. These work-related injuries and syndromes can have effects that last for decades. Researchers working for the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, were surprised to find that even though workers used protective respirators on the job, about 33 percent of the air samples they obtained bore higher amounts of silica than such safety gear could effectively filter. Almost 80 percent of atmospheric samples drawn from 11 fracking sites in five different states exceeded established NIOSH limitations.
On April 1, 2013, the workers' compensation rates that employers operating in the state of Pennsylvania were required to pay dropped. The decrease represented a 4.01-percent difference that the Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner claimed would represent continuing reductions in operating expenses for the state's employers. According to current estimated projections, the lower rates could result in total premium decreases of $110 million statewide. Many employers won't see a decrease in their workers' compensation obligations as a result of the change. These obligations are still determined by payrolls, claims experience and other risk classifications that are assessed separately for each individual employer. The Pennsylvania Labor & Industry Secretary claimed that these new rates represented benefits that the state's employers earned by providing their employees with safer workplaces. She cited the establishment of over 10,000 workplace safety committees with state certification but did not address their efficacy at preventing workplace accidents.
Over the last couple years, traumatic brain injuries have become an increasingly common topic of discussion. The NFL player class-action lawsuit in Pennsylvania court may be one of the biggest inspirations for this conversation. Whatever the case, this talk has placed a particular importance on expanding medical research to better understand and treat this disabling injury.
The future and stability of the Social Security program has been the subject of many recent conversations and news headlines. In an era when federal lawmakers are discussing several options for budget cuts, it seems like the Social Security Administration may be impacted. However, one Pennsylvania woman's struggle with a disability shows the kind of support the SSD program can offer.
Temporary workers hired through staffing agencies, migrant workers, and immigrant workers both legal and undocumented, are at a higher risk for the most serious types of workplace accidents, according to the University of Pennsylvania Law School's Transnational Legal Clinic. And, if that weren't enough, these workers also face the biggest hurdles to obtaining workers' compensation benefits, as well.