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Olympia Personal Injury & Workers' Compensation Law Blog

New crane operator regulations may improve workplace safety

Recent months have seen a surge in crane accidents at construction sites, including a crane collapse in Washington State a couple months ago that killed four and injured three others. The state's Labor and Industries Department is investigating a number of people believed to be involved in the incident, including the general contractor, the crane's owner, and three crane subcontractors.

Cranes are common at construction sites, which is why it is disconcerting that most crane accidents are caused by human error attributable to a lack of training and knowledge. The industry is recognizing this lapse, and new regulations implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration attempt to rectify the situation. As per the new rules, operator training is revised, along with the way they are evaluated and certified. The burden of ensuring an operator is ready is placed on the employer. These individuals must also receive training to operate new equipment.

Do teen car accidents increase in the summer?

Last week's post discussed the hazards of distracted driving and focused specifically on how drivers taking pictures of other accidents on the road pose a risk to paramedics on the scene. Washington State troopers claim that distracted driving of any kind remains a problem on the road and that most of the time the people they pull over are searching for their favorite songs, operating a navigation system, holding their phones, or texting. However, even talking to a passenger or changing the radio can become a distraction if the driver takes his or her eyes and mind off the road for a short period of time.

Already this year, troopers estimate they have pulled over more than 3,000 drivers who have not been paying attention to the road as they have been driving. This problem is exacerbated in the summer months, between Memorial Day and Labor Day. These 100 days are known as the deadliest days, especially for teen drivers. During this period, fatal accidents involving teenagers increase by around 14%.

Distracted drivers taking pictures of crashes cause crashes

Much has been said about the dangers of distracted driving and how texting and driving is emerging as the most common cause of distracted driving accidents. However, new research is pointing to another cause of distracted driving accidents-documenting a car accident as driving by it.

According to the National Safety Council, 71% of drivers confessed to taking a picture of a car accident as they drove by it and texting it to friends. That is almost three times the 24% of drivers who reported texting and driving under normal conditions. While 60% of people are posting about crashes on social media, two-thirds have also admitted to emailing about it. As Olympia residents can imagine, the results of this distraction is deadly, as there are more vehicles on the road at the time and more chances of causing a tragic scenario.

Are you aware of the hazards you face as a paramedic?

In Washington state, people typically look up to nurses, law enforcement, teachers and first responders because individuals in these professions usually care more about the needs of others than about their own. Paramedics, who face potential danger with every response to a call, also fall into that category.

As a paramedic, you will risk exposure to blood-borne pathogens and bodily fluids that could cause infectious diseases, and your diverse workplace environments will pose further dangers. Hazardous chemicals, psychological stresses and excessive noise levels that can damage your hearing are but some of the risks with which you must deal. If you do not take precautions to mitigate the hazards, the physical and psychological toll of your job could force you to miss work.

Personal injury law: what is negligence?

Most personal injury lawsuits revolve around negligence claims. Though negligence is the crux of a personal injury lawsuit, it can often be difficult to prove because it involves applying the elements of the claim to the facts of a case.

For a Washington State resident to succeed on a personal injury lawsuit, he or she must prove all the elements of negligence. The first step then is to prove that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff. A duty exists when there is a relationship between the two parties requiring one party to act in a certain manner towards the other. The second element that must be proven is that the duty that was owed was breached. This means the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care while fulfilling his or her duty. A jury would be tasked with determining if the duty was breached.

What are some common pitfalls after suffering a workplace injury?

Many Washington State residents may not be aware that workers' compensation is a no-fault system. This means that an injured employee does not have the burden of proving that the employer's negligence caused his or her injuries. It also means that the worker who suffered the injury may have been acting negligently at the time of the workplace accident but would still most likely be able to file a claim. As long as one's workplace injury is related to their work and was suffered while they were performing duties according to their job, then an injured worker will most likely be able to file a workers' compensation claim. However, there are certain issues to keep in mind when filing a claim.

First of all, it is important to ensure that an employer turns in the claim. Though the workers' compensation system is supposed to be straightforward, the reality is that employers often end up ignoring employees' injury reports. As a result, employees often end up going to their own doctors and get stuck paying their bills without any help from their employer.

What is the most dangerous job in Washington State?

Typically, when someone goes to work in the morning, he or she does not think about where their job lies on a scale of dangerousness. The good news is that Washington State is one of the safest states to work in, with a fatal injury rate of 2.4. This rate is calculated by dividing the total number of fatal injuries by the total number of hours worked by all employees that year, then multiplying that number by the base hours worked for 100,000 equivalent full-time workers. The state was fifth safest in the country.

The most work-related deaths in 2016 took place in transportation and material moving, at 18 deaths. Construction and extraction took the second spot, with 14 deaths and 10 deaths occurring in forestry and fishing. However, the highest fatality rate was for the forestry and fishing sector, at 14.5, whereas the construction industry had a rate of 7.5.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month highlights dangers of act

Though 97 percent of drivers recognize that texting and driving is dangerous, 45 percent of those same people admit that they have either read an email or a text while driving within the last month, and 35 percent have sent an email or text. These survey findings demonstrate that distracted driving is still a cause of concern, as nine people die daily in auto accidents related to it.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the AAA is implementing new campaigns to highlight the dangers involved with it. It is attempting to get drivers' eyes back on the road by juxtaposing different dangerous driving conditions. For example, many Washington state motorists would not get behind the wheel when intoxicated, but don't think twice before texting and driving, though both are equally dangerous.

How ergonomically safe is your workstation?

Safety authorities nationwide, including Thurston and surrounding counties in Washington state, have had many discussions about the value of ergonomic studies and workstation modifications to mitigate musculoskeletal and other injuries in workplaces. Are you fortunate enough to have an employer who prioritizes employee safety and health? If not, you might benefit from discussing the benefits of ergonomics with your superiors.

Activities that can lead to MSDs include manual handling and lifting of materials, with the risks exacerbated by frequent and repetitive motions. Learning about ergonomic hazards can help you prevent lost workdays that might compromise your financial stability.

Multi-vehicle car accident sends three to the hospital

Until someone is involved in an auto accident, they do not know the emotional and financial toll it takes on an accident victim. Not only does a victim struggle to recover physically, but he or she may find it difficult to emerge from the financial damage inflicted upon them from medical bills and the costs of repairing a vehicle. One way an accident victim can recoup these losses is by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused crash. But what happens when there are multiple vehicles involved? In these instances, who does one hold accountable?

These are perhaps the thoughts going through the heads of accident victims involved in a recent three-car crash in Washington State. According to police, a 21-year-old woman was driving her vehicle north just before noon when she failed to stop at a red light. As a result, her vehicle crashed into another one at the intersection. However, this was not the end of the incident.

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