Material Handling Injuries at Work Head Travelers Injury Impact Report

Material handling injuries at work account for the largest proportion of workers comp claims over a five-year period according to recently released research.

The “Injury Impact Report” was compiled by the insurance carrier Travelers. Travelers handles more workers comp claims than any other insurance carrier in the country and was able to draw on data from more than 1.5 million claims made between 2010 and 2014 to determine what nature of accidents were the most common in the workplace.

At the top of the list, material handling injuries at work accounted for 32 percent of the total number of workers comp claims received during the period, with slips, trips and falls at work (16 percent) and injuries due to being struck by an object (10 percent) filling second and third places respectively ahead of accidents with tools at work (7 percent) and repetitive strain injuries (4 percent).

Due to the nature of the most common accidents in the workplace, it was no surprise that inflammations (91 days) and fractures (78 days) were the two injuries attributable on average for the longest absences from work. Strains and sprains also rated highly, with an average absence from work of 57 days.

Industry specific injuries were dominated by material handling injuries at work, with workers comp claims material handling injuries responsible for almost 40 percent of claims in the manufacturing and retail industries. However there was also a much higher proportion of injuries caused by fall from heights in the retail sector would normally be expected.

Woody Dwyer – the Second Vice President of Workers Compensation Risk Control – commented on the findings of the report by calling for a better culture of safety for employees. He said the most common injuries seen by the company could often be prevented if the proper safety measures were in place.


Claim for an Eye Injury due to Chemical Exposure Resolved at Court

A former sanitation worker´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure has been resolved at a hearing of the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia.

Joseph Keith Jr. was working as a sanitation worker for Hatfield Quality Meats in Hatfield, PA., when he was splashed by sodium hydroxide while wrapping a hose that he had previously used to clean the facility.

According to Joseph´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure, the hose struck him in the face as he was wrapping it and knocked off his protective glasses. The chemical had dripped into his right eye, burned the side of his face and his right ear.

Due to being unable to reach an eyewash station for ten minutes, Joseph is now blind in his right eye, has a permanent facial disfigurement and is partially deaf in his right ear. He claimed that his injuries would have been minimal and recoverable had he been able to access an eyewash station quicker.

Hatfield Quality Meats contested Joseph´s claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure. The company argued that OSHA safety officials inspected the plant on a quarterly basis and questioned whether Joseph had been properly wearing his safety goggles at the time.

The claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure went to the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia, where it was heard by a jury before Judge Mary Colins. At the hearing, the jury was told that the nearest eyewash stations were 155 feet and 210 feet away, rather than being within fifty feet of where exposure to chemicals was possible.

Joseph´s lawyer argued that his employer had failed to follow safety rules, but Hatfield Quality Meats argued that Joseph should have known where the nearest eyewash station was before working with chemicals that presented the risk of injury. The company claimed that Joseph´s level of injury was exacerbated by his own comparative negligence.

After nearly two weeks of testimony, the jury found in Joseph´s favor. It awarded him $1.8 million compensation in settlement of his claim for an eye injury due to chemical exposure, but reduced the award by 13 percent to account for his contribution to the extent of his injury.


Mechanic Awarded $3 Million Compensation for an Injury due to an OHSA Violation

A mechanic has been awarded $3.271 million compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation after losing two fingers in a sugar silo gearbox accident.

John Mullin (49) – a father of six from Vacaville in Solano County – attended the Jelly Belly Candy factory in Fairfield on 4th June 2009, in order to obtain the part number of a gearbox located beneath a multi-storey sugar silo.

When John located the gearbox, he crouched down to read the part number, only to find the gearbox covered in sugar dust. As John reached out his right hand to wipe the sugar dust away from the label, a chain that controlled the flow of sugar from the silo activated – trapping the third and fourth fingers of his right hand.

John´s fingers were damaged so badly that they had to be amputated. John also developed complex regional pain syndrome, and he underwent several unsuccessful procedures to manage the pain including various nerve blocks, a thoracic sympathectomy and revision amputation.

After seeking legal advice, John made a claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation – alleging that Jelly Belly Candy Co was in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards by failing to have a protective guard around the chain and the sprocket mechanism that activated it.

The confectionary manufacturer denied its liability for John´s injury and contested the claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation – arguing that John was responsible for his own injury by failing to heed a warning not to touch anything while the machinery was still switched on.

Lawyers acting on behalf of Jelly Belly Candy Co – while acknowledging that there had been a failure to properly guard the chain and the sprocket mechanism – said that the violation of OHSA was not a substantial factor in causing John´s injury. They argued that John´s employers – Bearing Engineering of San Leandro – were the negligent party for failing to train him on proper lockout procedures.

An offer of settlement made by the Jelly Belly Candy Co amounting to $300,000 compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation was rejected by John´s lawyers, and the case was heard by a jury at the Superior Court of Solano County in Fairfield, before Judge Harry S Kinnicutt.

After four weeks of testimony, and three days of deliberations, the Solano County jury found in John´s favor – although attributing him with 23% comparative negligence. After the reduction for the contribution John had made to his accident and injury due to his own negligence, and an adjustment for sick pay and workers compensation benefits he had already received, the final settlement of John´s claim for compensation for an injury due to an OHSA violation came to $3,271,607.


Changes to Personal Injury Claims Procedures will Speed up Compensation

Changes to personal injury claims procedures introduced on 1st August 2013 will speed up compensation settlements in claims with a value of up to £25,000.

The second of two changes to the Civil Procedure Rules took effect on 1st August 2013, and whereas the changes to the personal injury claims procedures in April of this year took away some of the benefits of making “Contingency Fee” compensation claims, the most recent changes should allow claimants to receive their compensation settlements within a shorter time frame.

The new procedures will see the length of time negligent parties and their insurance companies have to acknowledge “Letters of Claim” reduced to one day from twenty-one days, and the number of days available for them to conduct their own investigations into a claim reduced from ninety days to thirty days (forty days in the event of a compensation claim for an accident at work).

The aim of the new procedures is to reduce the costs of pursuing a claim for personal injury compensation when the value of the claim is less than £25,000 and when liability is not disputed. Any negligent party or insurance company who fails to adhere to these guidelines will not be able to take advantage of the Ministry of Justice Claims Portal and will face higher costs in defending the claim.

There are numerous exceptions to the new Civil Procedure Rules and there will be no change to the personal injury claims procedures in the following events:-

  • If an injury has been sustained due to the negligence of a private individual – for example if a homeowner has damaged the pavement outside their house over which you have tripped and fallen
  • If the injury which is being claimed for is an acquired disease either at work (for example COPD due to your working environment) or a place of public access (for example food poisoning in a restaurant)
  • If an injury has been sustained in an accident or scenario involving more than one party – for example a car accident in which more than one person was to blame
  • If an injury was sustained in an accident for which you were partly to blame or if your injury was exacerbated due to your own lack of care (also known as “Contributory Negligence”).
  • If a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition was due to medical negligence – either at a hospital or in private practice such as at the dentist
  • If you have developed mesothelioma due to exposure to asbestos, or if you are claiming on behalf of an individual who has died due to mesothelioma cancer
  • If you have sustained an injury due to the negligence of a party who is uninsured, insolvent or untraceable – such as if you are injured in a hit and run accident.

The changes apply to injuries which have been sustained or diagnosed in England or Wales from 1st August onwards, and do not affect the length of time you have after an injury has been discovered in which to claim personal injury compensation – currently three years in the UK.

Should you require further information about how the changes to the personal injury claims procedures may affect you in your particular circumstances, you are advised to speak with a personal injury lawyer at the earliest opportunity.


Employee Wins Appeal for Crushed Hand at Work Injury Compensation

A woman, who worked at the Chivas Brothers bottling plant in Kilmalid, is to receive compensation for a crushed hand at work injury after a hearing at the Court of Session.

In October 2009, Carol Kennedy from Dumbarton sustained a hand injury while working for the world-famous whisky manufacturer in their Kilmalid bottling plant, when the swivelling wheels of a trolley she was using to transport 380Kg of bottle caps locked after misaligning.

Carol tried to get the trolley moving again by moving to the front of its cage and attempting to pull it through a narrow gap between two autocol machines; however, as she did so, her hand was crushed between the cage if the trolley and one of the machines.

After seeking legal advice, Carol made a claim for crushed hand at work injury compensation – claiming that her employers had not fulfilled their health and safety obligations under the Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Carol´s claim was initially dismissed by the Dumbarton Sheriff´s Court in June 2012, but she appealed her claim to the Court of Session and, after a hearing before Lord Drummond Young, Carol was awarded £5,321 in compensation for a crushed hand at work injury.

Lord Drummond found that, as Carol was only 5’ 3” tall and would have had her visibility obscured by the boxes of bottle caps on the trolley, it was “reasonably foreseeable” that there was a risk of injury that the company should have been aware of and acted to prevent.


Factory Employee Receives Compensation for Fracturing a Foot at Work

A factory worker who injured two metatarsals in his left foot after he was provided with the wrong equipment to move alloy bars is to receive £6,500 compensation for fracturing a foot at work.

Michael Kirby (47) from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, sustained his injury while working as a machine operator for local company Ross & Catherall Limited. Michael had been moving some five feet long alloy bars with a scissor clamp, as he had been trained to do, when one of the bars fell from the clamp and landed on his foot.

Despite wearing steel toe-capped boots with a metatarsal guard, the impact of the alloy bar was so heavy that it fractured two bones in his foot. Michael was taken to hospital immediately, where his foot was fitted with an aircast boot and he was provided with crutches in order that he could still be mobile.

Following his accident, Michael´s employers changed their working practises so that the metal bars were placed closer to the vacuum machine into which Michael had been trying to move them, and a different type of clamp with curved interlocking forks was introduced to improve safety.

After seeking legal advice from his union, Michael made an injury claim for fracturing a foot at work on the grounds that he had been trained to move the alloy bars in an unsafe way, and that no risk assessment had been conducted until after his accident had occurred.

His employers – Ross & Catherall Limited – admitted liability for Michael´s foot injury and settled his claim for compensation for fracturing a foot a work out of court for £6,500.


Claim for Slipping on a Pallet at Work Settled Out of Court

A woman who suffered substantial ligament damage in a workplace accident has had her claim for slipping on a pallet at work settled out of court.

Katrin Weiss from Intake, South Yorkshire, worked as the operations manager for Bereco Ltd – a window frame and door manufacturer based in Rotherham – when her accident happened in early 2011.

Katrin had been asked to stay behind after work and assist with the despatch of a delivery, as a colleague was absent due to illness. Many of the packages had been loaded when the 36-year-old arrived at the loading bay, but several bundles of frames and handles remained.

So that she could get to them, Katrin climbed atop a pallet which had been covered with a sheet of plywood which concealed the edges of the pallet and, as she clambered back down, slipped and fell – sustaining ligament damage to one ankle and badly twisting the other.

Katrin was taken to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, where doctors inserted two screws into her ankle to help stabilise the injury. However, the ligaments failed to heal and Katrin had to have two more operations to insert a metal frame into her ankle joint to assist her mobility.

Katrin sought legal advice and, due to the fact that her employers had failed to provide her with any safety training before allowing her to assist with the despatch, it was considered that Katrin had a claim for slipping on a pallet at work which was worth her while to pursue.

In her action, Katrin claimed for the pain and suffering she had experienced at the time of her accident, her loss of amenity throughout her recovery and her loss of income while she was unable to work for fifteen months.

Katrin also included in her injury compensation claim for slipping on a pallet at work compensation for the five-and-a-half-inch scar that will remain on her leg and the fact that she is likely to suffer a degenerative form of arthritis in the future.

After an internal investigation, Bereco Ltd admitted their liability for Katrin´s injuries and agreed an out-of-court settlement of £30,000 in settlement of Katrin´s claim for slipping on a pallet at work.


Claim for Exposure to Chemicals at Work filed by Factory Workers

Eight employees at a factory that make shock absorbers have filed a claim for exposure to chemicals at work after suffering health problems as a result of exposure to hexavalent chromium.

The eight men, from Hartwell in Georgia, have all been diagnosed with nasal injuries and respiratory problems due to working at the Tenneco plant in Hart County where, it is alleged, a faulty ventilation system had been installed.

The claim for exposure to chemicals at work alleges that after the company installed new ventilation hoods and supposedly repaired the air ducts on the ventilation system in 2007, workers were exposed to unsafe levels of hexavalent chromium – a compound known to lead to cancer and other respiratory problems after long-term exposure.

The claim also adds that, in 2010, workers at the manufacturing plant reported a strong odour of hexavalent chromium and found cracked ventilation foods which were not channelling the fumes into the ventilation system. Further investigation revealed a collapsed air-shaft which also prevented the ventilation system from working effectively.

After complaints from employees, inspectors from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) performed air-quality tests in the factory in April 2011and discovered levels of hexavalent chromium well above those permitted in health and safety regulations.

In addition to unsafe exposure to chemicals in the workplace, the OSHA inspectors also found that Tenneco failed to provide their employees with personal protective equipment, did not provide emergency showers or eye-wash stations and failed to send employees who complained of the work-related illnesses to a doctor.

A second inspection in February 2012 discovered that the company had not acted on the health and safety violations identified almost a year earlier and, July 2012, Tenneco was fined $78,000.

The claim for exposure to chemicals at work is being made against Tenneco, Atotech USA of Delaware who designed the ventilation system, HCH Services of North Carolina who installed it at the Hartwell manufacturing plant, and Compass Health and Safety of Illinois – who failed to notice that the company had opened all the windows to the factory when conducting their own air quality test (on behalf of the company) in March 2011.