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(c) 2014 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Holes in the Safety Net — Legal Immigrants' Access to Health Insurance

Immigrant workers are entitled to workers' compensation benefits in most jurisdictions even if they are in the US without status. Ongoing Congressional changes to the nation's immigration system will have significant impact on the delivery of healthcare to immigrant workers.Today's post was shared by NEJM and comes from www.nejm.org

Interview with Dr. Benjamin Sommers and Prof. Wendy Parmet on the limited health care and insurance options for both legal and undocumented U.S. immigrants.
While Congress debates whether publicly supported health care should be available to undocumented immigrants who may be placed on a path to citizenship under immigration reform, the health care needs of already legal immigrants continues to be overlooked.

More than 12 million immigrants are lawfully present in the United States. They serve in the military, pay taxes, and contribute to the economy. Yet like undocumented immigrants, whose health care vulnerabilities are outlined in the Perspective article by Sommers, legal immigrants face substantial barriers to obtaining insurance coverage (see graph Health Insurance, According to Citizenship Status, 2009.). As a result, some — such as Antonio Torres, an uninsured Arizona farmworker who was in a coma after a car accident — have been forcefully transferred to their native country when their treating hospitals were unable to find facilities willing to provide them with long-term care.1

Status and Stress

In Japan "Dying from Overwork," is a compensation claim. In the US employers and insurance carriers over the last quarter century have fought to greatly restricted hostile work environment claims. There is both "good" stress and "bad" stress in the workplace. Recognizing the difference is important. Today's post was shared by RWJF PublicHealth and comes from opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

Although professionals may bemoan their long work hours and high-pressure careers, really, there’s stress, and then there’s Stress with a capital “S.” The former can be considered a manageable if unpleasant part of life; in the right amount, it may even strengthen one’s mettle. The latter kills.

What’s the difference? Scientists have settled on an oddly subjective explanation: the more helpless one feels when facing a given stressor, they argue, the more toxic that stressor’s effects.

That sense of control tends to decline as one descends the socioeconomic ladder, with potentially grave consequences. Those on the bottom are more than three times as likely to die prematurely as those at the top. They’re also more likely to suffer from depression, heart disease and diabetes. Perhaps most devastating, the stress of poverty early in life can have consequences that last into adulthood.

HHS Inspector General Scrutinizes Medicare Observation Care Policy

Medical treatment costs paid in workers' compensation claims continue to exceed 50% of the losses paid. The Federal government is attempting rein in medical costs generally. Those efforts will impact workers' compensation medical payments. Today's post was shared by Kaiser Health News and comes from www.kaiserhealthnews.org

Medicare patients' chances of being admitted to the hospital or kept for observation depend on what hospital they go to -- even when their symptoms are the same, notes a federal watchdog agency in a report to be released today, which also urges Medicare officials to count those observation visits toward the three-inpatient-day minimum required for nursing home coverage.

The investigation, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, was based on 2012 Medicare hospital charges. Its findings, which underscore several years of complaints that the distinction between an inpatient and observation stay isn't always clear, come just days before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is expected to issue final regulations intended to address the problem.

Those rules, proposed in April, would assume that patients who stay two nights or longer in the hospital are inpatients. Those who have shorter stays would receive observation care, an outpatient service. However, the IG report said the proposal, which has been criticized by hospital, physician and consumer groups, would not reduce the number of observation stays.

An observation patient can be treated in the emergency room or on an inpatient unit in the hospital. CMS does not require hospitals to tell patients they are receiving observation services, which the IG's analysis said can include some of the same procedures provided to admitted patients.

"Some...

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More states report Cyclospora cases; total reaches 373

Today's post was shared by CIDRAP and comes from www.cidrap.umn.edu

States reporting Cyclospora infections, July 29, 2013

Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, and New York City have reported their first Cyclospora infections with possible ties to a multistate outbreak, raising the nation's total to as many as 373, according to the latest information from federal and state sources.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in an update today said it had received reports of 353 cases as of Jul 26, but Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas have reported more cases since then.

So far 21 patients from three states have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The CDC said illness onset dates have ranged from the middle of June to early July.

No food source has been identified yet, but health officials in Iowa—the state reporting the most cases—have said they suspect imported vegetables. Cyclospora is an extremely rare parasite, and past outbreaks have been linked to imported fruit or vegetables.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a Jul 26 notice that it, along with the CDC and state and local departments, was investigating the multistate outbreak.

So far it's not clear if cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak. Some of the cases in Iowa and Nebraska have tentative links to foreign travel, and some of the sick patients in Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri may have become ill after travel to other states that have reported dozens of cases.

The Florida Department of Health (FDH), which reported its first cases on Jul 26, said its epidemiologists are...

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OSHA and NIOSH issue hazard alert on 1-bromopropane

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health today issued a hazard alert to urge employers that use 1-bromopropane (1-BP) to take appropriate steps to protect workers from exposure.

"The use of 1-bromopropane has increased in workplaces over the last 20 years," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Workers exposed to this toxic chemical can suffer serious health effects, even long after exposure has ended. Hazardous exposure to 1-BP must be prevented. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers."

Exposure to 1-BP has been associated with damage to the nervous system among workers, and it has been shown to cause reproductive harm in animal studies. The chemical is used in degreasing operations, furniture manufacturing, and dry cleaning. The hazard alert was issued in response to information on the increased use of 1-BP as a substitute for other solvents as well as recent reports of overexposure in furniture manufacturing. 1-BP was nominated as a chemical of concern in OSHA's Web Forum to Identify Hazardous Chemicals.

Workers can be exposed to 1-BP by breathing in vapors or spray mists and by absorption through the skin. The most effective way to protect workers from exposure is to eliminate the use of 1-BP, substituting the chemical with a less toxic substance or less hazardous material. Replacement chemicals also may have associated hazards that need to be considered and controlled.

Engineering controls to reduce worker exposure to 1-BP include isolation of workplace operations and the installation of proper ventilation systems. Other controls, such as a reduction in the time a worker is exposed to the chemical, should also be considered

Liability Claim Collateral Source Payments Subject to MSP

Medicare is not required to abide by a stipulated order of allocation of benefits in a liability case when seeking reimbursement under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act (MSP).  Also, the New Jersey Collateral Source Statute (“NJCSS”)did not apply to MSP reimbursement claims and collateral proceeds were reimbursable


English: image edited to hide card's owner nam...
English: image edited to hide card's owner name. author: Arturo Portilla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
" For the reasons described above, the Court concludes that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Ms. Taransky's “due process” and “proportionality” claims, as Ms. Taransky failed to administratively exhaust these claims. Additionally, the Court concludes that there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the MAC's properly-reasoned conclusion that in obtaining a tort settlement in a trip-and-fall accident, and notwithstanding a state trial court's order allocating this tort settlement recovery to non-medical expenses, Ms. Taransky received payment from a “primary plan” responsible for payment of her medical expenses that had been covered by Medicare. As a result, Ms. Taransky is required to reimburse Medicare $10,121.15 pursuant to the MSP."

Taransky v. Sebelius, Civil Action No. 12-4437, 2013 WL 3892360 (D. NJ 2013) June 13, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

WellPoint Sees Small Employers Dropping Health Coverage

Complicating the health insurance scene is the fact that injured workers who been denied workers' compensation benefits might have no safety net under Obamacare. As the system rolls out, in those situations, the states with slow disposition rates of workers' compensation claims will become fertile jurisdictions for workers' compensation reform to remedy this injustice. Today's post was shared by Kaiser Health News and comes from capsules.kaiserhealthnews.org


 1.

As the nation prepares to roll out the next phase of Obamacare, the second biggest medical insurer said Wednesday that it expects to lose members in health insurance plans sponsored by smaller employers.

“I would not call it an academic assumption at this point,” WellPoint chief financial officer Wayne DeVeydt said on a conference call with stock analysts. “We continue to see small group attrition accelerate even more as we get to the back half of the second quarter. And we expect that to continue.”

The lost customers aren’t just signing up with WellPoint rivals, according to DeVeydt. “Some of it is going into the uninsured ranks,” he said. At the same time, WellPoint expects membership gains in self-insured employer plans and in the kind of individual plans that will be sold in subsidized exchanges starting Oct.

The Obama administration recently postponed enforcement of a requirement that employers with 50 employees or more offer health coverage next year or face fines. But the delay in the “employer mandate” wasn’t the reason WellPoint gave for losing small-group members. Nor did executives respond directly to analyst’s questions about whether small employers are “dumping” workers into the subsidized individual market.

Rather, small employers have hesitated to buy coverage for next year because of uncertainties surrounding the online exchanges offering individual and small-group plans, the...

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Protective Equipment for Workers in Hurricane Flood Response

Over the last few years workers in the US have learned that Hurricanes and Super Storms create serious occupational hazards. THE CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has published preparation guidelines so that employees can be adequately protected for these serious and deadly weather related events. Today's post was shared by Safe Healthy Workers and comes from the US CDC.

STORM, FLOOD, AND HURRICANE RESPONSE

Hazard Based Guidelines: Protective Equipment for Workers in Hurricane Flood Response

Storm and Flood Illustration

The purpose of this National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) fact sheet is to provide general guidance for personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers responding in hurricane flood zones. This guidance will be updated as additional information is available. PPE selection and use is site and task specific. General guidelines must be adapted to specific conditions. This guidance represents professional judgment based on experience from responses to past storms and floods. Additional interim recommendations will be added for clean-up and restoration operations.

These recommendations focus on the following hazards associated with response activities:

Hazard 1 Sharp jagged debris

Hazard 2 Floodwater exposure

Hazard 3 Electrical hazards

Hazard 4 Contact with blood/body fluids and handling animal and human remains

Hazard 5 Slick and unstable surfaces

Note: This guidance is not a comprehensive list of hazards and does not include important hazards such as stress or fatigue that are not addressed via PPE.

...

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Society for Chemical Hazard Communication

Employers now have access to additional resource so that they can comply with the OSHA revised Hazard Communication Standard. This post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from

03/01/13

Hazard Communication resources available to help employers comply with new training and labeling requirements

Two new compliance assistance resources are available for employers to assist them in meeting the requirements of OSHA's revised Hazard Communication Standard. A new fact sheet (PDF*) discusses the training topics that employers must cover for the initial Dec. 1, 2013 deadline. By this date, employers must train workers on the new label elements and safety data sheet format. In addition, a new OSHA brief (PDF*) explains the new labeling elements, identifies what goes on a label, and describes what pictograms are and how to use them. The brief also provides manufacturers, importers, distributors and other employers with a step-by-step guide to create a label that meets the requirements of the revised standard. The deadline for adopting the new labels and pictograms is June 1, 2015.

OSHA's updated standard, which is aligned with the United Nations' Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals, provides a common and coherent approach to classifying chemicals and communicating hazard information on labels and safety data sheets. The revised standard is improving the quality and consistency of hazard information in the workplace, making it safer for workers by providing easily understandable information on appropriate handling and safe use of hazardous chemicals. Additional information and resources are available on OSHA's Hazard...

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Lung Cancer Screening Decision Tool

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (Task Force) today posted its final evidence report and draft recommendation statement on screening for lung cancer.

Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has an on-line decision tool for lung screening. The tool incorporates information from occupational exposures such as asbestos. Exposure to asbestos is a known factor that enhances the risk of lung cancer.


The Task Force is providing an opportunity for public comment on this draft recommendation statement until August 26. All public comments will be considered as the Task Force develops its final recommendation.

Based on the available evidence, the Task Force recommends screening people who are at high risk for lung cancer with annual low-dose CT scans, which can prevent a substantial number of lung cancer related deaths. This is a grade B draft recommendation.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Get the Download on Ladder Safety

Today's post was shared by US Dept. of Labor and comes from The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is learning how international collaboration and mobile technology can make for a fresh approach to educating employers and vulnerable workers about workplace safety.

Last year, OSHA Director of Construction Jim Maddux delivered a presentation on OSHA’s new campaign to prevent fatal falls at the annual conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers. When he finished, one of the conference leaders rushed over, eager to introduce Maddux to representatives from another agency with a similar mission of stopping falls in construction:

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower.
Ladder Safety Booklet
Falls are the No. 1 killer in construction in the United States and are a problem in the construction industry worldwide. The Singapore group showed Maddux a number of outreach publications they used to educate workers, employers, supervisors and foremen about how to work safely from heights, including a short English- and Chinese-language pamphlet on ladder safety.

Caregivers for Cancer Patients and Survivors

Over the years I have come to realize that support for both cancer patients and their caregivers is very important. The disease affects not only the patient but the patient's entire constellation of family and friends. Today's post was shared by CDC Cancer and comes from

Caregiving Resources

If you are a cancer patient or survivor, please see our Links Related to Cancer Survivorship.
Find a nursing home, assisted living, or hospice; check your eligibility for benefits; get resources for long-distance caregiving; review legal issues; and find support for caregivers using this comprehensive list from USA.gov.

General Information About Caregivers and Caregiving

Agencies and Organizations

Helpful Resources for Caregivers

CDC

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For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

US Asbestos Consumption Only Slightly Down in 2012

The US Geological survey reported today, that asbestos, still NOT yet banned in the US, is still being consumed domestically at incredible rates. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, causing mesothelioma, a rare and fatal disease. 


"Asbestos has not been mined in the United States since 2002
with imports meeting the needs of the domestic marketplace.
Estimated U.S. apparent consumption was 1,020 metric tons (t)
in 2012, a 14% decrease from 1,180 t in 2011. World production
was 1.97 million metric tons (Mt) in 2012, a slight decrease
from 2.02 Mt in 2011.

"Consumption
In 2012, U.S. apparent consumption of asbestos decreased
by 14% from that in 2011 (table 1). The chloralkali industry
was the leading consumer of asbestos with an estimated 67%
of the market; followed by roofing products, 30%; coatings and
compounds, plastics, and other, 3%. The chloralkali industry
increased its share of the overall asbestos sales owing mainly to
the decreased use of asbestos in roof coating formulations. Only
a few U.S. companies manufacture asbestos-based products.

What Every Employee Should Know: Preparing For The Defense Independent Medical Examination (IME)

Today's post comes from guest author Paul J. McAndrew, Jr. from Paul McAndrew Law Firm.

After your work injury your employer has a right to make you go to what is called an “Independent Medical Examination” or “IME.” The IME is, basically, an examination by a doctor chosen by your employer who will take your statement of what happened and perform a physical examination.

How you conduct yourself during the IME can help or hurt your case. I strongly recommend that all injured workers follow the recommendations below in preparing for an IME. Before going to the IME, spend an hour or two writing down the history of your injury, including:
  • your current complaints based on the injury,
  • what things cause your injury to be aggravated,
  • and what care and treatment you have been given for your injury.
You will have only a limited amount of time to describe these things to the IME doctor. Therefore, you should take your written statement to the IME and hand a copy of it to the doctor. It is important that you have a well-organized statement. Then make sure what you say to the IME doctor is in keeping with your written statement. Save the written statement and give a copy of it to your attorney.

He or she will be able to use the statement if the things you say in it do not end up in the IME doctor’s record. You will probably be asked to describe your pain. Since pain is subjective, it is often difficult to describe. You might find it easiest to describe activities that worsen your pain. You should have a list of everyday activities that increase your pain.

Be as truthful, accurate, and complete as possible. Even if your care before the IME is poor, I recommend against complaining bitterly about that care. Instead focus on just describing the facts. If true, tell the IME doctor how the care so far has not worked and yet the company doctor continues giving you that same useless care; or how the company doctor spends more time communicating with the company representative than with you.

Recall and apply that old admonition from “Dragnet”---“just the facts, sir, just the facts.” After the IME, your attorney will be interested in knowing exactly what went on in the examination. Thus, after the IME, take at least one-half hour to write down as much as you can remember of the following:
  • what the doctor said,
  • what you answered,
  • what the doctor did,
  • and what if anything was dictated into a recorder,
  • the time that you arrived at the office (be as accurate as possible),
  • the time that you were placed in the examining room,
  • when the doctor entered the room,
  • and when the doctor left the room.
It may be important to have an exact record of the time the doctor spent with you in the examination room. You need to spend some time to prepare for the IME.

By following the guidelines set forth above, you will provide a truthful, accurate, and complete statement of your condition. Hopefully, the IME doctor will then provide your and your employer's attorneys with similar findings, diagnosis, and recommendations for treatment.

Of course, you should spend some time talking to your attorney before any IME. Good luck!
...
For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Read more about "medical examinations" and workers' compensation.
Jul 15, 2013
Those injured workers who choose to remain in the FECA program must cooperate with OWCP-directed medical examinations and vocational rehabilitation, accept suitable employment if offered, and annually report earnings ...
Aug 02, 2012
In his complaint, Stancil claimed that ACE required him to undergo medical examinations by physicians of its own choosing and then rejected the recommendations of those physicians and refused to authorize the ...
Feb 28, 2012
These standards were based on the results of a literature review and medical examinations indicating a relationship between overwork and brain and heart diseases. In 2002, the MHLW launched the program for the ...
Jul 31, 2012
The Department was recently found to have spent a significant sum on no-show fees to independent medical examination companies without recouping those charges from the claimants who failed to attend the examinations ...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System is Bad Medicine for an Ill System

The newly enacted Oklahoma "Opt-Out" workers' compensation system has been urged by reformers as an effort to provide a more efficient and effective than its century old program enacted in the early 1900s. A comparison of the Oklahoma Opt-Out system to the New Jersey system reflects a limitation on litigation and a return to a more administrative program. Additionally, the opt-out system would provide for injured workers' choice of physician that ultimately could be blended into an employer based health program.

The changes are dramatic, and a major shift from the traditional based system such as New Jersey has followed since 1911.

Obviously the future statics will be reviewed by all stakeholders to determine if the Opt-Out System can really satisfy the concerns of all stakeholders or just a few.

Radical statutory changes to workers' compensation that have been limited to the interests of specific interest groups in the past have been met with disasters. The Opt-Out System of Oklahoma appears to be one of those programs, and has been bitterly contested by the advocates of injured workers.

In order for the creation of an optimal system of compensation to meet the socio-political-economic changes that are occurring in the world, all parties must sit at the table and work out a plan together. The Oklahoma Opt-Out system just appears to be bad medicine for a very ill system.

New Jersey Traditional v Oklahoma Opt-Out
Hearing Officials
The Jersey System:
Case are heard by Compensation Judges nominated by the Governor and the system is administered under the Executive Branch of government. There are 50 Compensation Judges.

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System:
Starting on February 1, an administrative process with three appointed commissioners will replace the current court procedure with 10 judges for litigating workers’ compensation claims.

Temporary Disability Benefits
The Jersey System:
If an injured worker is disabled for a period of more than seven days, he or she will be eligible to receive temporary total benefits at a rate of 70% their average weekly wage, not to exceed 75% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) or fall below the minimum rate of 20% of the SAWW. These benefits are provided during the period when a worker is unable to work and is under active medical care.The limit is 450 weeks. The maximum temporary disability rate for 2013 is $826.00.

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System:
Temporary disability payments will be reduced to 104 weeks instead of 156 weeks, with a cap at 70 percent of the state’s average weekly wage, about $540 per week.

Permanent Disability Benefits:
The Jersey System:
Partial Disability: When a job related injury or illness results in a partial permanent disability, benefits are based upon a percentage of certain "scheduled" or "non-scheduled" losses. A "scheduled" loss is one involving arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, ears or teeth. A "non-scheduled" loss is one involving any area or system of the body not specifically identified in the schedule, such as the back, the heart, the lungs. These benefits are paid weekly and are due after the date temporary disability ends.

Total Permanent Disability:
These weekly benefits are provided initially for a period of 450 weeks. These benefits continue beyond the initial 450 weeks provided that the injured worker is able to show that he or she remains unable to earn wages.

Wages earned after 450 weeks offset the weekly computation in proportion to the income at the time of the injury. Permanent Total benefits are paid weekly and are based upon 70% of the average weekly wage, not to exceed 75% of the Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) or fall below the minimum rate of 20% of the SAWW.

Permanent Total Disability is also presumed when the worker has lost two major members or a combination of members of the body such as eyes, arms, hands, legs or feet. However, permanent total disability can also result from a combination of injuries that render the worker unemployable.

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System:
Permanent disability payments will be reduced from 520 weeks to 350 weeks.

Choice of Treating Physician
The Jersey System:
None. Employer selected physician must be utilized.

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System:
Employees will be allowed to change treating physicians once so long as the selection is from a list of three doctors provided by the employer.

Arbitration or Alternate Dispute Resolution
The Jersey System: 
None. All cases, including settlements, must be heard or reviewed by a Compensation Judge.

The Oklahoma Opt-Out System:
Employers can require arbitration as the exclusive way to settle claims and disputes with employees.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

EPA Fines Prudent Technologies $65,450 for Failure to Adhere to Repair and Painting Rule at Omaha Lead Site

Prudent Technologies, of Kansas City, Mo., has agreed to pay a $65,450 civil penalty to resolve violations of the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule at two properties within the Omaha Lead Superfund Site.

Prudent Technologies, working under a contract with EPA’s Superfund program, was performing renovation activities designed to stabilize paint at each location. Paint stabilization includes scraping and painting the exteriors of houses to protect EPA’s remedy at the site, which consists of removing lead-contaminated soil from contaminated properties.

At the first location, Prudent failed to follow lead-safe work practices as required by the RRP rule. The violations included failure to post signs clearly defining the work area and warning occupants and other persons not involved in renovation activities to remain outside of the work area; failure to close all doors and windows within 20 feet of the renovation before commencing work; failure to cover the ground with plastic sheeting or other disposable impermeable material extending 10 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation before the renovation; and failure to clean the work area upon completion of the work.

Violations at the second location included failure to follow lead-safe work practices as required by the RRP rule; failure to post signs clearly defining the work area and warning occupants and other persons not involved in renovation activities to remain outside of the work area; and failure to cover the ground with plastic sheeting or other disposable impermeable material extending 10 feet beyond the perimeter of surfaces undergoing renovation.

Since 1999, EPA has been working cooperatively with contractors, local officials, agencies, institutions, community organizations, residents and property owners to sample and remediate lead-contaminated soils from Omaha’s residential yards, schools, day care facilities, parks and playgrounds. Addressed under EPA’s Superfund program, the Omaha Lead Site, consisting of approximately 27 square miles of eastern Omaha, has been on the National Priorities List since 2003.

The RRP rule is a part of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rule requires each person or firm hired to perform a renovation to be certified and to use specific work practices to minimize lead-based paint hazards for workers and occupants. Under the RRP rule, general contractors can be held liable for regulated renovation work that subcontractors perform for the company. This includes record-keeping requirements (e.g., handing out the Renovate Right pamphlet, keeping Lead-Safe Work Practices checklists, etc.) and work practices requirements (e.g., training workers, putting up appropriate signs, using disposable impermeable material to contain dust and debris, etc.).

Corporate Liability: Halliburton Pleads to Destroying Evidence in Gulf Pil Spill 2010

The US Department of Justice has announced that Halliburton Corporate Services has pleaded guilty to destroying evidence arising out of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in the US Gulf of Mexico.

"Halliburton Energy Services Inc. has agreed to plead guilty to destroying evidence in connection with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Department of Justice announced today. A criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence was filed today in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

"Halliburton has signed a cooperation and guilty plea agreement with the government in which Halliburton has agreed to plead guilty and admit its criminal conduct. As part of the plea agreement, Halliburton has further agreed, subject to the court’s approval, to pay the maximum-available statutory fine, to be subject to three years of probation and to continue its cooperation in the government’s ongoing criminal investigation. Separately, Halliburton made a voluntary contribution of $55 million to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that was not conditioned on the court’s acceptance of its plea agreement.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jersey City, NJ, theatrical equipment company cited by OSHA for exposing workers to workplace safety and health hazards

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Acadia Scenic Inc., which builds scenery for the entertainment industry, with 22 safety and health violations, including two willful. The citations followed an April inspection, prompted by the agency's Health-High-Hazard Top 50 Local Emphasis Program and its Amputations and Combustible Dust Emphasis Program. Proposed penalties total $49,600.

The willful violations, with $28,000 in penalties, were cited for a lack of guarding on hand-fed circular ripsaws and crosscut table saws. A willful violation is one committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.

The 19 serious violations, with $21,200 in penalties, include the company's failure to keep the workplace clean and orderly; prevent accumulations of explosive dust; provide railings on stairs; establish or implement a written respiratory protection program for workers required to wear respirators; have fire extinguishers mounted and readily accessible for use; and provide an educational program on the general principles of fire extinguisher use and hazards involved for workers expected to fight incipient stage fires.

The company was also cited for failing to provide machine guarding for a miter saw; provide spreaders and nonkickback devices on two hand-fed circular ripsaws; properly adjust a work rest on grinding machinery; determine each employee's exposure to methylene chloride; provide appropriate gloves and eyewash facilities for workers using methylene chloride-containing adhesives; and develop and implement a written hazard communication program that includes training for workers exposed to hazardous chemicals. A serious violation occurs when there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

"Each of these hazards threaten the company's ability to provide employees with a safe and healthful work environment, and should be corrected immediately," said Kris Hoffman, director of OSHA's Parsippany Office. "OSHA will continue to hold employers responsible when they fail to protect their workers."

Inspectors also cited the company for one other-than-serious violation, which carries a $400 penalty, for not recording a workplace injury on the employer's OSHA Form 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

Acadia Scenic Inc. has 15 business days from receipt of the citations to comply, ask for an informal conference with OSHA's area director in Parsippany or contest the citations and proposed penalties before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.