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Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law & mental injuries

file1801281015946.jpgMost Missouri workers' compensation claims stem from workplace accidents that cause physical injuries, or from occupational diseases caused by workplace conditions. However, there is another kind of injury that can pose a threat to employees: mental or psychological injuries. Mental illnesses are much more prevalent than many people realize. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in four adults - or about 61 million Americans - deal with mental health issues every year. And according to the American Psychological Association (APA), mental injuries are one of the top ten work-related injuries and illnesses reported by employees nationwide.

In recent years, federal and state agencies - along with employers and employees - have become more educated about mental illnesses and the way they can impact an individual's overall health (and their job productivity). This increased knowledge has led to heightened awareness of work -related stress disorders that can ultimately manifest themselves as mental illnesses. As a result, several states have amended their workers' compensation laws accordingly, authorizing employees who suffer from job-related mental health issues to seek workers' comp benefits.

Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law and mental injuries

Under §287.120, 8 and 9, RSMo:

"Mental injury resulting from work-related stress does not arise out of and in the course of the employment, unless it is demonstrated that the stress is work related and was extraordinary and unusual. The amount of work stress shall be measured by objective standards and actual events."

"A mental injury is not considered to arise out of and in the course of the employment if it resulted from any disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or any similar action taken in good faith by the employer."

In other words, claimants must demonstrate that stress is "extraordinary and unusual" to be awarded compensation for mental injuries.

Mental injuries in Missouri workplaces: A few real-life examples

• A Missouri woman filed a workers' compensation claim after she suffered a panic attack on the job. Ultimately, the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission awarded her workers' comp benefits. Because of the poor condition of her work environment - and because her direct supervisor was her ex-husband - the Commission ruled that her mental stress was "extraordinary and unusual" in comparison to the mental stress of her coworkers.

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Medical treatment & workplace injuries: Common issues facing Missouri employees

October 20, 2014

medical-doctor-1314902-m.jpgAlthough the Missouri workers' compensation program was designed to provide automatic benefits to injured workers, such is often not the case. In theory, medical bills, weekly temporary disability payments, and lump sum permanent disability payments should be made without the need of a Missouri workers compensation attorney. In practicality, however, an attorney is often beneficial for a number of reasons.

You should be aware that a workers' compensation case is a legal proceeding, and, in the majority of cases, employers and insurers are required to have legal representation at all appearances before the Division of Workers' Compensation. That means you'll likely have to deal with your employer's attorney throughout the process, and it's often extremely beneficial to have your own lawyer working to protect your rights, especially when you're receiving medical treatment for your injuries.

Importantly, a lawyer can help you manage any disagreements that may arise during your treatment, including the following:

Disagreements about health care providers and treatment: Your employer chooses your doctor

While your employer or your employer's insurer must pay your medical bills arising from any job related injury, your employer (or the employer's insurer) is legally entitled to choose your health care provider.

This means that your employer will determine which doctor you see, which hospital you are admitted to, and what physical therapist guides your rehabilitation.

What if you don't feel that you're being treated fairly? What if you are discharged from care before you are ready? What if you're not getting all the treatment you need? A Missouri workers compensation attorney can have you evaluated by a trusted physician. If that physician indicates you need more or different treatment, your attorney will work to see that you receive that treatment.

Disagreements about weekly temporary disability payments

Every injured Missouri worker is entitled to weekly benefits while temporarily disabled. These payments are equivalent to two-thirds of the worker's normal weekly pay. While these benefits are supposed to be automatic, sometimes workers get lost in what can be a complicated system. Here again, a Missouri workers compensation lawyer will help you obtain the benefits you're entitled to by defending your rights.

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OSHA's "high heat provision" designed to protect Missouri workers from heat-related illnesses and fatalities

water-bottle-blackground-1345287-m.jpgThis week, Missourians are enjoying a brief respite from traditional July temperatures, but forecasts indicate that the summer heat will be back before we know it. Did you know that an average of 1,500 people die each year from exposure to excessive heat? There are also various different heat-related illnesses that are a particular hazard to those who work outdoors - especially in dangerous summer temperatures. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) maintains a national outreach campaign to educate employers and workers about the dangers of working in the heat.

"If you're working outdoors, you're at risk for heat-related illnesses that can cause serious medical problems and even death," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "But heat illness can be prevented. This Labor Department campaign will reach across the country with a very simple message - water, rest and shade."

Many Missouri outdoor job sites in the summers have radiant heat sources, along with high temperatures and humidity levels. The work frequently includes heavy physical labor and/or direct physical contact with hot objects. These factors directly increase the chances for heat stress-related illness.

For these reasons, OSHA has long had safety standards in place to prevent heat-related illness and fatalities; this issue is certainly not a new one. However, unfortunately, there are still too many Missouri employers and job supervisors who don't follow OSHA's regulations, putting their employees at risk.

Different heat illnesses and their symptoms include heat stroke, dehydration, cramps, rashes, fainting. The main kinds of work sites where employees are at risk of heat illnesses are construction sites, farms, laundries, bakeries/kitchens, mining sites and foundries. However, if you do any work outdoors for your employer, and suffer any of these heat-related illnesses on the job, you may be covered by Missouri Workers' Compensation.

OSHA's heat illness prevention standards were changed in 2012 to include a "high heat provision." This means that when the temps hit 95 degrees, five specific industries must implement the following procedures:

• observing employees for signs of heat related distress
• closely supervising new employees
• reminding all employees throughout the shift to drink water

The five industries targeted by these provisions are agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction material or other heavy material.

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Filing a Missouri workers' comp claim: What injured employees need to know

885334_healthcare_upclose.jpgAs personal injury lawyers, we know that the Missouri workers' compensation system can be confusing and intimidating for injured employees and their loved ones. In this post, we address a few questions we commonly hear from our clients.

Q: When do I need to file a workers' compensation claim?
A: First, it's important to note that reporting your injury to your employer is not the same thing as filing a workers' comp claim. If you're injured on the job, you must report the injury to your employer (in writing) immediately - and if you fail to do so within 30 days following the injury, you may lose your right to pursue compensation. After you notify your employer, your employer must then file a Report of Injury with the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation.

In contrast, a workers' compensation claim must be submitted directly to the Missouri Division of Workers' Compensation. Injured workers may wish to file a claim if they feel they have not been fully compensated for their damages and losses. Claims must be filed within two years following the date of injury, or the date the last payment was made on account of the injury (unless the employer failed to submit a Report of Injury in a timely manner, in which case the employee has three years from those dates to file a claim).

Q: Will I lose my job if I file a claim?
A: Under Missouri law, employers are prohibited from firing an employee solely because the employee is pursuing his or her workers' comp rights. If you believe you were fired, demoted, suspended or disciplined by your employer solely because you filed a workers' comp claim, you should speak with an attorney concerning your legal rights. Depending on the circumstances, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Q: What if my injury prevents me from returning to work?
A: Injured employees who are unable to return to work in any capacity may qualify for permanent total disability benefits. If your injury limits your ability to perform certain tasks, but you are still able to work in some capacity, you may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. Other benefits available may include temporary total disability benefits (if you are temporarily unable to return to work while recovering from your injury) and temporary partial disability benefits (if you return to work on restricted or modified duty at less than full pay).

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Missouri Supreme Court decision extends legal protections for injured workers

gavel-3-1409593-m.jpgThis week, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned 30 years of precedent in a ruling that strengthens legal protection for workers who are fired after suffering on-the-job injuries.

It has always been illegal for Missouri employers to retaliate against employees who file workers' compensation claims. Section 287.780 of Missouri Workers' Compensation Law states: "No employer or agent shall discharge or in any way discriminate against any employee for exercising any of his rights under this chapter." The law also stipulates that any worker who has been either fired or retaliated against in any way has grounds for a lawsuit against his employer. In 1984, the Supreme Court adopted an "exclusive-cause standard," meaning employees had to prove that filing a workers' comp claim was the sole reason for their dismissal in order to take legal action against an employer.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that employees "no longer have to prove that workers' compensation claims [are] the exclusive cause for their dismissal in order to win lawsuits alleging retaliation. Instead...employees must show only that workers' compensation claims were a contributing factor in the subsequent dismissal from their job." (emphasis added)

Sadly, some Missouri employees are reluctant to file a workers' comp claim for this very reason: they fear retaliation from their employers. The Court's ruling works to protect the interests of injured workers who find themselves in this situation. "Discrimination against an employee for exercising his or her rights under the workers' compensation law is just as illegal, insidious and reprehensible as discrimination under the [Missouri Human Rights Act]," wrote Judge George Draper II.

Other forms of employer retaliation

In addition to termination, employer or manager retaliation may show up in any of the following types of discrimination or harassment:

• Unwarranted poor performance review
• Scheduling issues
• Isolation or intimidation
• Demotion, reassignment, reclassification or transfer
• Threatened adverse wage action
• Interference with or dispute of a legitimate workers' compensation claim
• Unreasonable increase or decrease in job duties
• Unjustified disciplinary action

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Missouri employees are entitled to safe workplace conditions

October 23, 2013

caution-2-582000-m.jpgAs workers' compensation lawyers, we know that Missouri employees sometimes suffer injuries because their employers have failed to provide a safe working environment. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are required "to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers."

Recently, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced that it had cited a Missouri glass plant - and imposed sizeable fines - after an employee lost a finger while on the job. According to the Insurance Journal, OSHA investigators cited Piramal Glass USA in Park Hills, Missouri, in connection with 21 safety and health violations related to the accident. The Administration has proposed fines that total $137,400.

OSHA officials say an employee at the Piramal plant lost a finger while performing maintenance on a machine that had not been isolated from its energy source. "An employer's failure to power off energy sources before conducting equipment maintenance is unacceptable," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City, in an official news release. "Amputation hazards are one of the leading causes of injuries in manufacturing, which companies must address to curb preventable injuries."

Following an investigation, the business was cited for several violations that jeopardized its employees' safety, including the following:

• Thirteen serious safety violations, including unguarded floor holes, missing railings, and the failure to provide e-stop devices on lathes, grinding, drilling and milling machines.
• Five serious health violations, including a lack of a noise monitoring program, failing to ensure that employees used hearing protection equipment, failing to provide personal protective equipment and barrier guards for their employees, and failing to maintain clean, dry floors in areas where employees work.
• Two other-than-serious violations for failing to identify machinery on audit reports and failing to inspect fire extinguishers.
• One repeat violation for improperly mounting metallic receptacle boxes to a firm surface. Piramal was previously cited for the same violation in October 2010.

If you have concerns about unsafe conditions in your workplace, you should be aware that you have certain rights under federal law:

• You are entitled to information and training related to potential workplace hazards, safety practices, and OSHA standards related to your work environment (and this information and training must be provided in a language you can understand).
• You can request an official workplace inspection from OSHA.
• You can view copies of any results from tests conducted to detect potentially hazardous conditions in your workplace.
• You can view records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
• You cannot be punished or discriminated against for exercising any or all of these rights.

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OSHA cites Missouri company for serious safety violations following fatal workplace accident

September 11, 2013

high-voltage-7-985260-m.jpgBusinesses have a legal obligation to provide a safe working environment for their employees. When workplace conditions cause workers to suffer serious injuries while in the course of their duties, the employer is liable for certain costs associated with those injuries - and the business may also be subject to citations and fines from federal authorities who create standards for workplace safety.

Recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it was proposing over $50,000 in fines for a St. Louis business after an employee was fatally injured last May. According to OSHA officials, the fines are connected to safety violations that were discovered when the Administration investigated the death of 55 year-old Mach Nguyen, who was employed by St. Louis Cold Drawn Inc. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Nguyen was electrocuted when he reached into an energized electrical panel box, attempting to grab his work gloves. He was taken to a local hospital by ambulance, where he was later pronounced dead.

Following Nguyen's death, OSHA launched an investigation into St. Louis Cold Drawn, a steel bar manufacturing facility that employs about 90 workers. They found a number of safety violations that increased safety risks for the company's employees. Overall, the business was cited for 19 serious violations, many of which were connected to electrical issues, including exposing employees to live electricity and failing to train employees about safe practices and lookout procedures when they may be exposed to electric shock. "Allowing workers to be exposed to live electricity without enforcing electrical safe work practices is inexcusable," said Bill McDonald, area director for OSHA in St. Louis, in an official news release. "Employers, such as St. Louis Cold Drawn, have a responsibility to train workers in safe electrical work practices, such as recognizing unsafe conditions when exposed to hazards."

In addition to the serious violations, OSHA investigators also cited the company for seven "other-than-serious violations," which include failing to keep appropriate records of employees' illnesses and injuries and failing to keep a list of the hazardous chemicals used in the course of business. St. Louis Cold Drawn has 15 days to address and rectify the violations, request a conference with OSHA area director Thompson, or contest the safety violations and their penalties. In 2002, the company was cited by OSHA for seven safety violations at its St. Louis facility.

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Businesses use "ghost policies" to escape workers' compensation costs, leaving workers at risk

February 26, 2013

304930_construction_site.jpgMissouri workers' compensation law exists to protect and support employees who are injured in the course of their employment. However, when businesses don't hold up their end of the bargain, innocent workers are left to face the many consequences of their injuries, which can include numerous medical expenses, lost wages, and the inability to return to work.

Recently, a state audit conducted in North Carolina revealed that the state's Industrial Commission has failed to recognize and address a growing problem: "businesses openly skirting their responsibility to carry [workers' compensation] insurance." The audit followed a three part series published in 2012 by the Charlotte News & Observer, which exposed the consequences of these illegal practices and their impact on both injured employees and other honest employers who comply with state law.

In part, the News and Observer's series highlighted the story of Clemente Hernandez Gonzalez, a North Carolina construction worker who was injured on the job in March 2009. Gonzalez was a passenger in a company vehicle when the driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed. As a result, Gonzalez suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the chest down. The Observer reported that the estimated cost of Gonzalez's lifetime medical treatment is nearly $8 million.

State workers' compensation systems exist to protect employees in circumstances just like this one. However, following the accident, Gonzalez discovered that his employer, Worrell Construction Co., had taken advantage of a loophole in state law. In North Carolina, businesses that employ three or more workers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. To skirt this requirement, the owner of Worrell Construction purchased what is known as a ghost policy.

Ghost policies are intended for business owners who have no employees and who opt to exclude themselves from workers' compensation coverage. These cheap policies are supposed to cover a "future" employee who may be hired in the coming year. For the first nine years Worrell Construction was in business, the company paid about $30,000 a year for full workers' compensation coverage. Then, in 2006, Worrell reclassified its employees as "subcontractors," told an insurer it had no employees, and purchased a ghost policy. The yearly premium for that policy? A mere $850.

General contractors require subcontractors to present proof of workers' comp coverage before beginning a job. But the News & Observer says the certificates for ghost policies "look no different from other policies, however, and are tough, if not impossible, for those hiring the company to detect." Thus, the business saves thousands of dollars, and no one is the wiser. That is, unless an employee - like Gonzalez - is injured on the job.

Gonzalez's existing medical bills already exceed $250,000, and he has not yet received a dime. He is currently involved in litigation against Worrell; Worrell's insurer, Cincinnati Insurance; and Patrick Lamm, a general contractor who hired Worrell. Lamm says he had no idea Worrell did not have full coverage. Worrell shut down on the day of Gonzalez's accident, and the North Carolina Industrial Commission will charge the company with criminal fraud if it attempts to resume operations.

And there's another consequence of this kind of legal loophole. Companies that pay tens of thousands for workers' comp coverage can't compete with cheating businesses that pay significantly less in insurance premiums. According to the News & Observer, "those who play by the rules say they struggle to stay afloat while competitors who break the law profit."

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Missouri temporary workers are entitled to safety and health protection from employers

February 19, 2013

file0001829935472.jpgA temporary worker is an employee who is hired to fill a specific position for a limited amount of time. Also known as "temps," "contract workers," and "seasonal employees," temporary workers are often hired to help with increased demand or seasonal business that is common in certain industries. Certain employees working for subcontractors - a laborer, hired to work on a specific construction project, for example - are also considered temporary workers. Despite their temporary status on the job, temp workers are entitled to the same basic safety and health protections as permanent employees.

Recently, officials from the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Bacardi Bottling Corp. for 12 safety violations after a temporary worker was killed during his first day at work. According to the Jacksonville Business Journal, 21 year-old Lawrence Daquan "Day" Davis died when he was crushed by a palletizer machine in August 2012. Davis was reportedly cleaning glass from under the machine when another employee restarted the machine.

OSHA officials say Bacardi failed to provide temporary workers with adequate training to operate the palletizer machine. The company was also cited for exposing workers to safety hazards, failing to ensure safety devices were in place, and failing to develop and implement appropriate safety procedures. Two of the 12 violations are considered willful, meaning "committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard" for workplace safety laws. Nine others are considered "serious," meaning there was a "substantial probability" that Bacardi's practices would cause serious workplace injuries, and that the company knew or should have known that its employees were at risk.

"We are seeing untrained workers - many of them temporary workers - killed very soon after starting a new job. This must stop," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, in an OSHA news release. "Employers must train all employees, including temporary workers, on the hazards specific to that workplace - before they start working. Had Bacardi done so, this tragic loss of life could have been prevented."

Employers are legally required to provide a safe workplace environment for all their employees. If you're currently employed as a temporary worker and you've been exposed to a hazard that threatens your health or safety, you can file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection. And if you've been injured as a result of a workplace hazard, it may be beneficial to speak with an attorney about a workers' compensation claim. For more information about workplace safety and temporary workers, visit the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) online.

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Workers' compensation & employer fraud: What Missouri employees need to know

December 29, 2012

911375_paper_work.jpgWorkers' compensation fraud in employers is a prevalent problem throughout the United States. Recently, the North Carolina Workers' Compensation Journal released its list of the Top 10 Fraud Cases in 2012. Here are a few of the employers who made the list:

• A Florida man and seven other individuals were arrested for funneling more than $70 million in undeclared payroll through 10 different shell companies. By doing so, the ringleader was able to operate a sizeable construction company without paying for workers' compensation insurance.

• In Ohio, more than 41,000 private employers failed to report payroll and pay their workers' compensation premiums, which is a violation of state law. This practice resulted in approximately $5.6 million in unpaid premiums.

• The owners of a Massachusetts roofing company pleaded guilty to several labor violations, including misclassifying over half of their employees as subcontractors; and failing to disclose over $3 million in misclassified subcontractor payroll.

Workers' compensation fraud in employers: The consequences

The most direct consequence of workers' comp fraud in employers is its impact on employees, most of whom have no idea that their employers are doing anything illegal. If a worker is hurt on the job when an employer has failed to maintain workers' comp coverage, the worker will be unable to collect the benefits to which he or she is entitled. Often, this means the innocent employee is left to face the many costs associated with serious, debilitating injuries. Additionally, employer fraud can harm honest business owners. When an employer deliberately misclassifies employees to obtain low insurance premiums, the business has an unfair economic advantage over employers who pay what they owe.

Employer fraud, workers' compensation & Missouri law

• In the state of Missouri, misrepresenting an employee's job classification to obtain insurance at a lower rate is a class A misdemeanor. A second violation is a class D felony.

• Making a false or fraudulent statement regarding an employee's right to benefits (in order to discourage the employee from pursuing a claim) is a class A misdemeanor that can result in fines up to $10,000. A second violation is a class C felony.

• Making a false or fraudulent material statement or material representation in an attempt to deny benefits to an injured worker is a class A misdemeanor that can result in fines up to $10,000. A second violation is a class C felony.

• Employers who knowingly fail to carry required workers' comp liability insurance are guilty of a class A misdemeanor. They can be fined up to three times the amount of the annual premium they should have been paying under the law, or $50,000, whichever is greater. A second violation is a class D felony.

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OSHA Programs aim to reduce work injuries in Missouri and elsewhere

September 10, 2012

609764_playing_it_safe.jpgIn 2010, over three million American workers were injured and 4,690 were killed on the job, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As workers' compensation lawyers, we know these incidents can be costly, both personally and financially.

The 2011 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index found that the direct cost of the most disabling workplace injuries and illnesses in 2009 was $50.1 billion in U.S. workers' compensation costs. That's almost one billion dollars per week.

"This money would be better spent on job creation and innovation. Injury and illness prevention programs are good for workers, good for business and good for America," said Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Injury and Illness Prevention Programs are designed to intervene in workplace environments where dangerous or unsafe conditions could potentially cause serious injury or even death. They aim to reduce the number and severity of preventable workplace accidents, which account for many of the nation's most common on-the-job injuries.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) says each employer must (1) "furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees; and (2) comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act." The Administration urges employers to develop proactive programs that identify safety violations and potential hazards to workers. OSHA officials conduct informational seminars, interactive workshops and various training programs to help ensure the proper education of workers nationwide.

What makes an Injury and Illness Prevention Program successful?

• Management leadership
• Worker participation
• Hazard identification
• Hazard prevention and control
• Education and training
• Program evaluation and improvement

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Nail salons and chemical overexposure: The risks facing Missouri workers

55175_nails.jpgThe summer months bring increased business to beauty salons across the United States. Summertime reigns as the busiest season for nail technicians in the U.S., with more than 375,000 people working in salons daily. However, many of these workers are not aware of the hazardous chemicals they are exposed to every day and the health risks they pose. Chemicals from nail polishes, glues, removers, and salon products can be detrimental to technicians' health. Without taking certain safety steps, nail technicians could face long term health risks from workplace exposure.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides a list of hazardous chemicals commonly used in nail salons, which notes that employees are exposed to many chemicals, including methacrylic acids and acetates. Chemicals present in salons pose potent hazards and when mixed together, they can become even more dangerous. Employers must work to prevent chemical exposure by properly ventilating the salon and keeping potential dust or chemicals away from breathing zones. Employers can remove dangerous chemicals from breathing zones by using fans and other technologies that provide air circulation. The good news is that workplace illnesses connected to nail salons are largely preventable, provided the appropriate safety precautions are taken.

Also, nail salon owners are urged to reduce usage of products that contain certain hazardous chemicals, and seek out products that are acid free and "3-free" (those made without the "toxic trio": toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate). Reducing the number of chemicals present in the salon automatically decreases the risk of exposure. Another way to protect employees from overexposure is to diligently schedule breaks and allow appropriate time off from all types of chemical exposure. Lastly, always handle chemicals with care. Remember to keep bottles tightly sealed when not in use, and properly dispose of all chemicals.

Chemical overexposure can cause serious health-related consequences for nail technicians. Some studies have linked musculoskeletal disorders, skin problems, respiratory irritation, and headaches to work-related chemical exposure in nail salons. There are more than 10,000 nail products regularly used that do not have EPA safety approval, so the risks of future health problems are high.

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Summer Jobs, Young Employees & Workplace Injuries: The Basic Facts

544065_life_guard_4.jpgDuring the summer months, it's common for Missouri high school and college students to take on summer jobs, hoping to earn a little extra cash. While it might not seem like the average summer job could be dangerous, young workers ought to know their rights and responsibilities, just in case they fall victim to a workplace accident or injury.

These days, summer job opportunities can be diverse, covering a wide range of positions and duties. From lifeguarding to construction work, summer jobs can come with a variety of risks - and because many of these jobs require little to no experience, young workers are often unfamiliar with the kinds of workplace situations that can lead to injury. Building sites, farms, supermarkets and restaurants are common places for young adults to work during the summer. Under certain circumstances, these locations can present increased risks of work-related injuries related to machinery or falling debris. Slip and fall incidents, burns, and other injuries are also common.

We traditionally think workers who perform manual labor are most prone to injury, but in truth, office workers frequently suffer injuries requiring medical treatment, particularly as a result of falling. Cluttered walkways, torn carpeting, loose cables and other unsafe conditions can lead to workplace falls, which can result in bruising and abrasions, broken bones, and even head injuries. In addition, office workers commonly sustain repetitive stress injuries, which are caused by performing the same small task over and over. These injuries can require medical treatment, therapy, and rehabilitation: each year, millions of people suffer repetitive stress injuries and miss time from work due to their injury. Many file workers' compensation claims.

Some young workers may not realize that they can file a claim when they are hurt on the job. Work-related injuries can have effects that last far beyond the time span of a summer job, negatively impacting future education and employment options. For this reason, young employees should be aware that a workers' compensation claim can help manage the various expenses associated with such injuries. However, there are certain time limits that apply: the Missouri Department of Labor advises employees that "failure to report your injury to your employer [in writing] within 30 days may jeopardize your ability to receive workers' compensation benefits."

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OSHA Extends Directive Working to Prevent Residential Construction Falls

Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OHSA) decided to extend temporary enforcement measures connected to its residential fall protection directive. The directive, issued in June 2011, works to prevent residential builders from bypassing fall protection requirements. It was originally scheduled to end in March 2012, but will now extend up to September 15.

1173744_new_houses.jpgThe directive replaced another plan dating back to 1995, which was issued as a temporary policy because of concerns about the feasibility of fall protection in this industry. But then several organizations recognized a need to revisit the issue, including the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB); OSHA's labor-management Advisory Committee for Construction Safety and Health; the AFL-CIO; and the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association. These organizations represent the 27 states and territories that organize and enforce their own occupational safety and health programs. Experts feel that feasibility is no longer a concern or an issue, as there continues to be an outrageous number of fatal falls in construction accidents in Missouri and elsewhere throughout the United States.

"Fatalities from falls are the number one cause of workplace deaths in construction. We cannot tolerate workers getting killed in residential construction when effective means are readily available to prevent those deaths," Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels said last year. "Almost every week, we see a worker killed from falling off a residential roof. We can stop these fatalities, and we must."

OSHA's actions rescinded the Interim Fall Protection Compliance Guidelines for Residential Construction, Standard 03-00-001. Before the 2011 directive, construction employees were allowed to use specific alternative methods to protect themselves from falls occurring on construction sites. These alternatives replaced conventional fall protection methods that were previously required by the residential construction fall protection standard.

Now, employers are required to comply with 29 Code of Federal Regulations 1926.501(b)(13).

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Green Jobs & OSHA Safety Standards: What Employees Should Know

1226370_recycle_sign.jpgIn today's world, many businesses and private citizens are "going green," in an attempt to help preserve our planet. They're recycling, driving more environmentally friendly vehicles and watching their consumption of natural resources. What's more, there are a growing number of "green jobs" being chased after by states looking to improve their economic outlook. Not only do these green jobs help to create a better community for everyone, but they also create new employment opportunities.

According to a recent report from Forbes, the website is currently listing about 4,000 jobs that are tagged with the keyword "environmental compliance" - that's a 24% increase compared to August 2010. Even more staggering, the site lists approximately 11,000 jobs associated with "energy efficiency," which marks a 500% increase compared to November 2009. Suffice to say, the green industry is continuing to grow.

Unfortunately, however, with new jobs come new risks. The Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration (OSHA) has expressed concerns that while these companies focus on the preservation of our planet, they may also present certain unique hazards that can result in workplace injuries.

Risks associated with the green industry are of special concern because the industry has experienced such explosive growth in recent years. Some of these new jobs could potentially expose workers to new hazards that may have not been previously identified in other industries. For example, a worker in a solar energy plant may be exposed to Cadmium Telluride, a known carcinogen, if the factory does not implement adequate controls.

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