Fatal work injuries hold steady, Pennsylvania ranked 6th in fatalities

US-Department-of-Labor-logoThe United State Department of Labor and Industry released data today that confirmed 4,679 fatal injuries in the workplace in 2014.  That number is essentially the same as 2013, in which here were 4,585 fatal injuries, but 2014 saw more an increase in total work hours.  The rate of 3.3 fatalities to 100,000 full time equivalent was unchanged from 2013 to 2014.

The areas of occupation that reported the larger increases are significant industries in Pennsylvania.  Those areas are:  Mining +17% increase, agriculture +14% increase, manufacturing +9% increase, and construction +6% increase.  The mining occupation includes oil and natural gas extraction, which is increasing in Pennsylvania.  Of the 4,679 fatal work injuries, nearly 40% (1,891) involved transportation, with the majority being roadway incidences.  Of those, drivers/sales workers and truck driver counted for 2 of 3 fatalities.

Pennsylvania ranked 6th in the United States with the most work-related fatalities.  Pennsylvania suffered 175 work fatal work injuries in 2014.  That was a decrease from 183 in 2013.   Just like the national statistical numbers, transportation related deaths were the highest number, attributing to 74 of the 175 work related fatal injuries.  Transportation was followed by:  contact with objects/equipment (29), slip and falls (25), violence (23), exposure to harmful substances (16), and fires and explosions (8).

US Secretary Thomas Perez implored work places to increase their safety and in the workplace.

“Far too many people are still killed on the job – 13 workers every day taken from their families tragically and unnecessarily. These numbers underscore the urgent need for employers to provide a safe workplace for their employees as the law requires.”

Work place injuries are devastating enough.  Unfortunately, I have had the unfortunate opportunity to also have to represent widows of injured workers.  It’s a humbling experience to say the least.  My hope is that employer’s in these industries take more proactive measures to protect workers where possible and to try and eliminate safety hazards that can cause fatal injuries, and for that matter, any work place injuries.  Many work related injuries can simply be avoided by eliminating work place hazards.

If you have been injured on the job, and live in Central Pennsylvania, call Mooney & Associates today for a FREE consultation.  Your rights under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act are simply too important to go it alone.  You don’t need to.  Call us today at 1-877-632-4656.  We have offices through Central Pennsylvania.

 

HAPPY LABOR DAY!!!

Today is a day to honor the hard working, dedicated workers of this great Commonwealth and nation.  As an Attorney that represents injured workers, I wish many employers got to know the many employees I have come to represent over the years.

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Unfortunately, through my work, I too often see the opposite.  I see dedicated workers who suffer an unfortunate accident on the job that caused significant injury, pain, and go through significant physical, emotional, and financial pain.  Many times, these employees are top producing employees, but once they suffer a work injury, they suddenly become expendable and their hard work and dedication is quickly forgotten, as they are seen now as nothing more than a liability.  Employees don’t get up In the morning, hoping for an injury, so they can stay home collecting only a portion of their pay, while fighting pain and trying to stay current on their mortgages or rent.

Work injuries are often times devastating.  Besides the pain, many injured workers suffer great financial loss and become emotionally distraught.  It’s a fact.  The suffering goes well beyond physical pain, which is often times debilitating.  They suddenly find themselves ignored and treated differently by their employers and bosses.  It’s gut wrenching.

Today, lets remember that production, sales, and profits are all derived from workers.  Without workers, without dedicated employees, success and profits don’t exist.  Let’s remember labor today.  Let’s honor our work forces.  Happy and healthy work forces make for increased production that leads to larger profits and a better economy.

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

 

 

 

PA Court clarifies Construction Workplace Misclassification Act for Contractors

b4e87-workinjuryThe Pennsylvania State Legislature enacted the Construction Workplace Misclassification Act in 2010 in an effort to clarify whether an injured party is deemed to be an independent contractor or an employee.  Most typically, we see these issues arise in the construction industry where a General Contractor believes they have hired a person as a Subcontractor.  I’ve had my share of these types of cases.

The Misclassification Act defines three elements to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee.  Those elements are:  1) individual has a written contract; 2) individual is free form control or direction over performances of the services; and 3) the individual is customarily engaged independently in the established trade.   It is important to note, this is NOT a pick and choose test.  ALL THREE elements MUST be met.  If not, the individual will be deemed to be an employee, and thus, fall under the Workers Compensation Act.    It is also a fact sensitive test.  Failure to provide workers compensation insurance coverage can result in significant financial burden to an uninsured employer, as an individual, and will lead to fines and jail time as well.  What happens in these instance is that the Uninsured Guaranty Fund will step into the role as the insurance carrier.  If the Fund is forced to pay out wage loss and medical benefits, it will then seek reimbursement from the General Contractor or individual contractor that hired the injured worker.  Many contractors simply do not understand the substantial risk and potential legal trouble that lies ahead.  The individual contractor WILL BE ultimately responsible for wage loss benefits and all medical bills of the injured worker, should the contractor not have workers compensation coverage, and the injured individual is determined to be an employee.

Recently, the Commonwealth Court further defined element one, the written contract element.  In Staron v. WCAB (Farrier) No. 2140 (Pa. Cmwlth 2015), a worker for a general contractor fell off a roof and was injured.  In these facts, the General Contractor had the injured worker sign an Independent Contractor agreement upon his release from the hospital.  The injured worker voluntarily signed the agreement.  That was the point emphasized by the General Contractor, that it was voluntarily signed.

HOWEVER, the Court rejected that argument.  The Court said;

Here, Claimant worked for Employer for several days in exchange for remuneration and did not sign the Agreement until after he was injured. Section 3(a)(1) of the CWMA is unambiguous: “[A]n individual who performs services in the construction industry for remuneration is an independent contractor only if ․ [he] has a written contract to perform such services.” 43 P.S. § 933 .3(a)(1) (emphases added). No written contract existed between Claimant and Employer at any point during Claimant’s work for Employer and, thus, Claimant could not be considered an independent contractor under the CWMA.

To put in easier terms, the written contract MUST be in place PRIOR to the work injury.  If it is not signed prior to the injury, then element one is not met and the injured individual is, under the Workers Compensation Act, an employee, and therefore entitled to benefits provided by the Act.